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Why is it so hard to get back up again after “falling off the wagon.”

These are all really hard questions that a lot of us may ask when dealing with and healing from an eating disorder. I was talking with my therapist last week about the work that I do, and I said “I think a lot of people have disordered eating even if it’s not labelled as an ‘eating disorder.’” So many of us can struggle with our relationships with food and with disordered eating even if we don’t have a clinically diagnosed eating disorder. I want to say that again, but in simpler terms. Even if you don’t have a clinically diagnosed “eating disorder” such as bulimia or anorexia, you can still have an unhealthy relationship with food. Even if you don’t have a clinically diagnosed eating disorder, you can still struggle with disordered eating.

I say all of this, because I want you to know that it is okay and normal to struggle with these feelings and questions…with an eating disorder or not. Please don’t feel like you’re alone in struggling with these feelings and questions…even if you don’t have an eating disorder. So many of my clients struggle with these questions—and I’ve had to struggle with them as well. 

I want to address “falling off the wagon.” This phrase has become very common in the health and wellness world, and I am not a fan. “Falling off the wagon” makes it sound like it’s completely over—whether “it” is eating healthy, exercising, or whatever your goal may be. I don’t believe that we fall off the wagon. I believe that there are moments in our journeys where we get it right, and there are moments in our journeys where we do not get it right. But we’re never going to get it perfect. Stop putting all of the pressure on yourself to be perfect, to get it perfect, or to always be perfect in your health/recovery journey.

Some days are going to be great, and other days are going to be shitty—that’s just the way it goes. And that is okay. So I think that it is very helpful to reframe the way that we look at this. Instead of telling yourself that you messed up or fell off the wagon, just remind yourself that you had a shitty day or a shitty moment, and that it is all a part of the journey.

When we start to reframe how we view these imperfect moments, it really changes how we view ourselves and our relationships with food. I believe that it helps us to have a little more self-compassion and self-love for ourselves. We can remind ourselves that “I may not be where I want yet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get there.” It’s okay and normal and healthy to have ups and downs—steps forwards and backwards. The trick is remembering this, reminding yourself of this, and showing yourself a little more grace and love each moment—perfect or imperfect. You are worth the work. And you do not have to be perfect. Take a little pressure off of yourself today, breathe deep, and take it one moment at a time.

Abby Horst

A podcaster, wife, health/wellness coach, beach lover, and musician. She specialises in nutrition education, meal planning, and developing sustainable habits. She passionately works with her patients to help them build healthier and happier relationships with food, exercise, and themselves.

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