National Eating Disorders Awareness

Cross-posted from The F-Word

In the spirit of NEDAW, Rachel thought it would be helpful if our posts focused on supporting recovery goals—I completely agree. When thinking about my personal recovery goals, one phrase keeps resonating… be gentle with yourself, this is a process. Being gentle with myself… for nearly my entire life, even in recovery, I have done quite the opposite. Growing up as a dancer, it was ingrained early on to be extra critical of myself, as well as compare my strengths and (most importantly) my deficits to my classmates. With regards to the eating disorder, anyone who has ED knows that it’s all about beating one’s self up and being unforgiving of anything less than perfection.

Being gentle with myself and realizing that this recovery bit is a process—just as getting into the ED was a process—made me think of the transtheoretical model of change. As a social work grad student, I am fortunate to get to attend seminars, and for the last five weeks, I’ve been in a Motivational Interviewing seminar. Motivational Interviewing is an evidence-based, client-centered therapeutic intervention for all types of psychopathology (especially addictions), that aims to help clients argue for their own change. MI is based on the transtheoretical model of change, which include six stages: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and relapse.

This model of change is so helpful for me as a recovering person, because it recognizes that if you were to draw a line of what the process of recovery looks like on a piece of paper, it isn’t one straight line of successes. Rather, it’s more like a zigzag, where somedays you may be ready to take action, and other days your back at precontemplation, unable to see that there is actually a problem with certain behaviors or ways of thinking. I came from what is now considered to be a clinically “old school” treatment center, in that recovery is based solely on abstinence—either you are in recovery or you aren’t, depending on how well you behave within their prescribed definition of recovery.

Today, I still don’t do things perfectly in recovery, but that doesn’t mean I’m not in recovery. It means that it is a process and that I need to be gentle with myself. I was engulfed by ED for nearly 17 years, and it just doesn’t disappear overnight.

The message for myself, and to you, is to recognize the growth you’re making in your recovery and don’t be so hard on yourself. It is a process.