Is recovery possible when someone has had an eating disorder for over 30 years? Can they ever fully heal their eating disorder brain to have a normal life with food?
This was a question Kathy, a listener from our community, wrote in to be answered on The Recovery Warrior Shows.
In our mission to help you learn from the best, we connected with Carolyn Costin, MA, MEd, MFT. A therapist, author, and speaker, Carolyn has been helping people with eating disorders since 1979. She knows that total recovery is possible, even after thirty years. There is no age limit to recovery.
Drawing from her personal experience and professional expertise, Carolyn shared the intriguing concept of neuroplasticity and how it can pave the way for change in neuropathways, offering hope for those struggling with long-term eating disorders.
Rewire your eating disorder brain
Overcoming an eating disorder is no easy feat, but it’s important to remember that all things considered, full recovery is entirely possible. Carolyn went over the essential steps to rewire your brain for recovery, empowering you to take charge of your own healing journey.
With the right mindset and a supportive network, you’ll unlock coping abilities to creating lasting change and transform your life.
Here are the steps to help rewire your eating disorder brain to achieve full recovery at ANY age:
- Accept that full recovery is possible
- Define your recovery goals
- Assemble a trustworthy treatment team
- Seek inspiration from recovered individuals
- Practice new behaviors consistently
1. Accept that full recovery is possible
Accepting that full recovery is possible is a critical first step in rewiring the brain for recovery. If you’ve lived with an eating disorder for decades, the idea that you can fully recover might seem too optimistic, leading to feelings of hopelessness and despair. However, it’s crucial to understand the potential for change and to embrace the possibilities of a life free from the constant worry over food and body image. By shifting your beliefs around recovery, you’re more likely to take the necessary actions to change the neural pathways in your brain, allowing for lasting healing to take place.
In the podcast, Carolyn Costin emphasizes the possibility of full recovery from an eating disorder, explaining that she’s had countless clients experience a deeply transformative change in their relationship with food, body image, and self-worth. She defines recovery as “not compromising one’s health or betraying one’s soul to look a certain way, wear a specific size, or reach a certain number on the scale.” In other words, food, weight, and shape take a proper perspective.
If you’ve battled with a long-term eating disorder, embracing the idea that full recovery is possible can be an essential catalyst to initiate your healing journey. By believing in your potential to heal, you’re more likely to actively participate in treatments and interventions, steadily replacing old, unhealthy habits with new ones that promote physical and emotional well-being.
Accepting that full recovery is possible can act as a powerful motivator to help you reclaim your life.
2. Define your own recovery goals
Defining your own recovery goals is a crucial step in overcoming long-term eating disorders. It allows you to take control of your journey and ensures that the path you take towards recovery aligns with your personal values and priorities.
Focusing on your own goals helps you to establish a clear sense of direction, maintain motivation, and stay committed despite any setbacks you may face along the way. Furthermore, it allows you to measure your progress and celebrate milestones, providing a tangible sense of achievement and boosting your self-confidence.
Carolyn Costin emphasizes fostering self-compassion and a focus on inner wellbeing, rather than external appearances. She also mentions that having the occasional bad body image day, or maintaining certain food preferences, doesn’t mean that you can’t consider yourself fully recovered.
It’s hard not to be affected by our culture, but full recovery is still possible.
By establishing your own recovery goals, you can start to shift their focus away from negative thoughts and behaviors towards a healthier and more balanced way of living. This is imperative because it ensures that the recovery process is a personal one, tailored to your individual needs and aspirations. This approach encourages self-reflection and introspection, allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of what you truly want and need from your recovery journey. Moreover, it helps in identifying potential triggers, which in turn enables the implementation of strategies that can mitigate the risk of relapse.
Finally, by outlining your own recovery goals, you place yourself in an empowered position, taking responsibility for your wellbeing and reinforcing the belief that recovery is well within your reach. By anchoring your recovery journey in personal goals, you can reclaim control over your life and find renewed hope in the possibility of change.
3. Assemble a trustworthy treatment team
One crucial step on this journey is assembling a trustworthy treatment team. This team should be comprised of mental health professionals, nutritionists, and other support members who understand the nature of eating disorders and the recovery process. Through their expertise, they’ll guide you toward establishing new habits and thought patterns that promote a healthy relationship with food, self-image, and overall well-being.
