New Thinking About Eating Disorder Recovery

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Hello Everyone,

I've just stepped a tiny toe into a new realm of thinking for me, and I invite you to see it unfold. I think we need a new map to find what we need on this site. Will you help?


Eating disorders create chaos in a person's life and mind.  Even a person whose eating disorder involves taking rigid control suffers from this chaos.  What she controls, like her food, her obsessive exercise, her forceful expectations on other people and her search for perfection in all things still creates a life full of personal, financial and medical problems. People suffering from bulimia or overeating or binge eating seek to control their emotional lives as well as their bodies and life situations through their eating methods and still, life can be unmanageable.

So I've been writing this blog based on the theory that the site will organize my article into appropriate categories I've created and that just about anything I write will be relevant to somebody's situation, depending on where they are in their eating disorder, e.g. no recovery, beginning recovery, onging recovery, post recovery and in psychological development and maturation focus stage.

This has been effective. Many people read this blog and let me know how articles and discussions help them.

But I've been noticing that the "self help" category is getting huge.  That needs to be streamlined so you can get to what you want and need in a more efficient way.

My book, Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder, is divided into chapters, each chapter covering a different life situation.  That's been working fine for readers. But we can be much more dynamic and flexible on the site and, eventually, in e-books.

So I'm starting a study of a different way of organizing.  It may take me a while to get clear on it.  I'm studying the new work of  a cognitive science left brain professor, Robert Glushko, from Berkeley and find what he has to say inspiring and motivating.  I'm excited about the possibilities.

I'm especially thinking about the whole concept of contextual thinking regarding eating disorders and just about everything else.  Eating disorders can create an obsessive tunnel vision kind of life for a person. You focus on what is a major matter of concern for you.  You act on it. You hide from it. You act out over it. You keep thinking about it.  Contextual thinking involves broadening your vision so you pay more attention to what is going on around you while you are having your experience.  It's like switching from a close up portrait to a picture where the background is included. For us, both the close up and the picture in context is required.

And, Glushko has me thinking about organizing by dimensions rather than categories.  I'm still not clear on what that means: level of recovery, kinds of obsessions, or types of emotions or more.

You can help as I go through this learning and experimental process.  

  • When you are looking for help, what are you looking for?
  • What kind of emotional state are you in?
  • What information helps you?
  • What kind of tone or emotion within the article or discussion helps you?

Help is such a general word.  I'm using it because I'm still thinking and am stuck in "sef help."
Help could mean: rescue, stability, inspiration, solace, comfort, soothing, motivation, reassurance, new direction. new resources, understanding, appreciation, confidence, knowledge, spiritual strength.  These might even be dimensions of organizing.

Please let me know your thoughts about this.  

What kind of organization would help you find what you want faster, more easily and in a way that is more useful to you?

 I want to know what it's like for you to be on the Internet looking for something, even if you are not sure about what you are looking for.  

  • What makes you stop at a site or an article?
  • What touches you so that you continue to read?
  • What's it like to flit from site to site and article to article, not finding what you want?  
  • Do you know what you want?
  • Are you hoping to find an answer to a question or a situation that you can't articulate in your own mind?
  • Does an occasion where you have to show up send you looking for help?
  • Does an anniversay trigger you and send you looking for help?
  • Does some acting out or potential to act out motivate you to look for what might help?
  • Are you faced with a difficult decision?

Your responses will help me think differently about how to organize the content on this site so it is more helpful to you.  Glushko said, "The content is not the experience. The book is the experience."
I've heard that before but didn't understand it until now.  At least I have a beginning of an understanding.  

If we, together, can find these different dimensions or categories or reasons or feelings you have that motivate you to search then I can create a better way for you to find.  And when we use these dimensions or categories then the process of searching and finding becomes more of a healing experience for you than just reading an article that pops up or searching around in the vast category of self-help.  Simply looking for what you want and need can be beneficial in itself when we organize according to what you need and in a way that is meaningful to you.

Please let me know how you think about these questions and answer what you can.  This is a big job I'm beginning. I'm certain that it will be more effective and eventually more useful to you if we do some of it together.

*pix  This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.


0 # Need to think about thisshh 2013-11-25 01:36
Joanna, I will have a think about this and get back to you, but my initial thoughts are that a lot of the answers are not present in conscious thought at the time of seeking help, the most valuable articles can be the ones we didn't look for or initially dismissed or found uncomfortable to read. There is often more value in reading and digesting the stuff that you wouldn't automatically choose to read, or start to read and dismiss as boring or not relevant, and reflecting upon that and how it may or may not be applicable to the self, than the stuff that you thought you wanted to  read.
0 # thinkingpinkjoanna 2013-11-25 09:55
I agree, Shh.  I agree that often the real need is not in conscious thought.  I'm hoping to create a system that taps into those unconscious needs so that the system I offer you to find information and recovery support is also a way to create more self awareness.

My first step, now that I've found an inspiring teacher, Glushko, is to increase my own awareness of your needs and thus possible ways to provide a better system.

My hunch is that, like most complex projects, this will evolve - probably gently and slowly as I study, learn and listen to you and other readers' responses.

Thank you for thinking about this with that fine mind of yours, Shh.
0 # Joanna, this is massive!shh 2013-11-25 17:23

I have tried this evening to go back over my journey to date, thinking about how I have used the internet and this site for help, but it is vast with many side-shoots and so many things happening simultaneously.

