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Relapse Prevention

The voice of my eating disorder (ED) often tries to influence what I think, feel, or believe about myself—but ED thoughts do not have to become actions, no matter how persuasive they sound. A thought only has power if I choose to accept its narrative and react accordingly.
Learning how to make the shift from rigid to flexible behavior is a crucial part of eating disorder recovery. But I will be upfront about this: I am not a naturally adaptable or flexible person. I consider myself a creature of habit, someone who finds comfort in strict routines and stable environments. I structure my life in precise, meticulous detail—from the location in my house where I work, the times I eat and exercise, to the number of steps I take on a daily basis. Therefore, shifting from rigid to flexible behavior in eating disorder recovery is no simple task.
It took me several years of personal growth and cultural awareness to realize there are systemic barriers to eating disorder treatment. My battle with anorexia was painful and tumultuous, but access to therapeutic interventions made the healing journey feel possible. While I am immensely grateful for this, I also cannot brush aside the conspicuous reality that certain prohibitive eating disorder treatment barriers still exist.
When I revert back to an anorexic mindset, it becomes all about earning my worth. Even if I resist the urge to act out eating disorder behaviors, I can still be susceptible to the anorexic mindset, which tells me I need to strive past my own limitations and prove that I am strong, capable, resilient, and valuable. I have a difficult time believing that my self-worth is inherent, so I force myself to achieve it—even if that means I hustle to the edge of burnout with no room to pause, breathe, and rest. An anorexic mindset is all about earning my worth, but l will be honest: This performance-based mentality creates a miserable existence at times.
Recently, I posed a challenge to myself to see if I could tolerate one day without a fitness tracker. This experiment should have been simple: Just set the device aside, then continue with all my normal activities for about 12 hours. The key phrase here is "should have been simple." But to be honest, it was so painfully difficult. Here's why I took on this endeavor—plus the humbling lessons I learned from one day without a fitness tracker. 
I know it can be hard to believe sometimes, but needing help with eating disorder (ED) recovery is not a sign of weakness. It's one of the bravest actions you can take. Internalized fears or anxieties might whisper in your ear that asking for help means you are a failure, a burden, or a lost cause. But I hope you can trust me on this: Those inner voices aren't telling you the truth. It's okay to need help with ED recovery. In my own experience, healing is intensive, painful, and humbling work. No one I've met (including myself) has been able to successfully pursue it alone. So, if you could use an extra boost of care, support, advice, or encouragement, don't allow fear to intimidate you from reaching out. I promise needing help with ED recovery is not a sign of weakness.
This week, I received a text from a longtime friend that sent me into an emotional tailspin. As a result, all motivation to care for myself evaporated into thin air. This news she shared was heavy to process, obviously, because I don't want to see her suffer, but also because I have firsthand experience with the issue she is facing.
I have an eating disorder voice that needs to be turned off. I first began the work to heal from an eating disorder in 2010, and it's been a passion of mine ever since. But despite all those years of hard-fought experience in the eating disorder recovery trenches, I am still learning how to turn off the eating disorder voice in my head. This voice was a staunch, relentless companion for most of my adolescence. At times, I could not even separate my own inner voice from the eating disorder beliefs, anxieties, and compulsions always shouting at me.
In a previous article, I wrote about feeling anxious about starting my first session with a personal trainer. But now that I am two months into the program, I have to admit there are many clear benefits to working with a certified professional who knows much more about fitness and nutrition than I do. It has been a challenge, but under her instruction, I am slowly learning how to create a balanced relationship with exercise. I can even see myself building stamina, resilience, strength, and athleticism. Here are some of the lessons from personal training that also help me out in ED recovery.
My eating disorder relies on selective memory in order to maintain a stringent foothold in my life. Selective memories are enticing and compelling. They can also be quite dangerous. In fact, as I have come to realize, the presence of selective memory is often the difference between making continual strides in recovery or free-falling back into a cycle of relapse. What do I mean by this, and how am I learning to combat selective memory in my eating disorder? Let me explain.