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Some of you might be fairly close to eating “normally,” and wonder why you still have bouts of bingeing or rigid restrictive eating when most of the time you do pretty well around food. You might recognize that you’re sabotaging your success, but can’t imagine why. This phenomenon is not as unusual as it sounds. After all, there is a price to pay when you give up an eating disorder and become a “normal” eater.
The price is subtle: recovery means giving up suffering and struggling which may be all you ever have known eating-wise. Because being disorder-free may have been your goal for years or decades, perhaps you can’t imagine a downside to having a peaceable relationship with food. Growing up, you may have been taught that it’s wrong to rest on your laurels, be content with success, feel satisfied with your achievements, and not keep pushing your limits. When you stop fussing, you might feel as if there’s more to do to improve your relationship with food when there really isn’t. You might want to keep at it to eat perfectly—putting way too much pressure on yourself—and find it hard to give up the struggle because it has defined your identity for so long. You even may have been using your eating disorder as a badge of suffering to prove that you’ve not had an easy life or that you can overcome your past.
Recovery means acknowledging that you have arrived! The only way to recognize if you’re holding on to your eating disorder in order to continue having a problem is to examine your beliefs about success. Here are some dysfunctional ones you might have: I must always be working on improving myself; It’s wrong to be content with life and problem-free; I need to keep pushing myself toward perfection or I’ll backslide; Life is a continual struggle; Without an eating disorder people won’t know what a tough life I’ve had. Here are some rational beliefs that will allow you enjoy being a “normal” eater and get on with life: I’ve worked hard to get comfortable with food and deserve to enjoy my success; Life has times of struggle and times of contentment; I don’t need to hold on to problems; I won’t backslide just because I give up trying to be a perfect eater; I can take breaks from personal growth and still reach my potential; I can tell people about my life struggles rather than show them through dysfunctional eating.
Take some time to consider if you’re holding on to your eating disorder to prove something about your life or because you’re afraid to let it go. Remember, you deserve to be free of food problems and enjoy the fruits of your labor and you can’t do that if you’re hung up on needing to suffer and struggle or lead a life of perfection.
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