I don’t have an eating disorder. I’m fine
From the outside, everything looks fine. Others look at you and may even think that you’ve got it all together, and frankly, they wouldn’t be wrong. You’re a functioning member of society. You have friends. A solid job performance at work. You’ve even acquired a romantic relationship. Yep, everything is perfect. It’s not like anyone is whispering to you that you need therapy for your eating disorder because what eating disorder?
And yet you’re bombarded everyday with thoughts of how insufficient you are. You constantly compare yourself to your friends, pointing out every flaw and deficiency. For countless hours at work, on and off the clock, you make sure that each and every one of your projects is as it should be. Playing the role of perfect partner, you smile and coo in your relationship. Because that’s what this all is. A role. A performance in some grand play. Luckily, you’re damn good at performing, so no one notices that it’s all an act. What others may not see is the fragility of this façade and the amount of effort required to keep it all together. But you can do it. You have to do it. Every day that you’re able to keep the façade going, is another day closer to finally convincing yourself that you’re worthy of a good life.
Okay, maybe I have disordered eating – but it’s not that bad. I probably don’t need therapy.
Keeping this charade going isn’t without cost. At some point, the stress of maintaining your lifestyle gets the better of you and you find yourself reaching for the only thing that has ever provided some sense of relief: food. Oh and does food feel good. At least for those briefest of moments, your brain is put on mute, and all attention is focused on the sensation of food passing your lips, the clench of your jaw as you chew, and the fullness of your throat when you swallow.
The comfort lasts for what? A minute? For as long as you keep chewing? But what happens when you stop? The tidal wave of criticism washes over you:
- What did you do??
- Not again
- YOU FAT COW!
- Why the fuck can’t you control yourself?!
- Dammit – all that hard work gone.
- Well — you know what to do…
Almost as if you’re on autopilot, you turn to the next thing that offers comfort. You head to the bathroom to erase your mistake. Or you lay down in hopes of numbing yourself comletely. Maybe you go out for a run, determined to burn off what you can. Or, maybe you redouble your efforts at control, put yourself on a “cleanse” and wash away the negative feelings. You briefly consider getting therapy for your eating disorder, but you reassure yourself you’ve got it all under control.
Part of you feels as though you’ve figured out a solution to keeping your life under control. Food is like your drug. It’s hard not to think about it when stress starts to pick up again. You tell yourself, you’ll only use it when you need it, but just like an addict, you get to a point where you can’t get through a month, a week, a day without that drug. Some months are better than others, but dealing with COVID took a toll. The political climate is taking a toll. The Earth going down in flames is taking a toll.
You try to keep your eating disorder a secret, and for the most part you’ve done a good job. But as with everything, you’re aware there have been consequences. The more you rely on your eating disorder, the less engaged you are in your relationships. The more you think about your weight and the food you’ll eat, the less room there is for anything else. As a result, this perfect life you’ve constructed is hollow. No matter how many binge/purge/restrict cycles you put yourself through, you can’t seem to fill up that gaping void. You starting to recognize that you need help, maybe even therapy for your eating disorder. But that would require admitting what’s going on, and the shame feels to great to move forward.
Calling it quits from your eating disorder
Late one evening, after a particularly intense b/p session, you proclaim “That’s it! I’m done! I don’t want this in my life any more! I want to be normal!” With that, you make the decision to quit your eating disorder. No more will you allow these thoughts to control your life. Unfortunately, your motivation lasts only until the next morning, after feeding yourself a hearty bowl of oatmeal. Your stomach lurches at the sensation of fullness and you immediately have strong urges to go into your comfort behaviors. Not without some spikes of anxiety, you reassure yourself that it’s fine because you’re fueling your body. Lunch rolls around, yet that fullness feeling still lingers. You opt for a salad, arguing that at least it’s loaded with veggies. Your stomach protests again as it’s not used to being fed like this.
Thankfully, you survive the rest of your day, making “healthy choices” the whole time, but the ever-present feeling of fullness hangs over your head. It’s annoying. It grates on you. It reminds you of what you’ve done today. You wish that it would go away. By the evening, it’s so hard to ignore that you reach for a piece of chocolate. The sugar immediately distracts you with its sweetness. You feel a rush of relief, and then find yourself reaching for another. And then another. Before you even know what’s happened, the bag is gone. Well shit. Here we go again.
Unfortunately, that’s what every recovery attempt feels like. You try to kick the habit, only to fall back into it.
Is this what it’s going to be like forever?
Therapy for your eating disorder
If you’re already in a place of questioning whether or not you need help with your eating disorder (or disordered eating), chances are, you need help. Unfortunately, the vast majority of therapists out there (and doctors and dietitians) don’t have the training and experience necessary to work with eating disorder issues. If you happen to be at a “healthy” body weight, they’ll dismiss your concerns as not that bad. Or maybe tell you to just, like, stop. If you happen to be larger bodied though – oh man, prepare to have the medical profession double down. Encourage you to embrace the same restrictive patterns and dieting that your eating disorder thrives on. Some help they are.
What you need is someone who gets Eating Disorders. And guess what!? I DO! I have training and experience working with eating disorders. Hooray! And – if after (virtually) meeting me you question whether we’d be a good fit, I’d be happy to refer you to other clinicians who also have the necessary training/experience. It’s time to shake this ED monkey off your back…for good.
What therapy looks like
Just as there are many different variables that contribute to what your individual version of eating disorder looks like, your therapy process will be similar unique to you. We’ll start off exploring what type of life you’re wanting for yourself. We’ll use techniques from ACT, CBT, DBT, IFS, even EMDR (if you’re interested) to figure out how the eating disorder functions in your life and devise strategies so that you can break away from the behaviors and beliefs that sustain them.