One of the biggest challenges one faces throughout their eating disorder recovery journey is what I like to call “the usual suspects.” While challenges in eating disorder recovery differ vastly for many, there tend to be several that I hear often from clients and the recovery community. Identifying your main obstacles and strategies to overcome them is a tremendous accomplishment. Here I will address two of the key challenges I most commonly come across and will address more in my next article.
#1 “I already screwed up so I might as well…(keep on binging, purging, restricting, over-exercising, etc.)”
ED will tell you many lies such as “you’ll never get better so why bother,” “it’s fine you can start over again tomorrow, next week, etc.,” “you are (fill in the blank with whatever critical, self-defeating thoughts are coming through) and of course there are many more self-sabotaging thoughts that can prevent you from standing up to ED and moving forward in these moments.
Overcoming this obstacle and taking your power away from ED means FIRST identifying that these are the distortions that keep you stuck and making a decision to do something different. If you have a healthy support system, reach out to one of them immediately and telling them you are struggling and are making a conscious choice to stop engaging in ED behavior. This simple act alone can be helpful as it allows you to disrupt the intrusive, negative thoughts for a moment and make yourself accountable to discontinue the behavior.
If possible, you may need to remove yourself from the environment where you are acting out on symptoms even if it is just leaving your room and going into the family room. Staying in the environment can be triggering and make it more difficult to stop acting out on symptoms.
Another great tool is writing down your commitment that you are going to honor yourself and your eating disorder recovery by standing up to ED and then writing down what you are choosing to do instead such as journal, call/see a friend, or engage in a healthy activity, etc.
#2 “My family (or whomever is important in your life) totally do not get it.”
When you are living with or in connection with people who minimize your struggle in any way, it creates feelings of self-doubt and, as a result, I often hear from people “then obviously it must not be that big a deal.” Of course it is painful and frustrating when our loved ones don’t understand an ED and can be extremely triggering. Perhaps your loved ones with adequate education via therapy or books can begin to gain a deeper understanding and be more supportive, but the reality is that some people are simply not open or willing to try to understand.
Overcoming this obstacle lies in working toward accepting that your loved ones getting it and being supportive CANNOT be a prerequisite to your eating disorder recovery. Ideally, they would understand and be there for you and you have a right to ALL of your feelings about it, but allowing their ignorance and/or unwillingness to be part of the solution cannot determine your future.
Working through these feelings via therapy, support groups, healthy supportive friends, or journaling can be helpful and if you believe that your loved ones are open to learning and showing up for you more then I highly recommend including them in your therapy and/or sharing books and other resources with them.
As I write this, I understand how tough working through any eating disorder recovery obstacles is, so please be kind and patient with yourself as you continue your journey.