Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting blogs focusing on “recovery commitments.”
These recovery commitments posts will be outlining some of the most common reasons that people in recovery get anxious and stressed and suggesting some simplifications for those moments.
I believe that one of the fundamental reasons that we feel stressed in recovery is because we forget that we are meant to be going against the things our eating-disorder brain believes to be important and true. I will be looking at ways to help you keep your focus when your eating disorder is screaming at you.
One of the sayings I created for myself in recovery was this:
If it feels complicated, you are doing it wrong!
Nobody ever said recovery was easy. It isn’t, but much of the time it doesn’t have to be as stressful, difficult, or as complicated as we make it. Or rather, as our eating disorder brain makes it. The anxiety that we feel can be a signal that we are allowing our eating disorder brain to overcomplicate things.
Sometimes even reminding yourself that there is nothing complicated or diploma-worthy about eating unrestricted amounts of food and resting helps. Genuinely. I would often find my brain was harking off down tangents that it had no business being in.
For example, if you find that you are fretting about whether or not the pop tarts, chocolate croissants and bowls of Lucky Charms that you are really craving and eating in vast quantities at 6am in the morning constitute a balanced diet or not. You’re already walking up a street that you don’t need to be in. You are not supposed to be trying to artificially “balance” your diet in recovery and trying to do so is overcomplicating a simple process. If you have been restricting for a long time and if you are in malnutrition your body is waaay out of balance already. Your cravings are your body trying to get back into balance by eating lots of sugar, fat, and yummy things that it needs. If you are following your hunger, then your judgement is not required. If your body wants pop tarts, then your body knows what it needs. You can reduce a lot of the anxiety you feel if you make a simple rule not to allow yourself to question, second guess, or judge what you want to eat.
Allow it to be simple.
Trying to recover while also trying to appease your eating disorder is stressful. So don’t!
I believe that much of the anxiety that is felt when you are trying to recover comes from feeling backed into a corner — feeling as if you don’t know what to do or what the right decision to make is. This is why it can be really helpful to have some words and phrases to say to yourself that help you stay focused. If you are worrying about whether or not you are eating a balanced diet, you lost focus. Your eating disorder brain has got it’s foot in the door. In fact a good rule of thumb is that if you are anxious or worried about eating you are playing the game of trying to “recover” without upsetting your eating disorder. That game is impossible to win, so no wonder you feel stressed.
Recovery is not about trying to keep your eating disorder happy. I know that you already know that. I also know how that knowledge can be lost in the moment when you are faced with a food decision to make and all you want is to choose the most peaceful path. Tough luck. You have to consistently make choices that your eating disorder will not like. Funnily enough, when you relax into doing just that, this is when you will find your anxiety lowers. It is the trying not to “get it wrong” that causes the stress. So do the opposite, actively break all the rules.
If you feel like you can’t win, or that decisions are difficult, your eating disorder is in control
This was another red flag to me. If I felt like I couldn’t make a simple decision over what I should eat, it meant that my eating disorder brain was over-complicating things. I was allowing my fear to step in front of what should have been a simple and easy decision based on nothing other than what my healthy-brain and body was desiring. This commonly happens when your healthy brain desires something that your eating disorder brain doesn’t want or is fearful of. Then you feel like you are torn between two conflicting internal desires.
If you feel like you can’t decide what to eat and the decision is getting stressful, step back mentally for a second and block all the thoughts of what you should eat. Get yourself back to detecting what you want, not what you think that you should have.
The more uncompromising you can be about eating what you want, rather than what your eating disorder brain wants, the easier you will find you handle many decisions and situations in recovery.
The next couple of weeks I am going to look at the key commitments that you have to make in order to make recovery happen. These are:
- Committing to not suppressing your natural bodyweight (this often means committing to gaining weight)
- Committing to eating without restriction
- Committing to stopping all complusive behaviours and rules/rituals
Commitment actually makes recovery less stressful
I should know! I didn’t commit for years, and those years were the stressful ones. I was forever “trying” to gain weight. Believe me, there is no excuse for not gaining weight. All those years I was “trying” to gain weight I was not committed to gaining weight — because it didn’t happen. When I committed to gaining weight, and started to eat in a manner that honored that commitment I was successful in reaching my unsuppressed bodyweight.
When I was not committed to gaining weight, but I knew that I should be trying to, my food choices were very stressful. I wanted to eat more … but not “too much” more. This is anxiety provoking as one is constantly in the middle of trying to please recovery and trying to please the eating disorder. This is literally an impossible position to be in. One cannot win!
Committing to recovery makes it actually happen because it gives one a North Star. This is what I ask of all my clients in consultation meetings. “Are you ready to commit to do what it takes to recover?”
Okay, stay tuned for the commitment blogs!