Eating Disorder Recovery: Finding Motivation for Treatment
Eating disorder treatment is a journey on which someone not only re-establishes their physical and mental health but also experiences profound personal growth.
Like any other journey, things aren’t always simple.
The key is to keep pushing, to keep participating in your recovery, and to maintain faith that your motivation to live a better life will grow over time.
How and where to find motivation
Motivation can be obtained from a variety of places, either internally or externally. Both of these types of motivation have value, and both of these serve an important role in your journey to recovery.
The motivation that comes from someone or something outside of yourself is known as extrinsic motivation. At times, extrinsic motivation is more readily available, and that’s understandable because you have a lot of people, places, and things in your life to provide it.
But sometimes that extrinsic motivation is unavailable, or hard to receive when you’re dealing with an eating disorder. During those times, your self-esteem might feel so hard to muster that it becomes difficult to believe that you are a cause worth fighting for—or that anyone cares about you at all.
During these periods, try your best to let others share their motivation with you. Seek inspiration in others who’ve experienced their own setbacks in life, or simply think about those who wish to see you recover, and think how your recovery process will impact them in a positive manner. It may not be easy to do, but if you write these thoughts down or otherwise make it easier for you to remember the people who care about you, you can create a valuable coping mechanism that helps you to keep moving forward.
The next kind of motivation is known as intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is usually described as motivation generated from within. You’re doing something for yourself because you wish to do it, not because someone else is influencing your decision to do so.
Intrinsic motivation is key for people who are dealing with an eating disorder—in part because you cannot always rely on external validation, and in part, because the journey to lasting, positive change in your life begins and ends with just one person: you.
Practical tips to ignite your recovery motivation
- Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.
Don’t let “perfect” be the enemy of “good.”
Doing what you can is better than doing nothing at all. Maybe you feel that you can’t commit to doing everything that it takes for your recovery at the current moment. That’s OK.
Rather than beating yourself up, make a commitment to do at least one thing toward improving your well-being, such as attending a support group or speaking with a treatment professional.
People tend to sabotage themselves when they think that one misstep equals a lifetime of failure. I encourage you to refrain from throwing in the towel because I know this: just because you didn’t have the best day of recovery doesn’t mean you’ll never get better. It merely means that you have another opportunity, and another day to try again.
- Keep track of the small wins
Did something go well with your recovery? Fantastic!
Think back to what it was that helped you succeed. Document it, and bring it back up as a tool to succeed again.
I recommend writing your wins and the path you took to get there in a journal. That way, on the days of low motivation for treatment, you can refer back to it and remind yourself not only of what you’ve already accomplished but also the things that helped get you to that place. This could serve as a powerful motivator for even more growth.
- Remember: you are not alone.
If at all possible, your recovery journey shouldn’t be done all on your own. After all, we’re social creatures who depend on companionship, validation, and support.
Unfortunately, we sometimes think we are not allowed to involve others in our recovery process. We might be afraid of judgment or rejection, or worry that we are needlessly throwing our problems onto other people.
But there are people out there who want to help, and there’s nothing wrong with opening up to them. To that end, it doesn’t really matter how many people you decide to get involved in your recovery process, just so long as you do.
Whether it’s a professional from a treatment center or people in your life cheering you on from the sidelines, working with others on your recovery can bring a great deal of happiness and the motivation to press on.
- Strike while the iron is hot!
Periods of strong motivation can be quite fleeting. For that reason, when you feel the urge of motivation to get help, you should act on it.
Seek treatment right away, even if you don’t feel fully prepared.
It’s alright to dip your toes into the lake of recovery. From there, there will be a supportive team of people who may be capable of helping you cultivate your rising motivation for treatment.
Don’t wait for things to get worse. Instead, start the process of recovery as soon as you can. The first step is one of the most important.
- Find out what is holding you back
When it comes to recovery, there are so many things that can pop up and give us pause. Fear of change, fear of judgment, or the worry that you won’t be able to keep important parts of your life together.
These fears are reasonable, but they don’t have to take over your life. In fact, taking the first step to begin treatment can help you move past that fear by understanding the inevitability of change—and understanding that whether that change is positive or negative, the choice is ultimately yours.
You are not your eating disorder
My personal experience in living with an eating disorder completely wrecked my life. I got fired, rendering me unable to truly work; left me alone with no friends; severely depressed; and suicidal.
Fear of losing one’s identity and guilt around that fear is something that people in recovery often feel. Even if the version of ourselves, while we were struggling, was an identity we didn’t enjoy.
I loathe the fact that losing my anorexia identity was something that plagued my thoughts during recovery as I regained weight. Conversely, the things that frightened me when I was underweight disappeared as I started gaining weight again.
It’s alright to be afraid of transitioning into recovery. It’s alright to be anxious about losing your eating disorder identity. There is no right or wrong way to feel about this process.
Recovery did not happen overnight. Rather, it took a couple of years of behavioral and cognitive therapy. Recovery may have not happened overnight, but it did begin with a desire to change my life for the better, and transformed into something so much more over time.
Maintaining motivation for treatment
It’s expected that for most people, motivation will ebb and flow during the course of treatment. Even during the action phase, you’ll most likely experience confusion and frustration.
Because of these challenging feelings, it’s critical to use every tool in your arsenal to maintain your motivation.
Understanding this process is very important in reducing discouragement and increasing long-term success.
Hopefully, my story and tips have helped you to see past some of your doubts and fears so you can take a step toward healing and living a better, fuller life.
Whether you are experiencing a powerful sense of motivation or still hesitating, recovery is within your reach. Connect with us today.
Originally published: Jun 4, 2019
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