Contraband: Anything prohibited by law; Illegal.

Contraband I feel is a word not heard all too often. However, I stumbled upon the word while studying my GRE vocabulary flashcards and something about the term resonated with me and how it could also relate to recovery from an eating disorder.

Framed in the light of recovery, unhealthy substances and damaging behaviors are considered contraband. The unhealthy substances and damaging behaviors included are any that create a barrier to recovery. This means that they allow you to avoid direct communication with your feelings—along with the people who comprise your support team—by offering you ‘alternative’ means to avoid/numb out. So what types of behaviors and substances might very well be considered contraband in recovery? Below is a tentative list I began to work on.

Diet pills, water pills


Chewing and spitting

Energy drinks, soda, coffee, any excessive caffeine



Alcohol use

Excessive napping

Skimping on calories here and there

Avoiding social situations that involve food

Manipulating weight on weigh-in days.

Compensating calories at one meal to ‘save’ for a later meal.

Gum chewing to curb appetite

The types of behaviors I tend to engage in—or have engaged in—have been gum chewing, caffeine to give me a false sense of energy and alertness and to curb appetite. Over-exercising, laxatives, calorie skimping, and manipulating weight. Some things you may engage in may not even be on this particular list, but I think it is a helpful tool to examine the behaviors that keep us locked into our eating disorder.

What behaviors keep you stuck? Try coming up with your own list. And, if you wish to take the next step, act like those things are prohibited, no matter what. Make a list and work to your hardest to not do them.


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