Quasi Recovery Q&A - Eating Disorders Victoria
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This article comes from EDV’s Peer Mentoring Program Alumni Newsletter. To learn more about the Peer Mentoring Program, please see here.

Quasi recovery Q&A

Thank you to members of EDV’s Peer Mentoring Program team, Stefan, Clare and Amy T, for their thoughts on this topic.

What is Quasi Recovery? 

Quasi Recovery doesn’t have a clinical definition. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘pseudo recovery’, ‘partial recovery’ or ‘semi-recovery’. It looks different for everyone. Someone experiencing quasi recovery may no longer be in the full grip of their eating disorder, but not yet at their full potential.  

Q. What did quasi recovery look like for you?

A. Stefan 

I did not know about the term ‘quasi recovery’ until I started my role as a Peer Mentor at EDV. I would say there were certain moments that I can now recognise as quasi recovery. I remember being at certain points in my recovery of my eating disorder where it was not at the forefront of my thoughts, but still affected my quality of life or I believed it was the end of my recovery. Problematic behaviours, such as exercise for weight loss, body checking, and occasional binges were still present. 

I think the behaviours that were hard to shake were some of the oldest/earliest behaviours. I think many of the behaviours that are associated with our eating disorders are encouraged by people in the diet and fitness industry, and society more broadly. A part of my recovery journey has been fighting against the notion that the way we look reflects how “healthy” we are or that physique reflects my worthiness. 

Q. What defines recovery (Mental recovery vs. physical recovery vs. your own personal recovery ideas)?

A. Amy T 

The definition and experience of recovery is unique to each individual but for me, I know feel it is a sense of freedom, uninhibited by rules, barriers and fears. In the slow and steady progression towards recovery, I felt the ED taking up less and less space in my brain and there being more space for joy, fun and connection. When the space it took up was so small/non-existent that it didn’t get in the way, complicate or stop me from living my best life, that felt like recovery to me.  

When I started my recovery journey, I understood recovery to be encapsulated into two categories – physical and mental. I reached physical recovery first, and then it was a long and gruelling endeavour trying to also reach mental recovery. I remember expressing to my psychologist one session, the frustration of having to challenge food things still and that it felt like I was having to do physical recovery again, despite being physical recovered, in pursuit of mental recovery. My psychologist and dietician challenged how I was categorising recovery as just physical and mental, and how in ways, this was a very ED ruled way of thinking about it, limiting my acknowledgement of the things recovery could encapsulate. They encouraged me to think of it more holistically as quality of life, immune functioning, relationships, energy levels, hormones, mental health as a whole. 

Q. Am I still recovered if I still have bad body image day?

A. Amy T 

People without eating disorders still have bad image days. Given the society we live in, with a huge emphasis on body image and diet culture, it’s hard for this to not be something that takes up some space in our lives at times, even when we are recovered. Recovery isn’t a finish line. The journey continues and evolves in different ways, and that’s a great thing, to be continuously growing and learning. I have bad body image days now, I find I am able to identify it as that, acknowledge it and practice self-compassion, self-acceptance or some neutrality with it. For me it doesn’t mean I’m not recovered, it means I am a human with a body and an ongoing relationship with it. 

Q. How did you cross the ‘finishing line’ when it came to recovery?

A. Clare 

Quasi recovery didn’t give me full freedom from my eating disorder. For a while I thought that quasi recovery was just ‘as good as it was going to get’ but I had to keep reminding myself of my ‘why’ and all the things I wanted in life that the eating disorder was not going to allow for. I had to recommit to recovery. I continued to engage with my clinical supports and tried to be mindful about the behaviours and thoughts that continued to linger. I had to be persistent, patient and continue to hold myself accountable.  For me, freedom took the form of things like learning to trust my body’s cues, move my body in ways that bring joy, getting rid of any scales in the house and no longer having any fear foods. Some practical strategies that I found useful were body neutrality, coming back to my values and regular exposure to things that I found difficult. 

Q. Is striving for ‘full recovery’ a form of unhelpful perfectionism, if it may not be possible for someone?

A. Stefan  

I believe anyone can recover no matter how long someone has had an eating disorder. There is no one point that I can look at and say “Oh, that’s when I recovered”. It was a slow transition to recovery and required me to reflect on my own judgements around body image; living my true values. It meant compassionately working through the challenges and behaviours that I found difficult to stop. I think recovery is subjective, and everyone has their own conception of recovery. 

Q. Did you grieve your ED? How did you find your identity without it?

A. Clare  

I definitely held on to parts of my ED that I felt were intrinsic to my personality. I think living amid diet culture, I had formed problematic ideas surrounding what it meant to have a healthy relationship with food and my body so I couldn’t picture what recovery might look like. I also feared letting go of my ED entirely; it was my safety blanket. Recovery was transformative in terms of my identity. I had to learn who I was and how to exist outside of my ED. In the later stages of recovery, I got better at understanding what bought me joy and it felt like I was able to fully participate in life. I began grasp my identity as I undertook new life experiences, like travel and study, and met new people. 

Q. What’s the difference between quasi-recovery and accepting that you might have to ‘manage’ the ED over your lifetime?

A. Amy T 

For me, the thoughts and feelings that I might have to manage my ED forever came from a headspace that was very governed by my eating disorder. I was so fatigued, trying to recover for so long. Feeling stuck, hopeless and disheartened, which was reflected in my thoughts and feelings about if recovery was actually possible for me. Now, I do believe that recovery is possible, even though it takes a lot time, a lot of effort, and slip ups, setbacks and recommitments. Support from health professionals really helped me get through the thick of quasi recovery. 

Q. Is it okay to still focus on ‘health’ and if so how did/do you ensure it doesn’t get tangled up in your ED or diet culture again?

A. Clare 

The concept of health holds different meaning for everyone. I have curated all my social media feeds to only include content that feels safe and beneficial for me. Obviously, it’s not feasible to completely avoid certain things, but I try to take a critical approach. Who has created the content? What’s their background? What’s their motivation for posting this? I’m aware of my boundaries and content that might trigger certain behaviours/thought patterns/feelings. When I look at material that impacts my ‘health’ in a positive way, I’m generally looking at creators with lived experience, community groups/events and accounts that debunk mainstream diet-culture pseudo-science. 

More about the Peer Mentoring Program

The Peer Mentoring Program (PMP) is a free program providing one-on-one mentoring with an EDV Peer Mentor who has recovered from an eating disorder. It is available to Victorians aged 18+.

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