Tips for Recovery Series :: (3) Take a Risk!

by Ashley Solomon

And we’re back to the mini-series! Sorry for the break in consistency – there were some time-sensitive issues to address (like Change the Way You See Week!).

To catch some of you up, I was recently asked by Justine Hoepfner, an author and speaker who is currently developing an eating disorder recovery book, about the “top tips” I had related to eating disorder recovery. I’m sharing with you some of what I shared with Justine in this series.

If you missed Tip 1 or Tip 2, check them out!


Tip 3: Take a Risk!

Eating disorders, especially restrictive ones, are about control and rigidity. They “work” by keeping a person locked inside a world of rules of his or her own making, and this does not apply strictly to food. Limiting your diet may put you inside the box, but limiting your choices and experiences in other areas of life keeps you firmly planted there.

A person with an eating disorder is often petrified to take a risk or try something, anything, new. A creature of both habit and perfectionism, I myself know this fear all too well. For someone struggling with eating, knowing precisely what she will do each day, how much time she would spend on each activity, how many calories she would consume, and so on, allows her a false sense of power and comfort. Sadly, however, this inflexibility can be both part of the cause and the perpetuation of an eating disorder.

The need for order and control can lead some us, especially those predisposed to disordered eating, to control every morsel we eat. It also keeps us tucked in a safe little haven from which we never had to venture. Thus, one important aspect of recovery is to begin taking risks.

This does include trying new foods and incorporating a new way of looking at eating, but it means more than that as well. It also means simply getting out of your comfort zone at times, whether that means riding a roller coaster you’re are terrified of, calling a friend you haven’t spoken to in years, applying for a job you feel under-qualified for, or ordering french fries instead of the fruit.

As I mentioned (and have addressed in previous posts), part of who I am is someone who is quite comfortable with routines and being able to predict the future. But another part of who I am craves what is new and exciting. I have to try, despite my reservations, to feed that part of myself as well. For me it helps to be married to a guy who loves adventure and excitement, and so regularly pushes me beyond my comfort zone. Here’s an example:

In planning our honeymoon, I thought zip-lining in Costa Rica sounded like great fun. When we got there, however, I was not so thrilled to be out of my element.

BUT, I faced my fear and took a risk. (Here’s proof! Though not especially flattering…)

And I ended up… you guessed it!… HAPPY! (Or just thankful to be back on solid ground.)

While Justin’s gentle nudging is helpful, there are many times when he’s not there, and I must push myself to do what might be unknown and therefore scary. I try to remind myself what order and regularity have gotten me (boring Friday nights!) and try to go ahead and take a risk.

What risks have you taken lately?

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10 Responses to “Tips for Recovery Series :: (3) Take a Risk!”

  1. I got a bike! and i am so scared to ride it around in city traffic. Had to force myself yesterday to go to Screen on the Green (outdoor movie in front of THE Capitol), almost skipped it just so wouldn’t have to bike by myself.

    That’s about it for risk taking. And maybe biking back without a tail light and slightly tipsy. That was just stupid. But the only way to get home.

  2. I find this to be a very insightful post. While I feel like I know a reasonable amount about eating disorders, I don’t know that I ever considered the fact that the control one has for food intake extends into so may other areas of their lives. This is really excellent advice for those with eating disorders and everyone!

    While taking risks is very difficult and always frightening, I feel it is also one of the more rewarding things you can do. It will not always turn out the way you would like it to but the risk and the adventure is the fun part, the ultimate success / failure is all relative.

    I recently tried to to make it across a swimming pool on an inner tube with all my clothes on, without getting wet. I made it about two inches, which you could say is a failure, but it’s also one of the most fun things I’ve done in the last week. I’m glad I took the risk – stupid as the thought of “success” may have been.

  3. Hahaha, is your grumpy face real or posed? If I’d been Justin in that moment, I would have been afraid the honeymoon was over! 😛

    Great advice, as usual.

    • OOH… I assure you that is 100% real, unfortunately for me. She was not the least bit happy… I think that picture was taken on the platform just after they said “There’s no turning back now.” She really wanted to turn back and was not happy, at that time, that I p had encouraged her to try it! I think the picture at the end is really just genuine relief that it was over!

  4. A large part of my recovery from disordered eating has been about learning to step outside of my box and embrace spontaneity. I very much crave control – plans, routines, the whole thing – so learning to let that go (to a certain extent, at least) was HUGE. But it’s something that I have to continually challenge myself with. It’s so easy to fall back into that pattern of trying to control every little aspect of my life.

  5. beautifully written 🙂 i can definitely say the same as Katie…i had to take a chance on myself…and take a chance that i actually know what’s best for me, regardless of the eating disorder! i think we should all be able to take a chance on ourselves!

  6. Great post! I really relate to this – I used to turn down new opportunities all the time for fear of being out of my element of control. It all changed a couple of years ago and once I met my fiance, I started to really take risks – calculated ones, but risks nonetheless. 🙂

    Love your zip-lining photos!

  7. I could not agree more that we use food as a way to control our lives and feel power. I know I have been there. I think taking risks and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones is a great idea. A big challenge for sure, but so liberating when finished.

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