STAGES OF INTEGRATION
These were initially published in the 8 Keys secrets and have been updated here.
1. You engage in eating disorder behaviors with no real understanding of a separate Eating Disorder Self. You feel like your behaviors are you. Even if you want to get better, the idea that you have an Eating Disorder Self and a Healthy Self might never have crossed your mind or may seem stupid, frustrating, or belittling.
2. You begin to notice that there are eating disorder thoughts that are different from other healthy thoughts you have, but you believe your Eating Disorder Self is the main you or the way you are. You experience ambivalence about getting better or engaging in eating disorder behaviors, but do not fully recognize this as your Eating Disorder Self and Healthy Self or know what to do about it. Others might point out that you seem like two different people at times. Your awareness of these two conflicting aspects of yourself increases during this phase, but you do not think it is possible to get your Healthy Self back in control.
3. In this stage, you see there is a Healthy Self inside you who knows what to say to other people, but not to yourself. You begin to see this healthy part of you has been repressed or overshadowed, and you would like to reinstate its control over your life. You may make attempts to challenge your eating disorder, but then still engage in the behaviors. You may need someone to help you in determining which part of you is your Healthy Self and which part is your Eating Disorder Self. You may doubt this philosophy or technique will work for you and need a lot of encouragement in order to keep trying.
4. At this stage, you have experienced your Healthy Self talking back to your Eating Disorder Self and are beginning to understand that the real fight is inside of you. You are better at recognizing when it is your Eating Disorder Self talking and better at challenging and responding to this voice from your Healthy Self. You realize that you need to not only challenge the Eating Disorder Self, but also learn from it and discover what it is doing for you.
5. During this stage, there is a lot of battling going on between your Eating Disorder Self and your Healthy Self. Your Healthy Self is getting stronger and beginning to take charge more often, but it is not stronger than the Eating Disorder Self yet. This stage takes some time, as your Healthy Self continues to learn the most effective ways to talk and respond to your Eating Disorder Self.
6. In this stage, your Healthy Self continues getting stronger until it catches up and then surpasses the strength of your Eating Disorder Self. At first your Eating Disorder Self and Healthy Self might seem to be equally in control, both winning about 50 percent of the time. As your Healthy Self increasingly wins out over your Eating Disorder Self, it gets reinforced, making it more likely to happen again. Even though there may long periods of no progress or even setbacks, over time you will notice your Healthy Self in control more and more of the time.
7. Your Healthy Self is now in control of your eating disorder symptoms most of the time. Your Eating Disorder Self still sneaks in and takes over during times of stress or great difficulty. You feel like you need to be constantly vigilant to keep the eating disorder symptoms at bay. Sometimes you might even experience a bout of eating disorder behavior, but then you get back on track with your Healthy Self in charge again.
8. Your Healthy Self is in charge, but remnants of your Eating Disorder Self are still around. You are not using overt eating disorder behaviors, but you still have eating disorder thoughts. You may also be doing other behaviors that are not technically eating disordered, but could easily be a slippery slope backwards, like weighing yourself, trying to lose a little weight, body checking, or exercising too much. In this stage, you are able to make decisions from your Healthy Self, but your Eating Disorder Self is still lurking around, just not being acted upon. People often mistake this stage and the next stage as recovered, which can be discouraging because it feels like you will have to remain on high alert for the rest of your life in order to protect yourself from acting on eating disorder thoughts or tendencies. But this is not the end, there is more. It gets better.
9. In this stage, it feels like your Eating Disorder Self is no longer in charge and not even around, so your eating disorder might really be gone, but you are careful and worried it might come back. You can still remember what it was like, you still occasionally think about it or what it might be like to engage in a behavior, but you do not really want to. You definitely feel like you are in recovery, but are not yet sure or confident enough to say it is gone and you are recovered. Again, this is not the end, but you will be here for a while to solidify things. It is hard to know when you will move from recovering to being recovered. You won’t wake up one day and it is gone, but over time you will realize you think about it less and less until one day you realize it is gone for good. Then you will be in the last and final stage.
10. This is not even a stage you are whole again. You are not thinking in terms of Healthy Self or Eating Disorder Self anymore. You have no interest in or urge toward eating disorder behaviors, and no thoughts or pulls in that direction. You are not vigilant or on guard in case your Eating Disorder Self speaks up or comes back. You turn to other people to get your needs met, or handle things on your own. You are not thinking this is your Healthy Self in control, but rather this is who you are a person without an eating disorder. Your Eating Disorder Self and Healthy Self are integrated. You are recovered.
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