According to Carolyn, it’s essential to find a treatment team you can be truthful with about your struggles and challenges. Furthermore, being exposed to someone who is recovered from an eating disorder themselves can offer invaluable benefits, as they can reflect experiences and insights that other providers simply cannot.
Additionally, Carolyn stresses the importance of persistence in the recovery process, as it’s all too easy to become discouraged and give up when you feel like change is impossible or not worth the effort. Building a trustworthy treatment team is essential because it provides the necessary structure, accountability, and support required to make lasting changes.
Don’t be mislead by doubts or feelings of hopelessness, as full recovery is indeed achievable with the help of a solid treatment team and unwavering persistence.
4. Seek inspiration from recovered individuals
Another important step in this process is to seek inspiration from individuals who have successfully recovered from their own struggles. Learning from their experiences, coping mechanisms, and strategies for overcoming challenges can provide invaluable insights and motivation for your own journey towards recovery. Connecting with others who can empathize with your situation and offer a firsthand perspective on the possibility of recovery can make the process less overwhelming and more approachable.
Having worked with clients since 1979, Carolyn Costin believes that everyone on the journey towards recovery can benefit from having a role model they can relate to and learn from, especially since these individuals can offer a unique perspective that other treatment providers may not be able to. This key step of seeking inspiration from recovered individuals is crucial because it helps to challenge the belief that full recovery is unattainable or impossible if you’ve struggled with eating disorders for a prolonged period of time.
When you surround yourself with people who have successfully rewired their eating disorder brain for recovery, it helps to negate feelings of hopelessness and doubt common in the recovery process while fostering an environment of support, encouragement, and understanding.
By seeking inspiration from those who have overcome eating disorders, you not only gain crucial insights and motivation but also empower yourself with the knowledge and belief that full recovery is achievable. You can source inspiration and hope from recovery stories shared on the Recovery Warrior Shows podcast channel.
5. Practice new behaviors consistently
Making lasting changes to your thought patterns and behaviors relies on the brain’s remarkable ability to adapt – this is known as neuroplasticity. This process forms new neural pathways, which enable you to develop healthier habits and thought patterns that replace the old ones.
For neuroplasticity to work in your favor, it’s essential that you consistently put these new, healthier behaviors into action so that they become second nature and can ultimately lead to a full recovery.
Carolyn emphasizes the importance of persistence and determination in recovery, as our brains can take us in different pathways even if our behavior is super habitual. She also cites the example that once a new behavior is learned and repeated several times, the brain recognizes it as the new path and adjusts to it.
This is an area where you can use persistence for good.
The significance of practicing new behaviors consistently in the recovery process cannot be understated. The challenge of changing ingrained habits and thought patterns may seem insurmountable. However, developing new, healthier behaviors requires persistence and dedication, but consistently practicing these new habits will assist your brain in forming new neural pathways.
Over time, these new pathways will replace the old, destructive ones, enabling you to find a proper perspective on food, weight, and shape. Ultimately, this can lead you to full recovery from the eating disorder, proving that even after decades of suffering, change is always possible. We designed The Daily Growth Habit specifically to help you take consistent steps to create new neural pathways in recovery. Click here to sign up for our free private library of audio affirmations.
It’s NEVER Too Late to rewire your eating disorder brain
Embracing the power of neuroplasticity is a crucial step in achieving full recovery from long-term eating disorders. Our brains have the capacity to forge new pathways, even when behaviors have become incredibly entrenched. As Carolyn states, once a new behavior is learned and repeated enough times, the eating disorder brain will recognize it as the preferred pathway, adapting accordingly and allowing for lasting change. Understanding and utilizing the power of neuroplasticity is essential for individuals seeking recovery from long-term eating disorders, as it provides both hope and a roadmap for change
It’s helpful to realize that full recovery from a long-term eating disorder can absolutely happen, and it starts with believing in the possibility of change. By following the steps shared by Carolyn Costin, you’ll be paving the way for significant transformations in your life.
Our brains till the day we die are still capable of learning and taking us down different pathways.
Keep going, trust in your ability to change, and remember that the power of neuroplasticity is on your side in this journey. Before long, you’ll find yourself celebrating your victories and enjoying the freedom that comes with full recovery from an eating disorder, no matter how old you are.
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