The eating disorder thoughts, as I have written many times in this blog, are incredibly powerful and often just feel like thoughts. Distinguishing eating disorder thoughts from one's own is critical for recovery, but the process is not linear. It takes time and practice to learn how to do so reliably. That interim can be a risky time for relapse despite the real desire the person has to get well.
This transition also marks a shift in the personal ownership for the recovery process. Before this time, the therapist, family or friends stand firmly for health while the person suffering can only blindly follow the eating disorder. The thoughts are too internalized and strong to resist.
The ability to have a moment of perspective about the eating disorder thoughts creates a new situation. All of a sudden, there is a choice whether or not to follow the thoughts. Having the moment does not mean the power to choose differently right away, but it does mean the path out of the illness is possible for the first time.
During this time, the person with an eating disorder starts to take ownership of the recovery process. It truly becomes their own, and it's crucial to start to take on that mantle. Because distinguishing the two thought patterns is so new, it's a risky proposition. Owning the process opens the door for worsening symptoms and a fall into relapse with much less oversight.
The hardest part for others to accept is that the risk is worth it. True recovery must mean the person not only takes ownership for her health but for her life. Successful treatment cannot leave that person unable to function in the world as an independent adult.