What to do if you’re physically recovered but not mentally recovered?

“I’d love to know how to navigate the feeling of being stuck. You spoke about it recently in a podcast. You said, “Your body will change but your mind won’t.” So essentially that looks like gaining weight yet not finding mental and emotional freedom. Every single time I feel full after eating, eat something other than lettuce and chicken, or see my body in the mirror I’m thrown back into the emotional mental turmoil. Yes my body is “weight restored” and then some as that usually goes, but my mind is not. I try to convince myself otherwise throughout the day but the negative voice is louder because it’s had more power for 20 years…. 
Just a hard spot to be in.

I was curious when knowing the difference between permission to eat and overeating. Also when the guilt from eating anything other than lettuce should subside? The line between eating and eating too much is hair-thin. Plus not knowing if I’m making an excuse to allow myself to eat is healthy or unhealthy. Like do I need to allow to eat more than comfortable even though my body has overshot the set point…. When do I stop allowing that?

Why do I ALWAYS cycle from anorexia, wanting to get better, bulimia, bingeing trying not to purge, gaining weight, and then start sliding back into restriction and back into the cycle…?”

I’m going to speak to each part separately to give as much detail and value as possible…

How to navigate the feeling of being stuck

With absolute love and understanding, you are NOT stuck. You may FEEL stuck and THINK you are stuck but you are NEVER stuck. There is ALWAYS a way out. I’m going to give you the way out during this episode and bear in mind that there’s no shortcut. But I know you can do it because you can do hard things ❤️‍🔥 Afterall, you’ve lived with anorexia for however many years and THAT shit is hard.

Emotional mental turmoil

Every single time I feel full after eating, eat something other than lettuce and chicken, or see my body in the mirror I’m thrown back into the emotional mental turmoil.”

That’s because you haven’t done the inner work in order to;

  1. Rewire your brain so that it’s not afraid of weight gain and feeling full.
  2. Understood, healed and released past trauma which would have been why you developed an eating disorder in the first place.
  3. Body image work.
  4. Self-love work.

I’d love to know more details about your emotional and mental turmoil. What’s going on inside? I assume it is fear of weight gain, fear of failing, fear of doing something wrong etc…

Why is chicken and lettuce safe, yet anything else isn’t?

Weight restored

Yes my body is “weight restored” and then some as that usually goes, but my mind is not.

How do you know that your body is weight restored?

From what I’m hearing you say from your question, you’re deciding you’re weight restored because you’ve perhaps gained weight since you started your recovery. Maybe you’re in a “healthy BMI” which means shit. The only way you know you’re weight restored is when you have been and are still eating unrestrictedly and your weight has stabilized for around 3-6 months. If you’re not eating unrestrictedly (which you are not from the sounds of it), you most definitely will not be weight restored. The only possibility that you are is if you are regularly bingeing alongside eating chicken and lettuce.

I try to convince myself otherwise throughout the day but the negative voice is louder because it’s had more power for 20 years….

Convincing yourself that your brain doesn’t have an eating disorder when you feel emotional distress around food and your body doesn’t work (as you know!) You need to be willing to dive deep into what’s underneath your fears. (I assume your fears will include, not being good enough, not being loved, failing, being undesired, feeling shame etc).

We need to look at why your eating disorder was developed in the first place and how it has been serving you (it will be linked to childhood). Then we need to address the fears that come up with letting go of the eating disorder which has been your coping mechanism for however many years. Then we need to work on unlearning limiting beliefs, body image and self-love. Alongside all of this, we need to be working on rewiring your fear of weight gain and going against the eating disorders rules.

As you embark on this journey with the right support if possible, you will be able to truly live in food freedom, mentally and emotionally. And then your physical body will fully recover too and land at its natural set point weight.

And what I will say is that even if you’ve been living with an eating disorder for 50 years, it’s still possible to recover, I’ve had a few clients who have had an eating disorder for over 40 years and fully recovered. The process of recovery is similar regardless of how long you’ve been in it and how much trauma you’ve experienced. Everyone is different of course and so the length of time it takes to fully recover will differ from person to person.

Overeating

I was curious when knowing the difference between permission to eat and overeating. The line between eating and eating too much is hair-thin.

The very problem is that you HAVE a line that states this amount is okay and this amount is not. This is the very thing that is keeping you trapped in the cycle. You are in recovery from a restrictive eating disorder, there really is no such thing as too much food. (Your eating disorder brain will disagree with me here of course.) The fact that you judge yourself when you think you are eating “too much” is the problem.

