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Dear Melody: What Advice Do You Have for a 30-Something in Recovery?

“Monthly Matters with Melody” is a monthly advice column by Dr. Melody Moore, a clinical psychologist, yoga instructor and the founder of the Embody Love Movement Foundation. Her foundation is a non-profit whose mission is to empower girls and women to celebrate their inner beauty, commit to kindness and contribute to meaningful change in the world. Dr. Moore is a social entrepreneur who trains facilitators on how to teach programs to prevent negative body image and remind girls and women of their inherent worth. Her work has been featured in the books Yoga and Body Image and Yoga and Eating Disorders: Ancient Healing for Modern Illness, as well as in Yoga Journal, Yoga International and Origin Magazine.

Recovery is hard when you are busy with kids, school, and work, not to mention the changes your body goes through as you get into your late 30s. Any helpful advice?

Recovery is hard. No matter what you’re up against, and especially when you are parenting, learning and working while trying to diminish the symptoms of your eating disorder. I hope you are honoring yourself for your willingness to stay in the discomfort of recovery despite all of what may seem like obstacles to it. 

With all that you are juggling and all that is required of you, it’s vital to determine for yourself what you hold as most valuable. When you have a clear sense of your values, it helps you to prioritize your time and attention. What is most valuable to you can then be used as a lighthouse for you to direct your energy and efforts. Your values serve as a barometer for whether you are in or out of alignment, and can help you maintain integrity for yourself and others.

My advice to you is to consider your health and well-being, which includes your freedom from disordered eating, to be your highest value. Your children, your coworkers and clients or patrons, and your education depend on your recovery. There is no chance of you being able to serve as your best parent, student or employer/ee if you are being hijacked by an eating disorder. Bargaining with the voices of ED simply takes up too much time and energy, and causes too much confusion, for you to meet the demands of your life in a way that feels sustainable to you and those impacted by you. 

It may feel counter-intuitive at times, but your recovery has to come first. If not, everything else will be negatively impacted by your inability to be fully available, in mind, body and spirit, for it. Even when your children or the demands of your job or school don’t make it easy for you to take the necessary steps toward holding your recovery sacred, you have to set boundaries that protect your health. 

You are asking about how to compete with the reality of aging. The truth is, as we age, our bodies age. They change. And they will continue to do so, for as long as we live. This truth necessitates that we recognize that there is no perfecting acceptance. It’s not a place we get to reach, and then rest on the laurels of checking off the box. Instead, body acceptance is a moving target, because our bodies consistently evolve. Even over the course of a day, to say nothing of the course of a life. To me, this physical evolution is an opportunity to recognize that we, at our essence, are more than our physical bodies. The body speaks the language of time, but the soul speaks the language of timelessness, of sacred truth and love. This truth somehow surpasses what we are met with when we look in the mirror and don’t recognize ourselves in our current iteration of aging. We see evidence of our aging body, but often don’t feel like we should look this old! This discrepancy happens because our souls aren’t aging, our bodies are. 

I’m pointing this out to you with the hope that you don’t continue to fight the aging process. It’s a losing battle to fight time itself. What is possible, though, is the capacity to see the truth: that your body is merely a vehicle for your soul’s journey. Your soul has so much more at stake than the weight or appearance of your body. It has purpose and intention and value. Knowing this, as your body ages, you can come to appreciate the evolutions as wisdom, as experience and as recognition of how far you’ve come. 

I realize the idea of embracing your aging appearance may sound like it’s a long way off, or even impossible, but there is a benefit to knowing where you are headed. It's absolutely within your reach to fully recover from your eating disorder, and the symptoms that accompany it. Your willingness to ask this question is evidence that you are invested in your recovery. I encourage you to continue to nourish the parts of yourself that are committed to wholeness and health, so that you can inhabit the richness of your life.