How "Fake It 'til You Make It" Saved My Life

February 24, 2016

How "Fake it 'til you make it" Saved My Life

“Fake it ’til you make it’

Sometimes my cynical side gets the best of me, and I roll my eyes at life lessons. I used to assume, “well this is me and that’s that,” without giving self-improvement too much thought. But this phrase, “fake it ’til you make it,” which was uttered sarcastically at a support group for adolescents with eating disorders, had a shockingly positive impact on me. I started begrudgingly following my meal plans and reporting back to the counselors and doctors who monitored my weight gain. And to my surprise, I recovered. This philosophy literally sped up my recovery and aided me with a confidence that I just couldn’t have found had I been searching sincerely within myself.

When I was in high school I was prescribed Adderall as a solution to my lack of academic focus. For the most part, it worked, even though my grades didn’t exactly perk up. Unfortunately, one of the strongest side effects of the drug was a loss in my appetite. I already struggled with eating three meals a day. Usually, my breakfast would consist of whatever I could find in the vending machine within my budget of pocket change. I would skip lunch, and, for dinner, I lived on a nutritious diet of ramen and RedBull. But all that stopped suddenly after I started feeling queasy from my prescription. In a short span of time, I lost a considerable amount of weight and started receiving concerned reactions from my friends and loved ones. At first. I shrugged them off, but they were right to be worried. Eventually, one thing led to another and I ended up attending a weekly eating disorder support group.

I was resistant to improvement at first. Mostly out of denial, I insisted to myself and others that I did not have a problem. But also, admittedly, I was driven by the deplorable desire to be thin. My group counselor led us in insightful activity and discussion, but none of it changed my habits. I was very confident that my weight and diet were no one’s business but my own. Nothing was working, until one day a few weeks in, my counselor Rebecca could sense my apathy and suggested I simply “fake it ’til you make it.”

So I did exactly that. I started my new exercise regime, concentrating on muscle gain as opposed to weight loss. I began filling out my meal plans and eating as much of the portions as I could. I wasn’t doing any of this out of a desire to be healthy or make progress with my disorder. It was entirely done to appease Rebecca. She knew I was bitter and insincere when I handed in my weight gain reports. I was not recovering because I had wanted to. I was recovering because I had to. It felt like I was just jumping through hoops until I could get out of the program and be on my way.

Before I knew what had happened I was back at a healthy weight and eating regularly again. By the time I had graduated from the recovery program, the apathy had completely worn off. After months of just going through the motions, I was healthy because it was the right thing for my body to be. Not because of paperwork and therapy activities, but because I had fed my body nutrition, and it responded so well that I had to keep it up. I no longer felt obligated to maintain my diet for the sake of others. I was doing it for myself.

Over the years, it’s been easy to let the little things get to me. I’ll find myself overwhelmed, stressed about work and school, and tired of my day-to-day responsibilities. When that happens, and I’m tempted to throw my arms up in the air and declare “f*** it!”, I remember what Rebecca told me during one of the hardest times of my life. Faking it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Gritting your teeth and going through the motions is the first step. The perseverance will come next. Among all the wonderful lessons I’ve learned in my life, this one has been the most consistent. I found relief through faking my way to happiness, freedom, and health. And my body thanked me for it.

I don’t mean to suggest that this is the only path to success, of course. Rather, this is the one strategy that worked for me when I was a cynical self-destructive teenager–which, if you knew me at the time, is a pretty big endorsement.  The next time you find yourself at a crossroads and feeling paralyzed, consider putting on a fake brave face and doing the darn thing. Tackle your biggest source of stress with a disingenuous smile and then move on the next one. Just, fake it ’til you make it. I promise you’ll surprise yourself, just as I surprised myself.

Also by Francesca: Vegan Sauce Recipes: Creamy Sundried Tomato Pasta Sauce

Related: What I’ve Learned from Eating Disorder Recovery

How Intuitive Eating Changed My Life

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Photo: Dominik Martin via Unsplash

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Currently based in Portland, OR, Francesca is an enthusiastic student of the stars. She spends her time writing, dancing, hiking, looking up at the sky in awe, eating plants, playing with her cat, and working (when it becomes absolutely necessary). Her aspirations include traveling the world and learning to walk in heels. Follow Francesca on Instagram at @francescayoungsilks and at francescafarfalle.wordpress.com.

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