When Did You Know You Were Really Ready to Change?

Have you ever felt like you wanted to speed up your recovery timeline?

They say that it takes the average smoker seven attempts to finally quit. What about your average binge eater? How many times have you and I vowed to “stop”? And what was it that finally got us on the road to lasting recovery? That’s what I wanted to talk about today—and it was an email from a HealthyGirl.org reader that made me think about it:

“I’ve been having trouble with food for about ten years now, and I’ve probably only finally now started to have the real commitment to want to change enough to make it happen. For years the bingeing has made me very sad, and affected my life a lot, but I was still never quite ready to let it go (wow, it actually hurts to say that!). I also was still so committed to the idea of dieting and restricting food, that progress was never really possible. Even though I wanted the binges to go, I didn’t want the dieting to, and I was in this constant cycle of being very, very restrictive and then bingeing.

“I’m now 29, and the eating has overshadowed a whole decade of my life. I’ve now finally got up the courage, and tolerance, to say to myself: You are more than your weight. Your value doesn’t change according to the reading on the scale. Your family and husband love you for the person you are, not for the kilos you weigh, and they don’t love you less (or more) when your weight changes. You need to love yourself and accept yourself to, not constantly fight a war against your body.”

I love so many things about what Victoria said. Not least of which was her incredibly honest assessment that, as much as she thought she wanted to get better, there was some part of her that wasn’t ready to let the whole, entire binge-and-restrict cycle go. She wanted to let go of the bingeing without letting go of the thinking and focus on weight that went along with it.

Can you relate? I know I can. There have been so many times over the 15 years I was struggling that I wished for this problem to be taken away—to magically be lifted. But I had to put in the work. I had to slowly build up the self esteem and self awareness. I had to give myself time.

I used to look back and think that time was wasted, I used to mourn those years as “ruined.” But you know what? They weren’t wasted or ruined! Recovery took as long as it took. Every single step along the path was important. Every single small step I took mattered. None of them could be rushed. They all happened just when they were “supposed to” and I experienced just what I was supposed to in order to get me to right where I am right now. No regrets!

Have you ever felt like you just weren’t quite ready to let go of your eating issues yet? Did recovery every seem maddeningly slow for you, too?

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16 Responses to When Did You Know You Were Really Ready to Change?

  1. Kate says:

    Thank you Victoria for your story. It sounds very similar to my own.

    I’m not sure I’m ready to change. I know I say I do. I hate the way I look and how I feel. I can list pages and pages of things that should motivate me to change.

    But I don’t.

    I think somewhere along the road I learned to do the easy thing, no matter how painful and detrimental.


    I remember learning about the stages of change (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, etc.) and maybe through out all the doing I never moved past the precontemplation/contemplation stage. There wasn’t anything that really motivated me to change, because I was able to get along just fine with how I used to do things.

    Then today I received a phone call from my mom. My Grandpa is very sick, and may die soon.

    Right after thinking I hope he gets better I had another thought. A pure selfish thought: I didn’t want my grandpa to die because I didn’t want to go back to my hometown and have everyone see me as heavy as I am right now. As if, somehow, my whole life should have been put on hold until I was at a more acceptable weight. But really it was me that was on hold while the rest of my life passed me by. This has caused me to miss some vital moments, that now I’ll never get back.

    Today I moved one step closer to change.

  2. Rachael says:

    Im printing this out Victoria. I love everything you said and I want to get here. This is so great and Im very proud of you to be at this stage in your recovery.

    As much as I resent my binge eating, a part of me gets something from it. I know this much, otherwise I wouldnt continue doing it.
    Its a way to avoid situations, feelings, deadlines. It gives me excuses.

  3. “I used to look back and think that time was wasted, I used to mourn those years as “ruined.” But you know what? They weren’t wasted or ruined! Recovery took as long as it took. Every single step along the path was important. Every single small step I took mattered. None of them could be rushed. They all happened just when they were “supposed to” and I experienced just what I was supposed to in order to get me to right where I am right now. No regrets!”

    Thank you for that paragraph. I just needed it as a reminder.

