Effective and lasting recovery from an eating disorder requires REPETITION:
- Repetition of new behaviors
- Repeatedly making the choice to recover (daily, hourly, moment to moment at times)
- Repeated exposures to foods or experiences that may feel unsafe (but aren’t)
- Repeated exposure to ideas, messages, and information counter to the myths and beliefs held by your disordered mind (inundate yourself with recovery-oriented materials, social media, etc)
- Repeated practice of coping skills and productive ways of meeting your emotional and practical needs
Repetition is essential to internalizing core truths (you are enough and you can be safe), reinforcing new neural pathways, and creating patterns that actually serve you.
It is not uncommon for my clients to fear (consciously or not) that the new strategies won’t work, or that it is impossible to develop new beliefs about yourself. This manifests as writing off suggested coping strategies as ineffective (without giving them a real shot) and internal resistance to allowing themselves to receive messages of worth, value, and safety. Here are two concepts that I found to be really encouraging around this issue:
I know your eating disorder feels safe and known. In some ways, it’s really been working for you despite being so damaging. I can understand the part of you that would rather not risk letting go of it. That said, you can always go back to it if you really want to. It will always be there as an option. So why not try something new for a while? That feels risky, sure, but has the potential to produce the same benefits of your current ways of coping (and then some!) without the tremendous costs.
It’s normal to be scared new strategies and ways of being won’t work, especially if they require time and intentional effort to adopt. I encourage you to consider how long it took for your eating disorder to become engrained. It may even feel automatic at this point. Eating disorders are not so special that they are the only pattern capable of being habitual used. New beliefs, new patterns, new skills have the same capacity and potential to become habitual- just give them time!
Christian Makenna Clements is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #111159.