Eating Disorder Recovery: How to Not Be So Hard on Yourself

Eating Disorder Recovery: How to Not Be So Hard on Yourself - The Meadows Ranch

By Anna McKenzie

Eating disorders and perfectionistic tendencies typically go hand in hand. Disordered eating habits often emerge from a desire to control other parts of your life, manage psychological distress, and conform to a certain image or personal standard. Because of this, people with eating disorders are very critical of themselves. When you’re in eating disorder recovery, you may continue to struggle with perfectionism, but there are ways to not be so hard on yourself. Learning to adopt more flexible thinking patterns can reduce your anxiety and give you a greater sense of satisfaction in your daily life.

When you feel like you’re being swept away by a need to control your life or circumstances, it’s important to be able to identify what’s happening.

Eating Disorder Self-Help: 4 Ways to Care for Yourself

When you’re controlling your food intake and trying to conform to a certain self-image, your body absorbs the cost of your efforts. Learning to love your body is a key part of eating disorder recovery. The practice of caring for yourself, physically and emotionally, might be foreign at first but making it part of your everyday life can be incredibly beneficial. 

Here are four ways you can care for yourself as you recover from an eating disorder:

1. Practice Non-Judgment

You are most likely used to judging yourself on a regular basis. But practicing non-judgment means observing without drawing conclusions. When you look at yourself in a mirror, instead of making internal comments about what you see, try focusing on who is looking back at you. When we refrain from judgment, it separates us from our inner critic and anchors us in a neutral reality. It also opens the door for us to have compassion for ourselves and the world around us.

2. Name Your Inner Critic

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, giving that critical voice in your head a name can help you detach from it. That voice is not part of your identity. When it has a name, it’s just a disassociated visitor whom you can shoo away at will. Think of it as a cranky guest in your mind whose opinion you can hear and discard.

3. Identify & Confront Extreme Thinking

When you find yourself thinking thoughts that include the words always or never, you may be suffering from extreme thinking. Most of the time, the world is a lot less black-and-white than we believe. When you think something like, It will never be different for me, you’re drawing an extreme conclusion. Take a moment to identify those kinds of thoughts, back up from them, and ask, Is that really true? Do I know that for sure? This allows you to accept more flexible thinking patterns that keep you from drawing hard, unyielding conclusions that are often based more in emotion than reality.

4. Try Radical Acceptance

Radical acceptance is a posture you can learn to embrace when things don’t go your way. You may be tempted to resort to old habits to control your life, but radical acceptance is about relinquishing control. It means embracing whatever’s happening so that you can release the pain you are feeling. It opens you up to the uncomfortable adjustment period and reconciles your desired outcome with the current reality. The more you practice radical acceptance, the more you will feel in control of your life because you are choosing to accept your circumstances instead of giving in to fear. 

Life After ED

Life after an eating disorder (ED) can be a serious adjustment at first. You’re replacing damaging patterns with new, productive ones. You’re replacing rigid, negative thinking with flexible, positive reasoning. You may still have very high standards for yourself and want to behave a certain way or reach particular goals. This ambition only becomes toxic when you begin prioritizing perfectionism over your own well-being.

When you feel tempted to conform to a perfect image, try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Why is it so important for me to achieve this level of perfection?
  • If I didn’t achieve it, would it really be the end of the world? What would actually happen?
  • Is fear driving my desire for perfection? If so, what am I afraid of?
  • What can I appreciate about myself and my circumstances today, even if they’re not ideal?
  • Who can I talk to when I feel like my desire to be perfect is taking over?

While self-care can feel oddly unproductive at first, it teaches us that we’re not machines. We need restoration and time to reflect.

When you feel like you’re being swept away by a need to control your life or circumstances, it’s important to be able to identify what’s happening. This allows you to pause, reconnect with yourself, and reach out to a trusted friend, parent, or counselor to help you stay grounded. You don’t have to battle your ED thoughts and emotions alone.

Self-care practices, as inconsequential as they may seem initially, will have a positive overall effect on your outlook. It may not make sense for you to go for a walk in the middle of the day or spend an hour in your bathtub. While self-care can feel oddly unproductive at first, it teaches us that we’re not machines. We need restoration and time to reflect. No one is perfect — and you don’t have to be perfect to be loved. 

How to Recover from an Eating Disorder

How to Recover From an Eating Disorder - The Meadows Ranch

Eating disorder recovery should not be attempted alone. These conditions have strong physical and psychological effects that can complicate your attempts to get healthy. If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, get in touch with us at The Meadows Ranch today. Our team is highly experienced in the therapeutic methods that help individuals recover from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and others. We have a research-backed and evidence-based approach to healing the mind, body, and spirit. Contact us today to learn more about our program and how you can embark on the road to recovery.

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