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Motivation is Not Enough for Recovery

Motivation is Not Enough for Recovery

Motivation can be a slippery little sucker.  Anyone who has had a hard task in front of them can tell you from experience- motivation is not a constant companion on the way to the achievement.  Motivation isn’t always going to be there for you, pushing you towards your goals.  To be successful, motivation must be joined by perseverance.  

Change equation 

A common way to look at motivation towards change is this equation:
When the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain of changing, change will occur.  Most of us will work to avoid pain, even if that means having to make changes we’d rather not make under other circumstances. When we look at that through an eating recovery lens, you may recognize that point in your own life- the moment of desperate realization that you don’t want to stay in the pain of your disorder.  A moment of wanting help, even if it would require you to try new things. The trouble is, the momentum from the motivation gained in that moment of pain doesn’t always last through to full eating recovery.  As motivation ebbs and flows, perseverance comes on the scene to ensure goals are met and recovery is achieved.  

If we were to create an equation for that, it would look like this: motivation PLUS perseverance equals recovery.  

The role of perseverance

Perseverance can be defined as persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.  While we expect recovery to be linear, it’s just not. On the diverging path of recovery, perseverance is what is often keeping you moving forward.  

Motivation is a mover and a shaker, but perseverance is the slow and steady tortoise that’s going to get you across the finish line of your recovery race.  

Don’t give up when motivation wanes

Remember, when you feel a lack of motivation to continue in your eating recovery work, it’s not because you are failing or doing something wrong.  Motivation on its own was never going to get you all the way to recovery.  You aren’t feeling a lack of motivation because you don’t have the ability to recover from your eating disorder.  No one feels motivated all the time!  Motivation just has to be met with perseverance. 

What does that look like in practice?
-Don’t get overly discouraged on the days you want to give into disordered thoughts and behaviors.  You might observe the way you are feeling, while reminding yourself that this is a normal part of recovery and that you will be practicing a “perseverance day” today.

-Develop some personal mantras towards perseverance.  “I’m someone worth the work of the mundane recovery days”; “consistency IS recovery” and “I’m a woman who has her crap together” are all perseverance driven mantras.  Remind yourself of the work you are doing to develop this important “adulting” skill of perseverance!

-Act as though you are already someone skilled at persevering through tough days.  When you are feeling the urge to act on disordered eating thoughts, remind yourself, “I’m someone who I can count on to do what is needed in recovery, even when it’s tough” and keep doing what you know is right- following through on your meal plan, reaching out to your support system, attending your treatment appointments.  

 Remember the equation: Motivation + perseverance = recovery 

Don’t give up on yourself when things get discouraging.  So many times, the act of giving up keeps us from discovering the very important truth about ourselves that we are absolutely capable of doing incredibly difficult things!  

Demystifying Eating Concerns Q & A

Demystifying Eating Concerns Q & A

Being diagnosed with an eating disorder can come with a whole new vocabulary. Today, I want to walk you through one of the most frightening sounding words you may hear as you talk with a clinician about your mental health: a “comorbidity”.  

Q: What is a comorbidity? 

A: A comorbidity is a terrifying-sounding word that means a disorder is present at the same time as another disorder. You can have an eating disorder and anxiety, for example, and those would be considered “comorbidities”.  

Q: What are common comorbidities with an eating disorder? 

A: Common comorbidities with eating disorders are OCD (35% prevalence), anxiety (36%), and depression (50-70%).  This means that 35% of people with an eating disorder also have OCD, 36% will have an eating disorder and also anxiety, and somewhere between 50-70% will present with an eating disorder and also have depression.  

Q: How is understanding this helpful? 

A: When working to address an eating disorder, it becomes helpful to understand the entire landscape of your highly individual mental health needs.  

People who are working on eating recovery may have different needs with a comorbidity of depression, for example. Addressing the depression through therapy and perhaps medication would become indicated as someone works to regain health in eating recovery. In treatment, the focus over time becomes not just recovery from an eating disorder, but also providing you access to the tools that are helpful for you to improve the overall quality of your life.  

It’s also helpful to understand how different comorbidities may be impacting your eating recovery. If you were having a depressive episode- experiencing a hard time with motivation and losing interest in participating in life, for example- can you imagine how that might be impacting your ability to succeed in eating recovery? Taking a broad look at your mental health can help direct individualized treatment goals target what is most needed to ensure success.  

Q: Which is treated first? Or can they be treated at the same time?  

