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December 10, 2018

Why Failing At Control Might Be The Best Thing That Can Happen in E.D Recovery

My ED recovery was an act of surrender.


Surrender? Is this like giving up?


In a way, YES! because continuing on the path I was on is what was making me feel stuck in a never-ending rat wheel. I had to accept that I had failed at trying to control my food and body, and I had to take it from there.


“Giving up” my diet mentality, the judgements, the guilt and shame, the perfectionism was exactly what would set me free.


At first I was resistant through this process. I had so many food rules and judgements that constrained my life into a small world where I went to work, tried sticking to a food plan, and then lost all control and could not stop eating. Life felt small and almost predictable. It felt comfortable and safe to do the same thing I had been doing for years: Trying to control, then losing control…


At first, my old thoughts and judgements made me want to resist surrender…


But…If I only stayed away from “bad” foods, If I lost five pounds, if I could stop binging, if I could not gain weight anymore, if I ate what XYZ told me to eat, if I got fit, if I could transform my body, if I could stop failing….Then I not need to control my food anymore….


But, where these ideals and “goals” really helping me?


Psychoanalysis teaches the relationship between desire and anxiety. In very simple terms, humans tend to fantasise that if they just had the missing thing (or the thing they cannot have), it would make them happy. But how many times have we accessed what we wanted only to realize we  didn’t really want what we thought we did? In a way, not getting what I wanted (to control my weight and body size)  allowed me to preserve the fantasy I had chased for years, and to continue to pursue “thinness” or “fitness.”


But at what cost? My life was small. I was people pleasing constantly because of the shame I felt around my eating disorder. I was afraid of leaving my comfort zone, my hair was dull and try, my teeth had been damaged…But mostly, I was giving my power away to diets, food plans, and the fantasy of control…My toxic diet chatter was so loud, I had stopped listening to myself and my intuition.


What happened? I surrendered…I gave up the chase…and I worked hard to instead replace it with ACCEPTANCE and my own definition of health and body respect.


“What if you were OK with your body the way it is right now?”

That’s what a therapist asked Harriet Brown, journalist and author of “Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive our Obsession with Weight-and What we can Do about it.”

Brown could hardly believe her ears. She was seeking treatment in the hope of discovering how to control her appetite and retain control of her body (and mind). Instead, she was asked to accept the body she had hated for so long.

Brown couldn’t get those words out of her head, according to her book. It took years, but eventually, Brown learned to shift her relationship with food and her body. All the while, though, she kept seeing people suffering for the same reason. “There is not a woman in America, or the Western World for that matter, that hasn’t learned to hate her body,” she writes.


So I surrounded myself with books about activism about body politics that advocated to end all forms of oppression, including DIETING and restricting through food plans. I decided to practice radical acceptance. I listened to the wisdom of my body instead of what someone else prescribed for me to eat, and I nurtured my intuition as I listened to it more and more.


I took it from there. In his book “The Queer Art of Failure,” philosopher Judith Halberstan writes that “under certain circumstances failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world.”


As Halberstan writes, “If success requires so much effort, then maybe failure is easier in the long run and offers different rewards.”


Failing at sticking to my food plan, failing at controlling my body was the best thing that ever happened to me.


Bio: I am a feminist philosopher, educator, and wellness coach. My writing has been featured in Bustle and Bitch Media. I use science, empowerment tools, and intuitive eating principles to help people have a “normal” relationship to food again

(kind of like when we were kids and food was just one of the fun things we tried! XO). You can grab a copy of my free Empowerment Guide here. 


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