Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Half full? What perspective has to do with recovery

It took me years to grasp this not-so-deep expression.  Rather than focusing on the full vs. empty, I'd get stuck with the half partSo while viewing a cup as half empty suggests looking at what's missing, and seeing it as half full connotes a positive outlook, I simply couldn't see it. The half empty description seemed rather positive to me. I mean, at least it's only 1/2 missing! I'm not sure I ever really contemplated half full—as in "it's just not good enough".

Take a look at the image to the right. What do you see?

And when you look at your body? 

Do you focus on all that's good about it, or get fixated on those parts that disgust you?

When you reflect on your eating yesterday do you highlight where you slipped, or acknowledge what was in place?

When you consider how you've eaten over the past week, do you recognize your mindfulness or your balance? Or can’t you get past where your eating, activity or behaviors were less than stellar?

Oh, and about that image above—did you note the black dot, a blemish of sorts? Or did you notice the full screen of white, of possibility?


Why would you take care of a body you despise—one you view as too fat, or weak, or unattractive? Why adequately nourish it, lovingly stretch it, gently exercise it? And why would you keep pushing for change if you can not appreciate the benefits of your efforts?

What if you woke up every morning with appreciation that you were still breathing, that you had the gift of another day? And what if you noted that, beyond the aches and pains, most systems functioned quite well? I know, I know—this may not be the case for some of you. Persistent tinnitus (that high-pitched ringing in your ears), chronic hip pain, or knee or backaches, problems digesting or sleeping—these are nothing to be thankful for.

A patient of mine just told me about a buddy of his who's an avid hiker. He climbed all 48 4,000 footers in New Hampshire—an impressive feat, I'll tell you, as someone who knows those trails well; they're steep, rugged, filled with loose rock. It's certainly motivating, though, when rewarded with the stunning panoramas when we hit the peaks.

The only thing is, that successful hiker? He's blind, and hikes with a guide dog. Somehow I suspect he doesn't wake up and dwell on his lack of vision.

I really don't know. I am quite fortunate to have a body which functions at 100%, at least for now.

Do we need to experience the threat of loss of function to appreciate that our body works? Must we starve, or fast, to appreciate food? Can't we appreciate the power we have to change our reality, to shift our perspective?

Shift your thoughts

  • Perhaps you purged this week, but only once or twice—per week, that is, versus per day.
  • Perhaps you exercised, a goal you set for yourself, for 10-15 minutes per session—less than you intended, but more than you had managed to do in the recent months.
  • Perhaps you overate, but stopped yourself much sooner than you usually do, preventing an all out binge.
  • Perhaps you ate cookies, or cupcakes, but in reasonable portions, and perhaps you allowed yourself to finally taste them and thoroughly enjoy them. Imagine that!
  • Perhaps you are beginning to give yourself credit for some positive actions you are taking—just not all the time. 
  • Perhaps you can begin by identifying 2-3 positives each day, while getting ready for bed or when getting dressed in the morning.

Your intake, activity, or behaviors may be far from perfect, but perhaps you’re still moving forward. The work may not be done.

Maybe things aren’t so great. But have you lost the ability to create a positive shift, to see the white space?

Perhaps, it’s only half empty.

My gratitude to Rabbi Leslie Gordon and Rabbi Barry Starr for their recent words which inspired this post.

Consider these other posts on this topic:


  1. What do I do though, when I'm ready and willing to highlight and focus on what I'm doing well, but my team seems focused on my failures? It is so hard to do this work and to keep pushing- but when I feel like a member of my team is frustrated or disappointed in me I feel like such a failure. I feel so not understood. It's hard when friends and family don't get it, but I employ my team to get it and to be unwavering in their support. When I get even a hint of them 'giving up on me' I feel so hopeless. Appreciating my body for all that you describe is where I'd like to land- but we- my body and I- have a rocky relationship. And I don't just mean about size - but about trauma and betrayal. Acceptance can feel like a far off land.

    1. First, thanks for expressing your thoughts! Perhaps you can share them with your team as well.
      Try to distinguish your/your team's frustration with YOU vs with your eating disorder; your team, no doubt, only wants what's best for your health and recovery. Pushing you for more change may be necessary for your safety and ultimate recovery.

      Acknowledging the positives doesn't mean letting go of the obligation to keep moving forward!
      Hope this helps.

  2. This really resonated with me. I had a great week of choosing healthy foods in healthy portion sizes. I have been meeting a friend at the gym every morning that we are able (usually at least four mornings per week) and moving in a way that feels good for my body. And from Friday until Sunday, I ate like I had never seen food before. I was focusing on that Friday through Sunday portion of my week, but it would do me better to focus on all the good things that Monday through Thursday had in them. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. I only just found your blog, but I'm totally freaking in love with you! I am an HAES advocate and have been learning the 'normal' way to eat and exercise without falling into bad ED habits. Thank you for your support and grounded information. I look forward to reading much more and suggesting your blog to my health and fitness friends. Cheers! K. Walters

  4. Trust want to say this post really spoke to me - so excellent. Thank you!

  5. Celebrating our victories is fun. I used to just focus on the things that I was struggling with and the ways that I had slipped. When you focus only on those it seems like your recovery is going absolutely no where and its really easy to lose motivation. Once I allowed myself to start acknowledging my successes in recovery, I started to notice that they became much more frequent. Thankfully I've had a team that has focused on them all along, while pushing me in the right direction.

  6. I absolutely love your blog. It offers me so many new insights and perspectives and I just hope that one day I will be able to act on your ideas and not letting my eating disorder fears standing in way of it! And maybe finding a balance! Thanks for creating this blog. I am sure it helps a lot of people!

  7. Could you do a post about vegetarian and vegan eating, and things to watch out for on both?

    1. Check out the post from April 28, 2011, Eating a Vegetarian Diet. Not As Healthy As You May Believe.Hope that helps. If not, let me know what's missing!