When I was a junior and senior in high school, the WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets were hugely popular. I got one and wore it proudly to my religiously and ethnically diverse suburban high school. My best friend at the time was Jewish, and she looked at my bracelet in Spanish class one day and asked what radio station it was for.

I told her classic rock. I'm guessing she figured it out, although a sick, evil part of me kind of hopes she hasn't.

The whole point of the bracelet was to serve a reminder to act as Jesus would act if you're not sure what to do. That means being kind, turning the other cheek, charity, forgiveness, whatever. I honestly don't think that such reminders are bad at all, even if they did become rather cliche.

I no longer have my WWJD? bracelet as I dissolved it in acetone in my freshman organic chemistry lab. I've made my peace with All Things Religious, which is really neither here nor there, but I don't ask WWJD much any more.

The concept, though, I still like. A lot. Earlier in my recovery, at my local psych hospital's day program, one of the nurses gave me the advice "Fake it 'till you make it!" This advice left me profoundly irritated because I had just spent the last 6 months pretending everything was fan-freaking-tastic and I ended up back inpatient. Fake what? How can I pretend I'm recovered when a plate of noodles reduced me to a sobbing, quivering ball of goo?

Although I still don't necessarily like that phrase, I have found another one that is more helpful to me: WWRPD? What Would a Recovered Person Do? It's not about pretending that I don't have any issues or about faking my way through a situation. Instead, it's about taking a step back and asking myself how I would act if I were recovered.

I don't always have an answer to this question. Sometimes, I don't know what a recovered person would do, and sometimes, ED recovery has minimal bearing on what my choice is. But it gives me a chance to look forward and imagine what might be and how I might act. It also allows me to "practice" recovery, to try out different options I think might be recovery-oriented but really aren't. It's less about being who I'm not and more about beginning to act the way I want to feel.

Maybe that is what the "fake it 'till you make it" phrase is about, in the end. But asking WWRPD? feels more authentic and real than just "faking it."

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Amy said...

Effing hate fake it till you make it.

licketysplit said...

Oh I like this idea. 'Fake it till you make it' has always irked me, but WWRPD? makes a lot of sense.

now.is.now said...

The idea of the "Evolved ME" (and idea created in my therapist's office) has been a motivating force for me. One day, after I finished telling my therapist that I didn't want to stop running or calorie counting - that I couldn't relax - and I didn't want to become some hill sitting mediating "oh" deep breathing sort of person. She responded that there is a spectrum. On one end are the overly responsible, overly careful, overly regimented people. Those people need to relax just a smidge. On the other end are people who are always late, never get anything in on time, and would roll up and down hills naked all day if they wanted. Those people need to get a smidge more self-disciplined. She told me that I am not going to go from one end of the spectrum to the other. Simply, I need to move a smidge over so that I'm not in the "harmful" zone. I need to "evolve" s that I can move just a "smidge" down the spectrum that she described. She asked me to picture what the "Evolved Me" (the one who has moved that smidge) was like. I basically realized that the Evolved Me is still me - same values, same preferences - only the Evolved Me is a lot more reasonable with myself. The Evolved Me does things because she values them or she truly likes them. I realized the Evolved Me is still an energetic person. The Evolved Me is not fat. The Evolved Me still enjoys physical movement (just not in extremes). The Evolved Me can take care of herself, and does, yet still makes time to extend generous outward energy towards others. The Evolved Me is a role model.

So... I guess my bracelet would be WWEMD: What Would Evolved Me Do?

Would Evolved Me listen to Music A or B while running? Would Evolve Me run at all today? How far? How fast? What is she in the mood for?

Would Evolve Me cozy up with a book on the couch in this moment, call a friend and hang out, decided to skip dinner, decide to binge instead of eat dinner? WWEMD?

I've also realized the Evolved Me doesn't give up everything I'm afraid I'd have to give up. the Evoled ME deosn't give up running - just running in extremes. The Evolved Me doesn't give up busyness - just makes time to relax and is more patient with herself and more understanding and says "no" smetimes.

