Eating disorder recovery can be challenging and unpredictable. Week-on-week feelings can change, we may experience unplanned setbacks, but also learn new and important things about ourselves along the way. True healing takes place when you learn to accept what it is, let go of what was and welcome new experiences.
Though, how can we move forward in recovery if we feel “stuck” in unhelpful thinking patterns? What if our thinking style is the obstacle in your journey?
Recognising how we feel and responding to ourselves in recovery is so important – it brings us further onto the path of self-awareness. However, for some, the way we think about ourselves and our lived experience is itself an obstacle to making progress.
Despite our similarities, we have all grown up with different stories and life experiences, and those go on to form the story of our lives and our perspective. Because of this, how we think and respond to life’s challenges will be unique to who we are.
As we grow and navigate life, we internalise messages about ourselves that go on to form a narrative in our lives. The beauty that unravels in recovery is that we begin to unlearn any beliefs that do not align with our values or thoughts anymore, to then rediscover what we like, who we are and how we interact within the world and ourselves again.
Though, similar to unlearning unhelpful behaviours and thoughts an eating disorder can bring, it can be difficult to unlearn automatic negative thinking patterns, especially if these have formed as parts of our belief systems.
In order to challenge these thoughts, we need to identify which of these messages are not helpful to ourselves and our recovery and then we need to reframe them. In others words, we need to re-train our brains.
Here are some specialist tips that may help you reframe the way you think…
1) What you can do when an unhelpful thought arises
Use the 3 “C‘s”
- Catch the thought (be aware and mindful of it)
- Check it (what is the evidence for it/is it helpful/unhelpful) and,
- Challenge it with an alternative thought
2) How you can move forward in recovery when “stuck” in an unhelpful thought
Thoughts are not facts. When stuck with an unhelpful thought, it is important to keep perspective; knowing that they will pass.
Along with using the 3 C’S, you can alternatively speak to someone you trust who can help challenge the thought process.
3) How you can practise reframing your thoughts
It may be helpful to take time in the day to note down your thoughts, perhaps in a journal or in a blog (in therapeutic terms, these are known as a thought monitoring tools). When taking note, notice the impact of the words on your feelings/behaviours. Examine the evidence for them and challenge or think alternative thoughts.
According to Olivia Purvis, in her book ‘The Insecure Girl’s Handbook’, she says:
“One of the most positive things you can do for your body is to look at the way you talk about it: be it to yourself pre-shower, in front of your bedroom mirror… or – arguably, most importantly – to anyone else.”
It is also important that we tread carefully with self-compassion and care. If you find you struggle to “think positive”, perhaps these five examples may help you reframe the way you think:
“I’m not good enough” – “I am more than enough”
“Nobody wants to hear what I have to say.” – “My voice deserves to be heard.”
“I am scared of recovery.” – “I am courageous and brave and I will trust the process.”
“I can’t do this.” – “I’m going to try my best.”
“I hate myself.” – “I am continually learning to love myself.”
You are so enough, as you are. Do not let yourself get in your own way of your eating disorder recovery.