By Dr. Gia Marson
Does this sound familiar? You want to recover but you also want to keep a few of the familiar eating disorder behaviors. Maybe you want to ignore your body’s hunger or fullness cues or stay at a weight that your treatment team tells you is not healthy. While recovering, you may want to maintain certain parts of the eating disorder that seem comforting and comfortable. You may have even convinced yourself that you can pick and choose which behaviors or beliefs to keep and which to release. There are so many versions of resistance to change, so many symptoms you may be unwilling to give up. If so, you are not alone. Unfortunately, though, you’re in a bind. Here is the problem: eating disorder recovery doesn’t work this way. Every behavior that aligns with the eating disorder strengthens it. If the illness is telling you that you can deprive yourself mentally or physically and recover at the same time, it is lying.
Holding on to any of those familiar eating disorder behaviors will keep you stuck.
Imagine if you wanted to learn to paint. You might read about techniques of painting. You might observe a painter. You might visit museums or take an art appreciation class. But to become a painter yourself, you have to take action. You have to start painting, make mistakes and learn from them, develop proper habits, trust your teachers, and practice. The experience of painting is what will change you from a person who talks about painting to a person who paints. From actions, we have the potential to transform and to become new, improved versions of ourselves. Recovery from an eating disorder works the same way.
It is moving through the experiences of the enlightened, healthy actions that bring about recovery.
I want to encourage you to move your recovery forward and get more unstuck today. Identify all of the eating disorder behaviors you have been holding on to. Promise yourself that tomorrow you will get into action to release them… that you will take a leap of faith and trust your treatment team or family (if you are in family-based therapy). They will tell you the truth about healthy eating, exercise and body image because they don’t have the eating disorder whispering in their ears. Ask them when, what and how to eat throughout the day and how much to exercise or how to limit yourself. If you like familiarity, don’t worry these new patterns will become more comfortable over time. By riding out urges to engage in negative behaviors and by acting in defiance of the lies of the eating disorder now, you can become a fully free version of yourself.
You can transform—from recovering to recovered.