Saturday, September 8, 2012

How to Eat an Elephant

How to Eat an Elephant


My client comes into my office, sits down and promptly bursts into tears, “I can’t do it!  It’s too hard!  I don’t even know where to begin!”

I am sure you have felt the same way – maybe even said these very words. Recovery from an eating-disorder can feel overwhelming!  Your recovery may at times feel so insurmountable that you feel defeated and completely unable to make any progress at all.   It may feel so big it would be like trying to swallow a whole elephant. 

So how do you recover?  How do you swallow an elephant?   One bite at a time! 

What is the first ‘bite’?  Where do you start swallowing the elephant?  It doesn’t matter, start anywhere! 

When we get overwhelmed and discouraged we get paralyzed.  Nothing feels like it would be good enough.  Since we don’t know what would be the perfect place to start, we don’t start at all.  This causes us to feel more overwhelmed, discouraged and anxious – and we turn back to our symptoms and behaviors to make those feelings go away.

Instead we need to break the problem down into small ‘bites’ – and it really doesn’t matter what we pick to do first – we need to just pick something that is achievable.  What small ‘bite’ feels like you would be able to do it?    Our inner critic may say, “Just stop!  Just eat normally.”  If we are bingeing several times a day that would not be do-able.  If we say, “I am going to eat, and keep, breakfast before I see my therapist” – that may be do-able.

Once we do that, we have made progress.  A tiny bit of progress leads to another ‘bite’ and then another.   Pretty soon the ‘bites’ join together and we can see pockets of progress.   We may notice after a while that eating and keeping breakfast is just a part of our routine! 

Also we do not have to do this alone!  Reaching out for support - whether in a support group, a therapy group, a positive relative or friend, or your therapist – is a big ‘bite’ of progress. 

What one small ‘bite’ feels do-able to you at this point in your recovery?  Once you decide what that one ‘bite’ is tell someone safe – because making a commitment often helps us be honest with ourselves, and keeps us accountable.  And if we are struggling, we know that we can reach out to that person to help us. 

Hang in there – you can do this, one ‘bite’ at a time!


Amy Grabowski 

Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC is the Director and Founder of The Awakening Center.   She is in the final editing phase of her upcoming book about recovery from eating-disorders.  You can reach her at (773) 929-6262 x11.  
ps - Amy has great respect for elephants as does not advocate eating one! ;o)




  1. Amy, I love this post! Sometimes it is hard to break things down and take things one step (or bite) at a time. This was a nice refresher to not overwhelm yourself and just bite off as much as you can chew. Very insightful and encouraging!

  2. I think this post is particularly relevant for today's society that is so accustomed to and expects immediate gratification and quick fixes. As you point out, recovery from an eating disorder is process that starts one step at a time. I liked how you mentioned that the first step can happen in many different ways. Moving one step at a time is really important to remember with any daunting task in life - recovery from an eating disorder, applying for a job, studying for an exam, or assembling a bookcase.

  3. We are so on the same wavelength! I actually have this picture hanging in my office, and I wrote about this concept just today, on my blog Dealing With Dummies ( you for sharing!