I've gotten back on track after my struggles a week or two ago, and it got me thinking about the idea of momentum.The first few days of getting used to eating on a regular schedule were really difficult--stressful and anxiety-provoking. But as these positive behaviors gained momentum, it became much easier. It's still not quite as easy as before I slipped a few weeks ago, but it's getting there.

Recovery behaviors have momentum, and so do ED behaviors. How many of us have done something "just once" and really, truly meant "just this once"? My hand is raised like Hermione's. But behaviors have momentum, and just once becomes just twice becomes a routine.

I picture behavior momentum as a hill: recovery behaviors are going uphill, ED behaviors going downhill. Illustrated as follows:

I'm thinking back to my college physics class (it was a nightmare even for geeky me, so I will try to keep this as short and basic as possible) when we studied acceleration and momentum. A few days ago, I bought one of those jumbo boxes of kitty litter at Costco, and pushed it out to my car in a shopping cart. The parking lot had a slight hill, and I had to really push hard at the cart to get it started up the hill. I was fighting gravity, and I had to accelerate the cart to get it up the hill. This required no small amount of effort, also considering I had other heavy stuff in the cart. But once I got the cart going--once it had a certain amount of momentum--pushing it up the hill wasn't particularly difficult. Turning or stopping were...interesting, but just pushing in a straight line was simple.

It's the same with recovery: once you push through the initial effort, recovery behaviors gain momentum. They get easier. It doesn't take the same amount of effort to do the right thing.

Relapse behaviors are going downhill. It takes much less to get that momentum building. If I had poised my cart at the top of a hill and just given it a nudge, it would have sped off on its own. And stopping a speeding cart would have been much harder the more speed the cart gained. So it goes with an eating disorder. Relapse takes less effort and is harder to stop. It tends to gain momentum much faster than recovery.

For some reason, having that visual image in my head has really helped me. It lets me stop fixating on why recovery is so damn hard and simply focus on pushing the massive box of kitty litter up the hill. It also makes me more cautious when I'm teetering at the top of the hill.  Being close to speeding off is very different from, you know, actually speeding off. In the end, it's all about building the kind of momentum you want in your life.


ohgina said...

I love this. Now that I'm having longer periods of time when I'm doing really well with the meal plan and recovery stuff (so for me, right now, a week straight is a really long time), I totally notice that 1 missed exchange easily becomes an entire missed snack the next day and once I get back on track it takes monumental effort, massive anxiety etc. Fortunately, I am also noticing that I am much more present and get a lot more out of my PHP when I'm doing what I need to do at home. And I'm quicker to get back on the wagon when I do fall off (let's face it, falling off the wagon used to mean hardcore relapsing every single time. so glad to be out of that cycle).

Anyway, didn't mean for this to get so long, but I love metaphors and I love THIS metaphor and I totally relate.

Hang in there,

Alie said...

I love this metaphor! It fits so perfectly. If I miss one snack, it's so easy to just blow off the next snack or meal, without really thinking much about it. Before I know it, I'm deep into a relapse. Putting together a string of days without a slip is so much harder. When I was trying to pull out of a relapse several months ago, I was noticing that the first 7-10 days without a slip were the hardest, but once I could get past Day 10, the recovery behaviors came much more automatically. Or as you so eloquently put it, they had started to gain momentum by then. Great post!

artofchanging said...

This is awesome. The past week has been pretty tough, and I spend a good 20 minutes after every meal in this weird agonizing-debate phase, repeating to myself "The more I do this, the easier it will be to keep doing it."

I think it's working. At the very least, I'm not totally thrown off by the panicky feelings. I know they're coming, so when they come, I'm like, "Hey, time to stand outside and breathe in the air and say nice things to myself until I feel like curling up with some tea." And then I do that, and every once in a while I notice it was easier or more short-lived than the time before.

And, of course, the same momentum is present tenfold in relapse behaviour. That's what happened to me a year ago. It was so gradual that I thought I was still doing fine until I was way, way sick. And by then I could only think, "Well, fuck it. I'm helpless now."

I much prefer the current situation. It's harder to climb than to slide, but the view keeps getting better.

hm said...

So easy to want to just take a break. Just a little one. Just for a minute. But a break is the first step back towards a relapse. Ugh.

Decaire said...

This is so true. It's hard to get,going on the recovery process, but with time it does get easier. Thank you.

Ms. Mettle said...

Great, great post. Thank you so much sharing this metaphor. And yes, it's that "just this one time" that can throw us for a loop.

Brittnie said...

Love this image and I agree with the idea in this post. Was very true for me while I was engaging in ED behaviors and also while I was pursuing recovery. Thanks for sharing.

extralongtail said...

Really helpful post, Carrie :) I too have been struggling a bit recently and I absolutely agree that this model works!

rosieposie said...

I completely agree. I struggle a lot with bingeing, and it takes 3 days of fighting every single thought at every minute to even begin to be able to beat the cycle. at this point my recovery gains momentum. however, relapse into bingeing takes probably a split second, and within five minutes i've completely spiralled!

rachel said...

thank you so much for posting this! it's such a great metaphor and something i really needed to be reminded of this week.

catherineofsiena said...

This is so well explained. Recently I've been having a difficult time, behavior-wise, and a number of people who read my blog/talk with me on a regular basis have brought up the year or so that I "symptom managed" reasonably effectively. They've been asking what's "different" compared to then, and if something "triggers" the behaviors, and I really hadn't been able to come up with anything. Reading this post and agreeing with it, I realized that it's not so much that anything is better or worse now than it was then, but just that I was able to keep managing a somewhat reasonable intake (without purging) because it became regular--I had that momentum. Right now, I'm used to either fasting or binge/purging. It's no longer even "upsetting"; it's just the norm. I've become comfortable with a downward momentum.

Wonderful insight. Thank you! (and your kitty litter!)

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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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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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