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In this fix-it-quick, make-it-happen-overnight culture, it’s hard to grasp the fact that in order to overcome your eating disorder, you will have to give up doing things (often many things) the way you are doing them now. Some of the surrender will involve thinking, that is, letting go of unhealthy perceptions and assumptions and replacing them with healthier ones. Other kinds of giving up relate to behaviors, food- and otherwise. It’s natural to want to hold on to what is familiar, but you won’t recover from dysfunctional eating by clinging to the same old same old.
What are you willing to give up to get healthy? You may be able to get away with small sacrifices—eating while watching TV, weighing yourself daily, checking out a colleagues’ candy dish every day on the way to the bathroom, or browsing through magazines looking at skinny models and celebrities. But it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get much mileage through minor changes like these. It’s more probable that you’ll have to engage in major upheaval or accrue many, many such minor changes to make headway in becoming a “normal” eater.
By major changes I mean having a vastly different relationship with yourself and other people. Stopping your self-talk that insists there are good and bad foods and that thin is more lovable than fat, renouncing the ideal of ultra-thinness once and for all, experiencing painful, unfamiliar emotions, asserting your needs, and refusing to accept less than you are worth in this life. If your friends talk incessantly about dieting, you may need to stop hanging out with them and/or find new companions. If your mother refuses to cease making negative comments on your weight or eating, you may have to confront her, set firmer limits, or even (if you don’t live at home) cut everything but emergency communication until you are healed. Not that it’s easy, but you may need to leave a job that’s making you so stressed that you abuse food, or a marriage, or even a community that is contributing to your self-destructive thinking and habits.
Many people say that they would give anything to be a comfortable weight, but most won’t. There is comfort in familiarity—the new devil is scarier than the old one—and it takes a gigantic amount of ongoing effort and courage to change, even to make the relatively minor lifestyle modifications mentioned above. To be different, it takes self-reflection, near constant vigilance, and the ability to tolerate discomfort. If you are going to move past eating dysfunction, you must be willing to break new ground. If you are not willing to give up the old, how will you ever make room for the new?
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