Many of my clients are making terrific progress toward “normal” eating. However, some don’t think they’re moving forward at all and lament how slow and hard the process is. Although I never would have believed at the time that the decades I engaged in mindless, emotional, and overeating (and the couple of years I had bulimia) could possibly have any value in my life, I now know that my eating disorder recovery is one of the most useful tools I have in my therapeutic toolbox.
When clients rail against how ridiculous they feel when they know exactly how to eat and do the opposite, I can sympathize with them. When they complain that they’re not changing fast enough, I can tell them how well I understand their impatience. When they feel torn about continuing on the path to “normal” eating, returning to dieting or giving up on eating better, I can empathize with the push-pull they experience and how hard trusting the process of recovery can be.
Lest you not believe just how disturbed and disturbing my eating was, I would go from eating nothing but an apple all day to polishing off a quart of ice cream in a night. I picked food I’d thrown away (or others had) out of the garbage can and ate it shame-faced. I lived to gorge myself and beat myself up mercilessly for doing it. But through therapy and reading eating and other self-help books, I learned to be self-compassionate, honed some essential life skills, resolved my mixed feelings about having a smaller body and giving up food for comfort, and trained my appetite to eat what it wanted in the amounts it needed.
The reason you must continue is because becoming a “normal” eater is possible. If you’ve been practicing it for a while (it took me a few years), it can get fiercely tiresome when you disappoint yourself. But you have every right to feel joyful and bursting with pride when you nourish your body well. You will not be learning and practicing forever. Make it a point to note your progress and think of every upsetting experience with food not as a setback but as a learning experience.
In particular, soothe your impatience which will only, paradoxically, slow down your progress. Stop trying to be at the end of the process when you’re only in the middle of it, exactly where you should be. Don’t let hopelessness push you back into dieting. You’ll only end up seeking out “normal” eating practices again. Refuse to give in to anything less than success.
Remember that people all over the world are doing what you’re doing—giving up dieting and bingeing and learning to trust their appetite and love their body. You may feel alone, but you’re not alone. You are part of an enlightened, brave cadre of people—those who’ve done it before you and those who will be doing it long after you’re dead—who have chosen the same road to recovery that you have. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll be someone’s role model—your child, your baby sister, your grandson, your mom or dad or your client. The only way you won’t succeed at reaching your eating goals is if you stop trying.
Never give up.