Recovery From An Eating Disorder Requires You to Learn to Challenge the Thoughts in Your Head.
You know that voice in your head that tells you how gross and disgusting and lazy you are? The one that nags you all the time about all the things you did wrong and messed up?
That voice is the voice of your eating disorder. When it is inside your head it feels like those thoughts are true. You believe what you hear because the voice appears as a thought in your mind. I want you to learn to recognize this voice as a liar. This voice is like the devil on your shoulder.
When you have an eating disorder you are consumed daily with thoughts about food, thoughts about your body, and thoughts about the things you do. This voice is very harsh and judgmental. It can be downright mean. I like to think of this voice in your head as a parasite living in your mind. For whatever random reason the parasite chose you, and the sicker you are, the worst you feel, the bigger and stronger this parasite becomes. It wants you to suffer and it wants you to stay sick in your disordered eating behaviors.
One of the first ways I help clients start to overcome their eating disorder is to help my clients learn to identify the Eating Disorder thinking and how to evaluate if this voice is helpful or not. Next I help clients learn to separate themselves from the parasite living in their brain. This sounds like a really simple concept, but it is quite challenging. If you are tired of dealing with your eating disorder and the voice inside your head I would suggest trying this work with the support of a therapist.
There are 3 steps to start challenging eating disorder thoughts.
- Learn to identify eating disorder thoughts.
- Recognize these thoughts are lies and not true.
- Separate yourself from the voice.
Learn to Identify Eating Disorder Thoughts.
You may have days where you do not have any disordered eating thoughts. There are also days where the thoughts are very loud and overwhelming. You are exhausted from listening to the thoughts nag you all day long. There are days when you have disordered eating thoughts, but you are not as bothered by them, rather you simply hear the thoughts but chose to ignore them.
Eating disorder thoughts come in many different variations but for the most part the voice is judgmental, cruel, and hurtful. The voice:
- Criticizes what you did and how you did it. Essentially you can do nothing right, according to this voice in your head.
- Says, “you are not good enough”.
- Judges your body. This voice finds the flaws, points them out, and then makes fun of them.
- Says you do not deserve to get well.
- Tells you food is bad and makes you feel bad and disgusting for eating certain foods.
- Causes to feel incapable, stressed, and overwhelmed.
This voice is harsh. It is the thought in your mind that tells you did not work hard enough today. It tells you are not able to handle all the stress and complications in your life. It makes you feel worthless, helpless, and just plain awful and miserable.
These thoughts are lies and not true.
The voice is going to convince you the awful things you are thinking are true. It feels true because
- It is in your head,
- The thoughts gather false evidence to support its truth.
But let me remind you this voice wants to keep you miserable and keep you down. It is a liar. The voice takes the things you do and distorts it. It points out all the bad and magnifies it. However it fails to remind you of all the right and good you did today.
Perhaps you really did make a mistake, but you are not a failure and a loser. Perhaps you feel really bad and shitty, but you are not deserving of misery and hurt. In order to fight these thoughts it is helpful to look at what is true and what is not true.
In order to evaluate the truth:
- Stay in the moment. Don’t worry about tomorrow or the past. Don’t focus on your ideal self (you will never get there anyway). Just focus on what is true now.
- Look at what your did right and did well. Perhaps you messed up, but you also did something right. Focus on that.
- Look at how you are currently your ideal self. Let’s say your ideal self is a confident leader. Ask yourself what qualities do you currently have that a leader has. Then ask yourself what qualities you have do not make you a leader, but then ask yourself what are doing to improve this. Let’s say you feel like you lack confidence, but you are practicing speaking up when you feel you have been wronged. This is a great way to grow confidence. You may not feel like a confident leader today, but you can see you currently have some characteristics of a leader and you are actively working to gain confidence and work toward becoming your ideal self.
You fight the lies of the eating disorder thoughts by looking at this evidence. When the thoughts try to lie to you, remind yourself of what is right and how you are working to be your best self today.
Separate Yourself From the Voice.
This may sound a little weird but that degrading voice in your head is not you. You don’t want to think those awful things. You want your thoughts to be hopeful, positive, and helpful. A lot of my clients logically understand the things the voice says are not true, but it FEELS true.
We start fighting the eating disordered voice by learning to separate yourself from the eating disorder thoughts. You won’t catch all of them at first, and that is OK, but being able to identify just one puts you closer to your recovery. Remember the eating disorder voice LIES and wants to keep you down. Whenever you recognize the eating disorder thought realize it is a lie and that it does not come from you. The more you learn to identify the thoughts, evaluate the truth, and separate yourself from the thoughts, the more you will find the eating disorder thoughts get quieter and quieter.
Next week I take this further to help you better challenge eating disorder thoughts.