Plus not knowing if I’m making an excuse to allow myself to eat is healthy or unhealthy. Like do I need to allow to eat more than comfortable even though my body has overshot the set point…. When do I stop allowing that?

What is healthy is following your mental and physical hunger and giving yourself full permission to eat without any restrictions. And again, how do you know that your body has overshot its set point? You never stop allowing unrestricted eating, even when you are fully recovered. The difference is when you are fully recovered (like me), you won’t have any desire or drive to eat past what your body needs because you will not be in a state of malnourishment or food obsession. Food obsession comes from being afraid of actual restriction or impending restriction. Impending restriction can look like judging yourself for eating a certain way and wanting to do “better”. Or saying to yourself you’ll start restricting again tomorrow to make up for it or you’ll do a purging behaviour to clean it out.

You will arrive at your setpoint when you have a healed relationship with food and your body. A healed relationship with food looks like eating unrestrictedly and listing in your body. A healed relationship with your body looks like accepting the way you are and not trying to manipulate your body’s size or shape in any way.

I know that all of this may sound so far away or impossible but I PROMISE you, it’s possible for you. It’s been possible for me and my clients too. No matter what the eating disorder tells you, you’re not the only one that recovery won’t work for. That’s impossible because you’re human. If you’re human, you can fully recover if you want to.

Food guilt

Also when the guilt from eating anything other than lettuce should subside?”

The guilt will subside when you decide that your health, freedom and happiness are more important to you than what the eating disorder gives you. When you are doing the inner work to rewire your brain and create new neuropathways via self-talk, reframing and taking actions that are in alignment with recovery with repetition and consistency, the guilt will drop away. Guilt comes from thinking you’ve done something wrong. What is it you’ve done wrong exactly if you eat something other than lettuce? Am I wrong because I’ve just eaten yoghurt, chocolate granola and blueberries? Why or why not?

Then we dive into emotional and nervous system work. Mindset work is one thing but you cannot mindset your way out of a trauma response. Again this takes courage to dig deep and to FEEL what you don’t want to feel. But you gotta feel it to heal it. And feeling difficult and painful emotions is actually easier and less painful than pushing them away and running from them… trust me!

Being uncomfortable

the last part of your question; “Why do I ALWAYS cycle from anorexia, wanting to get better, bulimia, bingeing trying not to purge, gaining weight, and then start sliding back into restriction and back into the cycle…?”

You have literally just described the pattern I was in for 15 years! Anorexia is usually developed due to childhood trauma (trauma isn’t just acute physical events with a before and after) as a way to cope. Or by unintended weight loss which triggers the migration response (anorexia) to be switched on genetically.

Bulimia is an attempt to compensate for the food eaten whilst bingeing so it’s still from a place of restriction.

The bingeing is happening because you’re either actually starving or malnourished or your body fears an impending restriciton coming which is severely stressful to your body if you’ve restricted before. Starving and malnourishment is chronic trauma to the body. Bingeing is your body’s way of saving your ass. Your body doesn’t care about abs or being as small as possible, it cares about survival.

You do that because;

  1. You haven’t rewired your fear of weight gain and looked at what is underneath that and so the fear of and resistance to weight gain triggers you back into anorexia. “If I’m still going to be obsessed with food, I may as well be doing it in a smaller body.”
  2. Lack of knowledge and not getting the right support. You haven’t been doing the things you need to be doing in order to fully recover. You’ve only been focusing on the behaviours and using willpower to try to convince yourself that it’s okay to eat more. You haven’t gone deep enough to address the root cause and root fears of letting go of the eating disorder. My REAL recovery roadmap encompasses everything you need in order to fully recover.
  3. You could be “addicted” to failing at recovery.

I know that’s a lot but you CAN fully recover. One of the biggest lessons I learned during recovery (especially at the start) was that no matter what, you cannot avoid anxiety, fear and uncomfortable feelings if you want to recover.

You have to walk or run toward the fear (within your window of tolerance). You have to eat the things the eating disorder is screaming at you not to eat, even if you’re crying whilst doing so. You have to face your fear of weight gain and work through that with embodiment work, body image work and inner child work.

You have to be willing to FEEL emotions that you’ve most likely been avoiding your entire life. Recovery isn’t pretty but it is 1 zillion % worth it I can promise you that.

You already know what it feels like to live with an eating disorder. To try to recover and then keep falling back. You know what that feels like. Don’t you want to know what it feels like to be truly free? Mentally and emotionally? If so, buckle up and let’s do this! It’s a journey for sure which will be messy and magnificent but oh-so worth it.

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