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Clients and class members often say they can’t believe they’ll ever eat “normally.” Sometimes they sound sorrowful and others times their words are accompanied by a chuckle; either way, I know that hopelessness is breaking their heart. Although it’s perfectly understandable that someone who’s been a dysregulated eater for decades would doubt their capacity to go the distance and become a functional eater, being convinced only ensures failure.
Most people don’t examine why they’re sure they can’t recover, but remain stuck in hopelessness as if it were absolute truth. The only way you’ll fail to achieve your eating goals is if you give up pursuing them. The question is what would stop you—or anyone—from going from disturbed eating to “normal” eating. When you say, “Oh, I’ll never get there,” what exactly do you mean? Why won’t you? What will prevent it?
Maybe you believe that the effort will be too hard and you won’t be up for the challenge. If so, is being put off by challenge a permanent condition? Can you work on staying motivated and learn how to keep focused on long-term goals? Maybe you’re convinced you’ll never “get it.” Why not? Are you saying you’re not intelligent enough to grasp the simple concepts of “normal” eating? Perhaps you doubt you can tolerate the intense feelings of wanting to eat or not eat. Is there some reason that you can’t learn how to bear them in order to become comfortable around food?
I hope you’re getting my drift here: you need to examine your premise that you can’t become a “normal” eater and go from there. In fact, you may actually find that you don’t have one thin reason for having such a strong conviction and that, instead, you won’t let yourself hope that you can eat “normally” because you’re really afraid you’ll fail. Fine, then return to examining why you might fail. Each time you come up with a reason that you won’t be able to achieve your goals, use your problem-solving skills to overcome that barrier. For example, if you believe you can’t do it alone, then find people to support you; if you believe you’re unable to change, look to all the times you’ve done it in the past; if you believe you’ll always fail because you’ve done it so many times before, go over your history with a fine tooth comb and discover what went wrong.
There’s a saying that goes, If you believe you can’t, you can’t—having a negative expectation will lead to a negative outcome. Getting over the hurdle of disbelieving you’ll become a “normal” eater is your first step. Believe you can and you’re on your way.
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