Many dysregulated eaters have an unhealthy preoccupation with doing what’s “right”— take the job offer, stay with the spouse, invite Betty Sue to the party, or go with low-fat over low-carb foods. Big and small decisions are focused on what the correct thing to do might be. Hope of being right and fear of being wrong underlies difficulty figuring out what and how much to eat along with being overly-oriented toward pleasing others.
What if there is no “right” answer to many questions, no “right” response to certain problems, no “right” way to eat or to live? In order to become a mentally healthy person, you need to consider this possibility. More often than not, there is no “right” way to do something, but there’s often a “best” way—and a world of difference between the two.
“Best” means making an informed choice by gathering all the evidence you can and making a decision that seems most appropriate or necessary in the moment. Because none of us knows how our decisions will work out, we’re all stuck in the present waiting to see. Seeking the “right” decision implies that we can know how our choices are going to pan out in the future. We cannot know this—none of us, ever—but we can recognize what factors will inform our choices now and give us our best shot.
One way we come by an obsession or pre-occupation with being and doing right from growing up with narcissistic, controlling, or rigid-thinking parents who themselves either need to be or do right or insisted on our being a particular way. This is a parent-centered approach to child-rearing when it should be child-centered. Raised this way, we become over-focused on pleasing our parents, and may believe that their way is the “right” way—or, simply that there is always a “right” way. Moreover, we become trained to feel “wrong” or bad if we get punished or shamed when we do something that displeases them. It may not actually be wrong, but their thinking it is is what counts. Similarly, when we may make a mistake, they may make us feel so awful about it that we go out of our way to ensure never to make one again.
So, back to what’s best for us. Many dysregulated eaters crave assurance that what they’re doing is right. That’s why it’s so hard for them to give up dieting (the “right” thing, they’ve been told) and trust their body to feed itself well. This distrust comes from, first, not knowing what they want when it comes to food and many other things and, two, not believing that what they come up with by themselves could be good for them. As they recover, dysregulated eaters learn not only how to make healthy choices for themselves in the food arena, but how to make healthy choices in life based on what’s best for them. And that, dear reader, is the best that any of us can do.