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A common concern of disregulated eaters is what it takes to become a “normal” eater. The process involves patience, persistence, curiosity, self-reflection, self-honesty, the ability to tolerate discomfort—and the practice of excellence. What does practicing excellence mean? You may be surprised to find out.
Journalist Daniel Coyle studies excellence and wrote a book called THE TALENT CODE: GREATNESS ISN’T BORN. IT’S GROWN. HERE’S HOW. I haven’t read it, but I like what he has to say about the process of achieving excellence. Observing people learning different activities, he says (Psychotherapy Networker, March/April 2012), “Whether it was a little kid playing soccer or somebody playing the harp, there was this uncomfortable place where they were reaching intensely, failing, sensing that failure, and reaching again for the right answer. And when you really zoom in on what’s happening when you’re in that state, you’re making new connections in the brain—building a map of what you want to do. Those ‘mistakes’ you’re making aren’t really mistakes, they’re the information you use to get the solution.”
Coyle is saying what I’ve said a million times and what experts know because they’ve observed and experienced it: mistakes don’t go into the negative column of life but into the positive one. How else but through making mistakes can we succeed? Who on earth can experience their best shot or solution or discovery the first time they try to do something? No one. Mistakes are the to arrive at a solution. Please, reread this sentence and internalize this concept until you recognize and accept its truth and logic.
Making mistakes in the service of excellence— in our case, “normal” eating—is part of the process. Success cannot happen without “mistakes” such as overeating, waiting too long to eat when you’re hungry, bingeing instead of experiencing feelings, jumping on the scale and being disappointed, returning to dieting when you’re frustrated, obsessing about weight, getting triggered and eating, hanging out with unhealthy people, choosing foods that make you feel ill, managing stress with food, harshly judging yourself, not setting appropriate limits for yourself and others…and many, many more.
Next time you make what you think of as a “mistake” with food, reconceptualize it as a marker to show you what not to do again. Consider that your brain is reorganizing and already looking for a better way of responding. Don’t get hung up on mistakes. They’re done, gone, over. Rather, think of them as useful to spurring you on to success.