Our lives are full of cyclical patterns of behaviors. We can easily habituate to these behaviors, making them difficult to change.
In my eating disorder, I did not want to wake up and did not think I could kick butt. However, I was able to establish habits and repeat them. My habitual cycle consisted of working out, restricting, eating too much, and purging day after day for almost 20 years. I believed that if I could restrict more, exercise more, and purge more I would lose enough weight to be loved and matter to other people. I was convinced true happiness could be achieved by reaching that special number on the scale. However, when I reached that number, the happiness never came. Instead, the cycle would begin again, except this time the numbers were lower. I desperately needed and wanted a new cycle. One full of life, fun, and relationships. A cycle free from numbers.
This behavioral cycle was acted out concurrently with a cognitive cycle in my head. I believed I was too fat to be loved. I believed if I was not the best at everything I did from school and sports, to even being the “perfect patient” in treatment, I would not be loved. My need for being loved was manifested through negative thought cycles and acted out through eating disorder behaviors.
Breaking unhealthy, yet familiar, cycles is difficult. Over time, I had trained my mind and body to believe the eating disorder cycle was the only way to live. The many rituals and rules I followed surrounding food and exercise were not developed overnight. They took years. I gradually trained my brain to only listen to the needs of my disorder. This unhealthy norm made it extremely difficult to change those old tapes I continuously ran on repeat in my head. During my recovery, this slow training process began again. Only this time I was relearning how to fulfill the true and natural needs of my mind and body. Engaging in healthy behaviors, like eating and exercising appropriately seemed so foreign and scary at the beginning. However, over several years of practice, they have become easier to repeat. I remember the day it was difficult to engage in an eating disorder behavior! It blew my mind!