What is an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder distorts the way you think and feel about food and your body, it causes you to behave in ways that are harmful to both your physical and emotional health. It's a maladaptive response to circumstances that have felt, or feel overwhelming and out of control, to which the result is of something more complex and too painful to identify.
Signs that you may have an Eating Disorder
Within an eating disorder you will notice both physical changes and emotions changes. You may have noticed that the ‘diet’ that you put yourself on seems to be falling out of control. You are constantly thinking about the food you are eating and the calories you are intaking. Perhaps you are noticing that you are exercising harder and for longer, and are still not satisfied or happy when you have finished. Below are some different signs that you may becoming aware of:
Difficulties with sleep Mood swings
Problems with your skin, hair and nails Withdrawal from friends/family
Dizziness and fainting Start to lie about intake of food
Loss of temperature (feeling cold) Feeling guilty when eating
Dramatic weight loss/gain Lack of confidence within self
Periods stop or become irregular
Fear of eating in front of others
Eating disorder voices
These voices can feel like a never ending dialogue that is constantly present with anyone who struggles with or has been diagnosed with an eating disorder. It is like a looming cloud that never disappears, the voice is always negative and always unhelpful. It is cruel and unkind and will persist in encouraging unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. It is so vivid that not only can you hear it constantly throughout your day, it can also appear in your dreams giving you that constant feeling of entrapment. Those voices are often present, long before the behavioural symptoms of the eating disorder actually appear.
The voices will consistently try to convince you of many things, that you are disgusting, fat, useless, not worthy of anything or anyone and many other upsetting and negative thoughts. The voices can be so damaging that it can physically impact someone in participating in self harming behaviours or making you think that the world will be better off without you. Some of the things that a voice may say:
“You're such a waste of space, look at you, now that you have eaten that you are going to put on at least … pounds”
“That’s way to many calories for you to eat”
“Today you need to make sure that you are strict with yourself within your restrictions, you can't go over your limit as people will know and call you fat”
“Because you have eaten all of that food you are going to have to exercise twice as hard now”
“Nobody likes or cares about you anyway so you may as well binge eat”
The voices will make you fear them. You will find it so difficult to confront them or disturb them because they will make you believe the consequences of doing that will be horrific. Those voices try to fool you into believing they really are your only friend. They will convince you that you cannot live without them. They will promise you that wonderful things will happen, but only if you listen to them. They convince you that life will be so great, once you have lost enough weight. There is a fear of consuming three balanced meals. There is a fear of not being able to squeeze in enough exercise. Numbers make you scared; the numbers staring back at you from the scales, seeing the calorie count on a nutrition label or a menu. The biggest fear that an eating disorder will give you, is that you are unable to exist inside your own skin and body.
Eating Disorder thoughts
Below is a list of some of the thoughts that someone may experience:
Negative thought patterns - mostly about yourself and the impact you have or could have on others
Perfectionism - having “perfectionist” tendencies, being “driven” and “hard-working”. The need to “do things right” and to achieve the highest possible goals which could extend into many areas in your life such as school, careers or exercise. The eating disorder itself became a project in which you “excelled”. It provides a source of “achievement” and self-worth.
Punishment - developing complicated, emotional relationships with food, bingeing, eating and not eating. As part of the negative mindset, you feel that you don’t deserve enjoyment or pleasure. The eating disorder could become a form of self-harm.
Dealing with emotions - feeling upset, guilty, anxious, lonely or embarrassed. Feeling of happiness and success or feeling dirty and disgusting. Feeling uncertain and not able to make decisions for yourself.
Going through an eating disorder is one of the toughest things you’ll ever do. Recovery from an eating disorder is a lifelong process but it can be done!
A lot of people are afraid of eating disorder recovery. That voice that you have been so used to, for all that time, may tell you at times not to lose the ED behaviours that you relied on for so long because as irrational as it sounds, there was a sense of comfort and reassurance in knowing that the eating disorder can be re-accessed at any time should it be needed. It did, after all, provide you with a source of identity, an outlet of control, an area that you excelled in and an ability that made you feel special and unique.
Once you can conquer your eating disorder's voice, you'll see how much more simple life becomes. Your everyday choices, relationships, and career become much more 'honest'. This is because recovery means, in part, you know how to stand up for yourself against the bully in your mind. When you are recovering from an eating disorder, you will learn to give yourself permission to eat regularly across the day, consume adequate quantities of food and allow yourself a variety of food groups. You will understand yourself a lot better and hopefully learn to love who and what you are in the body and skin that you have.