23 Aug 2019

#3 Not sure if you really want to recover from your eating disorder? That’s totally normal.


Welcome to our Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder self-help series. {#3 of 5}

Recovery from an eating disorder can be challenging. A part of you might desperately want to heal, while another part of you is clinging to the behaviours you know no longer serve you. In this blog we’ll discuss feelings of ambivalence — or indecision — and how it relates to eating disorders.

What is ambivalence?

Ambivalence is where you have mixed feelings, uncertainty or contradictory ideas about something or someone. When it comes to eating disorders, this doubt or indecision towards recovery is a common feeling and completely normal.

Why are mixed feelings about healing so common?

There are many reasons you might be experiencing ambivalence around your eating disorder recovery. One common reason is because your eating disorder serves as an unhelpful tool to cope with difficult emotions or challenges. This is why a part of you might really want to cling to your illness, while at the same time another part of you wants to free yourself from the hold your eating disorder has over you.

This is very normal. In fact, there are various stages of healing that are commonly experienced throughout the binge eating recovery cycle.

Stage 1 of the binge eating recovery cycle: Denial

In the first stage of healing you don’t think there’s a real problem.
You might feel:

  • Angry or upset if someone wants to talk to you about your eating habits
  • Stressed or unhappy about eating, your shape or weight.

Stage 2: Contemplation 

You understand there’s a problem, but you may still feel unsure about wanting to make changes. A part of you might want to change, but another part of you will want to hold on to the eating disorder.
This can be an especially tough stage as your feelings about healing might change moment to moment, day to day or week to week. This inner conflict can be confusing and exhausting.

Stage 3: Preparation/determination 

This stage can feel empowering, with a surge of energy that comes when you decide you want to change and you make plans to change
But you might also feel anxious and nervous about these plans; this is very normal too.

Stage 4: Action

This is where the rubber meets the road. Where you start to take the thoughts, hopes and plans for change and actually start acting in a way that’s focused and consistent with your recovery.

Stage 5: Maintenance

Here you’ve kept up the actions you decided on and you’re learning to live without the eating disorder. You may also be actively resisting relapse.

Stage 6: Relapse

Yes, this is a legitimate part of your recovery journey. People relapse all the time. This is normal and not the end of your journey. Your relapse might be a moment, or it might last longer. But as disheartening as a relapse might feel, it’s important to see it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and from the lapse.

You might relapse and re-enter the cycle of recovery at any stage, remember it’s all part of the process and everyone’s recovery journey is different. Some people can move back and forth between stages, some might skip a stage all together. There is no right or wrong way to do recovery.

How can you better understand yourself and your journey?

Everyone’s process of recovery is different. Taking the time to reflect on where you are can be empowering and set you up for a smoother transition between the different stages.

Take the time to reflect on the following questions. You can use our worksheet, or perhaps a journal to write your answers.

1. What is your relationship with the idea of recovery? You might find a pros and cons list useful here. A pros and cons of having an eating disorder and then a separate pros and cons of not having an eating disorder.
2. Where are you in your recovery journey?
3. What do you feel your eating disorder helps you cope with?
4. How else could you cope with those same things?
5. What would life look like for you if you didn’t have an eating disorder?

Help is available

You might find the exercise difficult or scary. You might even forget to give it a go and that’s ok. Don’t give up and remember you can always try again next time. It’s about practice and persistence.

And you can always contact our Helpline and get support as you work through the questions. Butterfly Foundation’s National Helpline can give you free information, referrals and brief counselling. We’re open from 8am – midnight AEST, seven days a week, and you can chat via phone, webchat or email.

Are you ready to get started?

Download your worksheet and get started now.

A final thought

If you think you might have an eating disorder, it’s important to talk to your doctor, as there are many physical complications that can occur from having an eating disorder. Get in touch with our team and we can connect you with a professional who has experience in eating disorders.

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Next blog in this series

Practical tools to help you in your recovery {#4 of 5}

Do you want to learn more?

The caring team at the Butterfly Foundation are here to help answer questions. Call our friendly National Helpline team on 1800 33 4673, or connect with via webchat or email.

If you need urgent assistance or support, please ring Lifeline on 13 11 14. 

Related tags: Binge Eating binge eating recovery cycle bulimia Bulimia & Binge Eating Disorder Self-Help Series Eating Disorder what is binge eating what is bulimia