Leaning into discomfort in the initial stages of recovery
Words really cannot describe the power, passion and courage that are exemplified when you truly commit to recovery from an eating disorder. Many wait to feel ready before taking the necessary actions that recovery requires. The hard truth is that if you wait for the day you feel “ready,” that day may never come. Discomfort, fear, and resistance are all a part of change that comes alongside recovery from an eating disorder. Your eating disorder may want you to resist those uncomfortable feelings, but accepting them is the fastest way to move to the other side and achieve full recovery. Moving through the plethora of emotions that arise with deliberate action is the only way they can be diminished. Though it’s not easy to act in the face of discomfort and fear, it is entirely possible. To have an eating disorder is not a choice, but to recover is.
Cast Your Vote
Every action you take is either a vote for the eating disorder or a vote for full recovery which includes food freedom and a better relationship with your body. Because eating disorders are pervasive and influence all aspects of life, nothing is neutral. So often, those who struggle with an eating disorder get stuck in the “all or nothing” mentality that is fueled by perfectionism; “I didn’t follow my meal plan this morning so I might as well not do it at all.” It’s important to remember that recovery from disordered eating is not about perfection, but progress. This means that in order to achieve full recovery, you must take many consecutive actions consistently and vigilantly over time. As a result, you will likely experience internal conflict expressed as resistance in the beginning stages of recovery. Recovery requires you to take opposite action to the rules and mindsets established by your eating disorder and like all change, this can feel uncertain, uncomfortable and downright scary. With this in mind, there are actions and mindsets you can adopt to prepare yourself for the inevitable challenges that arise when recovering from an eating disorder.
The first step in moving through this discomfort that comes with recovery is to expect it. The critical voice of the eating disorder will likely get louder as you take recovery aligned actions. It may tell you that eating that second snack isn’t really all that important or that you have no discipline and are out of control eating what is required for your recovery. With this awareness, you can prepare yourself for the negative thoughts and emotions that will likely arise. Because you have the awareness of what thoughts and inclinations may come as you commit to recovery, you are in the powerful position of being able to challenge and counter them. At first, this can feel daunting, but like all things in eating disorder recovery, it gets easier with practice.
How to Stay Committed in Eating Disorder Recovery
- Establish your recovery support network.
Be it a trusted health professional, a close friend or family member or a supportive community such as Recovery Club, support from others cannot be overstated. Having people by your side not only helps to keep you on track and accountable, but it also can help you to navigate the challenging feelings and emotions that naturally coincide with recovery from an eating disorder.
- What is the “why” that is driving you to recover from your eating disorder? Whether it is love, purpose, family or simply living a happier and freer life, we all have that something that prompted us to seek recovery in the first place. Keep this prominently at the forefront of your mind and heart because this is what will empower you to take action in alignment with recovery regardless of any discomfort that arises.
- Create an action plan for when things get tough in your eating disorder recovery journey. What coping strategies work specifically for you? It’s important to acknowledge that what works for one person may not work for you. Creating your personalised toolbox may take a bit of trial and error and because of this, it’s important to be patient with yourself.
- Learn to differentiate between the eating disorder voice and your healthy self. By taking the opposite action to what your eating disorder voice tells you to do, you will create a new way of being and begin to lay the foundation for the free life that you deserve as you work towards full recovery. As the Eating Disorder self fades, your Healthy Self will become clearer and more prominent.
Seeing Challenging Emotions as Invitations
Learning to see fear and discomfort as allies rather than enemies is perhaps the most valuable lesson recovery can give. When you learn to see adversity as an opportunity, you are opening countless doors of possibility both in recovery and life beyond. Resistance and the feelings that go with it are an invitation to explore and reflect, not something to avoid and push away. Before recovery, when faced with triggering experiences you may have numbed out, run away or avoided that through XYZ behavior, but with recovery you see it as an opportunity to be curious. Rather than avoiding these emotions, lean in to them by asking yourself, “what is this here to teach me.” The beauty of emotions is that they are in continuous flux. If we allow them to, they will pass. The simple yet challenging truth is that discomfort that comes with eating disorder recovery is merely an opportunity to prove to ourselves just how capable and powerful we are.
A Quick Guide to Navigating Discomfort In Eating Disorder Recovery:
- Educate yourself on everything you need to be doing in order to recover. Establish what the non-negotiables are for you at this time. A relatively universal guideline is gentle movement and a minimum of 3 meals and 3 snacks every 2 – 3 hours.
- Be unshakeable in your commitment to recovery. All the motivation in the world cannot serve you if you are not committed. It’s in commitment that you will find your strength. Staying committed to recovery doesn’t mean you won’t have difficult days; it means continuing to keep up with recovery despite those challenges and obstacles you face.
- Feel your feelings. As emotions arise on your eating disorder recovery journey, learn to label your emotions the best you know how and trust that they will pass. It can be helpful to remember that feelings are not facts. Be careful not to judge them or yourself for having them. Emotions are invitations for further exploration: nothing less and nothing more.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Recovery from an eating disorder can feel overwhelming, scary and uncertain. It’s important to acknowledge what your needs are as you navigate through the challenging emotions that inevitably arise in your eating disorder recovery journey. This could mean hiring a coach to assist you in challenging your thoughts, reaching out to a friend to join you in facing a fear-food or being vulnerable with your feelings throughout the process.
- Remember that every action taken in alignment with recovery makes the following actions easier. As you continuously commit to your recovery, you are strengthening your healthy self and connecting to your most authentic and true being. As you do this, you are creating a bigger, brighter and more beautiful life which will empower you to continue onward towards achieving full recovery from your eating disorder.
Recovery can feel overwhelming because you are literally challenging every behaviour, mindset and belief that your eating disorder previously established. The change that comes with full recovery from an eating disorder is drastic and can bring about strong feelings and emotions. Rather than getting paralysed by the big feelings that come with recovery, fix your gaze simply on the “next right thing.” Keep moving forward and have faith that the actions you take right now are creating the free and happy life of your future. You don’t have to do this alone!
Ready To Improve Your Relationship with Food and Get Your Period Back?
Sarah King is an Exercise Physiologist and Health Coach specialising in helping women reconnect with their bodies and improve their relationship with food and exercise.
Through her 1:1 Health Coaching Sessions clients learn to nourish their bodies without guilt, move for joy, improve body image and self worth, plus recover from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and get their period pack if it’s gone missing.
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Hi future friends, I’m Sarah King, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and health coach.
Science, not trends is the foundation of my approach. By nourishing the body and mind with scientific facts we can build foundations for a life of realness, not just wellness.