ED 101: Your New BFF, The ARC

The ARC framework is basically a game changer for anyone’s mental health.

In the first year of recovery, my  medical team consistently encouraged me to implement the ARC framework but  I obviously never listened thinking they were stupid.

But by year 2, I finally realized just how important ARCs can be.

ARC’s are a mental tool, used to break down situations. The idea is to remove yourself from the immediate moment so that you can think clearly, rather than just hearing the ED voice (or any anxious or negative voice you’ve learned to automate) and habitually agreeing to it.

This can be a great tool for anyone, eating disorder or not! The more you do them, the more you learn just how powerful this simple tool can be.


An ARC is made up of:

Antecedents: What happened immediately before this situation that would effect you in this moment? An hour before? Yesterday? Last week? Last year?

Responses: How are you reacting to the situation? What behavior and urges are you facing? What is your bodies’ physical reactions?

Consequences: What are the long-term and short-term consequences of your actions and this situation?


Let’s run through one.

Situation: I’ve been having a strong urge to eat ice-cream only to immediately purge. I’ve had it for over 24 hours, I’ve been planning it yet trying to fight it. Very tired, exhausted mentally.

The point of the ARC here is to maybe pause and figure out why am I having this urge to purge?

Antecedents:What happened immediately before this situation that would effect you in this moment? An hour before? Yesterday? Last week? Last year?

  • Stressful weekend; lots of food thoughts and body hate
  • Living between coasts, less of a routine (I do best with routines!)
  • Lots of overtime for work the past 2 weeks
  • Not living near a strong support system at the moment
  • Trying a new yoga class tonight and pretty nervous about it’s  possible triggers

Responses:How are you reacting to the situation? What behavior and urges are you facing? What is your bodies’ physical reactions?

Behaviors

  • Urge to eat icecream
  • Urge to purge
  • ARCing in the moment
  • Recognizing pattern: Had this urge last time I tried a new yoga class

Feelings

  • Anxious
  • Tight muscles and tight jaw
  • Headache

Consequences: What are the long-term and short-term consequences of your actions and this situation?

  • Purging is only going to make my ED stronger
  • I’m going to feel terrible if I give into the urge
  • By completing my arc- I’m able to reveal triggers

Now that I’ve removed myself from the immediate situation, I’m able to see there’s been some stressors happening in my life lately. These stressors cause me anxiety, and anxiety fuels the eating disorder voice- hence the increase in urges to act on eating disorder behaviors.

By slowing down and really getting in touch with my thoughts, feelings and actions, I am able to determine a huge red flag: I’m trying a new yoga studio after a weekend of terrible body image. New yoga studios really stress me out- I hate to sound petty but for some reason, I imagine every new yoga studio with perfectly thin models in cute LuluLemon clothes which is clearly not always the case. Regardless, it instills body conscious thoughts. Add an additional weekend of really poor body image and it’s anxiety central- enter the eating disorder voice!

Completing the ARC, I can now distance myself from these thoughts and urges because I know the source of them. Now I feel stronger, more aligned with my inner self. My true self.

I will note that just because you reveal the sources of anxiety or red flags doesn’t mean you  don’t always give into the behaviors. In fact, it’s taken me  2 years of ARCing and recovery to just sometimes find the strength to overcome the urge.  Still, the ARC is a great practice to find patterns and triggers to store in your Recovery tool box.

Even if you don’t have an eating disorder, try using this framework in you’re everyday life. Recognizing and acknowledging the energy and past experiences we bring into each new situation is key to learning why we react the way we do. From there, we can only learn and improve.

Onward & upward.

**I am not a doctor or certified anything. This is solely just thoughts based on my own experiences. 

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