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.

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via MistakeAnn.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Eating Disorders

digital painting of girl with balloons hearts, watercolor on paper texture

When I Realized I Needed Hope in My Mental Illness Recovery

There’s a little glimmer of warmth, burrowing into my chest. And a sliver of light, peeking into my spirit. If I listen carefully, I can almost hear a heart-warming song. It has taken me awhile to recognize it: the song of hope. Unfamiliar. Really scary. Really positive. Hope. For me, hope has a few different [...]
Beautiful woman silhouette

Why I Need to Accept My Past so I Can Move Forward in Eating Disorder Recovery

I spent years telling myself it was overwhelmingly difficult — maybe impossible — to overwrite the dialogue of my childhood. That whatever key messages I received in those early years became so embedded they are effectively an intrinsic and immovable part of who I have become. I said this to my psychiatrist at my first appointment and he said no, I [...]
Water?olor beautiful girl. Vector illustration of woman beauty salon

How Sharing My Mental Health Story Helped Me Shed the Burden of Shame

A year ago I was a mess. I was struggling a lot with my mental health and heading towards a breakdown and a stay in the mental health unit. I was so ashamed. Ashamed of falling apart. Ashamed of not appreciating the good things in my life. Ashamed of my weight, my eating disorder, my self-harm, [...]
Woman walking through field at sunset

Why I'm Never Going Back to My Eating Disorder

Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741. In honor of my fourth day out of residential treatment for my eating disorder (ED), here are four reasons why I’m never going back. 1. Because I [...]