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Truths of Recovery

When you decide to work on overcoming your eating problems, what’s your idea of how that will happen or even when you feel a spark of hope that you could be happier and healthier around food, what’s your notion of how you’ll get from here to there? I bet that few of you have or had a clear, realistic idea of what recovery entails and, instead, your heads are or were filled with misconceptions such as:

1. Recovery will follow a straight line. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We generally make a change or two and engage in the new thinking or behavior for a while, then stop it. Why? Likely because the old ways are so deeply grooved in our brains that it’s easier to return to them. So we end up at times doing well, doing poorly, and standing still. The truth is that recovery is always a start-stop, zig-zag path and it’s helpful going into it to realize it.

2. Recovery is an event rather than a process. We all wish that we could go to sleep at night with eating problems and awaken in the morning totally free of them. Isn’t that a lovely dream? But a dream is all it is. Living in this instant-fix culture, it’s no wonder that we think “event” rather than “process.” Most of us don’t even know what the latter means. The truth is that recovery is not a one-time decision, but a series of decisions, large and small, that occur many minutes of many days.

3. Recovery will be easy. I can hear you all laughing at that one, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting to believe that it’s so. Were you surprised when you realized how difficult remedying an eating problem is? Why is that? Perhaps, as is said of childbirth, if we really knew the agony of it, we wouldn’t bother. There may even be a biological reason for our thinking that major internal life upheaval will be easy. The truth is that recovering from an eating disorder will likely be the most, or one of the most, difficult things you’ve ever done in your life.

4. Recovery can be done alone. In 30 years, I’ve never met anyone who has resolved their eating issues without getting the help of family and friends. Sometimes we have to ask people to speak differently to us (or not speak at all!), encourage or demand those around us to treat us differently, or find and share with new people who are also working on recovery. Because eating disorders thrive on isolation and are due, in part, to choosing food over people, breaking out of the I’ll-do-it-alone mindset is often key to making progress. The truth here is that recovery involves finding anddeepening the right relationships—and casting off the wrong ones.