Thoughts on Regret in Recovery

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Regret: to feel sorrow or remorse, to think with a sense of loss disappointment of dissatisfaction, a feeling of sorrow or remorse for a fault or act.

Regret is a very common feeling for those with eating disorders and is present throughout the illness and early recovery stages. When active in the disorder sufferers often express regret over eating too much, eating the “wrong” things, missing out on social events, not exercising or purging and pretty much anything else they could have avoided in order to get them closer to their goal (usually a lower weight).

I know personally when I was ill, I would spend hours going over each and every thing that I ate, every movement I did or didn’t make and everything I could have done differently. I would do this review multiple times a day; before and after I ate, times when I knew I should be eating, each time I weighed myself (multiple times a day), every morning and every night. Whenever I would body check, weigh myself or consider eating something, these regrets guided me towards more symptoms and deepened my illness. Examining my life and regretting most of it is what helped keep my eating disorder alive and made recovery almost impossible.

In recovery, regret had a very different role – in fact it has NO role! Recovery is all about looking forward instead of backwards, regret has no place in a mindset like that since it’s single purpose is looking backwards. Looking to the past is a very hard habit to break in recovery but it is ESSENTIAL to reclaiming your life from your eating disorder.

At first giving up regret seems impossible, but rest assured that the more you practice the easier it gets. It’s the same when trying to break any bad habit, it takes time, patience and perseverance. An eating disorder is almost like a really large and complicated knot – at first it seems impossible, but as you start to tease the threads apart, the knot gets easier and easier to loosen.

I found it easiest to start with the small things. When I went to choose something to eat, instead of reviewing past intake and output in order to decide what to eat, I referred to my meal plan and thought about what my dietician would say about my current meal. For instance at afternoon snack time, I didn’t think about any exercise I had done so far or what I had eaten for breakfast and lunch. I knew what I had to eat for snack and disconnected each meal from the others. Afternoon snack was just that – afternoon snack. I would think about what the dietician from treatment would say about my snack and if it wasn’t enough, I would add more. Treating each meal individually is a difficult but important step and a great way to start teasing the knot apart.

After I started disconnecting my meals from each other it was easier to disconnect other things like my food from my weight, and my exercise from my food. My worth and self-esteem are still knotted in with my size, but the whole eating disorder knot is much smaller and more manageable than it used to be. It took me almost 12 years to get to this place, it’s noting to take more than 14 months to get out. Don’t be discouraged if this process takes more time than you would like – recovery is a long process.

There is a quote “don’t look back unless you plan on going that way” and I’m not sure who said it but it is incredibly true. The more you look to the past and take yourself out of the current moment, the more your disorder will cling to you. Whenever you let regret enter your mind, you are living in the past and letting it control you. The past has no place in your future so why are you saving a seat for it?


So, what do you think ?