I had an eating disorder – notice I didn’t say I “was” an eating disorder. And most of us would never use the term “I was (or am) an eating disorder”. However, this is how we treat the disease. We act as if it is who we are. We treat it as though it is the only interesting thing about us and it is what determines our worth and our value. We act like if we didn’t have our eating disorder or that label, we wouldn’t be anything or anyone. ED truly makes us feel special because it makes us unique.
For so long, I was entrenched in the idea that my eating disorder was the only thing people saw in me. Even the people who didn’t know I necessarily had an eating disorder, ED made me believe that this was still the only part of me they could see or cared about. I thought that everyone in my life, including myself, based their love for me on the size of my body and the amount of food I consumed, or didn’t consume. I hit almost all other facets of myself, my personality, my passions, my desires, because I believed ED was the most important part of me and deserved all of my attention.
Speaking from the other side of recovery, I can guarantee that ED is NOT (or at least is not the only thing) what makes you special! ED finds a way to become all encompassing, allowing you to forget all of your other passions and desires, and place all your focus on food and control of your body. Ed makes you lose sight of the things that bring you so much joy, lose track of the hobbies you once loved, lose yourself.
BUT – what if we stopped ED in his tracks. What if we started treating our EDs like the term we use to describe him – “I HAVE an eating disorder”. This term reflects the fact that you have a disease and that requires work and recovery, but it does not reflect who you ARE as a person. It allows room for you to shine through your disease. To share your passions, desires and love with the world despite having an eating disorder.
So – how do we actually separate ourselves from our eating disorders? Making them something we have, instead of who we are? Well, there were a few key things that truly helped me in this process, and of course I want to share them with you:
- Give your ED a name – when you begin to call your Ed by a different name, it makes it that much easier to see the eating disorder thoughts and actions as something other than what you think or would do. It is much easier to push back against the rules and requirements of Ed when you realize that they are not coming from your own brain, but instead form Ed’s (or whatever name you choose) brain. Reading “Life Without Ed” was a huge resource for me!
- Drown out your ED voice – through podcasts, books, social media, hobbies. Do anything you can to put down and negate those disordered thoughts. The more you can drown them with positivity, logic and reasoning, the more they will start to fade, and eventually, they will be just a mere whisper in the background. Here’s a journal you can download to use on a daily basis!
- Find hobbies (typically unrelated to food/exercise) – we often lose our hobbies when we get lost in our eating disorders because all Ed allows for is thinking about food and/or exercise. We don’t have time to commit to other things we may enjoy. But – you had hobbies before you developed an eating disorder, so why not start to engage in them again. Do you enjoy painting, journaling, reading, crafting, baking, cooking, knitting – the list could go on and on! I would encourage you to find things that truly bring you joy and start doing them as often as you can!
- Affirmations – find daily affirmations that you can keep on repeat that will constantly remind you that you are SO much more than your body or than your eating disorder! You have a bright personality, a caring soul, and wonderful and engaging mind, and those things will always tower over anything Ed could ever give you! Here is a link to my Pinterest board that has lot’s of inspiration and motivation!
- Find a support system – this sounds simple, but truly having a community (small or large)t hat support, understand and are willing to listen to you is invaluable in the process of becoming who you are meant to be outside of you ED!
Your eating disorder will NEVER be the most interesting part of you, and neither will your weight, body type or shape or size, or the food you consume. NONE of this determines your worth and should NOT be equated with who you are as a person. There is SO MUCH MORE to us than the disorder we happen to have – and I hope that you realize that you have so much to give to this world no matter what your ED continues to tell you!