Why I'm Ditching 'Rules' in Favor of 'Tools' in Eating Disorder Recovery


I have a habit of setting arbitrary rules for myself. It comes from a place of good intention. I decide I need to do something, then I make up rules I think will achieve this goal. I used to believe rules will achieve my goals if I can stick to them.

There are a number of reasons I don’t stick to rules. My thought processes are inflexible. If I stretch the rule or skip it a bit, I believe I’ve failed and give up. I am naturally rebellious. Given a set of rules, I will push to see where the boundaries are. Arbitrary rules were imposed upon me as a child, and imposing them on myself makes me instantly want to rebel. Rules make me feel out of control. Which seems ironic – given I’m in control of the rule, but feelings are feelings and need to be acknowledged.

My new rule is “no rules.” Instead, I need tools.

In order for me to be successful in the long term, I need flexibility. I also need belief in the project, belief in myself and external support. Because of my eating disorder, sometimes I don’t quite know what is a sensible approach and what is disordered thinking.

Anyway, this is all a very long way of saying I have heard about, read about and been told about, a gazillion different ideas for the tools of recovery. I require organization in order to make sense of something, so I’m going to list the tools I believe are workable and valuable to me. Then I’m going to try and use them. With flexibility of course!

1. Journaling.

I was resistant to this at first, but once I started, I realized how powerful it is. My blog is now my place to journal, so I feel I’m already working one recovery tool. I like to start off feeling vaguely successful!

2. Mindfulness.

I am not so much resistant to this, as inconsistent. When first suggested, I did it daily for months. I’m sure it helped… That was a year ago. I need to be in a habit of daily mindfulness and/or meditation.

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If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

3. Pros and Cons Lists.

I saw this on a Facebook video the other day and thought it a great idea. Prior to engaging in [insert maladaptive coping mechanism] write down the pros/cons of engaging/not engaging in the behavior.

4. Affirmations.

I need quick little phrases I can chant in my head at relevant times. Some examples are: “Surf the urge,” “This too shall pass” and “The answer is in recovery.”

5. Food plan.

I really hesitate to put this in my list of tools. But seriously, at the end of the day, eating disorder recovery for me is about food. Unless I have some kind of plan for food in eating disorder recovery, then everything else won’t matter. The plan will be generic and flexible though. And probably something to build to, rather than major changes right away. To be honest, I’ve started making strides in this area anyway.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via MistakeAnn.

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