Karen's Blogs

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A Clear Vision and a Flexible Process Lead to Recovery Success

During an interview of Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show, he was asked questions about how his show, known for political satire, came to be such a success. He attributed his success in part to using a “clear vision and a flexible process” to get where he wanted to go. I spent some time mulling over his comment, and it hit me that this is exactly what dysregulated eaters need to do to become “normal” eaters.

Dysregulated eaters can be very rigid in their thinking and behavior, not just around food, but in general. Unfortunately, rigidity is not a trait that generally contributes to success. In fact, in terms of evolution, those who were most flexible were the ones who survived and thrived. But that flexibility must be accompanied by a firm and clear vision. How often do I hear clients say vaguely, “I want to eat better” or “I’d like to be more fit.” The only thing they’re usually specific about is that they want to lose a certain number of pounds. Mostly they have a cloudy vision of how their health will look when they’re healthy or how they will feel. So they start with a murky idea of where they’re going. Often they are clearer about where they don’t want to be regarding eating—where they are now—rather than having a strong image of the life or lifestyle they want to create.

With their unclear vision comes an inflexible process, even when they wish to become healthier. I’ve spent the better part of my career explaining to troubled eaters that weight loss is not the way to health, but they often rigidly pursue this avenue because they either still believe that low weight equals good health or don’t know what else to focus on. Hence, they get locked into restricting food to lose weight rather than actually figuring out how they need to change to get healthier. They have things exactly backwards. Instead of holding a clear vision and using a flexible strategy to improve their health, they have a murky vision of what that means and a single, rigid strategy of restricting calories—or engaging in excessive exercise—to improve it.

What’s your vision of recovery? Is it clear, firm and sharp? Can you pin it down? Or does it vacillate from losing weight to eating macro to trying to being a “normal” eater when you’re not even sure what that entails? Do you stick to your vision of “normal” eating and experiment with different ways to make it happen (that is, exhibit flexibility)—psychotherapy, support groups, reading books, meditation to reduce stress and anxiety, learning new skills, making life changes—or, do you cling to the same old “will power” strategy until you give up? Clarify your vision and experiment with different strategies and you’ll have a better chance of succeeding at “normal” eating.

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