02 Jun 2023

World Eating Disorders Action Day: Real People, Real Recovery


Today, on World Eating Disorders Action Day (WEDAD), Butterfly is joining over 250 organisations from 50 countries to spread the message that full recovery from an eating disorder is possible.

The 2023 theme ‘Real People, Real Recovery’ aims to centre lived experience and highlight three key messages:

  • Lasting recovery is possible,
  • Evidence-based, person-centred treatment is essential for all in need,
  • Governments and communities need to fund and provide quality and accessible evidence-based services, trained providers and a timely response.

While research indicates eating disorder recovery takes on average between one to six years, Butterfly recognises that recovery is complex and will look different for every individual. Recovery is also non-linear, but there is much to learn from setbacks and relapses.

Ultimately, no matter what your eating disorder is, and even if you have lived with the illness for a number of years, full recovery is possible. But it can sometimes be difficult to come this realisation when you’re in the midst of your illness, and ambivalence to recovery can be common.

Hearing from people who have been through an eating disorder and recovered can help provide hope and motivation, and is key in breaking down stigma and reducing harmful stereotypes about eating disorders.

To celebrate ‘Real People, Real Recovery’, we asked our lived experience speakers, the Butterfly Pathfinders, what recovery means to them.

Recovery often involves connecting back to your authentic self – not the eating disorder

  • “To me, recovery meant freeing myself from the physical and mental constraints of my illness to discover and embody my most authentic self. I lived alongside my eating disorder for many years and the less reliant I became on it to make me feel meaningful, the more capacity I had to explore and define my own meaning.” – Korey, she/they
  • “Recovery means to me the ability to feel free with my approach to life, internally fulfilled and have the absence of unwanted thoughts around food, weight or shape. It is having the autonomy that comes from the real me, not an analytical approach or the ED voice that weighs up every food option or makes you think that there are going to be consequences. It is feeling safe and so sure of my inner thoughts and having the ability to be present, enjoy and know that life is worth living”. – Lexi Crouch, she/her
  • “I remember feeling terrified at the start of my recovery. I feared losing control, and I feared losing my purpose and identity. What I’ve come to realise is that my eating disorder only ever provided the illusion of control. The more I succumbed to the eating disorder, the more out of control my life was. I am no longer completely consumed by thoughts of food, constantly irritated, perpetually tired, unable to concentrate, and physically exhausted. I am no longer aggressive and unkind because I am hurting inside and want to protect my eating disorder. Recovery allowed me to reconnect with my values and beliefs and to live in alignment with them. My purpose and identity no longer depend predominantly on one facet of my life. I know that my identity and purpose are not stagnant. I appreciate that who I am will change throughout my life as I continue to learn and grow. Recovery gave me the energy and mental space to think about things deeply, pursue learning, enjoy the little things in life and show up authentically.  I could never truly express what recovery has given me. It has given me life.” -Lauren, she/her

Believe in yourself – and your own strength

  • “For me, at the heart of recovery was the process of reconnecting to my authentic self and learning to step into my values, beliefs and passions unapologetically and with self-confidence and trust in myself. Recovery was a long journey that didn’t happen overnight or in leaps and bounds or obvious ‘wins’. It was the little everyday changes and interactions that took me incrementally closer and closer to the place I am immensely privileged to be today – fully recovered for over three years. Recovery was ultimately something I had to choose for myself and commit to on my own terms, knowing that people around me had my back but could not recover for me. I had to do the hard work, the learning, attend appointments, face my fears and repeat over and over until freedom, flexibility and spontaneity returned to my life and my relationship with food.” – Sophie Smith

Recovery can be an ongoing process

  • “For me, recovery is not linear, nor does it have a definite end. Recovering from an eating disorder isn’t as simple as waking up one morning and deciding not to succumb to the patterns and habits of an eating disorder that incessantly ruled my life, it’s constantly and likely forevermore.  Overcoming the problems I have with accepting the way I look and my relationship with food is a daily decision that I chose to commit to. My recovery journey has been bookmarked by public and personal highs, and relapsing lows. As a young (ish) person, I am required to negotiate a world of external influences, modern technology and constant connectivity. Many of these sources tell us that our bodies aren’t worthy, loveable or able to be celebrated unless they can feature on the front of a glossy magazine. Choosing what content, people and conversations I interactive with is a daily decision in recovery. Recovery means, with support of professionals and loved ones, putting in the effort to not end up where I began.” – Will Cook, he/him

