Beyond Body Image: What Happens After Recovery

 Photo Credit:  Morgan Sessions

Photo Credit: Morgan Sessions

Body Image is certainly not a topic or issue unique to eating disorders. It touches all women regardless of a diagnosis or illness. And it certainly doesn’t go away after the illness and unhealthy relationship with food become a thing of the past.

I have had the honor of speaking with many women lately who fall somewhere in a category of “disordered eating” or “negative self-image”, or perhaps just “a normal woman” in today's western culture. Women who are not necessarily in the middle of full-blown treatment or recovery from an eating disorder (as defined by a medical or mental health professional) but who still struggle with being at war with themselves and their bodies. These are generally high-functioning adults living their normal day to day as mothers, sisters, wives, teachers, business-women, fitness instructors, actresses, artists, etc...

Most recently, I have been honored to collaborate with some dear friends and fellow professionals on a Self-Love Mastermind with the help of the leaders and founders of Manifesting Mamas. My dear friend and colleague Josie Kramer is helping me guide women across the country on a 4-week course about body love and self image.

During this course, we show the trailer for the powerful documentary “Embrace”, created by Taryn Brumfitt, founder of The Body Image Movement. {If you have not seen this film yet, I highly recommend you do!}

This past week, our participants were courageous enough to discuss their reflections after watching the video. I feel it important to share this conversation in order to shed light on how body image can be a painful struggle for all women, and most importantly, how we can support each other in cultivating a healthy, empowering relationship with our bodies, our souls, ourselves.

*participant names are changed to protect confidentiality.

Sarah: Here's what I am struggling with after watching this. I don't want to embrace my body as it is. I want a healthier, thinner body. Not because society tells me that's what I should look like, or because I think that's what will make me more beautiful. But because I want to be healthier. Does that make sense? So I guess my question is, is the key to changing your body, first accepting it as it is now? Because until I reach my healthiest me, I want to feel happy with how I am.

Cindy: A wise woman once said, "Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” I like to think that I like my body as it is now but I also love the idea that I alone have the capacity to change it... and am making progress, albeit, baby steps, towards those changes every single day.

Rachel (myself): Sarah brings up such a good point and such a common struggle with the "body acceptance/self-love" paradigm. Because truly, there is nothing innately WRONG with wanting to improve ourselves, to change ourselves, to be "fit" "healthy" "lean" "curvy" "toned" or whatever your personal goals may be.

It really all goes back to balance. There is a difference between self-improvement, health and fitness - and obsessively going to unhealthy extremes (whether emotionally or behaviorally) - which is what the media, health and beauty industries thrive on.

Even when our desires to change our bodies in order to be healthy are truly SOUL-DRIVEN, and not overtly due to society telling us how we should look, there are layers and layers of shame and worth tangled in there that are influenced by outside factors, that we are often not aware of. So the real work in recovery is being aware and accepting of those factors at play while on your journey of health...so that you are completely aware of your intentionality and emotional state throughout that process.

I also love Cindy’s feedback on this!! What an empowering perspective. There is a lot to be said about liking/loving yourself and your body for all that it does - regardless of weight or size! And the truth that you alone have the capacity to make changes towards a healthier you, based on your authentic values and your innate health needs is an incredible gift!

Josie (my partner/fellow recovery warrior): Sarah brings up such a great question! I absolutely agree with the emphasis on balance! What I can add to this conversation is a little of my own story and how it relates... When I was a teenager and into my early 20's I suffered HARD with going on and off restrictive diets & my weight would drastically fluctuate up and down. Whether I was thinner or heavier I felt miserable, I didn't enjoy food & I definitely didn't accept myself. I was in so much turmoil over food that I made a resolve to quit focusing on my weight, to quit weighing myself and to quit dieting all together!!

I decided to start over from a place of self-acceptance & focus solely on health while trusting that my weight would balance out in its own time. The acceptance part was key because I had to accept that I was heavier than I wanted to be. I also had to accept that the “yo-yo” dieting was making my life a living hell.

So I made balanced eating, balanced exercise, and self-care my new approach. No more starvation. No more out of control bingeing. No more over-exercising. And much less obsessing! It was definitely a process but little by little I started feeling so much better!! I enjoyed food again, I fell in love with yoga and I even got to a weight that was much healthier for me!

Better than all that, I started to truly love myself! The decision to stop battling with myself, while still focusing on health made ALL the difference. It doesn't have to be one or the other approach. I think a balance of the two is the answer! 

My favorite part about the transcript above, and the overall experience of working with women on these topics, is the love, kindness and support I get to witness and be a part of every day.

Remember, as Brené Brown said: 

we don’t have to do of all of it alone. We were never meant to
Rachel Daggett - Angie Viets

Rachel Daggett, MS, MFTI is a Wellness and Recovery Coach and a Registered Therapist Intern. She has a private practice in Manhattan Beach, CA, and strives to be an active force of empowerment and love in the community. Through struggling with her own eating disorder and journey of healing, and now being recovered, she has become an advocate for eating disorder recovery and mental health. Rachel has a Masters degree in Psychology, and believes in the importance of caring for the mind, body, heart, and soul as a whole. Rachel is a yogi, a dog-mom, a beach-girl at heart, and has recently started studying the natural healing power of essential oils. Visit her website

Rachel Daggett, MS, MFTI

Rachel Daggett, MS, MFTI is a Wellness and Recovery Coach and a Registered Therapist Intern. She has a private practice in Manhattan Beach, CA, and strives to be an active force of empowerment and love in the community. Through struggling with her own eating disorder and journey of healing, and now being recovered, she has become an advocate for eating disorder recovery and mental health. Rachel has a Masters degree in Psychology, and believes in the importance of caring for the mind, body, heart, and soul as a whole. Rachel is a yogi, a dog-mom, a beach-girl at heart, and has recently started studying the natural healing power of essential oils. Visit her website