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  • Dina Cohen

Pretzels and Regret

That was what my brave and hardworking client logged the other day:

Snack: "Pretzels and regret."

She needed a snack. She needed carbohydrates. And she did well by eating those pretzels, but she regretted it. That's because when struggling with an eating disorder, doing the right thing can feel so very wrong.

I wrote about this a while ago in a post titled Guilty as Charged. I'm writing more about this now because this is too important a topic to write about just once!

When working to recover from an eating disorder, or when working to stay healthy and balanced in this murky diet soup we are all living in, it can be hard to do what is right by your body. Eating lunch when your friends are skipping it, including a variety of food groups at meals when those around you are cutting carbs, or enjoying a dessert when your family is "off sugar" are all things that can make you feel guilty. You might be able to do those things but then regret them afterwards if some old diet-y thoughts pop back into your mind or if you hear someone talk about starting keto. If you are working on eating disorder recovery, it might take a monumental effort to eat what you know you're supposed to, and you might be able to muster up that energy to eat your challenging snack, but then find that your eating disorder strikes back by making you regret it afterwards. This work is TOUGH!

That is why it is so essential to recognize that regret is just a feeling that comes from a thought. If a disordered thought pops up - "I shouldn't be eating carbs" - then it is very normal for a negative emotional reaction to follow that thought. This means that feeling regret is normal, BUT THAT DOESN'T ACTUALLY MEAN YOU DID ANYTHING WRONG. It's just the consequence of your mind going with the flow. The key is to recognize the disordered thought as just a thought. It doesn't mean it's actually true. Imagine that you've just learned the Earth is actually round and not flat. It might take a while until that fact becomes your new automatic thought. In the meantime, you might slip into thinking that it's round, especially if people around you keep referring to it that way. But that doesn't mean it's true! In summary, your mind might slip back into old beliefs and those beliefs might cause you to feel negative emotions, but feeling those negative emotions (like anger, self-blame, guilt, or regret) doesn't actually mean you've done a bad thing.

Remember: not everything you think is true! And keep up the good fight!

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