After 30-plus years treating under- and overeaters, I can tell you exactly what people do wrong to impede their recovery and what they must do right to make it happen. No matter whether you’re struggling with binge-eating disorder, anorexia, bulimia, chronic restrictive dieting, or any combination thereof, here are the biggest eating disorder recovery mistakes you can make—and how to correct them.
Expect change to happen quickly. By expecting that you’ll change rapidly and beating yourself up when you don’t, you lose precious time when you could be working on your issues and practicing new, healthy behaviors. Change is gradual for everyone. We’re all capable of taking only baby steps. Ironically, if you want to speed up your recovery, assume it will take a very long time.
Misunderstand the change process. Forget hoping for a straight trajectory to your goals. Change not only takes time, but it comes in fits and starts. You’ll move forward, stand still, and fall back into behavior over and over—and over. Moreover, the change process is organic—it comes from interacting with your environment as well as from resolving internal issues. By honoring this organic process to enfold over time in its own fashion, you will learn to value and trust it.
Think you can recover alone. Folks who believe they can recover alone usually fail all by themselves. Convinced that it’s better to rely only on oneself than to get help to recover—they stay stuck. Anyone who’s overcome an eating disorder knows it doesn’t matter who or how many people help you, only that you get over thinking that success is sweeter when you’ve done it yourself.
Focus on behavior not beliefs. Folks who refuse to spend time and effort revising beliefs only make recovery more difficult. Alternately, those who put energy into assessing and reframing their beliefs from the get-go make change from the inside out and have an easier time altering behavior. Key to recovery is eliminating all irrational thoughts about food/weight to ensure that your belief system is rock solid rational.
Let yourself get distracted from your recovery. Many troubled eaters easily get sidetracked. They try a new diet or focus on weight rather than eating and life skills. Or they get caught up in some personal or family drama that derails their focus. If you want to recover, stay focused and make it the number one priority inyour life.
Give up. This is the biggest mistake on the road to recovery. Many folks interpret their ongoing eating struggles or slow-going recovery to mean that they lack what it takes to reach their goals. Wrong interpretation! Rather, lack of success means that you’re not trying hard enough. People who succeed use this motto: If at first you don’t succeed, try harder. Do not let failure be an option and it won’t be one.