Part One: People
One of the greatest problems with eating disorders is that we see everyone around us as our enemies. All of a sudden, our parents, family and friends are all out to “to get us”, to disrupt our carefully laid out meal plans and strenuous exercise schedules. But what does this mindset lead to? Anxiety, isolation and loneliness (to name a few…). One way to overcome this issue is to understand that you are not the one who is feeling attacked in these situations, your eating disorder is. You must learn how to disidentify yourself from your ED; after all, it is not you. Try seeing it as a dark little spirit lurking inside your body, telling you what is right and wrong, telling you that all you need in life is him/her to be happy and that if you let go of him/her, you will be alone, lost, and sad. You see, your ED thinks that it has your back, that it is protecting you. But what it doesn’t realise is that if you let go of him/her, you will find mental clarity, confidence and healthy relationships. Once you shift your perspective from “the others are the enemy” to “my ED is the enemy” fighting becomes so much easier, because for the first time in a while, you’re fighting the right person.
Think about it: your family and friends don’t want to hurt you, they just want to spend time with you and mealtimes or daytime activities are a perfect opportunity to achieve this. Unfortunately, this can be quite daunting if the meals don’t include your so-called “safe-foods”, or if the activities aren’t scheduled at times that suit your schedule. In turn, this can make you feel threatened as if you were “losing control” of your life. What helps me in these types of situations is to start a mature, rational argument with my ED, for example:
“You don’t deserve to go out for breakfast with your friends; you haven’t worked out yet.”
- “Yes, I haven’t worked out but I’m hungry and that is enough for me to know that I need food.”
- “My body has been working hard all night to repair and replenish my cells, it’s normal for it to need energy now before starting the day.”
- “I want to spend time with my friends and food should never come in the way of that.” (and also because let’s be honest here, who’s ever had a good workout when all they’re thinking about is the fridge?)
This helps me realise that I am in control of the situation because I am choosing to have food and to spend time with my loved ones, by my own will. So from now on, you can try to do the same. Get in the practice of telling your ED to be quiet, to shut up, to go away – after all, it does not have your best interests at heart. Shout it out loud if you have to, it may seem ridiculous at first, but it really helps. And hey, sometimes you’ll feel guilty about fighting the bad voice, but don’t beat yourself up about it. Feeling guilt is a positive thing as it shows that you are taking actions to fight your ED, that you are growing. Remember, you deserve to be happy and free, you just have to relearn how to be nice to yourself, how to respect yourself and most importantly, how to forgive yourself.
Our eating disorders also make us constantly think that people are judging us: for wanting to change the shape our bodies, for avoiding certain foods or for exercising on a regular basis, etc. In turn, this can lead us to believe that we need to prove to others that we are not obsessive or not sick, that we are “normal”. Now, let me tell you this: you have nothing to prove to the world. The people around you don’t think that you’re weak for succumbing to the influence of wanting a skinny waist. In today’s society, physical appearance has become such an important factor in establishing relationships, securing jobs, or even fitting into certain clothing brands – no one can judge you for wanting to change your body to fit the so-called “idealistic” one. You simply chose to focus this change on the size of your thigh gap instead of the silkiness of your hair or the whiteness of your teeth (which others may focus on instead). But you have the power to change this. Remember, you are in control; and by making the uncomfortable changes today, you are freeing yourself from a life of discomfort and insecurity.
For the younger souls reading this post, you may also feel attacked by your parents or loved ones for forcing you to seek professional help. Whether it be a nutritional therapist, a dietician or a sentence to the eating disorder clinic (which it isn’t by the way, but it may seem like it at the time…). You most probably feel angry that they don’t “trust you” to recover by yourself. Well, the thing is, they do trust that you can recover, they just want to make sure that you have the best support and environment to help you get through it. Try changing your perspective from “They are depriving me of my freedom.” to “They are helping me reach mental freedom. They are protecting me.” Remember, it is your ED that is feeling attacked, not you. Try putting yourself in your parent’s shoes, looking down on their child who is miserable and suffering – would you wait for them to tell you when they are ready to see a doctor? Would you really stand by until the problem reaches a 10/10, knowing that if you act now, you might be able to prevent this from happening? After all, 10 steps down the ladder takes longer to climb back up than 7 or 8, and with far less negative consequences.
Part Two: Food
Another great enemy to people with eating disorders is, well, food. When I was sick, I would see every spoonful I was putting into my body turning into fat, almost like a little film that I would play inside my head. Truth is, food is fuel. Food is what helps you complete your everyday activities, from sleeping to reading through lecture notes, from watching Netflix to going to work – it is one of the most important factors in helping you achieve your personal and professional goals. Not only that, but food is also what’s going to give your body the nutrients and vitamins to build healthy bones, long silky hair and clear and radiant skin. If you don’t have enough of it, your body will shut down and stop these so-called “non-essential” activities, leaving you looking dull, tired and empty (literally). So why fight something that is going to make you, you? That is going to give you the energy to pursue your dreams? Remember, you can’t change the world on an empty stomach, least of all your world. Why look at food with an unsound, detrimental perspective when it can help you become the successful woman (or man) that you always dreamed to be? After realising this myself, I didn’t see those mouthfuls of Crunchy Nut turning into fat anymore; I would see them turning into beautiful hair, flawless skin or strong and steady heart contractions. This is what gave me the strength to nourish myself properly again, and you can find this strength too.
Part Three: Your Body
This brings me to the last enemy we face when suffering from an eating disorder: our body. I remember hating mine when it was still hungry after a meal, when it was craving pasta for dinner or when it was too tired to finish a workout I had carefully designed the day before. Why couldn’t it just behave? Because it is not designed like that, and the more you fight it the more it will fight back. You need to tell yourself this: your body is not out to get you. All it wants is for you to be happy, healthy, and energised. Your body just wants to settle at an ideal weight where it can allow you to live your life to your full capacity- so simply start trusting it. It is so incredibly smart, there is no need to fight the cues and signals it gives you. Try seeing it as a friend that wants to protect you and give you all the tools to be happy and successful in life; only then does it become easier to feed it. Once you do this, you will see beautiful changes taking place. You will see yourself grow into the beautiful human you truly are inside- it’s just a question of finding that person again.
Written by Anonymous
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