What to Expect in Eating Disorder Counseling Part 3: Maintaining Progress
In Part 1 of this blog series, I outlined what is involved in the beginning phase of eating disorder counseling. Part 2 demonstrated how therapy can help you change the behaviors that maintain eating disorders. In this blog I explain how we work together to deepen recovery work for long-lasting success.
In the later phases of eating disorder therapy, we work hard to figure out how you can maintain progress. The key to success in this phase of recovery is a consistent decrease in eating disorder behaviors. With the behaviors out of the way you can really begin to explore what have been barriers to your success. For most people this means going below the surface to explore the root causes of dysfunctional eating behaviors. Underlying anxiety, perfectionism, problematic family dynamics, or traumatic childhood events are often uncovered as triggers for eating disorders. No one’s recovery is a straight path. It takes however long it takes.
You have likely developed coping skills for dealing with life’s challenges. Some of those skills are healthy, and some are not. Overeating until sick, self-induced vomiting, overexercising, and skipping meals are not healthy behaviors. Throughout eating disorder counseling, you will pay close attention to your coping skills, eventually learning what works and what doesn’t. You may discover that many of your behaviors with food and exercise served to help you manage anxiety or perfectionistic thinking.
A key aspect of eating disorder treatment is looking at your current ways of coping and finding skills that might better serve you. The best thing about this is that the impact is far-reaching. Improved coping skills might also improve your job performance, relationships, and overall life satisfaction! In eating disorder therapy you will learn to practice mindfulness, which can slow your response time between triggers and dysfunctional behaviors. You will learn how to tolerate distressing situations more effectively, improve interpersonal skills, and set more appropriate boundaries. You will learn to manage your intense emotions in new ways, without trying to control your body with food. And you will get the chance to practice these skills over and over and over again… with a supportive and compassionate therapist by your side!
Some people can point to specific incidents in life that caused emotional turmoil. This can have a significant negative impact on your current functioning, no matter how long ago it occurred. Some examples are: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, bullying, or being raised in an invalidating or emotionally barren home, or one in which your caregivers had unreasonably high expectations. You may be unaware of how these events contributed to your eating disorder, or maybe you are aware but don’t know how to deal with this. Either way, trauma can complicate your recovery.
For most with a history of trauma, exploring it must happen to overcome your eating problems. It may take some time for you to feel safe enough to do this with another person, and to understand the impact of these events. Your new and improved coping skills will come in handy if intense feelings come up when exploring trauma. The work we do together in eating disorder therapy is aimed at helping you learn to cope better with these past events so you can move on to living a full, rewarding life.
While body image will be worked on in all phases of eating disorder counseling, real progress is made in the later stages of treatment, after eating behaviors have stabilized and new coping skills have been developed. It is often said that body image problems are the first on the scene and the last to leave in regard to eating disorders and recovery work. We sometimes don’t see body image improving until a healthier weight is reached, or until there is significant progress made in decreasing distorted thought patterns. Clients in eating disorder therapy eventually learn to reframe their body image. The goal is to be so busy living a full and enriching life that there is no time or need to allow body size and weight to matter as much.
Once you have achieved a greater peace with your food behaviors and your body, the next step is maintenance. You and your eating disorder counselor will create a plan for recovery maintenance that puts together all you have learned about yourself-- what keeps you well and what places you at risk for returning to your old ways. You will explore your personal signs of slipping or relapse and will create a plan for preventing relapse. And again, with your eating disorder counselor cheering you on, you will practice this again and again!
The true gift of eating disorder therapy is the clarification of your values, the most meaningful parts of life for you. You will learn to live a life guided by these values, one in which you food and body image take their rightful place in your life. It’s remarkable how much time you will have to pursue new hobbies, interests and relationships with your obsession over your body and food out of the way.
If you are looking for eating disorder counseling in Plano, Texas or Frisco, Texas, or just want to make peace with your body, contact me at 469-850-2420 or email@example.com to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation. My name is Danesa, and we can see if we're a good fit! I'm also happy to connect you to another great therapist in the area.
My specialties include eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating; overeating or compulsive eating, body image issues, anxiety and depression. My office is in north Plano, Texas, and conveniently located near Frisco, Allen, McKinney, Prosper, The Colony, Little Elm, Addison, North Dallas, and Richardson.