To generalise the process of looking for help, for me it begins with looking to identify with what the writer is describing, someone in a similar situation or with similar symptoms; then I am looking for a bit of empathy for how it feels to be in that situation - I guess collectively I'm looking to feel understood. From there I need hope and reassurance - there is an answer or there can be a happy ending, and then the "how", how to achieve the positive outcome, hopefully with some tasks or ideas that can help me to start moving in that direction.

Things that put me off when I read things online are articles with too much marketing or self-promotion, anything that is very repetitive or too preachy, articles that are too low level and don't have enough depth, and occasionally articles that are in some way triggering ( resulting in anger, general resistance, dissociation).

I managed to isolate lots of scenarios at different points along my journey when I've felt I needed help, several where I've not really been able to find the help I needed - which seem to fall down at the identification stage - I just wasn't able to find anything relating to similar situations.

I can also see very clearly now in hindsight examples of attachment issues, projection and transference, that left me feeling very needy and in search of help, but despite having a basic understanding of those concepts, I still couldn't recognise them at the time when I was in the throes of it all, I truly believed that how things felt and how I perceived them were how they really were. ...and question whether in some ways it was important that I remained unaware, in order to derive better longer-term therapeutic benefit from them?

If you would like me to get into more detail and specifics Joanna - just let me know, I just didn't want to write an essay if that's not the level of detail you're looking for.





0 # massivepinkjoanna 2013-11-25 18:10

This is great.  Thank you.  And bring it on. I so appreciate the depth and quality of your thinking.

Yes, I am talking about a massive change here.  This is a huge project.  You see yourself that looking for the connections has some benefits.

I'm looking to create a system - not all at once - it's a big project - that acknowledges and works from the seeker's state and brings many different kinds of possible relevant resources.

The lovely word I've learned is transclusion.  It goes far beyond simply hitting a url for info relevant to what you are reading.

I'm back in kindergarten and loving it.  Very exciting stuff.  Hard, challenging, but I think definitely worth the effort.

So yes, share anything you've a mind to.  My hunch is that it will help both of us as well as readers who find this conversation.

It's a new adventure, or at least, what I consider adventure.   :-)
0 # Jumping inmylifex2 2013-12-01 19:30
I'm trying to remember how I found this site. I was in the throes of starvation and desperate for information that would help me.  I believe I was looking for information that would help me understand WHY I was doing this to myself and how I could get "better". I remember feeling so desperate. 

I had started therapy again and was having a ton of anxiety.  When I found your site I was so excited to learn that you understood from first hand experience what it was I was going through. I had to order your book because my Barnes and Noble did not have copies. 

Despite your advice not to, I devoured the book in one or two days.  I have read it three times total, more slowly the second and third times.  I wanted to know how I could fix myself quickly. But this is no quick fix!

I found your tone in both your book and your blogs to be patient and reassuring,  offering hope to me that if you could get better I could.  I also stopped feeling so ashamed and guilty about my ED - after all, you have been very candid. 

i like the format of your site, but I support your desire to change it for the better.

i find myself, once again, needing information on something going on in my life. We don't talk much about this situation on this site and I need help. 
I have been engaging in self-injury and I am quite ashamed. I know how my past abuse ties into this, but I am wondering if this has been an issue with other people here.

I would like to know how many other women here have co-morbid issues. I think people with active ED's are very complex.  I know my treatment is multi-dimensional.  We are discussing a treatment center once again. 

On that note, how does one know when inpatient is warranted?  After all, most of us are masters of denial and good at minimizing.  


I'm not sure I am helping to answer your questions.  I just know that so often your posts are very timely. I like how you often post on holidays. This is often a stressful time for people with ED's-especially with family and food as triggers.

I like how the forums are set up to address people's issues at different times in their recovery, but sometimes I don't feel my post fits in any off them. Perhaps those areas could be streamlined and made more specific? 

I am so grateful to have stumbled upon your site! I have learned a lot and grown. I have set backs but know I can come here for encouragement.  I appreciate your candor as well. I look forward to seeing where this experiment goes.  I am glad it is something that gives you pleasure. You are genuine in all you do and say.

Laura R
0 # why I come hereLaura R 2013-12-06 16:49
Some of the reasons I am so hooked on your site Joanna are that I get to be part of an authentic caring community and have direct dialogue/exchange with you and everyone else via the blog and the forum.

I also highly value how your blogs are so rich in context and content. You always give me something to think about, ask myself, dig into. I come knowing there is always an opportunity for learning. I feel "invited" to work on my recovery when I'm here. I like that your tone is part teacher, part wise sage, part encouraging journey companion. Your words mean a lot.

No matter what you write, I always find something in your blogs and in others' comments that I can relate to. Often what you write about is exactly what I'm needing in the moment. It's kind of magical. I also like that the forum gives me an opportunity to be supported and support others. It feels good to give back.

When I come to the site in an emotional state, it's often with feelings of stuck, not feeling understood, going back and forth over a decision or wondering if what I'm experiencing is "normal."

In fact, I'm going through a time right now where I'm feeling a bit beside myself and stuck about how to handle a recovery issue and there are different options and my team has different opinions. I know if I write about it on the forum that it's highly likely someone from this caring community will have a story to share or some advise or encouragement (It's around the scale and whether to continue to let my team weigh me, give up weighing altogether which I'm not ready for, or try trusting myself to use a scale responsibly once every two to four weeks). It's pretty wonderful to know people are here and willing to help.

I will write more as I think of it.


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