Eating Disorder Ruts

June 10, 2014 Jessica Hudgens

I've gone through a lot of body changes in the past year as I have worked on recovering from anorexia nervosa. And I’ve definitely done my best to deal with those changes and even accept them, but I’m not looking at myself in the mirror thinking, “Wow! I look great! I’m so glad I’m not sick any more!”

At the same time, I’m not constantly analyzing the way my butt looks in this pair of jeans or that skirt or trying on six different outfits a day like I used to. I don’t think I need to lose weight. I know I might look “better” (whatever that means) if I worked out a bit more, but it’s really not that big a deal to me.

So why do I still want to skip meals at times?

Eating Disorder Ruts

Because my eating disorder was never really about the food or my weight or my body. My eating disorder was how I dealt with life. When I was confused, afraid, overwhelmed, or any other emotion, the answer was simple: restrict. When I felt like I had failed at everything else in my life, there was this one thing I was good at: I could lose weight and lots of it.

Eating Disorders Are Coping Skills

Unfortunately, choosing to recover from your eating disorder doesn’t make these feelings go away. In fact, most of the time, it exacerbates them. That was the worst thing about early recovery, really. The feelings were there and they were intense and the only way I knew to make them go away (the eating disorder) wasn’t an option. There were legitimately times that I thought I was going to die because I was so overwhelmed by pain, grief, or sadness.

I didn’t. Over and over again, I said “no” to my eating disorder and chose a different, healthier coping skill. Over the past year, I’ve become better and better at calling a friend, writing in my journal, or picking up my flute and playing. On the whole, picking a healthy way to cope has become more natural.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that for over a decade, my eating disorder was my go-to coping skill. I spent a lot of time creating that pattern and it's a hard one to get out of.

The Rut of the Coping Skill of an Eating Disorder

When I was a teenager, my family and I traveled the country every summer. One summer we found ourselves at Register Cliff along the Oregon Trail. I distinctly remember standing in the ruts made by wagons over a century before and seeing them come up past my knees.

[caption id="attachment_2904" align="aligncenter" width="325" caption="Photo credit:"]Eating disorders become ingrained habits, like ruts in the ground. This is why going back to eating disorder behaviors can be easy in early recovery.[/caption]

Traveling the same road over and over creates ruts. In rocks and in your brain. And those ruts don't disappear just because you chose a different route. Those ruts will be there for a long time after you've made new choices. Sometimes you'll fall in.

The trick is to get out of those ruts as quickly as possible and back on the road you want to be on. We all know where the well-worn ruts lead.

Jess can also be found on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

APA Reference
Hudgens, J. (2014, June 10). Eating Disorder Ruts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 21 from

Author: Jessica Hudgens

Patricia Lemoine
June, 13 2014 at 12:50 am

It's so true that ruts can re-appear throughout our lives, and take on different shapes, twists and turns as we make our way through recovery.
But you got it right, we've got to get back on the saddle and journey on, because as you say, we don't want to head back to where we come from.
You're awesome Jess! Thanks for a great post again ;)I'm so honored to share this wall with you!!

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