A: The first goal in treatment is always to ensure medical stability. Once that is ensured, treatment goals can be discussed and planned with your clinician to make certain that the targeted treatment interventions are meeting your unique needs!  

 

Sources: 

https://psychiatry-psychopharmacology.com/en/comorbidities-in-eating-disorders-132875

 

Honor Your Health: Gentle Nutrition

Honor Your Health: Gentle Nutrition

“Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy, from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts.” -Evelyn Tribole, “Intuitive Eating” 

The final principle of Intuitive Eating is “honor your health- gentle nutrition.” 

As we have been breaking down the ideas behind intuitive eating principles, my hope is that it feels much different from rigid, diet-mentality driven eating approaches you may have had previous experiences with.  

Eating is meant to be enjoyed, not just to sustain life! This principle involves how your eating can be both enjoyable and sustaining.  

It’s last for a reason: 

The principle of gentle nutrition is, interestingly enough, not the first principle of Intuitive Eating, but the very last. That may seem quite un-intuitive at first, but as you review the principles of Intuitive Eating below, do you notice anything? 

1. Reject the Diet Mentality 

2. Honor Your Hunger

3. Make Peace with Food

4. Challenge the Food Police

5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor

6. Fell Your Fullness

7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness

8. Respect Your Body

9. Movement – Feel the Difference

10. Honor Your Health – Gentle Nutrition

Honoring your health through learning how to gently nourish yourself is last because you can’t effectively do that without having a secure foundation built through the first nine steps. This step requires some awareness of how this crazy world we live in has impacted your relationship with food and your body. It requires having put some work into healing those relationships. It’s not just physical work- but mental and emotional as well. Skipping any of those steps shortchanges the necessary process to be successful with intuitive eating!  

 

It’s all about balance:

When you look at this principle, you can quickly see that it’s all about balance. The idea that you suddenly “pollute” your bodies when you don’t follow certain guidelines is really strict and rigid- and when you are working towards a balanced, flexible, non-obsessive relationship with food, there is no room for rigid, black and white thinking.  

With that flexibility and balance in mind, start to examine your feelings and observations around eating.  It might help to examine:

  • What foods do I enjoy my experience eating?  
  • Do those foods leave me feeling well nourished? 
  • Do I want to keep feeling the way those foods result in feeling, or make some adjustments/try new things? 
  • Am I eating a balanced, flexible assortment of foods?  
  • Is there room to be curious about new foods? 

When we have really mastered this principle, we will be prioritizing how we experience eating in our own bodies above whatever the popular diet gurus or social media influencers are telling us our eating needs to look like. This step moves you away from that crazy-making, never ending chatter and towards honoring your own intuition that can bring healing and peace. 

Intuitive Eating Basics: Movement – Feel the Difference

Intuitive Eating Basics: Movement – Feel the Difference

 

When you think about exercise, what immediate reactions do you have to the concept? Does it bring to mind peaceful jogs through a park, or punitive drill sergeant style fitness coaches at the gym? Do you remember the joy of a zumba class with friends, or the distressed feeling that you are always working against the clock to get all of your steps for the day in? 

As we begin to examine your relationship to movement, I’d like to invite you to slow down and consider the honest answer to some of these questions: 

Do I feel my worth rise and fall depending on how much or how little I exercise? 

Do I feel the need to “earn” my nutrition through exercise? 

Do I find myself obsessionally thinking about my step count or workout stats? 

As you think about your relationship with movement, you likely see some themes begin to emerge. They may be marked by obsession, punishment, or ignoring your body’s signals; or they may be balanced, nurturing, and restorative practices. You may even notice times in your life where you have fallen more into one category than the other, depending on choice and circumstance. 

Intuitive eating principle number nine is “Movement- feel the difference”. Evelyn Tribole shares with us: 

“Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.”

As you reframe your relationship with your body through intuitive eating principles, we look at not only what nutritional care you are providing your body, but also what activities and movements you use your body to perform.  

While striving to ensure that your exercise falls within intuitive bounds, here are a few things to consider: 

Focus on how movement feels in your body. Do you enjoy it? What would make the experience more enjoyable?  

Don’t move with the primary goal of weight loss. Move to enjoy moving. Mindfully observe your exercise. 

Explore movement as self-care. Few things feel as good as a yoga class at the end of a stressful day, or a boxing class after a frustrating day. How can you incorporate movement into your routines of self care? 

Adequately nourish your body before, during, and after movement. Eat and drink in ways that are restorative to yourself.  

