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Forgetting to Remember: The Key Obstacle to Eating Disorder Recovery

Posted Jul 29 2012 1:11pm


Maybe it’s because I was taught never to forget. I was instructed to mark days for the sole purpose of remembering—the anniversary of a loved one’s passing, a date of destruction of a holy site, or the attempted annihilation of my people throughout history. Recalling a negative occurrence, as I’ve learned, has much value. 

I’m not suggesting dwelling on it, as a kind of “woe is me” way of existing, thinking catastrophe may strike at any time! But remembering negative events reminds us of our good fortune to be where we’re at, to appreciate all we have, all we have survived. And it reminds us we need to be anything but passive to ensure that we do our part to prevent future damage and disaster.

And what does this have to do with you, my dear readers? Everything! If you read Drop It And Eat for support with your eating and your health, for the sake of changing your relationship with food, then forgetting to remember is a key obstacle to your progress. Are you a dieter or a restrictive eater? A binge eater or someone stuck in a purge mode? Your memory is essential to breaking out of the trap you’re in.

Here’s why.

When you are restricting you may focus on the high you get, how empowered you feel—yet forget that it is but a fleeting feeling. Rather, the restricting has landed you with rebound overeating or disappointment with subsequent weight regain.

Alternatively, you achieve your “success”, and the restriction continues, only to result in symptoms, health risks and hospitalizations.  You forget the lightheadedness, the risk when driving alone or with those in your charge. You fail to acknowledge that fuzzy headedness and the fact that slowed thinking is not your norm.

Maybe if you remembered that weight loss didn’t itself bring you happiness, that goal weights were a moving target. That no weight was ever low enough, and that it never made you feel good enough.
You’ve forgotten that the isolation from friends and detachment from those you love was a hefty price.

You’ve forgotten how scary it is to vomit blood, to see the veins pop in your eyes—but instead you simply focus on the risk of keeping those extra calories in.

You get so used to living in a substandard way, not functioning at full capacity, that you forget what life could be like—the potential you truly have to make a difference, to even one person you care about.

Before the memory is gone, recall it. When you are considering rigid dieting or the need to purge, think about what you know. When you are thinking you already blew it, that it hardly matters what you do at this point, consider where that has gotten you. Was the action worth it? Did it really achieve your intended goal? Is this how you want your life to be?

Do not forget that your thoughts used to be spent on passions and hobbies, on family and on learning—not singularly on calories and carbs, and pounds and numbers, on shoulds and shouldn’ts.

Remember that you are worth it, that you have made a difference and that it is not too late to change your eating behaviors.

This post is written in memory of my one patient who left this world too soon, well on her way to recovery from her bulimia, but struggling with her bipolar disorder. Her memory inspires me to do my part in eating disorder recovery.

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