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  • Dina Cohen

Are You Too Cozy in Your Eating Disorder?

Whaaaat? A cozy eating disorder? That's ludicrous!

At first glance, it certainly may seem so. An eating disorder can be a hellish experience. But just like drug abuse or alcoholism, it has the effect of helping people cope with emotions, and therefore, once you're in it, it can be really hard to move out. Once you discover a way of shutting down your emotions, it can be very difficult to let go. Over time, as your coping mechanism becomes more familiar, you may start to accept that "this is what I am and what I do." Change seems more and more distant. As Dr. Allen Berger puts it, "We like to build ourselves ruts. We built a rut - and then we decorate it."

In other words, we create a comfortable discomfort.

Clearly, this is not a great long-term plan. No one is born dreaming of life in a rut. It's not something you do as a first choice. But once you're in it, how do you get out? After all, an object at rest remains at rest until acted upon by another force. If something is working, at least to some degree, to numb your emotions, and if it's become your way of dealing with life, it's going to take something big to get you out of there.

I believe that thing is having a reason to change.

Unless you have a solid reason to get out, chances are that you won't take the risk.

We can divide those reasons into two major categories:

1. A Push Factor

This may be an event that makes you really internalize that your coping mechanism can be deadly or is destroying your relationships. Something that you always knew to be true can slowly grow until it becomes a glaring realization, or you may have a sudden burst of clarity that inspires you to create change.

Alternatively, other people in your life may intervene to push you out of your rut, and even if you were not initially motivated, getting that first push can help you recognize that your rut was never your intended destination.

2. A Pull Factor

Maybe there's a prompting event that creates a desire for a better future, such as a significant milestone. You realize that you want to have a life that is in line with your true values.

Initially, the pull may be for something short-term (a desire to attend college) or for the benefit of someone else (wanting to be there for your children) but ultimately, lasting change happens because you value yourself and want to build a life outside of your rut.

The new life you create for yourself may be initially anything but cozy. But rather than a comfortable discomfort, I would call it an uncomfortable comfort. You can take comfort in the fact that you are doing what is truly healthy and respectful to you, because you deserve more.

Your new home may seem strange and scary, so decorate it. Hang up messages of hope and pictures of your desired future. Put some lights in, Invite friends over. And don't forget to display certificates of achievement. Eating disorder behaviors may provide short-term reward, but now the reward is going to be the empowerment of feeling courageous.

Looking for a nice quote to hang up? You can start with this one to remind you that no matter how alluring your eating disorder may seem at times, your rut was never your final destination:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anais Nin

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