Motivation in Eating Disorder Recovery
By Megan Samuels, EDC Intern and Social Work Graduate Student
A large motivation for my recovery was wanting to have kids someday. I want to raise kids that practice intuitive eating. I want my kids to watch me appreciate and respect my body, understanding that all bodies are good bodies. I want them to not struggle with food and body image. I am determined to stop the intergenerational cycle of dieting and body hate within my family.
I am recovered from an eating disorder now and I wanted to share a few tips for how to cope when you are struggling in recovery with motivation. Lack of motivation can be a natural and a common occurrence during eating disorder recovery.
The following are some tips to keep in mind for when you feel like giving up with recovery.
4 Tips for Lacking Motivation in Eating Disorder Recovery
Tip 1: Ask yourself why you started recovery in the first place.
Spend some time with your journal or a friend and think about when and why you started recovery? What did that look like for you? What were your thoughts about trying to recover from an eating disorder? For me, I was scared to start recovery and I honestly thought that I would never recover. I started recovery because I did not want to continue living a life full of counting calories, restricting, and exercising too much.
I was exhausted and eating disorders are exhausting.
Tip 2: Remind yourself of what your goal is.
Whenever I felt like giving up, I went back to what kind of life I would want for my children. I want to be a good food and body image role model for them. In many ways, that drove my recovery and holds true for a long-term goal. What is your recovery goal?
Tip 3: Make a list of what would happen if you gave up on recovery and went back into your eating disorder.
I find that this list can be helpful for gaining motivation to recover. Think about what your life would be like if you went back to your eating disorder? How would it be different from your life in eating disorder recovery?
This is also a great place to bring in a conversation about values. What did your eating disorder value vs. what does your recovering self value? For me, my eating disorder valued competition and thinness; however my recovered self values vulnerability and health at every size.
Tip 4: Remind yourself that recovery is a process that is not always linear.
I love the word process. The word process can be loosely defined as a series of steps or tasks in order to achieve something. I look at the recovery process as a fluid term; we are always learning and growing.
The raging perfectionist inside of me wanted my recovery to be perfect. I wanted to check all the boxes and then life would be okay again (which is not how recovery, or life itself works unfortunately).
I used to have to remind myself that there would be ebbs and flows during the recovery process. Not everyday will be Instagram perfect, and that is SO okay.
Often when I would feel unmotivated, I would tell myself that I was failing at recovery. I would need to tell myself that feelings are ever-changing, so I could be unmotivated one minute and totally motivated and committed to eating disorder recovery the next minute. Nothing, not even thoughts and feelings, are permanent. And that was a helpful concept for me to remember.
To quote Ellis Grey from Grey’s Anatomy, “the carousel never stops turning.” I bring up this quote not just because I am a huge Grey’s Anatomy fan, but I also think it can be applied to thinking about eating disorder recovery and how thoughts and actions are not permanent. Once you begin recovery, you are on that recovery carousel and it is moving. You have the ability to run on the carousel to move faster, to stay still on the carousel and let it move you, to run backwards on the carousel, or to get off of the carousel. There are options in recovery that are not permanent. Someone can choose to get off the carousel and stop recovery in one moment in a movement of low motivation and then get right back on the carousel to continue eating disorder recovery in the next.
It is never too late to get back on the carousel and continue in your recovery journey.
Journal Prompt: Where do you think you are, in relation to the carousel, in your eating disorder recovery journey? What would you like your next step to be and why?
*I also want to note that the ability to recover from an eating disorder can be impacted by race, socio-economic status, religion, ability, location, among other factors. Not everyone is able to recover at the same pace due to lack of accessible treatment options, insurance, family dynamics, culture, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. This remains a huge problem in the eating disorder community.
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***Disclaimer: Please note that this blog post is for informational and educational purposes only and is not psychological, therapeutic, or medical advice.
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We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.