“From Powerless to Hopeful” by Dawn White, RD
Powerless. Overwhelmed. Unworthy. Afraid. What do these words describe? For many, they describe food. Powerless to eat or to stop eating. Overwhelmed by the thought of recovery and even what one step toward that may be. Overwhelmed by the truth that one bite of food may mean an hour or more of thoughts and feelings that are nearly unbearable. Unworthy of food, unworthy of a life without struggle around food. Fear of what life might be like if not consumed by our relationship with food.
These are the things I hear often and yet there is hope! Why is there hope? Because we see it in the stories of those who have gone through the struggle before. This is the hope that our lives mean more than just what the outside looks like or that we are valuable simply for who we are. My sister beautifully put it this way – “We are human beings. We have value simply because we are being.”
What helps hold onto that hope and move forward in recovery? A whole lot of support and validation. The struggle is real, but it does not end there. The hope is also real. With each bite, each choice to keep the food in our stomach, each decision to choose comfort in something other than food, we hold onto that hope for recovery. Does it mean we do that every time and never go back? Absolutely not. We have permission to struggle and strive and fail and succeed. It is almost never one or the other, but both. It is the thinking of possibly wanting to want recovery and also grieving the thought of giving up our behaviors.
There are many ways I work with people to help their relationship with food – meal planning, meal support, supplements, body image work, exposure, education, and more, but most importantly compassion and team work. Each small step moves from being powerless, afraid, overwhelmed, and unworthy to being alive, living, feeling, and being. Maybe today recovery is scary or maybe the behaviors are scary. My guess is that it is a little of both.
When my daughter was young, we were by the ocean and the waves were big. She was afraid and overwhelmed. She was offered a hand of someone she trusted, so she chose to take that hand. Her trusted one held the hope that she would love the ocean and not be hurt by it. As my daughter took her daddy’s hand, she was able to step ever so slowly into the water and began to let the waves sweep over her. It started with her feet, then her legs, then her waist, and finally up to her neck. And she found that through the support of someone she trusted and the willingness to take the step in spite of her fear, she found joy and freedom.
There is support, compassion, and help today to take a small step toward hope!
*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.*