Coping vs. Hobbies
For those in early to mid-recovery, I hope this post will be motivating for you to keep pursuing recovery, keep being in a body size that feels foreign, and keep eating challenging foods. That is, to keep doing the hard work of recovery. For those in mid-recovery to recovered, I hope this post will encourage you to try a hobby you’ve been curious about. If you don’t know where you’re at in recovery from your eating disorder, here are the ten phases of eating disorder recovery. (<–Would love to hear which phase you are in, in the comments section.)
I remember being in my disordered eating and never being able to relax enough to enjoy a hobby. I found it hard to find pleasure in much when I was in that place, as body dislike and body preoccupation were so invasive in my head. I remember when my sister would play the piano growing up I’d be annoyed with her and I could never quite figure out why it bothered me. Now I realize much of it was jealousy over how could someone be fully engrossed in something like playing music, since that is something the eating disorder made very difficult to do since much of the time I was stuck in my head. The hobbies and activities I engaged in at that time in my life had to be distracting (something that distracted me from the meh I was feeling). That was before I started pursuing recovery.
As I began recovery, the hobbies and activities I engaged in were needed to help me cope. To keep me afloat. Instead of choosing to go to an EDB, I choose to go to an activities (not food or exercise related) to help me cope with the discomfort. Then as I moved into fully recovered, I progressed to hobbies being able to add pleasure to my life, not having to do them solely to distract from or cope with a bad feeling. (Just want to highlight here that I totally still use activities to cope with life when life is hard and I’m not saying now everything is perfect and easy and I never have to cope with anything. If that was the case, I wouldn’t be living in reality.)
A motivation for recovery may be so you’re able to be more present. Finding a hobby you find pleasure in is going to be span from difficult to not-gonna-happen if you aren’t eating enough. If you aren’t eating enough (and eating what you are craving when you are craving it), you will remain distracted by a (healthy and protective) longing for food. So step one to finding a hobby is…consistent eating throughout the day of foods that bring fullness and satisfaction. Eating 3 meals and 3 snacks that align with what you are craving (you may need a non-diet dietitian to help you sort through this) is key. I think practicing going to something other than your eating disorder (aka coping) is healthy and needed, saying, “I’m going to go paint for 30 minutes while I have a snack because I have the urge to engage in an EDB right now and I’m going to focus on delaying the EDB so I can have space to decide what the wise decision for caring for myself is.” Giving yourself space to act out of your values, not your feelings.
If you constantly need a way to cope with life, there is likely a root pain/hurt/issue/trauma that needs to be processed with a therapist. We don’t want to be trading one coping mechanism for another our entire lives and not getting to the root of why coping is needed so often. This isn’t to say you’re doing something wrong if you’re constantly having to cope. Coping is good, because movement towards healing is good. Coping can help you get through really hard times and become more resilient. This is just to say if hobbies feel hard and impossible and like you’ll never be able to enjoy anything fully and be present, hold on! Keep moving through the steps of recovery.
If you are eating enough, over time your brain will start to lose interest in food (you will still be eating all foods regularly throughout the day…the food isn’t going to be taken away once you are recovered!), but it’s not as new and exciting anymore and you can interact with food in a way that doesn’t feel frenzied and stressful. Food becomes pleasant, peaceful, and at times, boring. This is called habituation and is your brain getting used to something. The point of habituation isn’t to burn out on foods so that you never want to eat a certain food again, it’s to be able to feel peaceful around food. Food is still pleasurable in this place, but sometimes food may feel boring. When you’re in this place of recovery, and looking for a hobby, I’d say don’t try to figure out what you’re passionate about, just try anything you’re curious about. For those in ED recovery, finding hobbies beyond food and exercise is important, since your identity in your ED is tied in an unhealthy way to those things.
Recent things I’ve been curious about, include:
Painting. This is the watercolor set I have and love how vibrant the colors are. (affiliate link)
Simply Piano. This app is so good. It’s a bit pricey at around $100, but it is great! I wanted to learn a couple popular songs on piano, mainly the ones I sing to the girls, Better Place and Sweet Baby James, and this app has been so helpful. I actually feel like I’m learning piano, rather than just memorizing a couple songs, which has been fun. It feels like video game meets piano lessons. I love it and look forward to it.
Reading. Just finished the Jessica Simpson memior and now reading Lineage of Grace and (A)typical Woman. Also, I just ordered a Jen Wilkins bible study I’m looking forward to. And then I use Audible if it’s a book I’m not really excited to read, but I want to just get through it for the information (aka every parenting book ever hah and books for work).
Refinishing. I just started refinishing our master bedroom dresser. I really want something that is natural wood, but we’re delaying any big purchases right now so I figured let’s refinish something! The floors in our house are grey wood tile and I don’t like the grey dresser with them, so I’m excited for the natural wood to shine!
I’d love to know what phase of recovery you are in and what are some ways you cope currently or what are some hobbies/interests you’ve gained as or since recovering from your disordered eating?
For those who have recovered, did you notice a shift in your hobbies from needing them to cope and distract from EDBs to being able to participate in them to add pleasure to your life?