HealthyGirl.org reader Jessica, 20, has been having a bumpy time and has started to question whether she’s maybe just…a lost cause. She’s written in before and found all of your advice really helpful, but says she just can’t seem to make it stick. Ready to weigh in?
Q: Since the Q I sent to HealthyGirl a while ago, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. Things got pretty bad a week-and-a-half-ago when I took more laxatives than I’ve ever taken before (previously it was just a few once in a while and I never felt effects). It made me pretty sick and confirmed what I knew–that is not a way out–and I threw them all away.
After that, I went for a whole week without binging and more or less sticking to a balanced meal plan my therapist helped design. That was a huge record for me. I felt absolutely wonderful, physically, but also mentally because I knew I was capable of doing it. I didn’t even have urges to binge; I thought I was home free.
Then Tuesday night everything collapsed. No specific event happened and nothing really triggered it emotionally; something just snapped. I’ve been bingeing pretty much non-stop since then, and can’t seem to get myself motivated to get back on track again, even though now I know I’m capable of going binge-free. It makes me afraid that I’m really not ready to give up bingeing, that when I tell myself (and my therapist, and my parents) that I’m ready to get better, I’m lying, that something inside me is holding to it still.
I do realize that people have blips on their path to recovery. But every strategy I try seems to fail: like before bed last night, I meticulously planned out my meals and exercise, so that I wouldn’t even have to think about it. Yet after hitting some point this afternoon, none of that seemed important anymore. And I’m afraid I’m using the “people mess up when they’re recovering” truth as an excuse to let myself mess up.
So I wanted to ask: how do I make sure this is just a bump in the road, versus a barrier to me getting back on the road altogether? After you, or others, messed up, how do you go back to feeling confident again? How many rock bottoms do there have to be before there are no relapses?
A: Hi again Jessica. I can tell you right now with total and complete conviction: This is a bump in the road. How do you know? Because you haven’t stopped reaching out. You haven’t given up, given in, shrugged your shoulders and decided this is just how your life is going to be.
I can think back to when I was 20, or even 25, and remember feeling exactly the way you are now. Like, come ON! Why can’t I make this stick?! You know why? Because emotional eating/binge eating/disordered eating is deep—really deep. For some of us it truly takes years to fully recover. I feel like I went through several of these sort of “WTF” moments over the years, and while each one was hard and discouraging and painful, I didn’t give up. And THAT meant I moved forward.
Simply not giving up means you’re moving forward. Every time you make the choice to take another step toward recovery by reading a new book, journaling, telling your therapist a truth—even if you are still bingeing your face off—you are moving forward and you are laying important groundwork for recovery.
You’re determined, I can tell. Just give yourself a little bit of a break and try to treat yourself with the gentleness and acceptance you would a friend.
There are lots of next steps you can take, and each one will help move you forward. Some of the little things I have used to move me along over the years were books (when’s the last time you read a book about binge eating? Why not pick one up and start reading just one page a day, every morning at the same time to set up a healthy routine?), using a food and hunger journal (not everyone finds them helpful, but I did), and support groups (have you ever tried a face-to-face support group? They’re truly kind of amazing. I went to one weekly for three years and it was invaluable. I didn’t stop bingeing right away, either, but it moved me along).
If I were you, I would decide to do one little new thing toward recovery right now. Don’t make it some huge deal, just decide on a gentle next step that you feel you can handle right now. You’re on the road—you really are! The key is just not to stop. It might be going more slowly than you’d like, but you’re getting there.
Please, HealthyGirl.org ladies, can you share you stories for Jessica? I imagine every single one of us have felt like a lost cause at some point in our journeys. Let’s show her there’s hope!
For a new food-sanity or body-sanity tip every single day, follow @hlthygrl on Twitter!