Sometimes, a slip back into eating disorder behaviors is strictly the result of addition. Addictions are very powerful. When you have a major addiction, you have very little control over whether or not you choose it. Depending on where you are in recovery, you may have no control over your addiction whatsoever. The very nature of an addiction is that it has the control over you.
These days, however, I’ve made a lot of progress overcoming my eating disorder. For me, a minor relapse probably means there is something else bothering me, messing up my balance, throwing me off-kilter. If I am struggling more than usual to stay on the straight and narrow, it’s not because I’ve been lax in my commitment to recovery. It’s because there is probably a root cause at the bottom of all the rubble.
So, when I am tempted to give in to my addictions, I stop and think about the “why”. Instead of getting down on myself about being a failure, I need to be more compassionate and figure out what changed.
I realize now that I use my eating disorder to help me cope with difficult emotions, situations, or environments. In the past, I’ve beat my head against a wall, trying and trying and trying to stop my eating disorder behaviors. Instead of trying harder to defeat the disorder, I’ve learned to try to face whatever is really, truly causing me to turn toward it. Then, as a result, the unhealthy behaviors subside.
It’s like trying to weed your garden. You could cut off the weeds at ground level leaving your soil looking good for a day. Yet, day after day, you would grow weary from the constant battle with those persistent fellows. You might even give up, thinking that it is hopeless and that there will always be weeds. It might not be as obvious to you as it is to others that the weeds will continue to grow back unless you pull them out, roots and all. This job might require better tools, weed killer, and possibly even professional help, depending on how bad your weed infestation is.
Trying to fix my eating habits is a very good short term fix, and might even help create good habits in the long run. Yet, if I want to get to the root of the problem, I’ve got to look deeper. Eating disorder behaviors are symptoms; they are the surface manifestations of a bigger problem underneath.
Possible underlying sources of tension could be: having your feelings hurt, experiencing loneliness or fear, feeling like a failure, having low self-worth, being taken advantage of, feeling rejected, finding yourself in a chaotic place, having a long to-do list, facing financial stress, not being able to say no, receiving blunt criticism, being misunderstood, or feeling like a burden. Or it could even be from physical problems like having a stomach ache, headache, having a cold or the flu, or not sleeping well.
Once I take a step back and remember it’s not about the food, I can better deal with the real problem at hand. Usually, if I think about it for a few minutes, I can pinpoint the issue. Sometimes, talking to someone else can help me realize what is going on – the bigger problem is usually the thing that makes me cry or gets my blood boiling.
After the issues have been identified, if I need some coping skills to help me deal, I can proactively choose healthier ways to handle it.
It’s all about getting to the root of the matter.
Here’s to a weed-free garden this summer!