Rediscovering Motivation in Eating Disorder Recovery

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Rediscovering Motivation in Eating Disorder Recovery

Colleen Werner

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in a bit of a funk. Experiencing more depression symptoms than what is my “usual” has left me feeling completely drained. As a result, it has been a challenge to maintain my typical level of motivation in my eating disorder recovery. Along with the help of my therapist, I’ve been focusing on three DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) skills to help rejuvenate my motivation for recovery.


PLEASE is a skill that focuses on reducing emotional vulnerabilities through 5 different components:

  • PL: Physical Illness

    • If you’re sick, go to a doctor to get treated because physical illness can have a major impact on mental health.

  • E: Balanced Eating

    • When we don’t fuel our bodies properly, we don’t have the physical energy we need to maintain motivation and mental wellness.

  • A: Avoid mood-altering substances

    • Mood-altering substances such as drugs and alcohol can potentially negatively impact moods, especially if you’re prescribed psychiatric medications. Talk with your team to know what is best for you.

  • S: Sleep

    • Without adequate sleep, managing emotions becomes even more difficult. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

  • E: Exercise

    • Mindful movement can help decrease anxiety and depression. Exercise is a slippery slope in eating disorder recovery, so be sure that any exercise is cleared by your treatment team.

Focusing on each component of the PLEASE skill can help you reduce emotional vulnerabilities so that is easier to find motivation.

2. Accumulating Positive Emotions in the Short Term

This skill is all about short-term activities that can help increase positive emotions now. A few examples are taking a walk, spending time with a friend, reading a book, making art, going on a date, playing with a pet, or watching a favorite show. By intentionally adding positive activities into your day, you are able to take charge, accumulate more positive emotions, and, in turn, increase motivation.

3. Build Mastery

Build mastery is about doing challenging or difficult things to increase feelings of accomplishment. Whether this is trying a new skill like hand lettering, working on a project like painting a room, or any other skill or hobby, using the build mastery skill can help you feel a sense of ownership and pride for the things that you are doing, which is definitely grounds for motivation.

All in all, finding motivation for continuing eating disorder recovery can be a challenge at times. However, by choosing to use these DBT skills, you can stay rooted in recovery and rediscover your motivation.

Spacer - green.jpg Colleen Werner Contributor

Colleen Werner is a writer, dancer, and future therapist from Long Island, NY. She’s studying Psychology at SUNY Old Westbury and plans on going to graduate school for Mental Health Counseling. She aspires to start an eating disorder treatment program for dancers. Colleen’s experiences in recovery from an eating disorder and anxiety disorder have inspired her to share her story in an effort to help others, end the stigma, and create a sense of community. She is a National Ambassador for Project HEAL, a Campus Editor-at-Large for HuffPost, and a contributor for HerCampus and The Mighty. Colleen’s Instagram, @leenahlovesherself, inspires thousands every day with her posts about authenticity and mental health.