Archive for the ‘Pathway to Normal Eating’ Category

Change up frequently. Keep trying new things. There are so many things to learn on your journey, it’s useless to perfect anything before going on to the next.

Keep it fun, find ways to laugh at yourself and the world. Enjoy the food, enjoy the learning, enjoy the exercise, enjoy the journey.

It’s your life. Take it back. Make it what you want it to be, free of compulsion and sadness.


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The single most important principle about non-normal eaters is: if your eating has been not normal for a long time, it will require a long time to correct. Therefore, the most important things to practice are patience and persistence.

Never giving up is the only way to make a permanent change. Even though I’d dearly love it to be different, there’s no A-Ha moment that will cause an instant change that will last.

Additionally, mistakes will become your friends. As you learn to stop beating yourself up about mistakes, you will gradually learn to turn the mistakes into advantage, building up knowledge that eventually becomes food wisdom.

The single activity you can do to speed you along is to keep acknowledging and rewarding positive behavior (it helps to define your desired goals beforehand). Most of the best rewards are free. Keep telling yourself the things you are doing well, and there is ALWAYS something to congratulate yourself for every day. This positive feedback is like gasoline on a fire – it will increase your learning and your success.

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Change your shape, change your life.

For emotional eaters, learning to not overeat for emotional reasons means learning how to deal with emotions in other ways. When you do this, though, you become a different person.

The same thing happens when you los weight first. In order to keep it off, you will learn new ways of coping with your emotions, and you become a different person too.

So basically, no matter how you change yourself, you always change yourself.

Tonight I changed from a person who was highly loyal, even when the return on my investment is low, to a person who can give up on some futile activities when she realizes it’s not serving her well.

I’ve been going to aquajogging for several years now. People are nice and polite when I go, but I haven’t made any fast friends. Tonight I almost went for the first time this season, because I said I would and I haven’t been yet. It’s about 6 weeks since the start of class. I almost went, but then realized that I do not have the cash to pay for the class tonight, so I’d be going, expecting to still have my place, and delay paying one more week. I debated going or not going, and then the emotions washed over me and I cried.

I cried because I am not getting friends out of the class like I’d hoped. Because I’m tired. Because I’m lonely. Because this was the only way I knew to even make acquaintances, and it’s not really working. Because it was hard to admit that it doesn’t make sense to go somewhere when I’m not getting what I want out of it. Because I’m now the kind of person who doesn’t follow through on her promise to attend the class, and the accompanying failure to follow on the financial commitment (the teacher does not charge if you never show, so she takes a financial hit when I reserve a place and don’t ever go).

I thought I was going to be better, happier, perfect when I beat this ED. Turns out I’m not. Turns out I let people down sometimes. Turns out I have impractical expectations of others sometimes. Turns out I’m normal.

Normal sucks sometimes.

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Setting goals can be intimidating for an ED person. For me, any kind of food limiting goal was impossible. Diets were simply one big long cheat, pretending to want to diet away my fat, yet almost never eating according to the plan. The one time I lost on a diet program, I lost over 100 pounds, getting down to 177. The diet ended because I became pregnant, and the “counselor” at the center was apparently so angry that she’d lost a paying customer that she accused my husband of controlling everything I did. Bizarre, freaky woman. <yes, dear, you want another beer? I’m on my way. I love the visit to Stepford we made a while back. I feel so satisfied, and you’re so hot.>

This year I really learned to set and work toward goals. Just click on the category goals in this blog, and you’ll see how a person can turn a food obsession into a goal obsession.

Set goals that work for you, the smaller the better when you start out. Don’t give up a food category forever, if that’s your wish. Instead, start by skipping that food at a single meal. Repeat when it feels right, and keep working at it. Many of my good habits started with doing it once, then not again for months. But slowly, I started building them until I reached the level of “good enough.”

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My final state is described in my mission statement.

… permanently change to a moderate range of Emotional, Physical and Social behaviors 

That may sound odd or ambiguous to you, but it’s extremely clear to me. As a compulsive eater who never learned good social or emotional skills, resolving those issues is what I describe as becoming normal.

In school, I often had teachers and counselors try to help. “Count to 10 before you cry,” or some other form of advice that might have helped someone far less screwed up than I was. They were simply helpless in face of my problems, which were overwhelming. 40 years ago, it was rare for a school to intervene in a family life. Might have been better for me if someone had, but that’s all in the past now.

One of the most basic social skills I lacked was personal hygiene. It wasn’t pretty, 6 people sharing a 900 square foot house with parents who never cleaned. Cockroaches were part of daily life. So was washing just the dishes you needed to eat with, ignoring the dishes and pans piled everywhere. The rest of the house was the same. Clothes were not washed, they lay mildewing on the bathroom floor next to the washer and dryer. Eventually the bathroom floor rotted through. It was impossible for me to even recognize that I stank.

My future state includes being able to easily clean up after myself without guilt or shame. I can go out in the company of others without worrying about my smell or physical presentation. I have all of that past shame so far in the past that it does not affect current conversation.  I can deal with everyday hard emotions without going overboard. I can move with ease and strength, free from the difficulties significant extra weight brings. This picture becomes more clear for me every day.

Define what you want your final state to be. Be specific. Motivate yourself by creating a strong picture of your future state. Let that future state guide your choices today.

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Action is more important than theory here. It’s also the place where most programs fail you. Programs that claim differentiation by being a diet or a non-diet or an exercise program tend to focus in just one area, but your recovery is holistic and needs to take care in all areas. Before you think I’m being too hard on the programs, consider this: program are subservient to commercial interests. This subservience may stem from good motives, but they still have to serve many many people. You get to focus on yourself, and take what’s best from each and create your own program.

Changing your thinking, eating and activity habits will take time and patience. Rather than looking at mistakes as failure, regard them instead as data points that teach you to try something different. Most importantly, don’t give up. This is gargantuan change and will take time.

Neither your decisions nor your practice will be perfect. Making choices means balancing your needs and fulfilling all as well as you can.  You are making changes that will be permanent. Prove to yourself that all habits, in all areas, can be improved. 

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Whatever it takes? How can you define that?

For me, whatever it takes is whatever it takes, short of violating my primary values. For example, I won’t kill to be thin and free of the ED.

Doing whatever it takes means the following:

  1. Doing what you think you need to be doing
  2. Assess the efficacy of your choices and actions
  3. Repeat until you get the results you want

This is hard, no doubt about it. At its worst, you will experience frustration, feelings of ineffectiveness, and want to give up. At best, you’ll discover strengths you never knew you had, the joy of success, and strong motivation.

My biggest personal frustration has been around actually losing weight after recovering. I am thrilled with my progress in stopping binging and self-talk, even in exercise. But finding the right amount and type of eating that meets all 3 needs (emotional, physical and rational) is difficult. Now I am beginning to perceive myself as an ED-recovered person in a body still carrying the burden of the ED. I feel like I’m truly me now, and just have some excess energy (OK, a LOT of excess energy) to burn off to let my body catch up with the rest of me.

So I’m using the phrase “whatever it takes” as my mantra this week. I repeat this phrase a hundred times or more a day, each time I encounter a choice. “I want to do whatever it takes,” I whisper to myself, “What will it take right now, this very minute?”

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