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Psychological Markers

In the recovery process, there are markers—psychological shifts—that indicate making progress towards “normal” eating. Just as children must achieve development milestones, so must eaters who are journeying from dysfunction to function. If you’re wondering how you need to change to recover, here are some markers to look for.

The first marker is true acceptance that your way of eating is unsound and unhealthy. If you’re ambivalent about how unhealthy your eating is, your internal conflicts will play out in your behavior. If you whole-heartedly believe that learning to eat “normally” is exactly what you need to do to get over your food problems, then you’ll be able to put 100% of your psychic energy into the process (though the journey will still be long and arduous). A second marker is accepting that diets and restriction are not the answer to disordered eating. Some problem eaters have known this for years and still have difficulty giving up chronic deprivation; others have hated every minute of dieting and are so overjoyed to find a better way of relating to food, that they know for certain they’ll never diet again.

A third marker is recognizing how slow and painful the process of change will be (though there will be positive changes along the way). When you finally, unequivocally accept that no person or program is going to change you, that your efforts will produce setbacks and achievements, that the process will frustrate you and try your patience like it’s never been tried before, that the work is now and the pay off comes later, you will have reached a mental place where you can buckle down and do what’s needed.

A fourth marker is acknowledging the amount of non-eating self-work you have to do to become a “normal” eater. When you understand that your problems are as much about emotions and beliefs as about eating behaviors, you’re on your way. Because we live in a culture that focuses on eating transformation through behavior, it may come as a shock that food is the least of your problems. You may have to change a great deal about yourself regarding maintaining boundaries, regulating feelings, asserting needs, improving relationships, achieving intimacy, and upping their self-esteem to become a “normal” eater. You may have to deal with trauma and/or other painful childhood issues.

There are many other markers along the way. Perhaps you’ve passed by some already in the progress you’ve already made. Chart your markers. Recognizing them is a way to celebrate what you’ve accomplished and prepare yourself for what lays ahead.