HEAL YOUR EATING DISORDER SELF
Personal Reflection: CAROLYN
If you came to me with an eating disorder and I could teach you only one thing, it would be that the battle you have to fight to get better is not between me and you, or your parents and you, or anyone else and you. It is between you and you, your Eating Disorder Self and your Healthy Self. You were born with a healthy core self that has been taken over by another part of you that over time has gained a life of its own your Eating Disorder Self. My first realization of these two selves was during my own eating disorder.
I was on my way to a Christmas party in college and I had the thought, When you get to the party you are not going to eat anything. Nothing. Not one bite. Then, I heard another voice respond, It is easy for you to pass up food. Go to the party and see if you can eat a cookie. What I learned to call my Eating Disorder Selfspoke up again, You are just trying to give yourself an excuse to eat cookies, and if you do you will lose all the willpower and self-discipline I have given you. And then the other part of me, my healthy core self, responded again, It does not take any willpower for you to pass up food, that is easy for you, you do it all the time. What is harder for you is to eat a cookie. If you really want to demonstrate willpower, eat a cookie. This was my first realization that my eating disorder had become a split-off part of myself and that I still had a healthy core. I started having more dialogues like this and writing them down in my journal.
Recognizing I had a Healthy Self that could challenge what my eating disorder was telling me was an important and significant aspect of my recovery. Rather than focusing on getting rid of the eating disorder, which had not worked, I learned what my Eating Disorder Self was trying to tell me, and what it provided for me that my Healthy Self did not. So I focused on strengthening my Healthy Self so it could take over the job. The interesting and important thing is that I did not get rid of my Eating Disorder Self; I got rid of the eating disorder behaviors. Rather than remaining a split-off part, my Eating Disorder Self integrated back into my core, and I became whole again. Today what used to be my Eating Disorder Self is more like a part of my core self that serves as an alarm system, letting me know when I need to pay attention and attend to something.
Recognizing Your Eating Disorder Self and Healthy Self
The exercises and assignments in this Key were designed to help you recognize and understand your two selves. Our goal is to help you strengthen the part of you that is healthy, and learn from as well as challenge the incessant and critical Eating Disorder Self that is currently in charge.
Your Eating Disorder Self developed over time. As you engaged in eating disorder behaviors, your thoughts and actions began to take on a life of their own. Eventually, a whole smattering of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, different from your Healthy Self coalesced into a separate identity: the Eating Disorder Self. This separate self tells you that you are fat and lazy and to restrict what you eat, or purge your food, whereas the other part of you knows better than to starve yourself or vomit what you eat. This you would never tell others to do what your eating disorder tells you. It is your Healthy Self and it knows better. Some people use the term healthy voice and eating disorder voice instead of self when describing this dynamic. You will see both terms used in this secrets. You can use whatever term feels right for you, but it is important to understand that the eating disorder is not the same thing as the Eating Disorder Self. Remember, we seek to get rid of the eating disorder, but the Eating Disorder Self, minus the behaviors, gets reintegrated back into being a part of your healthy core.
RESISTANCE TO THE EATING DISORDER SELF VS. HEALTHY SELF CONCEPT
If your eating disorder has been ruling your life for a long time, you might have lost connection to your Healthy Self. You might think your Eating Disorder Self is who you are. If you have anorexia, you may initially resist this concept because you think your thoughts and feelings are being disregarded. This is a legitimate feeling if people discount your thoughts or feelings by saying things like, That’s just your eating disorder talking, as if what you are saying is not valid or does not need to be discussed. It is unfortunate when this happens. We believe both your Eating Disorder Self and your Healthy Self deserve to be heard, understood, and attended to.
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