“Weighing” Out for Recovery by Camille Williams, MA, NCC, LCPC
One of the reasons an eating disorder is so easy to relapse with is because of the false belief that recovery can happen while still focusing on weight loss. Recovery is a grieving process and in the bargaining stage there is often the desire to have recovery while still engaging a little bit in behaviors or still trying to lose weight. There is a desperate hope that both recovery and a focus on weight loss can happen simultaneously. However, these cannot co-exist and that is why someone who is bargaining and searching for the “secret recipe” to make it happen will continue to relapse again and again because the eating disorder and obsession with weight loss will take back all control.
Similar to someone in a program for alcoholism, one drink will always lead to more. It is the same with eating disorder behaviors, engaging in a little restricting will always lead to more behaviors. It also works this way with body image and obsession with weight. Going down one pound or one size is never going to be enough and the eating disorder will always demand more. Trying to set limits or boundaries with an eating disorder does not work, because eating disorders do not respect or care about boundaries. Eating disorders, just like alcoholism, are addictions and finding a “balance” with behaviors is not possible. These truths about recovery can be some of the hardest to accept and often keep people stuck in behaviors without fully achieving freedom that comes with recovery.
Acceptance starts by being honest with self. Have I tried to recover while focusing on weight loss and has it worked or did I eventually relapse? Have I been missing a sense of freedom or peace that comes with letting go of the need to control my body or weight? Does the obsession with my body keep me tied to my distorted beliefs and harmful behaviors with food? The answers to these questions may provide some awareness around the false beliefs that contribute to staying stuck in eating disorder patterns.
The next step is to make the choice to let go of the focus on weight loss and instead focus on eating disorder recovery and a meaningful life. Letting go of the obsession with body does not mean to stop taking care of the body; it actually means the opposite. By no longer obsessing about how the body looks, there is now space to start caring for the body in the ways it needs. Focusing on weight loss may lead to dieting, restricting food, or a binge cycle. Focusing on recovery means fueling the body properly and consistently with balance, variety, and moderation. Obsessing about the body or specific body parts can result in mental and emotional dysregulation. Whereas, celebrating the body and appreciating positive experiences allows for freedom and a release of the negativity mentally and emotionally around the body.
If the obsession on weight was consuming a lot of space emotionally and mentally as well as a significant amount of time, please consider what other life values are more meaningful. Rather than thinking about weight, think about who would like to spend time with this weekend? Rather than spending excessive amounts of time in front of the mirror, spend extra time reading with a warm cup of tea. Recovery is all about replacing what hasn’t been working with what is more meaningful, intentional, and fulfilling.
TK Contributor: As the Timberline Knolls Eating Disorder Program Coordinator, Camille Williams MA, NCC, LCPC, supports the development of curriculum, supervises the eating disorder specialists, and provides group therapy. She also educates and trains all staff on campus and advocates for eating disorder awareness through publications. Timberline Knolls serves as an iaedp™Presidents Council Member.
*The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders and not intended as endorsement by iaedp Foundation, Inc. or its Board of Directors.*