At Cielo House were are no strangers to recovery ambivalence. We know all too well the internal tug-of-war between the part of you that actively wants to get better, and the part that isn’t so convinced the gains of recovery outweigh the losses. Not to mention the fact that lasting recovery requires sitting in the uncomfortable mental, emotional, and physical place where change takes place. When motivation wanes, it’s important to have tools in your back pocket that will help motivate you to stay the course. Here are a few to consider:
-Make the choice to recover…over and over again.
I have yet to meet a person made a “one-and-done”decision to pursue recovery. In reality, it is something you to choose on a daily basis. It’s easy to give up out of shame, frustration or fatigue. Know that the temptation is perfectly normal, and while you can give in, you don’t have to. Consciously recommit to your goal(s) regardless of what have happened the day before.
-Don’t do it alone.
We are designed to live and be in relationship. Seeking external support is vital. Don’t let fear (of being a burden, possible rejection, etc) lead you to isolate. Identify trusted loved ones you feel safe opening up to- it can be hard to feel like they may not ever fully “get”what you are going through, but their support still can be valuable. Connect with others who have been in your position if you can. There’s even a wide breadth of pro-recovery communities and resources online.
-Embrace the challenge.
If not embrace it, at least accept it for what it is. More than likely, you’re having to counter-condition yourself away from a way of being that has taken years to become entrenched. By resisting the process or settling for the easy way out, you’re only increasing the time and space between you and your desired outcome.
-Consider how you’ll feel if you stick with it.
If you’re at a crossroads, faced with the decision to either give in or keep pushing forward, consider how you’ll feel on the other side of your decision. Giving into your impulse might give you immediate relief, but what about in the long term? Keep in mind, when it comes to recovery and pulling at the weeds which led to the development of the disorder in the first place, the best way “out”is often “through”.
-Recognize you have a say in how it goes.
Part of any type of healing and/or recovery involves active engagement on your part. So, to some extent (taking into account circumstances beyond your control) the outcome of this process is up to you. You get to be an active member of the process. Knowing this can be somewhat daunting, but also incredibly empowering. Choose your mindset. Choose to live the way you would if you fully believed you were worth it, and recovery was achievable (because it is!).
Remind yourself why you decided to change in the first place
Perhaps you want to improve your relationships, achieve the quality of life you are capable of, or live a life congruent to your values. Sometimes you need to consider harsher truths, such as the severe impact an eating disorder can have on bone density, heart and other organ functioning, and mental/emotional faculties. These are not fun realities, but eating disorders are serious and life threatening (the most of any mental health condition), even if the evidence is not visible on the outside.
-When tempted to give into what you think you’re gaining from your ED, remember everything you’re sacrificing along the way.
It may sound contradictory, but eating disorders can feel like an old friend. They’re familiar and developed for a reason- a way you creatively learned to cope with the need for safety, emotional security, and lovability. But would a true friend tell you to isolate yourself? Sacrifice your values? Tell you you’re only good enough if you keep them around? They served their purpose for you, but they aren’t sustainable. It’s time to let them go, heal the wounds beneath them, and find new ways of coping. Keep these tips in mind, and they will cultivate that magic mental phenomenon we know as motivation.

Makenna Clements, MFT is a Psychotherapist at Cielo House. Using techniques to enhance motivation, and compassion for how difficult that can be sometimes, she works with clients day in and day stay motivated throughout their treatment.