This week, February 22-28, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. This week recognizes the importance of early detection and understanding that eating disorders do not discriminate. Many things can lead to disordered eating, such as, trying out a calorie-restricting diet, working to achieve a fitness goal, general anxiety disorders, distorted body image and low self-esteem. Those who struggle with these disorders – anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or orthorexia, even a mixture of multiple- have a relationship with food that is difficult and interrupts almost every aspect of daily life. If you’re suffering, it may seem like there is no way out and recovering is impossible. But, that is far from true. Whether you are questioning your eating behaviors and worried it might be considered any kind of disordered eating, have been struggling for years, or are even trying to help a friend through their eating disorder, there are ways to overcome this disease. Here are 7 Tips to end your eating disorder for good:
1. Know There is No Shame in Asking for Help. For many people dealing with any kind of mental illness it may feel weak to ask for help. Nobody wants to feel like there is something wrong with them. You may want to believe that everything is OK, and if you need to be fixed you will figure it out on your own. But, that can just lead to even worse behaviors because before you know it, you may have lost all control. It is hard at first, but when you ask for help, and more importantly receive that help, it brings you to a place of understanding yourself and your life in ways you didn’t think you could. You can talk to a trusted friend, co-worker, family member, or parent. There are therapists who also specialize in the treatment of eating disorders. All it takes is for you to say, “I need help.” It’s not giving up. It’s not asking for pity. It’s recognizing when you are not happy, and doing whatever you can to feel better. Because you deserve to end your eating disorder.
2. Remember The Eating Disorder is Not Your Friend. It is common for many people dealing with an eating disorder to depend on it for many things that their lives can’t provide. It gives a sense of comfort that maybe your parents can’t provide or loyalty that you don’t feel from even your closest friends. It fills voids and eases loneliness. But, it’s important to think about what your life has turned into because of the eating disorder. You may have lost some friends, missed out on social situations to avoid being confronted with food choices, and thoughts of weight and body image consume every thought in your head. It tells you you’re ugly, fat, and not as good-looking as someone else. It tells you that you can’t look good in clothes and you’re a bad person if you eat that whole plate. You would never talk to a friend that way, and you don’t deserve to be talked down to like that either.
3. Appreciate What You Already Have. The feelings of security that come from an eating disorder are addicting and something you fear not having. But, you can. When you look around you, you may be surrounded by a hilarious group of friends, a loving family, dreams you want to achieve and accomplishments you already have. It’s scary to think that in the blink of an eye it could all be gone, but you realize you’ll always have your eating disorder. However, when you end that toxic relationship with the disorder, you can embrace everything in your life already, and find that loyalty and security in what your life is already filled with.
4. Understand You Are Worthy of Health and Happiness. You are one of a kind. Literally. There is only one you in this whole world. You are the only person who has had your experiences, trials and triumphs. You have a heart that no one else has, a mind that no one else can use and a body that can make all that YOU want to do possible. You are worth all the genuine health and happiness that your eating disorder does not bring to you. It may sometimes seem like your skinny frame, thigh gap or snacks to binge on is happiness wrapped in a big red bow, but it can be very misleading. The disorder grants you a sense of control, but it is not healthy.
5. Learn to Love your Body for How it is. When you are unhappy with other things in your life, it can become a very bad habit to take it out on yourself and your appearance. Everybody comes in their own shape and size. Your body holds your heart, your mind, your dreams, your desires. It allows you to get up every day, go to work and school, hang out with your friends, play sports or spend a night out dancing with your girls. You wouldn’t be who you are if your body didn’t get you to where you are. And who you are is amazing. Believe that and embrace your body for all it can do. Treat it well and give it what it needs.
6. Understand You are NOT a Number. You are worth so much more than the number on your jeans, the letter on your shirt tag and the number on the scale. You have so much to offer this world and the ability to achieve all you want in life. Those numbers don’t define who you are as a person. Tap into what you love about yourself, and use the confidence you have in those traits to open up all the amazing qualities you’ve been blinded from.
7. Accept that Recovery is Hard, But it’s Worth it. Ending and letting go of your eating disorder feels like your jumping off a cliff and free falling into an unknown land filled with anxiety-causing questions and negative “What if I gain weight?” “What if I can’t fit into any of my clothes?” “Everyone says I look good. If I start eating normally, am I going to look like a failure?” These thoughts are loud, annoying and interrupt every step you take closer to your eating disorder recovery. There may be times of where you revert back to old habits, and sometimes the eating disorder voices make themselves known. Eventually, the thoughts get quieter and the negative self-talk dwindles away. It doesn’t happen over night, and it takes tons of practice, but the effort to end your eating disorder will lead you to a place of peace and freedom.
For more information about eating disorders and other forms of disordered eating, visit: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
Amanda is a graduate of Emerson College with a degree in Journalism.