I’m on a plane right now heading to the National Eating Disorders Association conference in San Diego. I’m in the middle seat. It’s been a turbulent ride. Traffic was so bad getting to the airport I had no time to stop to eat, so I’m starving. Peanuts and OJ just don’t cut it. It’s a six hour flight and my butt is numb four hours in.
A lot of complaining and whining going on, I know. I’m generally uncomfortable and not liking how I feel physically. And there’s a weird smell in the air. Baby diaper explosion? Oh geez. And do I have a choice to do anything about this? No, not really. I can ask for another bag of peanuts, get up and stretch, or occupy myself with writing a blog. But overall, I’m at the whims of the situation I’m in. It’s a good reminder to me.
You see, I like to be in control. It’s a character trait common in those with eating disorders, of which I’m a former sufferer. How did I get to the “former” part? My best trick was learning to sit with discomfort. Just sit with it. Don’t push it away. Don’t fight it. Don’t succumb to that little imp in my mind telling me “This is awful! This sucks! I can’t stand it!” Truthfully, I can stand it.
And that’s a really big lesson I try to impart to those early in their recovery work. The act of not doing the eating disorder behavior means you’re going to feel bad stuff for a while. Whether it’s restricting, bingeing, purging, or compulsive exercising, that’s all self-medicating and distracting from the way you feel physically, emotionally and spiritually.
You have to start by learning to sit with the crap, whether than means the ED voices in your head, the stinky diaper in row 18, or the incessant air drumming by the guy next to you on the plane for 6 hours.
So get to work doing nothing about the discomfort. Learn to stand it. Learn to do the healthy behaviors that take care of your body, mind and spirit. Try hard every day for it. Ultimately you’ll be grateful as you beat ED, and then learn how to apply it to all the other little situations in life. Like long airplane trips.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C - Founder, Executive Director, Psychotherapist at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 877-674-2843 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.