Embracing Change in Eating Disorder Recovery

Embracing change in eating disorder recovery

It’s time to change. 

When you read or hear the word change, what feelings or emotions come to mind?

Most people flinch at the idea. Some welcome it with open arms. 

Why do we all have such different reactions? 

The truth about change is that it’s never easy to accept. Regardless if it’s a relationship that’s ended, a switch in your career, or a move across the country from your family – change is scary. But, it almost always encourages us to change in a positive manner that’s better for us in the long run, as long as we’re willing to see it that way.

When it comes to eating disorder treatment, change is definitely one of the most prominent fears of recovery; this is what our therapists & counselors hear the most. The fear of change, the fear of the unknown, the fear of letting go of the eating disorder as it’s morphed into your identity and how you make daily decisions. Sometimes, your eating disorder is so ingrained in your mind that you’re unwilling to see how damaging it truly is because your brain has convinced you that you need it to survive.

Change can be difficult for humans to accept for several reasons, rooted in psychological and social factors, such as loss of control and the comfort zones we’ve created for ourselves. However, no matter how comfortable your eating disorder might make you feel right now, they are very complex and misunderstood conditions that can take a tremendous toll on your body and mind. Recovery from an eating disorder is a journey filled with ups and downs, triumphs and setbacks. It’s a path that requires physical healing and emotional healing, which requires a lot of, you guessed it – change. 

One of the key aspects of this healing process is learning to embrace change and practice emotional regulation. This article will explore how these two elements are interconnected and essential to eating disorder recovery.

The Science Behind The Fear of Change

Change is change. So, how can there be science behind it? Anytime you’re dealing with behavioral health, there’s typically a lot of science and psychology involved, and human reaction to change is no different. Change is a very complex ideation that can create fear for various reasons. This resistance to change is often called “change aversion” or “change anxiety,” stemming straight from the source: the brain.

The human brain is incredibly complex and is often considered one of the most fascinating structures in the known universe. Its complexity arises from its intricate structure and the vast network of interconnected neurons that enable it to carry out a wide range of functions, including consciousness, cognition, emotion, perception, and control of bodily functions.

So, yes, accepting change means accepting that your brain is wired a specific way – and here are a couple of reasons behind this phenomenon:

  • Cognitive Bias: Humans have cognitive biases that favor the status quo, such as the “status quo bias” and “loss aversion.” These biases make people more comfortable with familiar situations and resistant to potential losses or uncertainties associated with change.
  • Predictability and Control: Change often introduces uncertainty and a loss of control over one’s environment. Humans have an innate desire for predictability and control, and change can disrupt these feelings, leading to discomfort. This comes from our survival instincts since the beginning of our creation. 
  • Fear of the Unknown: Humans fear the unknown because it represents potential risks and dangers. Change often involves stepping into unfamiliar territory, triggering anxiety and resistance.
  • Neurological Factors: Studies using brain imaging have shown that the brain’s amygdala, associated with emotions like fear and anxiety, can become more active when confronted with change or uncertainty. 
  • Habit Formation: Humans are creatures of habit. Habits and routines provide a sense of stability and security. Change disrupts these habits; typically, people don’t react well to that.
  • Emotional Attachment: People can develop emotional attachments to the status quo, whether related to their jobs, relationships, or lifestyles. 

If you choose treatment with Eating Disorder Solutions, our therapists & recovery counselors can help you understand these psychological and neurological factors, allowing you to begin to manage and navigate change better. Change management strategies often address these concerns by providing clear communication, involving you in the change process, and helping you develop the skills and confidence needed to adapt to new circumstances – like leaving your eating disorder in the past.

When You Embrace Change, You Learn to Embrace Your Emotions, Too

It’s probably very difficult for you to imagine accepting potential changes to your mindset and physical health right at this moment. When you’re struggling with an eating disorder, it can begin to control every aspect of your life, including one of the biggest factors to finding peace – your mindset. And, unfortunately, that’s where eating disorders thrive the most. So, to regain control of your mind, you’ll need to change or redirect your daily habits and beliefs; you’ll need to focus inwards on your heart, mind, and soul. And here at Eating Disorder Solutions, we ensure that you practice that daily. Gradually, you’ll be able to start seeing and learning different perspectives, enabling you to embrace the change that intimidates so many sufferers. 

Embracing change and learning to regulate oneself emotionally are two pivotal aspects of recovering from an eating disorder. We’re not saying it’s easy, but it’s definitely worth it. Life begins to get much better when you gain control over your thoughts rather than them controlling you.

Now, as said earlier, it’s easier said than done. We’ve picked out the top reasons why we believe people are so scared to embrace change and their emotions. Why would we share the hard parts? Because if you can accept them, you’ll allow yourself to change them.

  • Initial Discomfort: Out of the gate, embracing change can feel incredibly uncomfortable and daunting for individuals with eating disorders. The disorder often serves as a coping mechanism, offering a sense of control and familiarity. Letting go of these behaviors can lead to anxiety and fear.
  • Resistance to Change: People with eating disorders may resist change because it challenges their established patterns of behavior. This resistance can create internal conflict and emotional distress.
  • Emotional Turmoil: Learning to emotionally regulate can be emotionally challenging. Facing and processing long-buried emotions can lead to periods of intense emotional turmoil, which may be difficult to navigate – at first.
  • Fears of Loss of Identity: For many individuals, their eating disorder becomes a part of their identity. They fear recovery will strip them of this identity, leaving them feeling lost or uncertain about who they are without the disorder. Embracing change during eating disorder recovery can be incredibly challenging, especially when the disorder has become intertwined with a person’s identity and sense of control. 

