Most of my blog content is inspired by client sessions. Obviously I don’t get super specific, but every once in awhile something will come up that I just know needs to be shared with more people than the two of us in the room. Today’s is no exception.
I’ve worked with this particular client for over a year now. Prior to working with her, she had spent many years in therapy and inpatient treatment centers, taking many different approaches to recovery. In the time I have spent with her, she has come SO far and I am so proud of how hard she has worked. She has wanted recovery and has fought to make peace with food. So the other day she said something to this effect:
“You know, it’s different this time; I can feel it. All I have tried in the past has still focused on food, numbers and weight - counting exchanges* or food groups or making sure I don’t gain too much weight. But it’s amazing how not having any food rules and not focusing on weight at all actually has made me the healthiest I have ever been. Knowing what true freedom feels like…I don’t think I could ever go back.”
She totally summed up all I hope those I work with will come to know for themselves - eating disorder or not. The ability to let go and trust cannot be underestimated. Unfortunately it takes a lot of grit, particularly because of the food and weight obsessed culture we live in. Making peace with food and your body has to be a higher priority than changing your body shape and size. As clients move forward in eating fear foods or not obsessively monitoring weight, fear and anxiety are bound to intensify. It’s in those moments that many retreat. It gets hard and super confusing and completely overwhelming. This isn’t something that can be done in one session or, in many cases, without professional help. If you are currently receiving help, keep going! Make sure to reach out on hard days and let us remind you why you are working so hard. Don’t stop because it gets hard, let that be when you ask for help. You WILL get there, but only if you keep going.
I offer 4 suggestions that I know will make this process all the easier:
- Eliminate, or at least reduce, body checking. Don’t compare it to other bodies, don’t weight or measure it and don’t talk negatively about it.
- A complete social media detox. You need to hide or unfollow anything (yes anything) that discusses weight, body shape, food rules or diets. I’m casting a pretty wide net there; if it’s questionable just get rid of it.
- A healthy dose of gratitude. I’m not saying you need to fake anything or start “shoulding” yourself into feeling a different way. Just start looking for things in your life or as you go throughout your day that you are grateful for. When we start looking, we start seeing. Looking for the good can change our whole outlook, and help us gain perspective. We are conditioned to believe that the way we look is most important…but it’s just not.
- Lastly, you are not expected to love or even like your body. In fact, I don’t think that would be a wise goal. Instead I encourage you to work toward, and practice, body respect. Realize really deeply that your body is YOUR body. Another one is not going to magically appear. The energy you are currently spending on manipulating or changing or comparing your body will be better used in learning about and respecting it.
I love the work I do and I love seeing someone heal their relationship with food and their body. It never ceases to amaze me how much impact that has on every other aspect of their lives. I hope you find the peace you deserve.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD
*Early stages of eating disorder recovery does require some sort of meal plan/schedule/structure, and some treatment centers use exchanges. I am not necessarily disagreeing with the use of exchanges, but for this particular client, it kept her in food rules a little longer than necessary due to it’s attachment to weight. There are many ways to recover from any sort of disordered eating just please be sure to get professional help from a well-rounded treatment team.