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Does Motivation Matter In Eating Disorder Recovery?

“Does motivation matter in eating disorder recovery” is a frequently asked question by parents in the F.E.A.S.T. community, which is why F.E.A.S.T. Founder Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh has chosen to address this topic in her presentation at our upcoming FEAST of Knowledge conference on March 27.

Laura will be discussing the role of motivation in recovery based on literature, input from eating disorder professionals, and…feedback from you! Yes, Laura is asking for your thoughts–what has your experience been? Does motivation matter? 

This question is open for responses by both caregivers and providers–please submit your answer by filling out this short form. We want to hear from you!

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  1. Sharon

    Absolutely. The ‘sufferer’ needs rhe motivation to dig in and face the scary. Just as those that are driving the recovery need motivation to carry on the fight meal after meal.

    Motivation is linked to hope and goals/dreams. Short and long term focused.

    My opinion is that the war that is being fought internally every single bite, requires acceptance and ultimately the motivation to achieve progress.

  2. Jenny

    Hi! My daughter is very motivated to heal. She asked for help. Her therapist gave her a 10/10 for motivation. She is open to any treatment, and even her dietician is very impressed with her openness. She shares her thoughts and feelings and will usually try eat what I’ve requested. That said, it is still 1 1/2 years in, and she struggles. I don’t know how parents do it with no motivation (GAH!) but I do know the struggle will be there until her brain heals, regardless of motivation. So my thought is that whether you’re patient has motivation or not, fight the fight and get the food in!

  3. Laurel

    I agree with Jenny. My girl is motivated and has great insight but the disorder is sticky and sneaky. I found chocolate from supper in the driveway 2 days ago. She hid the chocolate from me (I thought it was eaten) and then threw it out the window when I went to bed. This happened despite her motivation. She told me her disorder led her to believe that the chocolate was ‘extra’ that day. You have to be vigilant. Motivation is amazing but it can placate you into believing the nightmare is over. We all want this over but this disorder is pure evil. Don’t trust recovery until the thoughts are gone. Food is the medicine. No compromise on any meal.

    • Dawn Huddleston MSN, RN

      I absolutely believe motivation is key and does matter in recovery. This comes from my daughter who basically states she is not ready or motivated to recover from her ED. She believes ED is her family right now, a solace, a comparison and comfort. She truly has to be willing and wanting to use other coping strategies to deal with her emotions. She has many friends, family, neighbors, teachers and resources around her ready and willing to help support her to break the terrible reigns of ED. She has to decide and she has to be willing to let go of the control and choose to trust us over ED. It is heartbreaking to see my 13 year old suffer as she has over the past 2 years despite 3 inpatient treatment centers, PHP and outpatient and regular therapy. It is like a terrorist has taken over part of my daughter’s brain and we are raging war to get her back! She reminds us however that ultimately it is her choice and her fight. I lovingly and firmly remind her that I love her and hate her ED and will fight for her until the end! So, yes, motivation it Key! If the afflicted and tortured lacks motivation to change, please don’t give up no matter what!! Remind your loved one that their suffering comes from the lies they are choosing to believe. Hang on tight! Fight like hell!!

      Dawn Huddleston
      Mother Against ED

  4. AG

    Thanks for sharing you stories but I was wondering if anybody has any suggestions in conversing u child they need help My son is 2: and says it a disease he will always have and lives on a survival mode Very harsh words for a parent to accept And advice much appreciate

  5. Michelle

    Very few individuals with an ED will choose recovery. I speak as a parent of a child in recovery and as someone in recovery from my own ED. Waiting for an individual to want to get better is what keeps individuals sick, often for many years. Insisting on refeeding a child may seem impossibly hard but it is the only way to ensure adequate weight gain and full nutritional rehabilitation until the brain and body are healed enough for them to want it themselves. Much harder with an adult I know though not impossible.

  6. Joern

    Some thoughts from a Fathers side.
    I think each kid wants this bloddy disease to go away.
    Yet the disease does strike back all too often; and it wins. It is a very hard way out.

    Motivation and a clear goal is key to this disease. From my point of view.
    Discussions do not work, but giving motivation and one clear target can make a difference.
    Motivate and reminding of a clear goal, over and over again.

  7. Ricarda Gerlinghaus

    As someone who has once suffered from Anorexia nervosa (for almost 15 years), I would like to share my opinion, that motivation is indeed crucial, but only a part of the whole picture.
    There might be biological dynamics underlying the disorder (which is still an underresearched field), however this cannot replace the psychological approach (nor are the researchers suggesting it could).
    You cannot make someone want to live, no matter how much food you put into someone. Physical restoration and “lifestyle decisions” are not the same thing. Let me be clear: noone makes a choice to get an eating disorder, but becoming well again has a lot to do with choice. And motivation plays one important role in making that choice.
    That leads me to another very important argument: as Laurel’s daughter, I’d been saying for years, that I wanted to get well and I meant it. I talked to my psychotherapists openly, to my parents aswell, I tried to get and accept help from whereever it was offered. What I didn’t quite capture at the time is, what letting go of the eating disorder actually meant for me to do. Being motivated to achieve a certain outcome sounds great until you realize the details of the path that leads towards that goal. It took me 8 weeks at a specialized german clinic in order to realize that getting rid of an eating disorder requires that I make a choice of how I want to live and follow that decision with the same discipline, integrity, perseverance and consequence I applied on self-destructive behaviour. I also had to realize that if I make this choice, this will require me to change my life today – not in 2 months, not in 2 weeks, not even in 2 hours. I had to realize that getting well meant to let go of ANY symptomatic behaviour and have the trust that I will learn how to solve my problems / deal with my fears / deal with the ED-voice/ etc. along the way. This is when I forced myself to eat, no matter how many tears were running down my cheeks, how disgusting the food taste in my mouth or how loud the ED-voice inside my mind was yelling at me. I stopped using any balances (for food or body). It was horrible – but I had made a strong decisicon KNOWING that this decision would lead me through hell, first. Of course, this again requires being clear of what symptomatic behaviour is and not fool yourself about that. You have to be able to distinguish clearly between the anorectic voice and your own and not let yourself be tempted to confuse them again.
    Strong decisions require being clear about the line between your own voice and the ED-voice, being clear about the consequences of your decision AND still find the motivation to follow through, no matter how hard it may be.
    I hope this provides some useful insights. Keep your hopes up! Every anorectic has the integrity, discipline, consequence, etc. I mentioned above. That will help them with recovery.

    • Stephanie

      As a parent (17y/o dau, 1.5 yrs in) participating in recovery, I have seen my daughter recover her weight and physical health, but can see that the ED is still with us. So hard to convince her and others that she still needs to work at recovery when the scale says differently. THIS says it. “Physical Restoration and Lifestyle Decisions are not the same thing.” YOUR comment explains it beautifully. Thank you.

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