It can help to take recovery one day a time – and be compassionate to yourself

  • “Recovery from Binge Eating Disorder to me means living my best life and taking it one day at a time! It means that I now support myself in different ways than before. Today I look forward to a very positive future, one that is full of possibilities for myself. I see food as nutrition and fuel that my body needs to operate at its best. Recovery means sticking to my daily and weekly routine of self-care activities which include; journalling, hydration, moving my body, being creative and resting my body with sleep. Recovery also means being aware of when I may need support and asking for help and being ok with it, cos I know I’m a work in progress!” – Jennifer White, she/her 

Think about what you’ll achieve without the eating disorder

  • Recovery means being able to be free from isolation, being able to enjoy the little things in life whether that be coffee with friends or going out for dinner with family, without the stress and anxiety of eating, losing control or breaking food rules set by my eating disorder. Being an athlete, recovery also means the ability to fuel my body properly, allowing me to give myself the best opportunity to perform at my best at all times without being scared of being under nourished.” – Chelsea Blissett, she/her
  •  “For me personally, recovery means a number of things, such as being there for my kids – alive, healthy and available; having strength and mobility without the physical pain; having the mental clarity required to focus on my wellbeing; and finding the true reason for my eating disorder and recovering from that.” – Kelly Griffin, he/him
  • “Recovery has enabled me to enjoy all food for the sensory, nourishing and connecting opportunities which it provides, without anxiety and dread before, during and after eating it. Recovery has enabled me to accept and appreciate my body for what it is and what it does for me everyday, without constantly feeling driven to change it and meet societal expectations for what a man ‘should’ look like. Recovery has enabled me to enjoy moving my body for fun, releasing stress and as an opportunity to connect with others, rather than it being something which I feel compelled to engage in to change the way I look. Recovery has given me the freedom to connect with and live life in line with my values, and feel liberated in recognising that life is about more than controlling what I eat, and what my body looks like. I, and everybody has so much more to offer the world than that.” – Alex, he/him

Recovery will allow you to learn and grow

  • “Rather than recovering, I see my journey from my eating disorder as healing. Recovery to me means getting back to where I was while healing is to make better, to start with means to get back, regain. Healing is the process of becoming whole again. I know that I won’t be the person I was before my ED, and I don’t want to be. As much pain as my ED has caused, it has also shaped me into who I am, and I want to heal, I want the wounds of my eating disorder to heal with fresh skin, to be nourished and cared for and treated gently. I will not be the old me and know that this process has shaped me into someone else.” – Varsha, she/her

Get support for your own recovery

If you’re reading this and are looking for a sign to reach out for help, this is it. Opening up about your eating disorder can be daunting and confronting, but Talking Helps.

Research also shows that people who start treatment for an eating disorder sooner are more likely to experience a shorter recovery process and a better chance of obtaining a positive outcome, but full recovery is possible no matter how long you have lived with an eating disorder.

Person-centred care, tailored to suit that person’s illness, situation and needs, is the most effective way to treat someone with an eating disorder, and professional support is essential.

If you’re not sure where to begin, reach out to Butterfly’s National Helpline on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673), chat online or email support@butterfly.org.au

Our counsellors are here for you 7 days a week, 8am-midnight (AEST) and can provide advice, information and support. Our services are free and confidential.

How we can help

Finding an eating disorder professional

It can be disheartening to open up about your eating disorder and be met with misunderstanding and confusion. Unfortunately, not all health professionals are trained to treat eating disorders, so finding a professional who understands and is qualified to treat these serious mental illnesses can help.

A useful first place to start is your GP, but you can also search Butterfly’s Referral Database for qualified eating disorder practitioners closet to your area.

Find a professional

Further reading

Recovery and support services 

  • Butterfly support groups – connect with peer workers who have recovered from their eating disorder and others going through a similar experience. We offer support groups for individuals, as well as their carers.
  • Butterfly recovery and support programs – Butterfly offers skills and strategies for dealing with body image issues and eating disorders.
  • Eating Disorders Victoria (EDV) – EDV supports Victorians experiencing eating disorders and their family and friends throughout the treatment and recovery journey. EDV offers support groups, programs, carer courses, peer mentoring, e-Learning and resources for recovery.
  • Eating Disorders Queensland (EDQ) – EDQ is a statewide service offering individual and group therapy, peer mentoring, early intervention and community building.
  • Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA)EDFA is the national support body for carers and families impacted by an eating disorder.
  • Reach out and Recover (ROAR) – The ROAR website is an interactive tool to support people who have eating and body concerns, and who feel distressed because of these concerns. ROAR will help people to see the extent and impact of their problems and will provide help with the next steps to take towards recovery.

Related tags: eating disorder support eating disorder treatment get help Recovery support groups talking helps tips for recovery WEDAD World Eating Disorders Action Day