By Lauren Harding, Eating Recovery Coach
Often in eating disorder treatment, the eating disorder is interpreted as some outside entity, external from the individual struggling with an eating disorder. I view the eating disorder self a little bit differently. An old Cherokee Indian legend illustrates the most important battle of our lives between the good wolf and bad wolf inside of us. The wolf that ultimately wins is the one that we choose to feed. YOU are the one who has the power to either strengthen the eating disorder self or to defeat the eating disorder self, because the eating disorder is a part of YOU. You were born with a healthy core self that has been taken over by the eating disorder self over time. Clients typically describe the eating disorder self as a “monster that takes over” or the “demon inside of them”, I refer to the eating disorder self as ED- the abusive partner. The abusive partner, although toxic provides, a sense of stability for you. It promises a better future if you listen to it. It lures you in but continues to hurt you, while telling you that it will get better if you just stay. The longer you stay with an abusive partner, the stronger the abusive partner becomes. And ultimately, it is you that has the power to say goodbye to that abusive partner inside of you.
No one else can get rid of ED for you, but you can get to the point where the healthy part of yourself can. My role in working with eating disorder clients is not to get rid of the eating disorder, but to strengthen the healthy part of yourself, so that YOU CAN DO IT. It is a vital part of recovery, for the healthy self and eating disorder self, to start communicating so that you can identify what purpose the eating disorder self is serving. The healthy self can then take over that role and put the eating disorder self out of a job. As you practice challenging your eating disorder self, your sense of powerlessness over ED will decrease. To some degree you have felt like ED is helping you, or else letting go of it wouldn’t be this difficult.
What do you feel like your eating disorder self has been doing for you? Is what you think it is doing for you, really true? Or does it come with a caveat? I felt like my eating disorder self made me feel like I was “in control” however, looking back it actually gave me a false sense of control. Whether you feel like the eating disorder self makes you feel safe or perhaps provides some sort of an escape, ask yourself if it is REALLY doing what it says it’s doing. And what is the COST of keeping it?
It can be difficult sometimes to differentiate the eating disorder self from the healthy self, especially when the eating disorder self is powerful. Ask yourself these questions:
~What was your last eating disorder thought? And what did you, or can you, say back to that thought?
~What would you say to that thought if your best friend (or another person) said it to you?
~Is that thought or behavior, giving the eating disorder self or the healthy self more power?
Sometimes even keeping a journal dialogue between your eating disorder self and healthy self can be helpful.
Contact the Northside eating disorder recovery coach if you want more guidance on strengthening your healthy self so that you can say goodbye, once and for all, to the eating disorder part of you.