“Just Eat it”? Taking that leap of faith to let go of the diets and the rules.

Just Eat it. Designed by Olle Hemmendorff for Nike.
Just Do It has been a memorable Nike campaign, motivating and inspiring athletes and active wannabees for years now. But I really don’t want to talk about exercise and determination.

Rather, let’s talk about Just Eat It, the image circulating on social media with that very phrase. This expression has crossed my mind—but not my lips—during many a patient session way before the creative graphic emerged. Yes, sometimes I’d like to shout out JUST EAT IT! (or even JUST EAT!), at times when rational discussion seems to get us nowhere. But that’s my emotional—and occasionally frustrated—response.

Personally, I struggle with the just part of the statement. Does it feel like a justto you, as an only? Or merely eat? To the person living with disordered eating, I bet just is the worst possible adverb imaginable. To me, it minimizes the struggle. Just eat it? As in, “it’s no big deal, what’s all the fuss about anyway”. EAT it?! If you could just eat, wouldn’t you?

The hike toward the Hornli Hut, heading toward
the Matterhorn.
My editor was reviewing this piece—by editor I mean husband—and he likened this minimizing to a personal experience he and I have had. You see, I have a fear of heights, and I swear it’s worsened as I’ve gotten older. So now, when we go hiking where the path has narrowed and I can vividly imagine the drop off to my death, I get a bit stuck—think deer-in-headlightskind of stuck. No, not just a bitstuck. There’ve been times when he’s had to talk me through, or physically be there to support me. At those times, he’s clearly communicated the message of “just do it, just get over it”, as in “what’s your problem?” failing to understand that my concern just might be irrational.

No, others really may not get it; fear is often irrational. But somehow reading a draft of this post he did get it. I don’t choose to get anxious at precipitous drops at high elevations. And sometimes the dangers are real. But the risk of stepping outside of your comfort zone to eat (as opposed to the risk of not eating enough), is not life threatening.

I suspect that if you really think about it, you’d realize that you used to eat the very foods you fear will make you fat, or will trigger overeating, with no ill effect. Think back to the time before the rigid rules and diets began, before your eating disorder or disordered relationship with food developed. Sure, you may associate carb restriction with something positive—weight loss perhaps (strictly because it resulted in reduced calories, and not because there’s anything magical about reducing carbs, or fats, or any food or nutrient in particular). 

But you fail to acknowledge that your struggle with binge eating only began with this restriction, with the deprivation. Or, that starting to restrict set you on your path to being unable to nourish your body, to respond to its needs. You hold on to all the ‘good’ you associate with dieting, yet minimize the consequences of your disordered eating on your health—on your mood, on your ability to be social, on your energy level, on your thinking.

There’s a bit of a conundrum we face; by we I mean providers and parents and loved ones alike. I can present all kinds of justification for nourishment—for including carbs, for increasing necessary calories, for adding snacks, whatever—but sometimes that’s not enough. Evidence that food restriction is slowing metabolism may help—such as pointing out that a slowed heart rate or lowered body temperature is a consequence of starvation. Showing evidence that you had previously been both healthy and a normal weight when eating your now feared foods may help, but it doesn’t seal the deal. 

Do you know which are the least read of all these blog posts? They are the ones describing research—the clearest evidence—in favor of normalizing your eating. Few tend to care about the evidence.
No, you can’t always negotiate with an eating disorder.

Sure, it’s easier if you know you can trust me—that I’m not going to mislead you; that it’ll really be okay if you make the dietary changes I suggest. But where’s the proof? Until you actually do it, and see that it really isokay, it’s challenging to trust. You believe that you’re different, that the rules simply don’t apply. And so we’re stuck.

At that point, you need a leap of faith. You need to go on blind faith that it will be okay. It helps to acknowledge that where you’re currently at is clearly not alright—in fact, that you’re quite miserable, if you allow yourself to be honest about how you feel. And it helps if you consider ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ acknowledging that fear of rapid weight change is a distortion of your thinking; progress on so many levels can start here. Recognize that you don’t have to commit to continuing with this change forever—take it one day at a time, and give yourself the opportunity to back out.

It can be scary getting to the top, but it's worth the effort.
Capu Rosso, Corsica
Sometimes we do need to “Eat it!” or “Do it” giving yourself no option but to not go running, or to cease all purge behaviors, for instance. Sometimes giving your self no option makes the recovery process much easier.

But if you can’t bring yourself to take that leap of faith, or to “Do it”, then eating disorder programs may be the next best thing. Or, for those living at home with family, FBT (family based treatment for eating disorders) may be a great alternative.

Over time, you’ll realize that there’s really no other option for living a healthy life than to maintain the changes you’ve started.
Just saying.

What are your thoughts? Is anyone reading out there?

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