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Relapse does not mean failure

The one who falls and gets up is stronger than the one who never tried. Do not fear failure but rather fear not trying.” ― Roy T. Bennett

When you learn a new skill, for example, when you learn to ride a bike or to dance, to begin with, you are going to fall off that bike and you are going to get some dance steps wrong. Yet as you persist and keep trying, keep falling over and getting back up – slowly but surely, you will get better and better. In time, you will very rarely fall off the bike or very rarely get a dance step wrong (of course it still might happen, we are only human) but most of the time, you ride that bike or dance with ease.

Healing yourself from binge eating or comfort eating is just like learning to ride a bike or to dance. Like any other skill you teach yourself, at the beginning, there may be moments that you struggle, there may be times when you feel uncomfortable. You may even relapse and go back to old ways. Yet the key to achieving full recovery and building new patterns of behaviour, is to pick yourself up and keep trying.

Many people I work with decide one day they will “never ever binge/ comfort-eat again” (very often midst binge or comfort-eating session), then when they have a relapse after a few weeks or a month, think that they have failed (sometimes deciding to give up trying to do anything about their disordered eating patterns). It can often be easier just to relax back into old habits and stop trying to change. Yet there is no getting away from the fact that comfort eating and binge eating can make an individual feel awful (incredibly guilty, uncomfortable and out of control). The psychological torment of binge-eating or comfort eating is not something that anyone should have to deal with or resign themselves to just accepting for life.

It can be easy for someone that has just relapsed to feel like a failure. Yet the fact that they are picking themselves up and trying again actually means the very opposite. A good way instead to judge how much you are improving is by looking at whether the frequency of the binges or comfort-eating has reduced. If you have gone from over-eating 3 times a week to once a week – that is HUGE progress! Also think about whether you have been able to stop yourself in the process of over-eating sooner than you usually would – again, that is a HUGE step in the right direction. You can also measure your success by how much better you felt in the period before you binged or comfort ate – you were in that happy place before and you can go back there again.

In the moments and days after a relapse, you have a choice – to pick yourself up and keep going or to just give up and stop trying. When you realise that despite the relapse you are still making progress, despite the minor set-back, you are still getting there – hopefully you will choose to just see the next meal/tomorrow as a new day and start again. In order to be able to achieve success the next morning, it is key that you start the day with a good breakfast and lunch (despite perhaps feeling too full from binge eating or comfort eating the previous evening). Very often the binge and comfort-eating cycle becomes a trap, when an individual starves themselves in the morning, only to become incredibly hungry later on in the day (then feeling the need to over-eat again).

So don’t be too harsh on yourself if you find you have relapsed into old habits once or twice. We are only human and sometimes life throws us curveballs (in these moments we may just slip into old bad habits). You can and will however easily get back on track, keep making progress, keep moving forward! The fact that you want to do this – the fact that you keep trying – the fact that you keep picking yourself up and having another go…will mean that you will get there. You are learning a new way of life, a new response to your emotions and doing this takes a bit of time…but if you persist, if you are kind to yourself when you slip up, if you forgive yourself and start afresh…before you know it, you will be where you want to be.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

― Robert F. Kennedy

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