I was having a conversation with someone recently about change. It went something like this:
Me: "Everyone else has been telling me the exact same thing you have told me from the start... How I need to do 'X'."
Them: "It's hard take in and hear what others are saying when it involves you having to make the change. Sometimes we need to hear it from different people and in different ways in order to finally accept it."
Change is uncomfortable. It can involve an element of 'unknown', which for some people, is terrifying. It's interesting that the only constant in life is change. It happens everyday, in some form or other. Many people assume that change means a passing of the good and a unwelcome season of bad. I don't think this is always the case. Sometimes we have to let go of something wonderful in order to receive the beautiful thing awaiting us.
For many who struggle with an eating disorder, controlling food brought a sense of stability in the midst of change they felt they could not control. In the short term, it works, but in the long term, it inevitably turns into something that controls them, in addition to bringing a range of medical, social, psychological and emotional complications. In order to recovery, change towards health/wellness and away from their eating disorder has to occur. Here are some tips that make change more manageable:
- Supports - Don't do it alone. It's helpful to have a cheerleading section as you may need convincing from time to time. Bring people into your life (both professionally and personally) who will support you. Talk about your fears... ask for help... find someone who will help keep you accountable.
- One Step at a Time - Thinking of everything you need to change at once will overwhelm you. Remember, you don't need to change everything all at once. There will likely be areas/behaviours you will be more eager to change than others and that's okay. Work on those ones and go from there.
- Celebrate - Don't discount the small steps you take when moving towards health and wellness. Each step you take is one step further from your eating disorder.
- Embrace Emotion - Allow yourself to feel all the emotions that come with recovery. There will be days where you miss your eating disorder... there will be days where you hate it. There will be days where you are on top of the world for having eaten a challenging snack and other days when it scares you. All of it is normal and natural. Don't discount the enjoyable emotions either, even when they feel unfamiliar.
- Don't Be Afraid to Laugh At Yourself - I'm sure there will be times that as you go about recovery, you look rather silly. For example, I'll never forget the time in my recovery when I was doing a jig in front of a mirror trying desperately to get into a pair of jeans I grew out of. In the midst of it, I realized what I was doing and how silly I looked. I laughed at myself and it hit me... it was time to stop fighting change and embrace it by wearing clothes that fit.
- Include Non-ED Treatment Activities - There is definitely a place for therapy, therapeutic groups, seeing your doctor, and all of this. It is also important to build a life outside of treatment. Join a board game group, learn to knit and find a knitting circle, take a language course, return to a sport you loved before your ED took over (as always, talk with your therapist and doctor about this before returning to make sure you are medically cleared and that it does not hinder your recovery). You are so much more than someone with an eating disorder... don't forget to cultivate those parts!
- Pace Yourself - Change and recovery takes time. Allow yourself to take it. Pace yourself by setting up realistic goals. Solidify the healthy changes you have made instead of rushing onto something else. It is not a race, nor a competition.
When we learn healthier ways of coping and being, we can manage those difficult and unpleasant seasons that life brings. Change can be uncomfortable... just like growing pains are. But, it can lead to new opportunities, health and wellness. It can lead you to fully being able to enjoy the seasons of joy that life has to offer.