Bye Bye Eating Disorder Fears

The mind is a tricky thing.

Recovery from an eating disorder is a process. It involves taking steps one meal at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time. Of course, it is far more complicated than that and the soul work involved is far more than just behavior change.

But in the early stages of recovery, during the early steps, eating disorder fears appear with gusto.

And it typically starts with a mind trick.

Part of your mind may tell you "it has been 3 weeks, you've done a great job, you deserve ___________." Insert the eating disorder behavior that is a particular problem area for you.

Why does this happen? Why is it such a predictable struggle? And How can I make sure I do not give in when this line of thinking takes place?

Lets work through these points. But first, a metaphor.

Above Ground Pools are the Best!

Have you ever swam in an above ground pool? I'm talking about one of those circular pools that were only about 4 feet deep. You know, the ones you see on YouTube where they break and all the water pours out down the yard. You know what I'm talking about. 

Well, when I was a kid, I loved to swim in my friend's above ground pool. Inevitably we would make a decision to do the best thing you can ever do in an above ground pool.

Make... a... whirlpool!

All you have to do is start walking or swimming in one direction, lets say clockwise. As you both do that, the water starts to follow. Over time, you can actually stock running and just float. You just float around the pool effortlessly. 

But, what if you want to stop and change direction. This isn't such an easy task. At first, you may hang on to the side and be unable to even put your feet on the ground. But, over enough time and effort, you can put a foot or two down. 

Then you may try and make progress in the opposite direction (counter clockwise) with the current still going strongly against you. 

Effort and energy... One step

More effort and energy... second step

Change Direction

And over time each step will get easier. Soon enough, with enough consistent and focused effort you can completely change the direction of the current.

Similarly, I think the eating disorder can feel like a strong current going against your healthy self (the part of you that wants to recover). You may be so used to the disorder and your way of living in the disorder that initial efforts to go "against this current" may feel difficult to nearly impossible. And the progress may feel small (like a single step) for all the effort you put in. 

But this is just because they are the first few steps. These are often the hardest because you are facing the current at its strongest. Over time things typically do get easier.

3 Unconventional Keys To Face Eating Disorder Fears

Below are three keys to face eating disorder fears.  These may likely apply whether a person suffers from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or any form of disordered eating.

1. Left Foot, Right Foot

Simply put, one step at a time, but always focusing on the next step forward. Taking consistent steps forward is vital to change. And, as you make progress, facing each fear actually gets easier. Yes, it may feel more difficult in the short term, but in the long term you may experience much greater freedom from eating disordered fears than you ever imagined. 

2. Avoid Focus on the Negative

One of the first things I learned in Driver's Education class was that in order to get a sense for where I am on the road, I should look at the white line on the right... not the yellow lines on my left. Why? Because, according to the teacher, you move toward what you are looking at. Fascinating! So I wonder if you and your family, friends, and loved ones focuses on what is going wrong and putting negative attention in that direction, could that actually get in the way? What if you focused on good things in your life and recovery and focused on furthering these.

In the therapeutic work I have done, I have tried to help clients connect with their healthy self (the part of them that wants to recover) and seek to empower that rather than attack the eating disorder self (the part that is really IN the eating disorder). 

Note: I am not saying that a person should continue doing something that is harmful, but I do wonder if focusing on what is going well will naturally increase positive behavior. 

3. Watch an Inspiring Film

Preferably a film that contains a character that you admire that stands up for what they believe in. Films and books are powerful ways of carrying truth directly to our head and heart in ways that simply stating truth cannot. Story is powerful. Story bypasses our normal defense mechanisms and connects with the soul. Make sure to watch inspiring, uplifting films, not films that glorify negativity and dysfunction. I think you know what I mean by that.

What can result is that you are more motivated to change and often times the greater the motivation, the lesser the fear.

Thank you for reading. I hope you found some of this helpful. If you have any comments or suggestions, I would love to hear.


The purpose of this blog entry is to share eating disorder recovery related ideas and does not represent professional medical of psychological advice from Mike Thomas or Recovery Spark. For professional advice, please connect with the professional eating disorder specialist that you work with.