The CLEAR way to recovery from disordered eating

what it takes to recoverWhen I look at my practice over the last 12 years or so, and think of all the clients who have come to me with disordered eating of some type, I am struck by the commonalities linking those who succeed and those who stop coming. I find the same in the 12-step program I’ve been part of for over 35 years, and in my own recovery.

The acronym to help you recover from disordered eating is CLEAR, which stands for:  Commitment, Learning, Experimentation, Appreciation and Respect. Below is a brief overview of each, which I’ll elaborate on in time.


is essential. Commitment —  to yourself, to the recovery process, and to what’s possible — means not quitting, and hanging in when the going gets tough, despite setbacks. Because setbacks happen. And relapses happen. For most people. Count on it. Take a break if you need to, but don’t quit.


learning to recover from disordered eatingis crucial, because learning brings about change. Learning about yourself and what makes you tick. Learning about your emotions, your thoughts, your particular triggers – foods, people, places, things, situations. And most importantly, learning from your mistakes. And you are bound to make mistakes. If you can learn something, then, to paraphrase my father, your mistakes won’t be a total waste.



means you do things differently. Not everything all at once, but bit by bit. You try something out, once. If it works, do it again. Or modify it. Through trial and error, you discover what works for you, and what doesn’t. Because whatever it is you are currently doing or have done in the past is no longer effective. The behavior patterns you’ve built up over the years – those are unlikely to disappear without being replaced by something more effective.


means you give yourself credit for every little thing (and big thing) you do (or no longer do) for your recovery, which can be a long and difficult process. You become your own cheerleader. If you make a mistake, then good for you for noticing, for trying, for catching it. You catch a food-thought in mid-sentence and don’t act on it, bravo! Appreciation of yourself and everything in your life will nourish your spirit more than junk food.


respect for your recoverycovers a lot of territory. Respect for the havoc that disordered eating brings to your life. Respect for your recovery process, and for the pain you’ve used food (or restriction) to hide from. Respect for the courage you’ve shown to embark on this path. Respect for your actual needs and wants. Respect for your body and mind and spirit.


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