When you think about eating disorders and working on recovery, you think about addressing body image, fear foods, and sitting with anxiety. These are those common things that most who are moving through recovery need to work on. However there is another issue that is just as common, but not typically recognized as a pervasive part of the eating disorder. That issue is productivity. It loves to define certain activities as productive while others are not; it promotes “busyness” and vilifies down-time and taking breaks; it prevents focusing on values-based activities that don’t have a concrete outcome. All of these and more work for the eating disorder, using productivity as an excuse to restrict and skip meals (“I’m too busy to eat”; “I’ve missed lunch time so I’ll wait until the next meal”; “I have more important things to do than stop and have lunch.”)
This is problematic, and needs to be addressed as part of the recovery process. Recovery isn’t just about nutrition and body image – it’s about reclaiming your life from the eating disorder, and finding balance in your day-to-day activities. In order to challenge this aspect the eating disorder, we have to look critically at what productivity means to the ED – what tasks are considered “productive” and which are not? And productive in what way? Do these activities improve your wellbeing, move you towards your values, and fill you with pride? How does the eating disorder’s narrow focus on productivity impact your life as a whole, and where is it actually getting you?
After reflecting on these questions, you can start to challenge the busyness of the eating disorder by purposefully engaging in “non-productive” acts – let yourself be idle with rest, watching a show (without multitasking something else), engaging in slow movement, and practicing self-care (like meditation). Start to consider that these activities are just as valuable, if not more so, than the busy-making that the eating disorder encourages. These slower activities connect you with yourself, with your environment, and with the others. Give your recovery a boost by addressing the issue of productivity, and reclaim the time and space that constantly being productive has taken from your life.