BATTLE: Eating Disorder vs. Healthy Self
Should I have that pancake or should I not have that pancake? Sounds like a simple question with a simple answer, right? Unfortunately not for someone with an eating disorder. This question can be torture and it could be a question that someone battles with for 10 minutes, an hour, all morning or even longer. For those that haven’t struggled with an Eating Disorder, this may sound crazy, even insane. However, for those who have struggled or do struggle, it sounds like every day.
One of the most important beginning steps in eating disorder treatment is to identify this battle in your mind. Essentially, there are two parts of yourself that are battling to win what it wants, and we can identify these as the Eating Disorder self and the Healthy Self. Some people even like to name the Eating Disorder self, ED. First off, why does it matter to identify and separate these parts? Being able to separate these two parts gives power back to the healthy self and is the first step to begin untangling the dialogue that occurs in this battle. To illustrate this concept, let’s return to that question from earlier;
BATTLE: Should I have that pancake or should I not have that pancake?
ED: No you shouldn’t have it, what type of question even is that?! Do you want to get fatter?!
Healthy Self: I know that one pancake isn’t going to make me fat.
ED: Pancakes are carbs and carbs are bad! You didn’t exercise enough to dare think about eating a carb! Go do some sit-ups!
Healthy Self: I’m tired, I haven’t eaten all day. I need energy. I can’t exercise right now or I think I’ll pass out.
ED: Stop making excuses! You’re just being lazy! You’re not having that pancake!
This is the infamous battle that a person with an Eating Disorder struggles with. Sounds awful, huh? Well, it is. Before we identify these as separate parts, it just sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo, and usually as time goes on and the issue not addressed, ED gets stronger. Notice that this dialogue ends with ED, ED won. As a therapist, my goal is to be able to get my clients to the place of easily being able to identify which part is which. From there, we work on making that healthy self stronger and creating more dialogues that end with the healthy self. The above dialogue is an example where ED and the healthy self are clearly identifiable. This is not always the case, however, sometimes ED gets confused with the healthy self and vice versa, which is what a therapist can also help you decipher.
A person typically turns to ED because they are hurting in some aspect of their life. It becomes a coping skill, an unhealthy coping skill. Imagine ED as a bully, you meet him already bruised and hurting, and then he takes advantage of that and begins kicking you. He continues to kick you until you are laying on the floor and helpless. There comes a time when it just becomes easier to let ED continue kicking you than it is to get up and fight. It is not a reflection on you if you’re down on the floor. A therapist can help make your healthy self strong again. Together, you can fight back against ED. It’s a struggle and it’s hard, but recovery is possible.
For the loved ones who are reading this, it can be really frustrating to watch someone you love struggle like this. It may seem like the solution is easy; “just eat” or “just stop eating” or “just do insert any logical response here.” However, it is not easy. Your loved one is struggling with an internal battle, and although it may seem senseless to you, it is one of the biggest battles they may ever have to endure. When you notice yourself getting frustrated with them, remember that this isn’t their fault. ED is battling and the healthy self needs to fight back, and needs help and support to do so.
Let a therapist help you or your loved one, your healthy self will thank you one day. I hope that you are not at the point where you are laying on the ground and helpless, but if you are, you’re not alone, let someone help you. If you are still fighting, that is wonderful, but also let someone help you. You are not alone and you don’t have to fight alone.
I wish you wellness on your journey to finding your State of Balance.
Binge And Restrict Cycle
Eating Disorder Specialist
Healthy Self Vs. Eating Disorder