When you have an eating disorder it often overtakes your mind. Your true-self may become lost and your eating disorder-self takes over. It can be confusing for sure.
- “You look disgusting.”
- “If you get fat no one will love you.”
- “You really should exercise more.”
- “You can’t go out to dinner with your friends, you already ate too much today.”
This is your eating disorder-self. It’s demanding, judgmental, and irrational. It makes you feel ashamed, anxious, and sad. It elicits compliance, impulsivity, isolation and secrecy. It blurs your focus and makes you obsess about your body and food.
- “Today was a difficult day; maybe you can journal later to let off some steam.”
- “I know you have a lot to do but you need to rest right now because your body is tired.”
- “Getting dinner with your friends tonight would be fun since you haven’t seen them in a while.”
This is your true-self. It’s flexible, understanding, and rational. It’s nurturing and kind. It promotes listening to your body and encourages you to connect with others and express yourself.
If you’re thinking, “but the eating disorder sounds like me,” you’re not alone. It’s SO hard to know the difference between your true-self and eating disorder-self when you’re in the grips of your eating disorder.
I’ve learned that in trying to distinguish your true-self from your eating disorder it is helpful to consider what YOU truly value and care about in life. Oftentimes what matters most to your true-self is not what matters most to your eating disorder.
In my own journey to overcome my eating disorder I found that I valued acceptance, my relationships, honesty, compassion, and thoughtfulness. My eating disorder valued perfection, control, secrecy, and impressing others. No wonder I wasn’t happy living the life my eating disorder wanted! This awareness helped tremendously because it allowed me to challenge the demands of my eating disorder and choose to act in ways that were in line with my true-self and values. In my own recovery today I continue to be mindful of my values. From time to time my eating disorder-self make its way into my mind and when it does I acknowledge it, let it go, and choose to take care of my true self.
I continue to help my clients with eating disorders find their true-self by exploring their values and what matters most to them in life. If you’re having a hard time knowing where to draw the line between your true-self and your eating disorder-self, start by trying to explore your values and what matters most in life to you.
By Jacki LaRusso, LGPC, Therapist, Anorexia/Bulimia IOP Lead Therapist at The Body Image Therapy Center DC office. If you would like to get in touch with Jacki please call (877-674-2843) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.