Recovery and the power of habit

I’m in the middle of a two-week work sprint that has pushed even my normal spirit of workaholism to its extreme. I had one feature story due last Friday, two smaller pieces to submit, and a feature due this coming Friday. On top of that, I traveled to St. Louis to present on the science of EDs and what college students need to know at Washington University in St. Louis. I’m doing the same thing tonight at George Mason University outside of DC. From there, I head to Baltimore for a conference (not presenting at this one, though I am the official note-taker so I can’t daydream during the inevitable boring bits) for the rest of the week.

I’m pretty much only one (very small) step away from losing my mind.

When I used to get overwhelmed by work in college, grad school, and beyond, I totally reverted to ED behaviors (assuming I wasn’t already neck-deep in it, which is kinda unlikely). The high from starvation gave me almost a manic energy and the ability to bull through exhaustion and boredom. I felt I concentrated better, although it’s unlikely that this was the case, since I almost certainly wasted hours looking up recipes and food porn (Pinterest, I’m looking at YOU).

Despite the craziness of these last few weeks, I’ve pretty much stayed on track with my eating. It wasn’t effortless–I don’t think it ever will be after a long-term eating disorder–but it wasn’t a huge struggle, either.

Some of the hardest ED-related behaviors to break were those that had become habit. Often, I wasn’t even aware of them. I maintained a whacked-out exercise routine in part because it was just what I did. Breaking ED habits, things like eating regular meals, was a tremendous effort because it was so hard and felt so contrary to what I usually did. I had the anxiety about eating itself, and then I also had anxiety just from doing something different.

But over time, with a lot of practice, I’ve come to find that recovery is starting to become its own habit. Not that I do the whole eating thing perfectly, because I don’t, and I’m not even sure if you can. Eating is still a pain a lot of times, something I’d rather not take a break in my schedule to do and clean up after. I also generally do it without a whole lot of agonizing beforehand. I’m a creature of habit–I guess developing new habits has finally started to pay off.

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3 Responses to “Recovery and the power of habit”

  1. BRAAAAVOOOOO!!!! I am so happy for you! And encouraged! LOVE this post.

    Routine is comfortable. Change is terrifying. But once a change has taken place, and then taken root, it can become the new routine- the new norm.

    I am so pleased to read this post. 🙂

  2. Remember when I told you, you are my idol? Well, somehow I have managed to become an even bigger fan. I’m sure you are told this all the time but, your writing is so effortless and easy to relate to. I can only hope to have half of the writing success you do someday.

    “But over time, with a lot of practice, I’ve come to find that recovery is starting to become its own habit. Not that I do the whole eating thing perfectly, because I don’t, and I’m not even sure if you can.”

    YES! Hallelujah! 🙂

  3. Just from your recent posts, it seems you’re having many more of these “normal” moments, whatever “normal” means. What I’m getting at is that recovery and self-care have become your default instead of the maladaptive behaviors you relied on in the past. That’s huge.

    It’s also important to remember that even people who have never suffered from an ED have their food, exercise, etc. thrown out of whack in times of stress. I think we often feel like we have to be somewhat perfect with our habits without realizing that that end of the spectrum isn’t “normal” or realistic either. There’s a difference between obsessive, apathetic and oblivious, of course, and as long as you’re mindful you’re golden 😉