“Your future you won’t care about that time you too much or chose a burger instead of a salad. In your future, you will regret not having as much fun as you could.”
I will always thank the person who told me this. This quote has become my motto whenever my fears or obsessive feelings arise. And I wanted to pass it on to you, so it can become yours.
I admit that listening to it myself whenever I’m in a sensitive situation is not as easy as I pretend it to be. And time alone won’t make it easier. I know I need to put in the work and see the results so it becomes my brain’s default response to anxious or hurting thoughts. And the results, let me tell you, are worth it.
It’s an easy trap to fall into
How many times have you chosen not to go to dinner with friends? You would not go because you don’t want to risk giving in to the food you really want? How many times have you said you were not feeling ok so you could stay in and stay on track? Or how many times have you chosen your morning gym sesh over brunch?
I used to do this (and I still sometimes do, but I’m working on it).
I will always remember the first time I went on a trip with my boyfriend. During that time, I was in the very early stages of recovery. I decided to not let my eating disorder ruin my holiday. This way, I could only bring back happy memories of this trip. And I did. There is nothing I regret doing there.
I don’t remember which ice cream I had, or whether I chose pasta or a burger in the restaurant. What I do remember is that I tried the best pizza ever one of the nights we went out. And while I’m writing this, I feel the need to go back to have another one. But the point I wanted to highlight is that I don’t think about the trip and regret having so much “unhealthy” food. I also don’t remember worrying about possible weight gain. All I remember are the good memories.
The vicious cycle that doesn’t make your future better
I can also remember a birthday party of one of my best friends, where I was determined to not “skip my diet” because I told myself I could have fun without eating or drinking too much. Therefore, while everyone was engaged in conversations or games, I wasn’t present at all, only focusing on the only drink I had had, and how it could affect my physique. I don’t remember any of the people I spoke with nor actively participating in a game or meeting anybody new. I just remember I went home disappointed because I couldn’t keep myself away from the food and drinks.
Surprisingly, the next morning everyone else was mentioning how great the party was and how much fun they had had. However, whenever I look back on it, I can only think about it negatively. Isn’t that sad?
These two situations happened to the same person and weren’t that long apart. The only difference was my reaction to negative feelings. On the trip with my boyfriend, I decided to react to them by imagining my future self and thinking about what this version of myself would do or appreciate more.
And I can tell you it helps. It helps because we have lived through these situations more than once, and we know that skipping social events or choosing to not eat what we really want does not make us happy in the long term. We might feel safer or more relaxed momentaneously, but it goes away and then regret appears.
Something to think about for your future
If I asked you, what do you regret the most about the past year? Would you remember the time in which you ate the last slice of pizza although you had eaten half already? Or would you think about the time you missed that one party everyone was talking about because you didn’t want to risk getting off track?
In most cases, you won’t even remember the times you have chosen to go against the inner voice telling you that weight gain is the worst thing possible. You will probably remember good moments, and regret those times in which you let the eating disorder win.
You’re more likely to remember your last trip for the good moments than the moments of guilt after lunch or dinner. And why would you even care about that at the moment? Why let these feelings ruin what could be an amazing experience?
If your future self is not going to care, why care now.
If you apply this to your daily life, you will start seeing how often our negative thoughts can get in the way of us enjoying our lives, and how only we have the power to not let them do so.
I challenge you to start fighting your ED thoughts by visualizing your future self every time you’re tempted to choose the momentaneous calm over the long-term memories. The next time you’re invited to a party, you’re having a meal out or you need to decide between seeing your friends or going to the gym, choose about you in five years: what would this person appreciate more?
Would you prefer to have good memories or regrets about these years?