Conquering The Voice of An Eating Disorder

Eating disorders (ED) are ruthless. They are voices permanently situated in your mind talking to you, telling you you're fat, disgusting, worthless. They rip you apart from the inside out. They have no mercy on the person they're victimizing. These voices are constant and often get in the way of recovery. 

Imagine if you decided you wanted to paint a picture. You get all excited and start preparing. You go to the arts and crafts store and start selecting the supplies you need. Paint. Paintbrushes. An easel. All of the sudden you bump into your friend who asks you what you're doing. You explain that you decided to paint. She starts to laugh. "You, paint?!" she says, "It will be awful. You can't paint. It will never come out good." Your confidence and excitement starts to dwindle, but you ignore that friend and buy your supplies anyway. However even though you decided to disregard what she said, she still planted a seed of self doubt in you. You go home and take out your things to begin painting. There's a knock at the door and lo and behold, it's the same friend. She came to observe you paint. She says that she doesn't believe that you can do it and it will come out worse than a kindergarten painting. Time and time again, whenever you try to paint, there is that friend putting you down. That painting will never get finished and if you do finish it, it will never be beautiful in your eyes. 

That is the ED voice, only that voice is inside your head, a part of your mind, and you can't run away from it. So how do you nourish and love your body when there's a never ending voice in your head telling you you're worthless?

Step number one is realizing that the voice is separate from you. You are not that voice and it is not you.
Once you recognize this, it is easier to realize when it is the ED voice talking and not let it get to you. If you don't recognize that it's different from your own voice, then you'll never be able to tell it to leave because it's you. So the first thing to do is understand that you and your ED are two conflicting entities. Yes, they both live in the same space, but they are not the same. 

Second, is to listen to your wise mind. Everyone has their automatic mind and their wise mind. The automatic mind does a quick scan of whatever the situation is and immediately plunges into an idea of what to do. The wise mind says hold on, take a few steps back and let's see what's really the right thing to do here. In many cases the ED voice may act as the automatic mind and the you voice will be the wise mind. You have to pause for a second and tune into your wise mind. It's very difficult to do because the automatic mind tells you what to do first. But if in every situation you make a habit of taking time before making a decision, you will be able to focus in on your wise mind and let it make all your decisions for you. 

Another tip that can be used in these situations is self talk. As I mentioned in a different article, self talk is being your own cheerleader. Telling yourself that you're great and awesome and a fighter and you can do this!!! Self talk is a very powerful tool because the whole day we are talking to ourselves, positively or negatively. If we make sure that the self talk stays positive than it will be very helpful in getting food in when the ED voice is screaming. If the eD voice is screaming at you, then scream back louder that you can do it!!!

Besides being your own cheerleading team, it's important to have a group of people that support you and you can turn to in hard times. These people can be family, friends, therapists, nutritionists, doctors or anyone that can help you. These people are important to have because besides looking at them for guidance in tough situations, they can instill in you that you are worth it and loved. Many times the ED voice convinced you that you aren't worth it or loved, and these people will remind you that you are. They are also there for you to reach out to if you need to and they can talk you off the ledge and help you get the food in.

Another technique to battle the ED voice is to use a behavioral chain analysis. When the ED voice is yelling, it's usually because of an underlying reason. A behavioral chain analysis is going back through your actions and figuring out what that underlying reason is. For example, let's say you woke up late, that put you in an irritable mood and you yelled at your mom, who in turn yelled back at you. This put you in an even worse mood and henceforth the ED took your bad mood as an opportunity and tries to convince you not to eat that day. Using a behavioral chain analysis shows you that you don't not want to eat because you're fat and disgusting and whatever else your ED tells you but that you're really angry at your mom. This way you can redirect your focus to the real problem, making peace with your mom, and then the ED will see that it lost its opportunity and leave you alone. This is a very simple example and usually in life it's not so easy to discern what the underlying issue is. However if you take the time, you will see that there usually are underlying issues and addressing them will force the ED voice to silence itself. 

Another option is to do deep breathing and mindfulness exercises. Breathing deeply, in for four seconds, hold for seven and let out for eight, is a scientifically proven way to calm yourself down.  
Doing reps of these breaths will calm you down enough to eat. If that doesn't work then you can do mindfulness exercises like zen or meditation. These can be learnt from a video or there are apps which train you to calm down. I personally use End Anxiety which is a kind of hypnosis to calm myself down. Once calm, it is significantly easier to eat. 

Another way I meet my calorie goals on hard days is by drinking calories. Drinks are always easier to get down because they don't require chewing. Smoothies and good hearty soups are great options when the going gets tough. 

Another idea is to eat foods high in calories that are still healthy, for example nuts, dried fruits or protein bars. I find these things easier to eat because they are mostly healthy and aren't fear foods. Not only are they not fear foods but you don't need to eat a lot in order to meet the calorie goal. This way when the voice is screaming at you, you can take a few deep breaths, force a handful of nuts down and you just accomplished a snack. 

Another tip is to have some sort of stew, soup, smoothie or something else in which you can combine all aspects of your meal in one. That way instead of eating a starch, protein and vegetable, you can eat all in one and be done with it. This is what I do most frequently when my ED voice is yelling and it almost always works. It gets in all the food at once and it makes is a lot easier to eat. 

One last suggestion for meals is to have foods you are comfortable with. Whatever that may be for you. Everyone has their comfort food and their fear foods and when you're ED voice is loud, it's easiest to stick with your comfort foods. 

ED voices are loud, but your voice is louder. It seems almost impossible to start listening to your own voice, but once you start it gets easier as time goes on. It may not seem like it now but recovery is possible!