Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

By Nikki Rollo, PhD, LMFT


Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Making the decision to come into a treatment program or enter therapy takes great strength and courage….and it doesn’t just stop there. Each day in the treatment process requires making a choice to engage from a place of vulnerability and authenticity, dig a little deeper emotionally, and practice new things.

While you quickly learn that recovery is a winding process full of ups and downs, the steps forward and steps back can be hard to accept. Sometimes it might feel like you are moving along at a great pace and then something happens and everything changes. Things either slow down or start moving very quickly. It can be hard to feel into what is right. Even though we have the knowledge that relapse is a part of the process and healing takes time, here are some things that you “might” be feeling and experiencing:

  • You might find yourself growing impatient.
  • You might be wondering if all of this work is going to pay off.
  • You might even feel ambivalent about whether you want recovery at all, asking yourself, Do I want to keep going at this?
  • You might have experienced the urge to leave treatment before your treatment team recommends.
  • You might have even acted on this urge and left.
  • You might be considering going back.
  • You might find yourself hesitating to take on the challenges that your team thinks you are ready to practice.
  • You might be wondering: How fast is slow enough? How slow is fast enough? How do I know if I am moving along and making progress at the “right” pace?

With the above “mights” to guide us, here are some ideas for exploring this idea of pace in recovery: 

Recognize Your Courage: if you are reading this blog, you have somehow made your way to this website and are exploring these recovery-oriented ideas- that alone takes courage. Think about all the things you have done toward recovery- no matter how small- that took courage. Make a list of these things. Revisit it often. Add to it. Finding your pace requires a recognition of where you are. Often, we are drawn to the negative and focus on our failures. Recognizing your courage asks you to focus on the things you are doing right and the ways in which you are building your courage in recovery.

Practice Patience: It is common to feel impatient with this forward and backward quality of recovery. It is human nature to want things in life to happen quickly in the most comfortable way possible. Sometimes when we are uncomfortable we want to run and get out of the situation as soon as possible. With treatment and recovery, take a minute. Consider what would happen if you stayed in the discomfort with patience and mindfulness. It is a practice and there are new opportunities every day. 

Make a Plan: An essential part of recovery, setting the pace, and handling relapses is to have a plan. Where do you want to go? What is the goal? There are probably a series of smaller goals and a few bigger ones. Make a plan with your team about how you will move toward each of these goals. What action steps do you need to take? What will you do when you feel urges to engage in eating disorder behaviors? What are your alternatives? What will you do if or when you act on the urge? How will you seek support? Who will be your support? Setting the pace and making a plan involves asking a lot of questions and coming up with the best possible ideas for how you will respond in the moment. 

Challenge Yourself: Give yourself a push. It might be uncomfortable. But try it out. Maybe there is a food your dietitian has been challenging you to try. Maybe there is some emotional work that needs to be done in therapy. Consider your fears, honor them, understand them, and then keep moving toward them. You will learn something from trying.

Pacing yourself in recovery is an art form. It’s dynamic, fluid, and asks us to be tuned in to our authentic inner voice. Often times you can do more than you think you are capable of doing. Putting together courage and patience can give you the strength to make a plan and challenge yourself toward a recovered life.