Saturday, March 18, 2017

Eating Disorder Recovery: Motivation for the Journey

Recovering from an eating disorder (ED) is not for the faint of heart. It can be a rugged journey filled with disappointments, heartache, and a whole lot of weariness. When you comb through the research on what it takes to fully recover from an ED you will get recommendations about the need for a complete treatment team, descriptions of the levels of care (outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, residential), medical guidelines, appropriate weight restoration, etc. What you won't find is the "secret sauce". This secret sauce is different for all suffers. Motivation.

After decades of working with thousands of clients suffering from various eating disorders, it has become very apparent to me that one can receive the very best treatment available at any and all levels of care and still not experience recovery. When I am doing an intake on a new client one of the questions I usually ask is "Do you hate your eating disorder more than you like it?" The initial response to that question is most often a period of silence. Sometimes the tears begin rolling down cheeks. Many initiate treatment because someone else wants them there or their physician has sent them my way. They are still deceived by the eating disorder's trickery and lies. Their brain has been hijacked. Others shout out a resounding, YES! Whatever that response is at that initial intake ... motivation can be fleeting and has to be constantly pursued in order for recovery to occur.

In her book Restoring Our Bodies, Reclaiming Our Lives  Aimee Lui describes this pursuit of motivation as "the turning point when the sufferer SUBJECTIVELY reaches the
limit of distress and makes a personal commitment to change. There may
be one or several turning points initiating incremental change, but they have to come from within, not from outside demands or threats" Basically, you have to want recovery so badly for yourself that you are willing to tolerate the discomfort that comes with fighting an eating disorder. How does one tap into that depth of commitment and motivation? I believe the secret sauce of motivation is comprised of different ingredients for each sufferer. I want to encourage anyone who is recovery weary to begin assembling all of the ingredients that you will need to maintain motivation for the journey. Begin by looking through the bars of your eating disorder prison and identify what you truly value that cannot be accessed while you are in "prison". Is it a relationship with God and others? Peace of mind? Career opportunities or life adventures? What would freedom look like to you? This may be an exercise that you have to do daily to keep wind in your recovery sails!

Step back and take an honest look at all that your ED has robbed you of in your life. Get angry at your eating disorder (not yourself). Make a list of reasons to hate your ED. Read it over daily. Keep your fighting stance strong and determined.

Treatment for an eating disorder is vital. Cooking up your own secret sauce of motivation will allow you to fully embrace and benefit from recovery efforts. Then and only then will you experience full recovery.
Please feel free to share what you see when you look outside of your ED prison bars that motivates you!

Wishing all of you and the ones you love full, rich recovered lives!

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