Sustaining Eating Disorder Recovery — Conscious to Unconscious Competence

Last week I wrote about unconscious incompetence moving to conscious incompetence. Where that places you is knowing what you’re not great at. This week we’ll look into the next stages of eating disorder recovery so far as this model of competence goes. Check out last weeks post before you read this one please, otherwise you’ll be utterly lost!

So, I got to the point where at least I knew I was not good at eating or knowing to when or how much to eat. I was consciously incompetent, which is way better and easier to deal with than being unconsciously incompetent. But it’s by no means the end of the story.

What next?

Next one has to take action to become competent. In my eating disorder recovery this involved learning or relearning everything I thought I knew around food, exercise, and may other aspects of life. This relearning also involves other people — something that many of us adult eating disorder sufferers are resistant to for one reason or another. You may know what you need to do, but you have to make a concerted and conscious effort in order to do it.

I knew that I had to eat more, and eat regularly, but I had to devise a plan in order to make it happen. I’ll tell you that the space in-between conscious incompetence and conscious competence for me was far too long. I didn’t act fast enough to put plans, people, and protocols in place to help me relearn how to eat. A lot of the reason that I write about all this and make up recovery plans now is so that you don’t make that same mistake. The situation of conscious incompetence can go on for years if you let it. Don’t let it.

How does one move into Unconscious Competence?


Practice. Eating disorder recovery is a skill like any other skill. It only becomes easy when you have done it enough times that you don’t have to think about it any more. This takes years and you’ll not wake up one day and suddenly know that you are unconsciously competent. You might however, realise after a meal one day that you ate fried chicken for lunch without feeling stressed, or anxious, or anything other than hungry really. And you might notice that you ate fried chicken for no other reason than you were hungry and it was there and it tastes yummy.

For someone with an eating disorder, eating for the joy of taste is something to aspire to. Not because you have to, but because you want to.

I think that with most of my eating-related problems I have reached a stage of unconscious competence having been fully recovered for over five years. I feel hunger often and eat often and plentifully. I never skip a meal, and this is no longer because I have a rule that I cannot skip, but because I am too hungry most of the time and enjoy my food to much to want to ever skip a meal again.

However, there are still some things I know I am not able to be unconsciously competent about yet. I still have to consciously make sure that I eat a wide variety of foods, otherwise I default to eating the same thing for breakfast for weeks or months on end. I have to consciously vary my meals.

I also have to consciously limit the amount of exercise I do so that I don’t fall into the trap of doing too much. Having said that, this adobe-spark-6week I didn’t go to the gym once even through I allow myself to go a maximum of 3 times per week (No cardio, only weights and core exercises and 45 mins max each time FYI). I didn’t go this week simply because I woke up then decided to roll over and get an extra hour of sleep — which has been delicious. The fact that I can do that now and not feel an ounce of guilt is wonderful for me.

All I feel about skipping the gym for a bit more shuteye is warm and fuzzy as I snuggled with hubby. Opposite of feeling guilty about that I feel accomplished. A couple of years ago I would have made it to my allowed gym session come hell or high water. It really is wonderful to allow my body to get what it needs rather than what society prescribes. Maybe that means I am closer to unconscious competence in terms of exercise than I thought I was?

Either way, that maximum weekly gym time rule is staying in place. There is no harm in having rules that make sure I am sustaining eating disorder recovery, is there?

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