Changes to routine - Why they're key to your ED recovery
Today I wanted to hop on and talk about changes to routine during eating disorder recovery. This is something I have discussed previously on the blog but never in much detail, and as it’s something I’ve been experiencing lately I thought now was a good opportunity.
Eating disorders love routine, and hate change. They rely on you doing the same thing each day, ensuring you can complete any eating/ exercise rituals to maintain control and supposedly reduce anxiety. Naturally, they hate any threat to this, and so cause you to become very rigid, turning down any chance of spontaneity in your life.
In recovery, we are working to rewire our brains in order to eliminate the eating disorder neural pathways, and to regain our freedom. Therefore, not only do we need to challenge the likes of fear foods and behaviours, we also need to switch up our days to prove that doing so isn’t the end of the world.
Often, these challenges will come hand in hand, for example, by using the method of challenging a food in different contexts, you will also face changes to routine as you may eat lunch at a cafe when you normally eat at home. This is a great place to start, but I have definitely found it necessary to go beyond this, by actively putting myself out of my comfort zone even more. A big change for me has been coming home for Christmas after living with my girlfriend at University for the past 6 weeks. This is because I have gone from existing in a pretty consistent routine where the preparation and eating of food for the most part only involved the two of us, to now being in a different environment with my family who have different habits and lifestyles. This is something I never would have felt able to do in my eating disorder or early recovery, but have worked my way up to by repeatedly (!!) switching things up.
Initially, this meant doing things such as not going on a walk at a specific time, waking up/ going to bed earlier or later, and becoming more flexible with the hours I worked. As my physical health improved I was then able to start eating out more, staying over at my girlfriends house, and seeing friends again. As I became less reliant on my meal plan I was also able to challenge my routine by eating snacks and meals at different times, although it’s important to note here that this only became possible once I stopped using my meal plan for restrictive purposes and honoured my hunger above the minimum stated.
All these things may still seem quite daunting to you, as the thought of betraying your eating disorder is incredibly anxiety inducing. There is no way around it though, and as I’ve said before you are never going to just be ready to recover, it is down to you to actively choose it and follow through with recovery actions. The first time you make a change to your routine it might feel horrible, and so you can call on your list of distractions to help manage the discomfort. For example, you could practice mindfulness or breathing exercises, you could watch TV, read, draw or play a game - anything to take your mind elsewhere. Eventually the feeling will pass and you’ll realise nothing terrible happened as a result. From here the key is to repeat the challenge. Make that same change some more and implement new ones, working up to the changes that scare you most. It may be helpful to make a fear hierarchy that you can check off each time you conquer a fear, remembering to revisit past ones to ensure they haven’t crept back in!
I hope this blog has helped some of you out there, and please feel free to share any advice of your own.
More from me soon,
Mais // The Recovery Bean <3