Enjoying movement is a wonderful way to connect more deeply with your body and grow an appreciation for what she does for you.  

 

Intuitive Eating Basics: Respect Your Body

Intuitive Eating Basics: Respect Your Body

“Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size. But mostly, respect your body so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical of your body size or shape. All bodies deserve dignity.” -Evelyn Tribole, Intuitive Eating 

Accepting genetic blueprints? Having realistic and kind expectations? YES- these are possible and attainable mindset goals when we shift toward the idea of BODY RESPECT.  

I had an experience this morning with my middle school daughters. Imagine them, 13 and 15, half asleep while I do my best to instill some religion into them before sending them off to the junior high school trenches. We were reading the creation story from the book of Genesis in the Bible- “and God saw that it was good” is a phrase used over and over again as God looked over His creations. I pointed this out to my half asleep teenaged girls- and asked them, “So if God calls the things that He makes ‘good’, what does this suggest about the way we should view God’s creations? Including… ourselves?” I honestly wasn’t expecting much beyond the typical half asleep nods I usually get- but suddenly, my 13 year old perked up, having made a personal connection to what we had been reading. 

“MOM!” she began, “like all my friends need to hear this. THEY ALL talk about how they think their bodies are so gross and they compare bodies all the time. Like can’t we all just look around and say, ‘IT WAS GOOD’!”  

I was kind of surprised at her passion. This really struck a nerve with her- all creations, all bodies- are good. All are worthy of care, respect, and dignity.  

How comfortable are you with acknowledging body diversity-  and calling it good

I believe that all bodies are good bodies. None of our bodies look the same- just like the earth, there is beautiful diversity. I can admire a sweeping mountain vista and not shame it for not being a serene tropical beach. They are both “good”.  

How to practice body respect 

This may be a radical thought to some- but shaming your body isn’t getting you very far. It’s not making you fit differently into your clothes, be more productive, or feel any happier. In fact, body shaming is probably doing the exact opposite: making you feel exhaustingly sluggish and miserable as you go about your everyday tasks.    

In therapy, I like to illustrate this principle by having clients imagine a sweet little baby girl, just learning to walk. Now, as that tiny child embarks on learning this novel skill of walking, imagine standing beside her. What words naturally come to mind when you think of speaking to her?  

“You dumb baby, you still can’t walk? Gosh, all the other babies are figuring this out so much faster than you. Some are even RUNNING, and you can’t figure out a few steps? What is wrong with you? Oh, there you go again. Falling over on yourself. Tripping over your own feet. You are never going to get this right. There is something seriously wrong with you.”  

Did that just make you feel a little sick to your stomach to read? Could you ever picture yourself saying that to a sweet little baby?  

If you were to speak to a baby like that, how far do you imagine she gets in life, how many new things is she willing to try (and sometimes fail at!)? When you stand next to her, constantly critical and harsh, does it set her up for success or failure? This illustration works so well because most of us could never imagine being that awful to a small, innocent child- yet we have no problem being that awful to ourselves. Part of learning to respect your body is taking the time to relearn ways of approaching and speaking to yourself. This isn’t about “letting yourself off the hook”- it’s about learning a new way to interact with yourself, a respectful one. Just like that baby, you will be far more set up for success in life when you shed the constant critical voice inside of you pointing out and emphasizing every misstep.   

Love VS Respect 

You don’t have to LOVE your body. But can you imagine getting to a place where you aren’t beating yourself up constantly? When you put the goal at “LOVE your body!” you are setting yourself up for failure with an unrealistic expectation. Can you set the dial to a more realistic setting of ‘RESPECT your body’?  

Let’s think about that word- respect- and why it may be the right foundation for a healthy relationship with your body. Dictionary.com tells us the definition of respect is: 

“esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability”

A sense of worth, a sense of excellence, a quality or ability- when applied to your body, do you see how this translates to a heck of a lot more than size or appearance? It encompasses being able to comfort a friend with a hug, wrap your arms around your grandmother in greeting and shared affection, appreciating your body for getting you through another long shift at work, and acknowledging her ability to renew and heal after a sickness. There is so much more to the idea of respecting your body than just loving the size or appearance of it!  

As you continue on in the work of healing your relationship with your body, I want you to envision what a respectful relationship with her would look like. Examine your expectations of yourself with fresh eyes.  And more than anything, give yourself permission to start seeing yourself as “good”.  Because you are- you are SO good.