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Expert Tips: When You Want To Give Up On Recovery (+ Journaling Prompts)

Josee Sovinsky - Angie Viets

Expert Tips: When You Want To Give Up On Recovery (+ Journaling Prompts)

Josée Sovinsky, RD

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Recovery from an eating disorder (or any other mental illness) is a journey. With my clients, I celebrate many recovery wins, but I also support them through difficult moments. Let's get real here: Recovery is HARD. It requires a lot of work, patience and dedication. Because we are human, this can sometimes become very overwhelming.

To help get you through those moments, I connected with colleagues in order to put together a list of tips for when you feel like giving up on recovery. For those who find journaling helpful, I also included some prompts. 

1. Remember Why You Want To Recover

Somewhere in your initial struggle, you decided it was time to heal. There is a reason why you started this journey. In those difficult moments, think of what makes recovery important to you. Will it allow you to spend more time on your hobbies and passions? Will it make you more available for connection?

Blair Mize, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN, owner of Memphis Nutrition Group says : "Before giving up on recovery, take some time to think about and write down why you started pursuing recovery in the first place. By taking a look at where you started and noting milestones along the way, you may begin to see how far you've come and why making a full recovery still feels worthwhile."

Journaling Prompt: Why did you start your recovery/healing process?

2. Consider How Recovery Fits Into Your Goals and Values

A very powerful tool when working on recovery is thinking about your goals and values. Once you have established your values, you can think about how these are connected to recovery. For example, you may value family. Recovery is then in line with your values since it might allow you to spend more quality time with your family. 

Before giving up on recovery, Paige Smathers, RDN, CD encourages you to take a step back and look at the big picture of your life. What do you want? As in, what do you REALLY want? Then, ask yourself how you get there. Check in with yourself by recognizing when your thoughts and desires for life are coming from a place of trust, respect, and fulfillment and when your desires might be coming from a space of bullying yourself and/or punishing yourself. 

As Poonam Sahasrabudhe MSW, LSW reminds us, giving up on recovery and giving in to the eating disorder can be very tempting. Going back to what is known can be comforting. Try to remember how you felt in the eating disorder and ask yourself: Will going back to the eating disorder get you to your values? Will it help you feel more authentic and fulfilled? Will it help you feel more connected in relationships? Will it launch you toward your goals? Remember that you are amazing for your awareness and even considering changing what isn't working for you. 

Journaling Prompt: What are your 3 most important values? How does working on recovery relate to these values?

 
 

3. Remember This: Recovery Isn't Linear

Recovery is a journey with many twists and turns. Annina Schmid (M.A., CCPA, OACCPP, CACCF) shares that recovery isn't a linear process, and a so-called "relapse" won't take you back to the place that you started from. It is important to acknowledge the good and the difficult days. Don't act on impulse, think about your choice today as a long-term investment in your future. 

Journaling Prompt: What are 3 things you have learned in your healing process?

4. Be Kind With Yourself

I'll say it again: Recovery takes hard work. When we are being hard on ourselves in the process, it adds an extra layer of difficulty. I recognize it's easier said than done but do your best to approach yourself with kindness and compassion.

Remember you are doing the best you can with the tools you have. 

I couldn't agree more with Edith Shreckengast, MS, RDN, CSSD who shares, "You are a warrior and recovery is sincerely and utterly allowing yourself to live again. Take a deep breath and ask yourself what your truest desire out of recovery is? There is no right or wrong way of recovery, but there is your way. That way is beautiful and unique in which no one else can replicate."

Dr. Maria Paredes, LPCS, CEDS, Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, Certified Eating Disorders Specialist and owner of Three Birds Counseling reminds us that unlike the diet industry's messaging of "just do these 5 steps" or "take this silver bullet pill" or "30 days of this and you'll be happy," the recovery road is long and windy and complicated and often exhausting. But, it's worth it. YOU are worth it. The best advice she has is just to be kind to yourself. No matter what *steps back* or *wagons* you think you've fallen off or *mistakes* you feel you've made, still. Even then, be kind to yourself. 

Journaling Prompt: What are 3 ways you can show yourself compassion?

The Bottom Line

There will be many ups and downs during recovery. This is normal. In those moments of despair, remembers why you want to recover and how recovery aligns with your values. Approach the situation which as much self-compassion as possible and as Dory said, "Just keep swimming". 

You've got this, recovery warrior!

Josee Sovinsky - angie viets

Josée Sovinsky is a passionate Registered Dietitian working in a community setting in Toronto, Ontario. After facing her own struggles with disordered eating during her degree, she developed a strong interest in helping those affected by eating disorders and mental illness. She decided to learn more about intuitive and mindful eating, body acceptance and Health at Every Size®, which now strongly guide her work. She dreams of a world free from mental health stigma, body shaming, and disordered eating. When she is not helping others make peace with food, she enjoys baking, photography and doing yoga in her living room. Visit Josée's website and connect with her on social media.

Is There a Perfect Way to Eat?

