My recovery from anorexia had a lot to do with learning to break the rules.
When I was sick I used many, many food rules, restrictions and guidelines in order to feel “safe” and in control. The thing I didn’t realize for a long time was these rules were keeping me sick, obsessive, stressed and absent from my life.
If you have an eating disorder you may also use food rules to help feel safer or more in control of your life. The problem with these self-imposed rules is they deprive you from the life you deserve to live. Not allowing yourself to eat when you are hungry just because it is not “meal or snack time” can lead to stress, irritability, and anxiety. Skipping dinner at a friend’s house just because you’re afraid she may prepare something on the “bad” list is isolating and depressing. Having to weigh yourself and count calories multiple times per day is exhausting. You start to become a slave to these rules. The more you follow them, the more fearful you become of breaking them, and the less you engage with your life.
Having rules around food and body are unhealthy ways of managing deeper issues of anxiety, shame, fear and stress. Adhering to these rules will keep you from growing and changing. If you really want to engage with your life, deal with your emotions, and feel better in your own skin, you need to start breaking these rules.
I know it will be difficult. I know you are afraid. I also know from my own experience and that of my clients that breaking the rules IS possible and will lead to a greater sense of freedom, confidence, and ability.
Start with acknowledging the rules you set by writing them down. Think about what rules you are ready to tackle now and set a goal to break a rule or two per week. Plan out when and how you can break each rule and what kind of support you may need while doing it.
Remember with each rule you break you are learning how strong and capable you really are. I believe breaking the rules of your eating disorder will lead you to feel happier, confident, and free to live the life you truly want to live. If you feel like breaking the rules seems impossible, talk about your fears with someone you trust and ask them how they can support you. You got this. Now go, start breaking the rules!
By Jacki LaRusso, LGPC, Therapist, Anorexia/Bulimia IOP Lead Therapist at The Body Image Therapy Center DC office. If you would like to get in touch with Jacki please call (877-674-2843) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.