I bet that none of you would expect to learn to become a dancer or an accountant in a matter of weeks. You’d never dream of becoming an expert ice-skater or teacher without years of practice and experience. Why, then, would you assume you could learn the skills of “normal” eating without a good long period of hard work? Why, indeed.
The answer is complicated because the desire for rapid recovery is often based on false assumptions: you think you should know how to eat “normally,” or believe the skills are easy to learn. We’ll spend four years in college, more in graduate school, or years apprenticing to build on-the-job expertise because we allow ourselves a grace period for “hard skill” acquisition. But we assume that we should be able to pick up “soft skills” like eating, handling emotions, becoming assertive, or having successful relationships by snapping our fingers. Not true.
Patience is a wonderful commodity in transforming behavior, but it’s not the whole ball of wax. What may be more important is your expectation of how long it should take you to develop new skills. We learn by practicing unfamiliar behaviors; we hone habits by repeating behaviors until they become automatic and feel natural. There is no short cut. Although you may have a gift with words, you will not become expert at writing until you do it for a long, long time (trust me). The same is true of any endeavor. No matter that others may seem to “get it”—whatever “it” is—more quickly than you do, no one receives a free pass in the arduous struggle of learning.
In order to have a mindset that fosters “normal” eating, you need reasonable and realistic beliefs about psychological growth and the process of change. If you’re expecting to succeed in a couple of weeks or a few months, you are engaging in magical thinking and will end up frustrated. If you anticipate transforming your eating without enormous amounts of hard work and struggle, you are sure to end up sorely disappointed.
A college analogy might work for you. Think about where you are with your eating and how long recovery might take. Do you think you’ll reach your goals with a two-year associate’s degree, a four-year undergraduate diploma, another year for a master’s degree, or maybe even a Ph.D? Set your sights long and give yourself short-term goals in the meantime by focusing on the rules of “normal” eating and on building the life skills you need to be emotionally and physically healthy.
Visit the message board exclusively devoted to my new book, The Food and Feelings Workbook, at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings.
PLEASE NOTE: I encourage you to comment on my blogs and will do my best to address topics/questions you raise in future blogs. Unfortunately, however, due to time constraints, I cannot provide individual responses.