There are a lot of things that exist in my eating disordered self that STILL exist in the Evolved ME - they just exist in a more reasonable way. There are some things, however, that just simply do not exist - not even a little bit: There is no calorie counting whatsoever. There is no measuring of food. There is no making of weight loss plans (in the same way that I have previously done) or food plans. There is no relentless body hate. None of that exists in the Evolved Me.

Sorry for such the long comment!

midoriliem said...

I also dislike "fake it 'til you make it", though a good friend of mine introduced me to the concept. I think it can have its place, especially in my situation now- fake being confident and self-assured when you go out on the street, fake being interested in doing activity X if it supports a larger goal you truly do have...this of course begs the question of: If you were truly interested in Goal Y, wouldn't you be interested in activity X?...but anyway.
To me this was better explained recently as "practicing motivation"...a lot of people may want to do something but don't have the motivation for it at the time. I may want to be a writer but today don't have the motivation to sit down and write for an hour. However, if I just do it, the motivation may come after I start writing (and it often does). If I sit down and make a meal plan, the motivation may come (gasp) to add in some fat! This seems to be better to me that Faking it 'til I'm making it, but I also have to be truly interested in the larger goal at hand.

Laurel said...

I'll bw watching for your newly designed WWRPD? bracelet!

Michelle said...

I would actually probably buy that! I have been looking for a way to carry a constant reminder of my goal of recovery. I have heard carrying around an index card. but I don;t always have a pocket/bag with me. I may make this my next art project!!! Thanks. I love your blog and am an avid reader (and a psychology junkie!)

Katie Goode said...

I love the idea of checking in by asking WWRPD or WWEMD? Both are really great ideas.

You don't have to completely change your personality to be in recovery, just move a smidge:)

Anonymous said...

hi, nothing to do with your post, but not sure how else to just send you a message. i am 'slowly' reading your book -running on empty- purchased 2 years ago but never read when my own daughter came home to 'recover' from her eating disorder. 2 years of learning..and still & always learning. recovery isn't a 2 year process obviously!and it certainly has it's ups and downs. I picked the book up last week from a pile upstairs because i was desperate for something to read just to avoid cleaning house. it has been such an eye opener for me. thank you! I am anxious to pick up your next book. I think as a parent it is so easy to not see what is directly in front of your face maybe out of denial? or maybe it's just love. My daughter is a bulimic, binge eater, and now I am realizing as I read your book that over the past two years has also suffered with anorexia. I had no idea that an eating disorder could be so mulit-faced. I think the one thing I see from books like yours, all the blogs I read, and just every day living, is that there is always hope. and that it is going to take time. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story.

Kim said...

Oh, I like this idea! I think it'd be very helpful in eating situations when I don't know what the "right" amount is. A similar concept that has helped me with eating choices is asking, "What would you serve your best friend/mother/sister/etc?" There is some part of our brains that I think knows what healthy is. I think I just have to listen to that part a bit harder ;)

A:) said...

This is a good explanation of fake it till you make it -- I never understood why this was helpful (or gave it much thought) but you cleared it up for me! :P

Crimson Wife said...

I have a similar motto: what would I want my daughter to do?

If I wouldn't want my girl to obsess over X, then why am I doing it?

Michelle said...

After further thought, I think I like WWPIRD-- what would a person in recovery do? This change in wording implies that I am still a work in progress and cannot expect perfection from myself. It keeps the goal of recovery well within sight and doesn't dismiss the struggle I have to make the right decision. (whereas a recovered person may not struggle as much and does not reminding of their ultimate goal because they are already there).

I also really like the evolved me idea.

Carrie Arnold said...


You raise a really good point. When I say WWRPD?, I don't use it to invalidate my struggles. In fact, I wouldn't be asking that question if I weren't struggling with something. But it's what they would do that makes the difference.

now.is.now said...

I like "What would I want my daughter to do." I don't even have a daughter, but I feel like that could still work for me.

Carrie Arnold said...

LOL. My other favorite is "Would I want my therapist to know about this?" If I wouldn't, then it's probably not a good choice.

Cammy said...

I think I am going to start practicing it this weekend. I like this, Carrie.

Sarah said...

I love this. I'm coming out of a relapse myself and this is something I can really use. Thanks Carrie.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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