Tools only work if you’re ready to use them

I’ve noticed a pattern in my therapy practice over the years, where there will be an influx of people flocking to the Center in search of tools – the right food plan, exercise plan, journaling method, etc. that’s going to deliver freedom from food addiction and eating disorders.

“Just give me the answer!”

We understand and empathize with the desperation. Sometimes it comes from an imminent physical crisis, such as a doctor warning about diabetes, hip surgery, heart failure or other serious health effects of eating disorder behaviors. Other times there’s an internal motivation to change, yet the strong desire for a quick and easy solution.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, food addiction and compulsive overeating, entering into therapy may open up a hidden wound or make you feel a little more vulnerable. Your emotional symptoms can even increase for a little while. This is the nature of recovery – it’s an up and down process.

Using tools can bring up feelings or emotions or memories you may not have known were in there. And that can start a destructive cycle of wanting to use your eating disorder behaviors again to shut those feelings down.

Before you can make the best use of any tool, you need to want to and be able to change; there’s a readiness level that has to be there. In the therapy process we work on the issues that are blocking that readiness, so we can clear them away and get to that “1st step” (admitting your powerlessness over your problem).

As we mentioned in a previous article about denial, one tool that we use is motivational interviewing. This is a form of questioning that challenges how you’re thinking and introduces a new way of thinking. We know how difficult this can be, and we approach the process with much compassion.

When tools are presented as part of a therapy process, we can help people walk through these changes. Because we’ve had the experience of witnessing many people get through it, we can share those examples with you and reinforce the possibility of recovery.

It’s also important that people learn how to apply specifically to their situation, rather than just take a tool and run with it. While one person may find relief by replacing their compulsive overeating with a new habit such as gardening, for someone else that wouldn’t work at all.

Joining a therapy group is one of the most helpful ways to learn about tools because you hear other people’s experiences and suggestions. And in turn, you can help someone else the same way. Plus, you’ll have the support of the therapeutic process to help you address whatever may be blocking your readiness, and then to help personalize the tool to your specific situation.

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