What is Neuroplasticity – and What Does it Have to Do With Eating Disorders?

Neuroplasticity and Eating Disorders
During recovery, it can be very difficult to believe that things can ever be different. We acknowledge that physically we can eat a suitable amount of food and reach a healthy weight, but it’s difficult to believe that the relationship with food and weight can ever be the same. Our thought patterns are so ingrained and appear so overwhelmingly pervasive that they feel just part of who we are, and that’s just that.

What if this is the way your brain is? Well, it may be that way at the moment, but it doesn’t mean it can’t change.

The brain alters as a result of an eating disorder, with muscle atrophy causing the brain to literally diminish in size, reducing the grey and white matter in the cortex, as well as the altered neural patterns which emerge via the disordered behavior. The good news is that this can be reversed. The brain is a quick learner.

The concept of neuroplasticity challenges the once-held theory that the brain is a static organ and refers to the brain’s malleability and ability to alter in response to stimulus and experiences. Different behaviors, fresh learnings, environmental changes, and physical injuries may all cause the brain to grow different new pathways or reorganize existing ones. These changes can fundamentally alter how information is processed, and so both the brain’s physical structure (anatomy) and functional organization (physiology) can change. (One of the most famous studies to show how the brain reorganizes and modifies as a result of intellectual and practical provocation is that of the London Cab Drivers).

New neural pathways are formed when we do something different. The synapses in the brain are forced to make new connections. The more often this happens, the more solid this connection becomes. It’s like walking through an overgrown field. The path through the field that is taken more frequently is the one where the grass is flattened and the end point clear. The first time a new route is taken it is more difficult, and the legs have to work harder, but the foundations are made. The grass is slightly squashed, ready for the next attempt. Over time, a new path is formed, and this new path becomes the default.

The first time we do something, it seems weird. And that makes perfect sense because literally, our brains aren’t wired in that way. At that moment. But repeated action can and will alter the make up of the brain to make it be wired in that new way, and as a result actions will no longer seem strange or uncomfortable, but become the norm and default. Our behaviors depend on how our brain is structured, but the brain constantly shifts and reorganises itself as a result of our behaviors. By changing behaviors and thought patterns we are changing the structure of our brain, and as a result of this, the thoughts and behaviors become more automatic and comfortable.

The brain is a remarkable organ. Instead of blaming it for your eating disorder, consider how it can be used as a tool to fight it.

For your journey:

Podcast Episode 034: 4 Steps to Change Your Brain and Behaviors With Travis Stewart

Image Source: Pinterest
More from Francesca Baker
The One Thing That’s Keeping You From Being Yourself
No one is a separate entity but all of us are inextricably...
Read More
Join the Conversation


  1. says: federica

    This was a good reminder. Thats why habits can be fatal. Rituals are fine if they’re healthy and empowering but new cycles are a natural part of creation. ED is great at magnetizing old patterned behaviours that is why mindfulness is the way to health. Calling oneself back to consciousness.

  2. says: Lasonya

    I don’t even know how I stopped up right here, however I thought this post used
    to be great. I do not recognize who you might be but certainly you are
    going to a well-known blogger when you aren’t already.

  3. says: amzspa.com

    You are so awesome! I don’t suppose I’ve truly read anything like this before.
    So great to find someone with a few unique thoughts on this subject.
    Really.. thank you for starting this up. This website
    is something that’s needed on the internet, someone with some originality!

  4. says: Jessie

    After looking into a few of the articles on your website, I
    really appreciate your technique of writing a blog. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark site
    list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my website too and
    tell me your opinion.

  5. says: music sheet

    Lights and colors have different frequencies which typically make it much more difficult to slow
    down the brain. A lot of engineering producers start out
    as either mixing engineers or assistant engineers to record label producers.
    Is that the breakthrough hit, or the follow-up song that gets airplay
    because it was by that artist.

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *