Monday, August 12, 2013

The Door to Change is Open. Learning about eating disorder recovery from Let’s Make a Deal.

So you long to be at your old weight, the lower size, the place where everything was fabulous? Like the amnesia when recalling an old boy/girlfriend—you know, that selective memory that favors only the good times (not how miserable they made you feel or how unhealthy your relationship was with him/her)—you remember longingly how great it was to be thinner, and you strive unhealthily to get there. Remember how happy you were, how you loved your body then? Don’t you recall how great you felt—physically and mentally? No?
Was it as good as you recall or did you feel trapped?
The door is open for change!

Likely not! What was that disordered relationship with food really like? How great did/do you truly feel and function? Perhaps, as I hear from so many...
  • Your mood was off. Depression crept in, as did anxiety. Thoughts might have become obsessive. As a result, you were not truly present. Rather, your thoughts were racing, removing you from engaging in conversation and interacting in a healthy way.
  • You were emotionally removed—perhaps that was helpful—but not feeling the negative stuff also meant not enjoying the positive experiences either. Were you missing the connections with friends and family? Did you miss out on those early years of your children’s lives, or the later years as your parents were aging? Present, but in body only?
  • You were dragging, deprived of energy from truly getting enough fuel throughout the day. Maybe you made up for it later, but that didn’t help you function throughout the day. Ok, so the coffees or diet Cokes gave you that caffeinated illusion that you were energized, but the headaches and preoccupation about your next meal surely told you otherwise.
  • The lightheadedness and fatigue were bad enough. But the disturbed sleep during the night might have been more than you bargained for.
  • You hated feeling cold all the time, especially when nobody else was.
  • And having to attend all those appointments—with your doctor, your therapist, psychiatrist, and that darn nutritionist. Bad enough to have to take all that time, and copays, but having to be held accountable every visit? Uggh!
Yes, there is another way...
  • The missed periods (for you women) were a bit worrisome, never mind the impact that would have on your bone density.
  • It was so challenging and overwhelming planning meals and trying to be social, when so much centers around eating!
  • Your thoughts became so distorted.
  • And you felt so trapped and helpless.
  • You were not even happy then, as you were still striving, against your body’s best interest, to lose more weight.
  • It was like living two lives. The one everyone else saw. And then the real you, the you you struggled with.

Let's make a deal

Remember that old TV show, Let’s Make a Deal? I guess it still airs, but decades ago when I last watched it here’s what I remember. There were three curtains, and behind each one there were items—some desirable and some, so-called zonks. Contestants would have to make a decision to trade what they were shown behind one curtain with the unknown contents hidden behind

Have you read all the posts this cup mug is on? Just checking!
another curtain. They had a chance to reneg on their decision—offered money to trade back, still site unseen— restoring the hope and promise of possibilities behind the alluring curtain—which of course could turn out to be a worthless dud.

This show somehow seems like eating disorder recovery itself. In spite of knowing that we are living with a zonk, which in the grand scheme of things has so little value, it is challenging to trade for the virtually unknown. Virtually, because we have all but forgotten how much better, how much more value that former non-disordered self had.

If you’re stuck in a pattern that you know isn’t working, why not take the risk, so to speak, and try what’s behind a different curtain? Could it really be much worse that what you are living with now? You knew what the other curtain held—the benefits of listening to your body, of nourishing yourself, body and soul. So why not make a deal and trade up?

Maybe you won’t like all the offerings behind a curtain. So toss or trade back the parts you could do without. Perhaps you'll need to learn to tolerate some parts of the package that aren’t your favorites—you’ll learn how to make due. Yes, with support and experience you can become more accepting of the full package.

"How do I start?"

Ready to trade up? Make a list of what you dislike about your current situation—physically and emotionally. What is it stopping you from doing? What harm is it doing? What would you be able to do if you didn’t have this disorder? What was it like without it?

And what positives do you get from your disorder? A strange question, perhaps. But on some level you must be getting something positive from your current situation. It may be your drug of choice, or allow you to not have to make decisions about your future. There may be all sorts of positives you attribute to your disordered lifestyle.

Now put them together. Bring them in to discuss with your health professionals—your therapist, dietitian, or MD.

Do the math, adding the pros and the cons. Then make your voice heard and make a deal. Yes, it’s time to peak behind the next curtain.


  1. This idea really resonates with me...the concept of exchanging a familiar, yet unhelpful and essentially useless, "zonk" for the unknown of life after an ED and full recovery that is behind the curtain.

    A big step for me in recovery has been identifying that the disordered behaviors are in fact a "zonk" but the process of fully embracing and facing the unknown is still largely ahead. I hope to continue along a path towards something better in my life!

  2. I think this becomes easier once you begin to see glimpses of how life can be like without the eating disorder. For the longest time I preferred the known, as miserable and lonely as it was, because it was what I was used to and knew. Now that I've seen the freedom and joy that comes when we break free from the eating disorder, I feel quite differently. I wouldn't trade it for anything, especially a smaller body. Early in recovery I think the positives seem so far out of reach so I didn't find a pro and con list really helpful. Then again it took taking a leap of faith and trying something different to first see the benefits of recovery. As always, thank you for such a lovely thought provoking post. If you are currently struggling with whether recovery is worth it, hang in there, it really is.