Tip Day: How to get back on track

I was rather sick yesterday (one of those 24-hour virus thingies), so the tip day post got shifted to today.  In last month's scientific random poll, one of the requested topics was how to pick yourself back up after a slip.  Ask and ye shall receive, my dearest readers.

{{Share any other ideas you might have in the comments section or drop me an email at carrie@edbites.com Because I suck at coming up with these, so help me out!}}

1. Do the next right thing.  I'm taking this line straight out of Jenni Schaefer's book Life Without Ed.  But it's what I tell myself when I slip.  Do the next right thing.  If I exercise too much, I take an extra rest day.  If I were to purge, I would drink an Ensure to make up for the calories.  If I were to binge, I would eat the next meal or snack.  Once becomes twice becomes...disaster. 

2. Respect yourself.  Yeah, yeah--the ED behaviors feel good in the short-term.  But in the long run?  They totally eat away at my self-respect.  I'm lying.  I'm bitchy.  I'm miserable.  I suck up vast sums of money first for ED behaviors and then for treatment.  My body dysmorphia may make me twitchy now--it does!--but it's nothing compared to the self-hatred of relapse.  So sing it with me: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

3. Don't beat yourself up.  Relapse is exceedingly common.  I don't know anyone who has recovered without a relapse.  This isn't a blank check to give into urges because you're f*cked anyway (been there, done that, got the ill-fitting t-shirt), but it is to treat yourself with grace and compassion.  You screwed up.  No amount of self-flagellation is going to change that so stop wasting your time and effort.  Put your effort into tip #1.

4. Take it seriously.  It's one slip, right?  Just once.  There's no need to mention it to my therapist or doctor or support people.  They don't need to know.  Not that you have to wear a sandwich board advertising that you slipped, but you do need to be honest.  That means: telling your therapist. It also means telling your support people when they ask "How have you been?"  We all need our little secrets, but this ain't one of them.

5. Think of your therapist.  Yes, I'm Facebook friends with a former therapist, which is an odd but rather 21st-century situation.  But when I'm making a status update, I ask myself what she might think if I updated my true status rather than my most recent decline into the state of crazy cat lady (my purchases at the grocery store were cottage cheese, kitty litter, and Prozac).  There are things I'd rather not reveal--how awful my cramps are or the nasty thing that Aria coughed up the other morning--but I wouldn't go out of my way to conceal them, either.  So if I don't want my ex-therapist to know what I'm up to, then there's probably something wrong.

6. Reach out.  When I struggle, I tend to isolate.  So one of the most powerful things for me to do after a slip is to go be around people again.  It might mean seeing if a friend wants to catch a movie or grab some dinner.  As much as I preached honesty, you don't need to let the random chick from your psychology class in on all the nasty details.  You can say you're having a bad day, or you're bored, or you need to get out of the house before you lose your freaking mind.

7. De-brief yourself.  After you have gotten back on track, it can help to look at what started to go wrong and when.  Were there triggers you hadn't anticipated?  Did you have coping skills you didn't/couldn't/wouldn't use?  One of the most useful things for me is learning where I could have intervened.  At what point should I have reached out?  If I really didn't realize anything was wrong until behaviors had already unfolded, what are the signs that I missed?  Sometimes the slips seem to come out of the blue, but generally, they don't.

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Haley said...

Thank you so much for this post!
I personally tend to be WAY too hard on myself after a slipup. What you said about forgiving yourself and moving on is definitely very important in recovery. Thanks for the reminder. You're a great support system for me whether you know it or not!
<3 Haley

Carrie Arnold said...


I am honored to be a part of your support system. I'm heading to bed with a smile on my face.


Ally said...

Goodness yes Carrie, you are a vital part of my relapse prevention! And this post is another great piece of that puzzle I'm slowly constructing.

I too tend to isolate when I'm feeling 'low' (hello, nice euphamism), and I'm terrible at telling people anything about my situation - so if I need to reach out I aim for friends with lots of problems of their own. I take them out for a coffe, and just let them do all the talking :)

Gets me out of the house (and out of my head), and helps a friend - which is nice for my self-esteem too.

Ashley @ 365 things said...

Thanks for this post. I found that I have been slipping lately. I keep decreasing my cals and the # on the scale is decreasing, but I keep kidding myself that it's not really 'fat' that is just water or something else. I'm at the low end of healthy, so I don't need to be losing. I really need to get a grip. I don't go below the 'lowest healthy calorie intake,' but it still doesn't seem healthy to be eating only this much. I'm so scared to bring my intake back up to maintenance because I fear I will gain from it. Ugh. I was doing really well at one point. Everything else in my life is so good except for this. It really drains the life out of EVERYthing.

hm said...

GREAT tips, Carrie. #1 is fantastic, and had never crossed my mind- do the next right thing. What an incredible, not black-and-white thing to say- a slip-up doesn't mean "I just failed so wtf, who even cares now"- instead it can be fixed in the next correct step. That is HUGE! And so simple, like balancing an equation. Why crumple the paper if you added 13 when you shouldn't have? Just subtract the 13, and continue. Beautiful! I can't get over it. Thank you!

I'd also add a preemptive measure: Set up a support/accountability system while you're healthy. You've got your blog- if you isolated and stopped upkeep on it, all kinds of people would wonder what was going on with you- or your other option would be to keep the blog up but under false pretenses, which would be uncomfortable for you, I'm sure. So your blog keeps you accountable. I'm not brave enough to go public with my disorder and my recovery, but I set up a group email system where I send out regular recovery updates to a group of my closest, trustworthy friends and family members- it's incredible for my accountability, because if I stop updating, inevitably one of the people on my list will shoot me an email or a phone call and ask what's up and why they haven't heard anything in a while. I find that when in the dark of disordered thinking, I don't think to reach out- but having people in the know who will reach out to me when I'm isolating is a great way to stay accountable- because when presented with the options of either ignoring them (and possibly hurting their feelings) or lying in response to them (and feeling like a dirtbag), I find that I'd rather swallow my pride and admit I'm struggling. The truth of that then gives me impetus to get back on track.

Colleen said...

i needed this. thank you

unbeautiful said...

Thanks for this.

erinire said...

This is very important to remember, whether with ED or some other ill-fated coping mechanism. I couldn't have put it any better myself.

Anonymous said...

this really helped me, thanks so much! Such great advice :)

Have a fantastic day!


Missy said...

Do you know I savor your blog and you mean so much to me? You do now.
Thank you and thank yourself. This post? Fresh from the mouth of one who get's it and makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Cause it ain't about drinking green tea and taking a bath..lol.

Thank you. <---Can I say that enough?

Carrie Arnold said...


I totally laughed when I read your comment. Why? I just made myself a nice, warm mug of green tea to lull myself to sleep. ;)

Anonymous said...

Love the tips, especially #1. I always like the tip I've heard Thom Routledge say, "When can you start over?" Answer: "Right now". You don't have to wait till tomorrow or the next week, but as you put it "just do the next right thing."

Unknown said...

You wrote these words three and a half years ago. I am so glad I came across them today. Thank you.

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About Me

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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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