Eating disorders are a disease of avoidance – avoiding negative emotions, avoiding discomfort, avoiding food, avoiding hunger, avoiding intimacy, avoiding vulnerability, avoiding true self.
Healing happens when you learn to tolerate discomfort rather than avoid it. You must also learn to tolerate ambiguity.
During the initial stage of treatment I tend to offer a lot more concrete guidance to clients in regard to eating, as they have been so detached from their bodies and true selves that they don't know what normal eating looks like or how to do it anymore. We talk about what their bodies need nutritionally and how to get it in.
The end goal of treatment, however, is intuitive eating, which is much more ambiguous than a meal plan. It means turning from the external guidance about eating back to the internal self. It means letting the body dictate what it needs to eat and when it needs it. Rather than being prescriptive during this phase I tend to direct clients back to their own inner wisdom and reconnect them to their bodies. This is an example of the ambiguity I am talking about.
Sometimes people become desperate and beg me, "Just tell me what to eat!" My response is usually something like, "I'll help you figure out what to eat, but you need to be the one deciding." The act of figuring out what to feed yourself is therapeutic. You won't always get it right. There will be overeating and undereating. There will be satisfying meals and unsatisfying meals. But if you keep returning to your body it will guide you. You'll have to weather uncertainty and discomfort along the way, and this is the path to healing.
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