Yet, the benefits far outweigh these initial “setbacks” or fears. Here are some of the benefits you can expect:

  • Improved Physical Health: Embracing change in the form of healthier eating habits and lifestyle choices leads to improved physical health. This can include weight restoration, better nutrition, and healing physical ailments caused by the eating disorder.
  • Enhanced Emotional Well-Being: As you learn to emotionally regulate, you’ll develop healthier coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, anxiety, and other emotional challenges. This leads to a more stable and positive emotional state.
  • Increased Self-Awareness: Change and emotional regulation require self-reflection and introspection. This increased self-awareness will help you understand the root causes of your eating disorder and can lead to personal growth.
  • Recovery of Authentic Self: Over time, while in recovery, our clients often rediscover their true selves beyond the confines of their eating disorder. This can increase self-esteem, self-acceptance, and a greater sense of identity.
  • Building Resilience: Embracing change and learning to manage emotions fosters resilience. Becoming better equipped to handle life’s challenges and stressors will help reduce the risk of relapse.
  • Stronger Relationships: As you recover and develop healthier emotional regulation skills, your relationships with friends and family often improve. You’ll begin to communicate more effectively and engage in more fulfilling connections.
  • Freedom and Liberation: Recovery ultimately leads to freedom from the restrictions and anxieties of the eating disorder. You’ll be able to enjoy a more spontaneous, enjoyable, and fulfilling life without the constant preoccupation with food and body image.

While embracing change and learning emotional regulation can initially be frustrating and emotionally overwhelming, the long-term benefits far outweigh the difficulties. These processes are essential for achieving physical and emotional well-being, rebuilding relationships, and rediscovering your authentic self. The journey to recovery may be filled with challenges, but it is also a path toward healing, growth, and a brighter, healthier future.

Your First Steps to Embracing Change

Accepting change can be an incredibly tough journey, especially when it feels like you’re navigating it alone. But it’s crucial to remember that we don’t always have to bear the weight of transformation by ourselves. When faced with something as complex and personal as an eating disorder, having the right support, guidance, and love can make all the difference in those moments of struggle. 

It’s a reminder that it’s okay not to go alone and that help exists for a reason. Although it’s a bit intimidating, change can also be a catalyst for reclaiming your life, happiness, and well-being. Together, with the right support system, you can find the strength to embrace a brighter, healthier future. While in recovery, you’ll learn and become equipped with new perspectives, approaches to nutrition and food, and tools that you can use to help you cope with stress in much healthier ways. 

The following are just a few of the concepts you’ll encounter in treatment:

  1. Recognizing the Need for Change: Understanding the harmful effects of an eating disorder on your physical and mental health is crucial. Your education and awareness about the consequences of the disorder can motivate you to seek change.
  2. Embracing a Growth Mindset: Understand that personal growth and change are opportunities for self-discovery and improvement. Embracing a growth mindset that sees challenges as learning experiences is life-changing. Reprogramming your mindset and neural pathways seems impossible – but it’s not.
  3. Celebrating Small Wins: Acknowledge and celebrate each step forward, no matter how small, will reinforce the belief that change is possible and worth pursuing.
  4. Engaging in Self-Care: Prioritizing self-care activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul. This can include journaling, practicing gratitude, engaging in creative outlets, or spending time in nature.

In treatment, you’ll learn the skills to:

  • Identify Triggers and Coping Mechanisms: Recognizing the emotional, environmental, or social triggers leading to your eating disorder can help you develop healthier coping mechanisms to replace harmful ones.
  • Challenge Distorted Beliefs: Eating disorders often involve distorted self-perceptions and beliefs. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other forms of therapy can help you challenge and change these harmful thoughts.
  • Connect with Supportive Communities: A support group, a friendship with loved ones, or a sense of belonging can provide motivation and a sense of belonging to a person in recovery, and we are here to help you find groups that will support your recovery even after you leave treatment.
  • Focus on Health and Wellness: If you shift the focus from your appearance to your overall health and well-being, you’ll begin to accept and believe that you are enough and much more than your eating disorder. Understand that your changes are not about conforming to society’s standards but about reclaiming your health and happiness.
  • Practice Mindfulness and Emotional Awareness: Mindfulness techniques can help you become more aware of your emotions, cravings, and triggers. This awareness empowers you to respond to these cues in healthier ways.

Remember that change is a process, and it won’t happen overnight. We understand these things are easier said than done. But we believe in you. These bullet points are merely ideas until you’re ready to face them and commit to your recovery. It’s a journey that requires courage, patience, and perseverance. Still, with the right support and a willingness to change, you can gradually accept changes to your mind, body, and soul and ultimately achieve the full and lasting recovery that you deserve.

Get The Eating Disorder Help You Deserve Today

Embarking on your transformative recovery journey with Eating Disorder Solutions is a courageous step towards a brighter future. We’re here to show you that life offers so much more than mere survival; it’s about thriving, embracing every challenge, and realizing your full potential. 

You deserve a life where your mind is open to endless possibilities, unburdened by the demands of an eating disorder. Contact us for more information or speak with a knowledgeable eating disorder specialist by giving us a call at 855-808-4213. Your path to a healthier, happier life starts now.