Often eating disorders go unrecognized and relapses seem to appear from nowhere because many people believe they have a healthy relationship with food. Many believe their thoughts about food and body image is “normal.” They don’t know there is an option not to listen to the voice in their head that is saying, “You are fat, ugly & you should be ashamed of your body.”
It is like having a bully all day in their mind. When I ask the patients in my multi-family group to share how many times their “ED Voice” is triggered, answers range from 100 to 500 times a day. Often times they believe the only way to quiet this bully is to do what it says:
“Don’t you dare, eat that cake at the birthday party, and if you do, it better be a tiny slice…If you don’t listen that means you have NO self-control and you must do 30 extra minutes of cardio!”
Listening to the unhealthy voice
This voice may sound just like you, and it begins to control many of your daily choices. This is a very common way that people go from innocent dieting to a full-blown eating disorder in a matter of months. This is also why I believe relapse is so high. It is hard to hear our authentic voice over the loud bully in our minds. Many people who have reached out for support struggle and have limited skills in talking back to the bullying ED voice. This is how slips turn into relapses and people settle for almost recovered.
Unfortunately, 30 million people in the U.S. are suffering from eating disorders or not living a life of full recovery. I am here to say you don’t have to anymore! People of all shapes, races, and genders get eating disorders and recovery looks different to everyone. Research shows that the average treatment length is 7- 10 year moving up and down in levels of care from Residential to Outpatient. Everyone’s journey is different and some take shorter than others. When we reach out for help, this is what we oftentimes hear: “But, you don’t look like you have an eating disorder.”
Or how about, “So you had an eating disorder a few years ago, but you look good now. So what is wrong?” The moment you hear that statement, I advise you to get a second opinion! Do not let the ignorance of others invalidate your pain because eating disorders are mental illnesses. So ask yourself the following 8 questions. If you answer yes to more than 4 of these questions, or feel like you hear this ED voice, you could be at risk for an eating disorder or a relapse.
8 Questions to Ask Yourself to Determine if You Have a Health Relationship with Food:
2. Would you trade 10 years of your life to attain your idea of the “perfect weight?
3. Do you diet often, cut out food groups, or follow social media accounts for weight loss tips?
4. Do you spend a lot of time meal planning & calorie counting, in order to change your body and lose weight?
5. Do you ever miss out or have anxiety about events such as vacations, holidays, or restaurants due to the food or your weight?
6. Does the number on the scale determine your mood & food choices for most of the day?
7. If you have a second helping, or “strayed just a bit from your diet, do you feel the need to compensate the calories by exercising?
8. Is there a voice in your mind that says you are fat & should feel ashamed of your body?
Even if you only answered yes to 2 or 3 questions, does it really matter what we call it if you don’t have a positive relationship with food or your body image? It doesn’t have to get “worse” before you can stop listening to that bully in your head. Reach out to a professional, there is no shame in reaching out, it is brave.
Work to put things into your daily life that will encourage more self-compassion toward yourself and your body. I tell my patients,
Work out because you love you body and it feels good to move, not because you hate it or want to change it.