Imagine unlocking your front door and walking into your home to find it turned upside down, completely ransacked. The mess and damage are so extensive, your place is hardly recognizable. Lamps are knocked over and broken. Shards of glass from vases litter the floor. The drawers are open and the contents spilled everywhere. Tables are tipped over on their sides, and the couch cushions are torn open. Worse yet, some of your belongings are missing. Valuable items from your locked safe are gone altogether.
This can be what it is like to return to your body after having an eating disorder. You may no longer engage in eating disorder behavior or thoughts, but the illness has taken a physical toll. The thief, the illness, may have vacated the premises but has left an awful lot of damage and even stolen some things. And you are left with the mess and have to clean it up.
I’m recovered from my eating disorder. Why am I still struggling with my health?
Examples of health problems people may experience even after recovery include:
*Lowered immunity and frequent infections
*Joint and connective tissue injuries
*Low energy and poor stamina
*Ongoing digestion sensitivity or dysfunction
*Hormonal imbalance or menstrual difficulties
*Easy and frequent bruising
*Lost bone density and dental problems (valuables from your safe that are missing altogether)
These problems indicate how fragile your health is after prolonged deprivation. These issues can remain even after you are fully recovered from your eating disorder and no longer struggle to have a balanced relationship with food.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, an eating disorder (or even extreme dieting), especially if it includes restriction and/or over-exercise, robs you of your energetic funds. Using the analogy above, the eating disorder breaks your (bodily) “belongings” and takes your (energetic) “cash.”
You lose the energy and substances of the body that are responsible for things like your immunity, stamina, connective tissue, dental health, and bone density when you are in a state of malnutrition. And even when you have normalized your eating and nutritional intake, you are still working from a deficit.
The symptoms listed above indicate that your body is insufficiently funded to run day-to-day affairs.
Can anything be done about it?
Well, just like reestablishing balance and health to one’s finances, you have to address the missing “funds” even after you have restored basic “income” levels. Your income, which is your nutritional intake, may now be reasonable and healthy, but you have to take extra steps to restore your missing energy and really heal your body.
You might try a “budget.” You can save your energy by cutting back on activities. For example, maybe you give up exercise or decline invitations to social events. However, if you are having health problems, your body is already saying it doesn’t have enough to keep the basics going. It doesn’t have any extra to put toward repairing your tendons or keeping your immune system strong.
Plus, let’s face it, being on a strict budget is a drag. You have to miss out on a lot. Who wants to keep declining invitations or skipping fun activities?
So, how can you generate more energetic income to really restore your health?
Enter the wisdom of Chinese medicine.
Chinese medicine (the philosophy and practice of acupuncture, herbalism, bodywork, meditation, and tai chi) provides treatment to help restore your body’s missing energetic resources.
In Chinese medicine we first establish which “accounts” have been drained and what items are broken. The account responsible for the health of your connective tissue and joints? Your immune system account? Your digestive account? All of the above? When it is clear which accounts are low, we start to make “deposits” with the tools of Chinese medicine such as acupuncture, acupressure, herbal medicine (an especially valuable tool), and traditional therapeutic exercises like tai chi. These methods help the body heal and replenish.
Chinese medicine is all about helping your body balance. Acupuncture helps regulate the body’s major systems like the nervous system, the endocrine system, and the immune system. Herbal medicine, for instance, helps by providing raw materials and concentrated nutrition to help your body repair damage.
Just like restoring your financial health, it takes time. I explain to my patients that exactly like money, your energy is easier to spend than to replenish. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, but it takes time. Earning a paycheck and socking away some savings takes longer than going on a shopping spree. You have to be consistent, and the amount of time required depends on how badly you were robbed.
And just like a robbery, unfortunately some of your belongings may not be recovered by the police. Your teeth and bones, for instance, are the most difficult to restore to pre-eating disorder levels. Despite this possibility, it is still worthwhile to clean up the damage left in your house and shore up your accounts so you have enough energy to live, dance, work, study, explore, love, and play.
Start where you are.
Expelling the thief from your house is the first step. If you are recovered from an eating disorder, you have done this. Well done. If you are reading this and you are not yet recovered, please know: 1. Recovery is possible. 2. It is worth it. 3. Time is of the essence. The sooner you kick the thief out, the less damage done and the fewer things stolen.
So, if you are feeling that sense of desperation and sadness looking at the disarray in your ransacked house, know you have some options besides simply accepting the mess. Chinese medicine offers ways to address issues such as lower immunity, decreased stamina, digestive problems, and connective tissue injuries. Once the burglar is gone, it is possible to pick up the pieces and make your house a home again.
I have personally seen people regain their health after eating disorders and extreme dieting. If you have questions about your situation and if Chinese medicine might help, I’d be happy to talk with you.