3 Essential Mindset Shifts For Eating Disorder Recovery

ed recovery mindset. Colorful illustration of a male face close up.

We all see our lives through our own unique lenses. Our mindset is a set of assumptions and expectations we hold about ourselves, our lives, and the world around us. Our mindset can be extremely powerful in eating disorder recovery and beyond.

Stanford researcher and professor Carol Dweck, Ph.D. introduced two different mindsets, a “Fixed” and a “Growth” mindset. People with a fixed mindset tend to view their intelligence and qualities as unchangeable, or fixed. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe change is possible. They will be more likely to challenge themselves, reflect on mistakes and find ways to learn.

Why does your mindset matter in recovery?

When you have a fixed mindset you are much more likely to view recovery as impossible, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, and inadequacy. In order to reach long-lasting eating disorder recovery, you need to grow a strong recovery mindset. But how on earth do you get there, and why do we find ourselves feeling stuck in recovery so often?

There are 3 important and essential mindset shifts people in eating disorder recovery need in order to build a strong recovery mindset.

Recovery Mindset shift 1: Let go of rigid rules

The first misstep a lot of people make in eating disorder recovery is that they strongly believe that they need rules to be in control and have power. The truth is, it’s misplaced power and creates a false sense of safety.

Those rules created to feel safe and in power actually, take away your power.

Instead, they put the power in food, exercise, and the beliefs of how your body should look like. They keep you hostage. This is what makes you feel so powerless. In order to build a strong recovery mindset, those rules have to be broken. Are those rules telling you to run every morning? Don’t run. Do those rules convince you to never eat a peanut butter sandwich? Eat the damn peanut butter sandwich! Sit with the discomfort. It sounds harsh and it is in a way, but by actively breaking those rules, it takes away their power which means the power comes back to you.

Recovery Mindset shift 2: My eating disorder does not make me special

This might be one of the most important mindset shifts someone can make in recovery. When you’re in the trenches of your eating disorder, it oftentimes feels like it gives you a purpose. It gives you a (false) sense of love and belonging and can fill a deep void. That’s why it’s so difficult to overcome and let go of an eating disorder. The problem is that, on a subconscious level, they can convince you that it’s meeting your needs. We, as human beings, all want to be loved and to be seen. We want people to care about us. Eating disorders change us and can give us the attention we so desperately long for. This makes it hard to let go. Instead of opening ourselves up for healing, we stay stuck because we’re afraid to lose compassion, support, and a way to communicate our suffering through our body and behaviors. An eating disorder can be a cry for help. Don’t you see I’m hurting? Don’t you see I am in pain? It takes a lot of self-introspection to ask yourself questions like: How is my eating disorder serving me? How do people in me life react to me having an eating disorder? Do they care a lot? Do they care very little?

You do not need your eating disorder to be worthy of connection.

We all deserve love and belonging, support, and compassion. There are no prerequisites. You are unique and special without your eating disorder. This realization is so important in growing a strong recovery mindset.

Recovery Mindset shift 3: You can not control your eating disorder recovery journey

The third misstep in recovery is to focus too much on how much progress you’re making or how much progress you think you should be making. This falls under the umbrella of having a fixed mindset. I am still not loving my body so I am not going to be able to fully recover”, “I am still struggling with food so I am doing something wrong”. What this does is that it makes you believe you can’t recover and so you give up.

We compare our stories to others who seem further into the journey and start to believe “they can, but I can’t”.

The reality is that recovery is a journey that you can’t plan. You don’t know what’s going to happen along the way or how you are going to come out on the other side. The adventure of recovery involves trial and error but also victories, both small and big which deserve to be celebrated. When you make these 3 mindset shifts you grow a strong recovery mindset that enables you to surrender to the journey and open your heart and mind to the possibilities that come with recovery from an eating disorder.

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