Struggling to Health
The stronger the grip your eating disorder has on you, the harder you will have to fight back. I wrote in The Rules of “Normal” Eating that trying to overcome an eating disorder is not for the faint of heart and I meant it. Fighting to overcome your dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors around food is a battle like few others. The struggle will reach into every corner of your existence and you will have to face off with food—your desire to eat or not eat—many times each day in order to become healthy and learn to eat “normally.”
By struggling, I mean tolerating impulses without acting on them, tough work after years or decades of mindlessly following a destructive eating path. Your inner conflict to continue behaving the same way around food as you always have will bump up hard against your growing desire to be healthy and fit. Whether you’re an over- or undereater (or both), you will find yourself in the same situations over and over—wanting to pick at food because you’re bored, rejecting food because you gained half a pound, turning to food when you’re upset, wanting to jump on the scale to distract yourself from emotional turmoil, feeling you can’t bear to leave food on your plate.
I’m not being over the top here by describing these moments as pure agony, when you feel trapped between common sense and a fierce compulsion to do or not do something. You want to jump out of your skin and almost feel as if you cannot bear one more excruciating second of being torn apart. You want so badly to give in to your dysfunctional behavior that your body is riddled with tension and your mind is filled with obsession. You want to scream, “I CAN’T DO THIS!”
But you can and you must if you want to recover. You have to if you not only want to overcome dysfunctional eating, but wish to be an emotionally healthy person. Remember, these frequent, tiny moments of turmoil from struggling are nothing compared to how badly you can get to feeling about yourself when you’re a dysregulated eater. Think of these do-or-die moments as bubbles of pain that will eventually burst as you either ride them out and the tension passes or you take direct action that pricks the bubble and frees you up to let go of obsession.
Coming to terms with food is one of the hardest things you will ever do, but it will get easier. It’s time to decide which pain you want—the misery of dysfunctional eating or the normal suffering of human emotion. Push past the pain and you’ll recover.