  4. love2eatinpa says:

    this is such a great post. i didn’t realize it, but i had been a compulsive overeater/binger for 30+ years. i just thought i had a sweet tooth all that time. it wasn’t until i was just about to turn 40 that i realized that i in fact had an eating disorder. it was horrifying and freeing at the same time, but it gave my a-type personality something to work with. i knew i was sick, so i went to OA, therapy and started being really honest with myself and my husband.

    that was about 28 months ago. i have been binge-free all this time. i have maintained by weight loss for 18 months. blogging about it and getting support from both reading and writing has been so great. i have learned many new awarenesses and felt confident and trusting enough in myself/my body to take the leap of faith to intuitive eating (no more calorie counting, weighing/measuring foods, getting myself on the scale each day) for about a month and a half now. so far so good. i feel empowered and wonderful.

    but none of this could have happened until my head was in the right place. i can’t tell you how many times over the years i would binge, feel awful, say never again, and then do it again the next day. it wasn’t until i learned about and truly dealt with my childhood issues (which started to ED) that really got me on the path to recovery.

    good luck, victoria, you can do this! sunny, thanks for sharing both your and victoria’s story.

  5. I needed to see this post this morning! I’m at a point now where I do indeed feel like my recovery is taking forever (hence two binges this week after not having binged in almost 2 months!). I keep telling myself not to rush the process, but that doesn’t make it any easier some days. I also keep telling myself to work on food guilt, but after reading Victoria’s story, I know now that I need to work on issues much deeper than that… Thank you for Sharing, V. And thank you, Sunny, for your input in the last few paragraphs.

  6. Katie says:

    What an amazing post. Thank you, Sunny and Victoria!

  7. Heather says:

    I read this post with interest, as I am at an awkward stage of ‘recovery’ (I hate this term and use it with reticence, as I see it more as moving forward and not in ‘sick’ and ‘better’ terminology).

    I am at a point where I don’t want to revert to disordered eating patterns but where I also am desperately wanting to achieve some sense of normalcy and healthfulness with my weight. Before entering into disordered eating, I was averagely sized and pretty okay with that. I’m not aiming for ‘size zero’ any more.

    I have thus far addressed some of the underlying issues which contribute to feeling the need to self-medicate with food and am aware of the situations that make me prone to bingeing. I don’t think you can ever 100% eliminate these because there are likely to always be situations which would have led to bingeing; I just think you need to figure out a way to move towards healthier coping strategies. (If anyone can tell me what these are, that’d be brilliant!)

    I am now getting to a point where I want to tackle my eating patterns and behaviours, which is terrifying. I would previously have resorted to dieting in one form or another. This time, I am not willing to put myself through the ups and downs of it all. Yes, I could lose it on a tried-and-tested diet. I really could. But I’m not sure I could handle the disappointment, the feelings of failure and the agonising depression that would eventually ensue when I took my eye off the ball and relaxed for a moment. I would binge and I would probably put all this weight back on, and a bit extra. I don’t want to feel like that bit extra is my ‘punishment’ for falling for it again. Also, I’ve achieved so much emotionally and mentally that I’m loathe to give it up, which I know is likely to happen once you get past the initial high of dieting.

    So at the moment, I’m working my way through a long list of questions given to me in a self-esteem class to work through my options for losing this weight, whilst retaining my progress thus far. I will consider everything - from using my old ED behaviours, to seeing the Doctor (terrifying!). I want to make a decision based on using all the information I have at my disposal.

  8. Kaki says:

    Wow! I am relating to this post. I am 38, with a husband and an 8 yr old. I have been struggling with eating disorders since I was 11. I’ve been in and out of recovery facilities, but mostly fighting the battle alone for many years. Approaching 40 and still not being “cured” (yeah,right) is posing new obstacles for me. Having a family who depends on me to prepare and serve them food has been challenging. I’m fighting my battle while trying to appear normal. My husband knows and is sensitive to me, but only when I break down about it (he doesn’t get it,and I don’t fault him).
    But I get the trying to accept me for the goodness….but still wanting to loose just 10 lbs! Then I’d be even better (hmmmm).Almost 40 and feel like my clock is ticking….

  9. Lauren says:

    “Recovery takes as long as it takes.”
    Thank you for that reminder.
    36 years since my first binge…
    I keep telling myself I ‘should’ be better, ‘should’ have a handle on this etc. etc.
    I am where I am, and doing the best I can. That’s all I can do…
    Latest coping strategy? Put on music with a really good beat crank the stereo up loud, and dance around - release the energy… and emotions.

