By Sophie Balisky, Silver Linings volunteer
Living with an eating disorder can be compared to dealing with a bully. However - though it can be daunting - know that you always have the tools to defend yourself! Use the following suggestions to stand your ground against your eating disorder.
Ask questions. Begin with recognizing that an eating disorder’s deceitful voice is separate from your own. Hear what the eating disorder has to say but don’t hesitate to challenge it. Try asking yourself and the ED:
“What are your intentions for me with this thought? What am I really looking to fix through listening to you? Does this thought come from love or fear? Under what kind of circumstances is your cruel voice most audible? What healthy thought or alternative can I choose instead?”
Set boundaries. Now that your eating disorder knows you are examining it, set some ground rules. Do not give the mental illness free reign of your mind. Not only are boundaries important to have with others, but also with yourself. You have power over your eating disorder.
What is it not allowed to do? Write a list of these things in your journal. What kind of thoughts, feelings and actions are signs that your eating disorder is going too far? Write this down too. Now you’ll have a better sense of when disordered thoughts are, or are not, toeing the line.
Learn to say no. Boundaries are a great way to learn how to say no. Keep in mind that an eating disorder often develops as a coping mechanism and that it can be especially challenging to say no to familiar behaviours and beliefs. However, saying no to an eating disorder’s demands, even once, will start to minimize its control and create space for healthier thoughts to bloom. Learning to say no to your eating disorder is defending your boundaries and taking back your power!
Push the limits. Your eating disorder may have pushed you around in the past, but now is your chance to push back. Challenge yourself to do something that goes against your disordered beliefs. This may be not tracking your calories, spontaneously going out for ice cream or skipping a workout to spend time with friends. Also, try overriding unhealthy thoughts with body positive information from select social media accounts, podcasts and books. This may be uncomfortable at first and that’s okay! Just take it one small step at a time. The more you push the limits, the easier it will become.
Speak out. An eating disorder’s power comes from its secretive nature. Steps 1 to 4 are easier said than done, and it’s always more than okay to ask for help - in fact, it’s brave! It takes courage to challenge your eating disorder and it’s bold to pursue loving yourself exactly as you are. Shining light on this mental illness takes away it’s shadowy intimidation tactics. There is liberation to be found in honesty, and it is certainly easier to stand up to your eating disorder once you feel that you are not alone.
Footnote: Silver Linings offers a variety of support groups for adolescents and adults with eating disorders, as well as caregivers. These professionally-facilitated groups help impacted individuals:
Explore the deeper emotional motivators that keep an eating disorder in a person’s life.
Discuss coping skills and how to use them in a way that makes a difference.
Gain a better understanding of the recovery process.
Maintain motivation and hope in the recovery process.
Silver Linings’ next Adult Support Group begins on August 12. To register or to learn more about this group, and the organization’s other programs, please visit, www.silverliningsfoundation.ca/help/client.