Recovery is challenging. This may not be the most motivational way to start an article, but it’s true. You’ll have great days in recovery where eating is enjoyable, but you will also have days where every meal is a struggle. While the great days can be momentum to keep you on a path of recovery, it’s those challenging days that can show you how worthy and courageous you are.
As humans, we all experience shame, and the shame spiral down is painful and uncomfortable. Often, the eating disorder is a way to protect us from feeling this intense shame by giving us something to focus on instead – like food or weight. In recovery, it may be one of the first times that you start to let yourself feel all your emotions, and that takes immense courage.
I adore the word courage, and the root of it, ‘cor’, actually is the Latin term for heart. When you practice courage, you’re living from your heart. You’re living from your heart by allowing yourself to feel a huge range of emotions, from fear to joy.
I want to offer you a few ways to practice courage in recovery, especially around food:
Reach out for help.
Mealtimes, especially early in recovery, can be challenging. Yet, each meal is a time to practice the courage to nourish your mind, body, and your heart. Yes, with every bite of food, you’re feeding your heart. You’re giving your physical heart the energy it needs to beat and keep you alive – how amazing is that! You’re also reinforcing the idea that you’re worthy enough to eat and fuel your body. Yet, mealtimes can be hard, so instead of going down the shame spiral, allow yourself to ask for support. Text a friend, or eat with a supportive person in your life like a family member or friend. Often, your dietitian or therapist will also be willing to eat together to create a safe eating environment.
Challenge yourself with fear foods.
Keep a running list of foods you want to challenge yourself with throughout recovery. Allow yourself to choose one or two each week, and eat them. Make a meal with pasta or have dessert after dinner. The more you expose yourself to the fear, the easier it gets. Practice the courage to break through those fears that hold you back from increasing variety in your food.
Eat in new situations.
Social situations or holidays can cause anxiety around food, but it’s also an opportunity to practice courage and challenge yourself. Many holidays and celebrations are centered around food, and it can be a wonderful experience to enjoy a delicious meal with loved ones. Allow yourself to eat the foods you truly want to eat or foods you used to enjoy at holidays without comparing your plate to others. Again, this may be a time where you need to ask for support – remember, it’s not a weakness to ask for help, but it’s a sign of courage.
Break up with your ‘tools’.
Whether you’re holding on to the calorie counting app or scale, practice the courage to go without them. Delete the app on your phone, or donate your scale. If you’re feeling stuck, ask yourself if these tools really support your recovery. Many of my clients have an inner sense that they are not helpful tools, but it’s hard to give them up because they’ve relied on them for so long. Work with your team to help you create tools of self-care to help you feel supported without needing to rely on numbers.
Courage is one of my favorite words because I’m always trying to practice courage in my daily life. These are practices, so ask yourself how you can practice courage in each day or moment, especially on the challenging days. If you can find even a small amount of self-compassion for yourself on a hard day, that’s great! It’s all about progress, not perfection. I hope you’ll join me in practicing courage daily.