People often ask me why recovery from an eating disorder can sometimes take so long and why it can show up in the most unexpected ways out of nowhere. The tricky thing with eating disorders is that their ultimate goal is to stay in control of your life for as long as possible. What this means is that when you are focused on recovery they keep shape shifting to look differently so that they can still have control.
A client of mine this week expressed feeling saddened and overwhelmed because she felt like she had come so far (she had) and was caught off guard by the new ways her eating disorder was still showing up for her. For starters I think it is incredibly important to realize that progress is progress. The fact that the eating disorder can no longer trick you into engaging with yourself in those same ways means you are winning. Never take away all the success you have had and the achievements you have made. With that said, we also have to be aware of the new ways it shows up so that we can stay on top of moving ourselves forward. One of the keys to this is to continue to notice the fears or unhealthy boundaries we keep setting with ourselves when it comes to food or our relationship with our body. For example, do you still have “health” goals that require you to push your body in ways that don’t feel good or that cause anxiety if they aren’t followed through on? Are you cutting back on parts of your meal plan in subtle ways by telling yourself you don’t need it? Do you get anxious taking rest days from exercise? Often eating disorders like to hide behind a false idea of health. I would argue it is impossible to be healthy if our minds and bodies are constantly being controlled or manipulated by an eating disorder.
Once we notice the new ways the eating disorder is showing up, we implement the same strategies (or develop new ones) that have worked in the past in order to challenge the eating disorder. Recovery is a step by step process of moving towards yourself and away from your disorder. Having another step to take doesn’t diminish all the progress you have made. So be good to yourself. Celebrate the progress and acknowledge the new ways you are going to stay committed to your recovery.