How to overcome an eating disorder

Over the years I have subjected my body to everything from 3 day fasts to 3 hours of intense exercise daily seeking balance and self-control. I fell into a destructive, life-sucking cycle of bingeing followed by compensatory behaviours, fighting for control and freedom from my prison. I still feel emotion welling in my throat as I remember the vivid experience of feeling utterly helpless in my own cycle, hitting rock bottom at 6-10 binges in a single day. I must have tried to fix myself a thousand times, giving up time after time, each feeling more lost, more helpless, having lost another chunk of self-esteem and hope. I felt uniquely incapable of achieving my fitness goals.

It wasn’t until I stopped searching for magical outward fixes and began to see the flaws in my approach, that lasting change began to happen. Other factors stayed the same, I still did not lose weight fast enough, did not feel like I did enough, it was all the same. The difference was I began fighting back. I stopped reading fitness magazines, stopped diet pills and seeking out new magic programs and began self-kindness, acceptance and understanding. I gave myself permission to be imperfect in the process of growth and healing.

Over the course of several years I gradually cut down on binges – Not overnight. I began to live WITH the food instead of fighting to live without it. I stopped destroying myself for making mistakes and focused on self-understanding. I changed my perception, I did not change my actions immediately, that took more time, and that is when my world began to change.

The process was much involved and complicated, involved thousands of tears, breakdowns and giving up but I always got back up and kept going. How do we overcome?

  1. Self-compassion. I was queen at being my own worst critic, no one could critique me like I could. I wanted to improve and believed I had to be ruthless with myself in order to succeed, but once I learned the art of self-compassion my entire mindset began to change. Treat yourself as you would a best friend. I practice this with clients all the time. Write down your circumstances, how the day or week has been, the things you’re trying to work on and look at them objectively. So often we are taking on SO much at once, making small, positive changes and improvements and completely overlooking the positive.
  2. Be realistic. As badly as I wanted to quit the binge cycle cold turkey I had to realize and accept that slip-ups were not only inevitable they were NECESSARY for long-term success. I had to fumble and fail over and over in order to learn how to do things differently than I’ve always done them. This is a lifelong journey, not an overnight destination.
  3. Change perspective. Stop looking at your goal as a final destination but see it as a lifelong path. All the obstacles and road blocks along the way are there to force you into learning how to adapt old skills and develop new skills to succeed. There’s a good chance your biggest struggles, hangups or “flaws” are somehow tied into your personality, upbringing, environment etc, even if you conquer them you HAVE to be aware that they can sneak back in at ANY time if you’re not careful. That’s just the way it is and always will be. If you expect to overcome bingeing and think you’ll never have to struggle with it again you’re sure to find out the hard way at some point, not being prepared for it decreases your chances of overcoming it.

I will continue to work for the remainder of my life. My issues were deeply rooted and will likely linger for the remainder of my life. An eating disorder or any form of disordered thoughts and behaviours is not something to be overcome but can be adapted in healthy ways in order to cope and be happy, healthy and live free. I must always be mindful of sliding into old habits, always fighting that inner irrational voice. I get better, we get better, and it’s worth every second.

Chelsea KnoxBy Chelsea Knox, registered nurse (RNBN), Level 1 Wellness coach, and Online fitness and mindset coach.