  10. Heather says:

    I am an extremely impatient person. That whole type-A thing many of us seem to have going on. I want things to be better when I decide that it is time. My big change moment came last summer. I was in a spiral of insanity. A bad break up, a change in my business structure and a move all came at once. I was heavy and I was obsessed with the strangest things (like spending $1200 on a sculpture made by my ex so that I could destroy it…I know, I know.) I had hatched a brilliant plan, almost cartoon like in it’s complexity, and emailed my friend Scott about it. He sent me a text that simply said “stop being crazy”. I thought about nothing else for hours, days and weeks…’stop being crazy’. It seemed so simple. So, I decided that I would stop being crazy. I started letting go of things, bit by bit. I started meeting new people, developing new products for my business, and starting coming out of the fog. This is not to say that every day has been good since last summer…of course not…that would be waaay too easy. But, those three words ring in my head whenever I am about to do something that the logical part of me knows is nuts. Sometimes it helps, sometimes I tell the voice to shut up and let me eat. The point is that at least I acknowledge the voice is there. Since that day, I have been able to shed 20 of the 40 pounds that my year and a half of crazy put on. I just keep telling myself to stop being crazy whenever I am about to do anything…I live my life with passion…passionate people are always a little crazy, so I am okay with that…but when I am thinking about going to the bakery to buy a pretend birthday cake for an imaginary friend who probably doesn’t even have a birthday…that’s when I tell myself to stop being crazy.

  11. Angie says:

    I had to hit bottom emotionally before I started to recover. Recovery means I actually have to take care of myself. The ED has always been about me begging for attention (internally or externally), but not willing to give myself the attention I really need. I still feel ‘selfish’ about taking time to take care of myself. I don’t know if that will ever go away. That said, I have to ‘be selfish’ and do self care every day. Wash my face, change my contacts, take care of my teeth, healthy exercise, journal, etc., so I can get out of my head / out of my way / not binge. I still feel tempted to fool around with the fool, but when I’m taking care of myself, it’s easier to say ‘don’t be crazy’ and just do what I know is right (for my body). I really like the text message ‘stop being crazy’… that so applies to me. I just need to remember to take care of myself means I step away from the crazy and that’s OK. Great topic - thank you!!!

  12. Hope says:

    Every day I think I’m ready to stop. I’m ready to stop, but not ready to tell anyone. I don’t know why I don’t have the courage, when I don’t want anything more in life than to just be satisfied with my weight. Telling someone could be the cure. So why don’t I ?!

    Today I made a committment. I tried so hard to purge but all I could manage to spew up was blood. I was disgusted and miserable. I finally texted my friend admitting that I was ready to see the school psychologist. Hopefully I will meet her soon. Hopefully, I will finally be on the road to recovery.

    Thanks for this post. Stay strong everyone!

  13. […] didn’t mean it in a discouraging way, but much like what Sunny mentioned when talking about being really ready to change, recovery takes as long as it takes and putting the work in is what is most important. Moving […]

  14. Emily says:

    What a great question - what am I reluctant to give up?

    Every now and then, it comes to me naturally and I feel like it’s time to let go.

    The biggest crutch I let go so far was my scale. I was weighing myself every day and was terrified to stop. For some reason, I realized that my weight obsession was helping me escape my very real life (divorce, trouble at work, etc). I put my scale away about two months ago. I cannot begin to describe the difference that makes every day in my life. I don’t attach my value to a number or a trendline anymore. I am focusing more on my feelings about what is really going on with me. Maybe someday I will be capable of weighing myself regularly. But for now I am in much better emotional shape without it.

    I’ve been struggling lately with giving up a food item. Every night after dinner, I have a fudge bar - even when I’m not hungry. The thought has crossed my mind that I shouldn’t eat it if I’m not hungry or if I don’t want it, and the voice I hear back is: just for tonight, just one more time. You know what? I don’t need a chocolate fudge bar to keep me safe. I’ll let you all know if I can let it go.

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Sunny Sea Gold

About the Author

Sunny Sea Gold is a media-savvy advocate and commentator specializing in binge eating disorder, cultural obsessions around food and weight, and raising children who have a healthy body image.