What It’s All About
“Count your blessings, not the calories. Weigh your options, not your self-worth. Starve your self-hatred, not your body. Hate the disorder, not yourself.” --Anonymous
Understanding some of the contributing factors that led to your illness and getting to know the driving forces behind any unhealthy actions and urges can help you heal. For many individuals, eating disorders are a coping strategy, a logical way to feel safe and in control in a chaotic environment. We are not able to control the world around us, so those of us who are susceptible to eating disorders will often turn to unhealthy and even dangerous behaviors as a way to give ourselves a false sense of control or to distract ourselves from reality.
Throughout your recovery, you must continually ask yourself, “What is driving these unhealthy thoughts” or “What’s behind my self-destructive actions?” Your thoughts and actions are a symptom of something deeper. What is going on in your life now, or what happened in the past, that is pushing you toward engaging in disordered eating? Always ask yourself if you are hungry (physically or emotionally), angry, lonely, or tired (the HALT question common to numerous recovery programs). Ask yourself what additional stresses you are facing, and never be afraid to ask for support.
If you have trouble identifying your emotions, use a chart of emotions or a feelings wheel, such as this one: http://humanemotionschart.com/. Go through a list and ask yourself if the descriptions on any of the emotions on a chart fit with what you are experiencing. Try your best to describe what you are feeling in a journal or diary. Sometimes the mere act of describing what you feel can ease the actual feelings. Try to distinguish between what you are thinking and what you are feeling. If you have ever lived with dysfunction -- and almost all of us have; whether it’s in the family, with friends, a coworker or with a significant other, truly healthy and functional relationships are rare -- chances are that you learned at some point to suppress your feelings. When we shove our feelings down and can’t fully express what we feel, we end up behaving differently. Over time, discounting and continually holding in emotions can even lead to feeling physically sick.
Many other conditions, such as anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), are often comorbid with eating disorders. In fact, quite often, treating an underlying condition such as depression helps with the treatment of an eating disorder. Antidepressants, either synthetic or all-natural (e.g., SAM-e, TravaCor, or St John’s wort) can take the edge off the depression and anxiety that often accompany an eating disorder. If possible, work with a therapist, doctor or someone in the medical field who can determine if you are dealing with a mood issue with roots outside your eating disorder. Don’t be afraid to try suggested medications if your treatment team feels it’s necessary.
Above all, give whatever you try or whatever therapy in which you engage time to have an effect and communicate with your treatment providers how you are feeling along the way. If this is difficult, look into finding a patient’s advocate to guide you.