Photo Credit:  Rachael Gorjestani

Photo Credit: Rachael Gorjestani

In my practice as a Registered Dietitian, I talk a lot about food. Clients ask about which foods to eat, how much to eat, when to eat… Many are extremely confused with the information they have gotten from friends, family, colleagues, healthcare providers and the media. It can certainly be challenging to make food choices when we are always bombarded with conflicting information.

It can be both reassuring and unsettling to know this truth:

There is no single way of eating that will work for everyone.

Often, this is not what people want to hear. Instead, they want the magic formula that will give them health and happiness. Unfortunately, I can’t provide this (and nobody can, no matter how good their marketing is!).

Instead, I can offer support, compassion, and guidance. Although everyone’s needs are different, here are some general themes I address with many clients.

1. Eating on a regular basis

For most people, having regular meals and not going too long without food is beneficial. While needs vary greatly, more than 4-5 hours without eating is detrimental in many cases. Not everyone will require snacks, but they can certainly be helpful. Explore what works best for you based on your schedule, your preferences, and your body’s needs.

2. Being curious about your body’s signals

Our body gives us many clues regarding our needs. If you are in the early stages of healing from an eating disorder or chronic dieting, you may find that your hunger and fullness cues are unreliable or simply non-existent. This is quite normal. At first, you may need more structure around meals. However, you can still try tuning in to see what your body is telling you. Maybe you are tired and need more rest, or maybe you are thirsty and need hydration. Be curious about what your body is telling you. It’s smarter than you think!

3. Eating a variety of foods

One of our best ways to ensure we are getting enough nutrients is to diversify the foods we eat. It sounds overly simple, but getting foods from a variety of sources can be helpful and ultimately, much more satisfying. For many healing from eating disorders, food choices can become very limited. When you feel ready, and if you are able, connect with a therapist or dietitian who can guide you in experimenting with fear foods in a safe way.

The bottom line

There is no such thing as the perfect way to eat. What works for one person may be completely inappropriate for someone else. Explore your needs and wants, and try noticing what works for you. What brings you the most energy, the most happiness? This is most likely what is best for YOU.

Remember: You are doing the best you can. You’ve got this!

Josée Sovinsky is a passionate Registered Dietitian working in a community setting in Toronto, Ontario. After facing her own struggles with disordered eating during her degree, she developed a strong interest in helping those affected by eating disorders and mental illness. She decided to learn more about intuitive and mindful eating, body acceptance and Health at Every Size®, which now strongly guide her work. She dreams of a world free from mental health stigma, body shaming, and disordered eating. When she is not helping others make peace with food, she enjoys baking, photography and doing yoga in her living room. Visit Josée's website and connect with her on social media.

3 Steps to Quieting the Food Police

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

If you are struggling with an eating disorder or are a chronic dieter, you know very well how loud the food police can become. It lives in your mind and imposes food rules and regulations, it judges every choice and it inflicts feelings of guilt and shame. The food police (which some refer to as the ED voice) can truly fuel our disordered thoughts and keep us from recovering. However, as with any issue that involves your brain, silencing this voice is not as easy as it seems. It takes a lot of practice, patience, and commitment. Here are 3 steps to help you quiet the Food Police.

1. Be Curious About Your Thoughts

Whenever you are confronted with thoughts around food, try to distinguish who is speaking: you or the food police. When we understand the food police is talking, we are then in a position to challenge it. Gaining awareness of our situation is often the first step to making any meaningful change. In the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, this is called being a « Food Anthropologist ». It comes down to being a neutral observer. To help with this, you may want to keep a journal and write down the different thoughts that come up.

2.  Ask Yourself If The Thought Is Helpful, Kind and True

Once you’ve noticed the messages you are replaying in your mind about food, ask yourself:

·      Is this thought helpful? Is it helping me move towards happiness and wellbeing?

·      Is this thought kind? Does it consider my unique situation?

·      Is this thought true? What proof do I have to support this idea?

3. Decide To Reject What Does Not Serve You

Once you’ve identified the thoughts that are not helpful, kind or true, mindfully decide to reject them. Better yet, replace them with an idea that counters this thought. After years of struggling with food, it takes a lot of time to undo the automatic thoughts we’ve come to learn. It can be helpful to experience self-compassion through this process. After all, we never invited the food police, it was forced upon us by a variety of different factors, including diet culture and a society obsessed with food and impossible beauty standards.

The food police can truly be a jerk, but there is hope. While you work towards shutting it down, it will slowly become quieter and quieter. Take things one step at a time and don’t forget to love yourself throughout the process.

Josée Sovinsky, RD - Angie Viets

Josée Sovinsky is a passionate Registered Dietitian working in a community setting in Toronto, Ontario. After facing her own struggles with disordered eating during her degree, she developed a strong interest in helping those affected by eating disorders and mental illness. She decided to learn more about intuitive and mindful eating, body acceptance and Health at Every Size®, which now strongly guide her work. She dreams of a world free from mental health stigma, body shaming, and disordered eating. When she is not helping others make peace with food, she enjoys baking, photography and doing yoga in her living room. Visit Josée's website and connect with her on social media.