There is an inaccurate belief that “rehab” or treatment is a 30 day process. There is a misconception that in 30 days anyone can be “fixed” or “cured” when it comes to eating disorders, addiction, and mental health. This belief results in increased anxiety and frustration for the individual working towards recovery and their loved ones. It leads to unrealistic expectations and hopelessness after treatment when the individual continues to face challenges. It’s no surprise that there is a desire to quantify and put a timeline on treatment because most things in our world today are done quickly or at least we have an expectation of when it will be completed. “Oh, my package can’t arrive today? Wow, it’s going to take 3 whole days!” Or “You can’t get that document to me by the end of the day? I guess tomorrow is ok.” This is a face-paced culture. Recovery, however, is much more successful when it is slowed down.
Recovery is a process of undoing and re-creating. Eating disorder recovery requires curiosity about where messages and beliefs about food come from and how that has infiltrated behavior patterns. If those behaviors aren’t working, the thinking patterns and belief system will also need adjusting. If only the behaviors are changed, but the beliefs remain strongly intact, it is likely that the individual will resort back to old behaviors.
Recovery is more effective and longer-lasting for the tortoise (rather than the hare). It’s hard to be intentional when working as quickly as possible. Setting goals towards recovery may look like wanting to not engage in any ED behaviors. Depending on the severity of behaviors this goal is going to take some time to work towards and will need to be broken into several smaller goals. Setting too high of expectations or unrealistic goals may result in feelings of failure, defeat, and hopeless may result when this is not accomplished. These may be some of the emotions that fuel urges and behaviors so it is then even harder to have desired outcomes. Looking at this goal in a slowed-down process may look like wanting to eventually not engage in ED behaviors and having patience while learning and practicing new ways to engage with food.
Recovery is a lifelong journey rather than a destination or project to be completed by a certain deadline. This perspective acknowledges that the relationship with food and body is ever-changing. A slow-paced approach may not sound as enticing and assured as being “recovered in 30 days” – although it is the reality of recovery. Those who live in a 30-days to recovery mindset can often find themselves in and out of treatment over and over again. Slow and steady recovery is effective in creating change that is intentional, lasting, and meaningful.