By Jamie (OJ)
One of the most important concepts that I’ve learned throughout recovery is that eating disorders always violate your truest self’s own standard of integrity. For me, when I’m in my eating disorder, I act in ways that fuel my self-hatred.
As someone who proudly identifies as queer, the desire to live authentically has been a huge motivator for me throughout my recovery. Before coming out, hiding and shame perpetuated my eating, followed by years of secrecy around traumas.
Learning to embrace the vulnerability that comes along with authenticity has been one of my greatest challenges. In order to live authentically, one must live by their own values.
Values are a large part of the foundation for our well-being and happiness. It is by living a life guided by our values that we feel whole-hearted. So why does engaging in our eating disorder feel so seductive even though it forces us to act in ways that are opposite to what we value most? Similarly, when I did live by my eating disorder’s values, I didn’t feel happy, whole, or complete. Instead I felt devoid of life and full of pain.
So, how do we maintain our Truths in an effort to live in accordance to our truest selves, even when the eating disorder is particularly convincing? By no means am I a professional, but I am currently in the midst of figuring this out.
First, I’ll say that like everything in recovery, it’s not easy. Every day I consciously have to recognize and label certain beliefs as my eating disorder’s beliefs and not as my own. The next right step is to subsequently act on the beliefs that remain true to me instead.
Even when recognizing that eating disordered thoughts are irrational, meaningless, and detrimental to self-care, a new belief system doesn’t just magically appear and replace the old one. Making attempts to alter beliefs in general requires an abundance of energy, and to change what eating disorders have established as a somewhat innate, yet distorted belief system requires even more energy.
But as usual in recovery, I’ve learned and am still learning ways to change, get through, and to “un-become” if you will, my eating disorder:
- Make a list of values and return to it in moments when you feel stuck. Remind yourself that using behaviors and acting on urges will not allow you to access those values.
- If you find yourself acting on unwanted beliefs and/or values, rather than berate yourself, offer self-compassion and recognition at how difficult this process is.
- Provide compassion without justification or rationalization. Try not to allow the self-compassion to present itself as an excuse to engage in behaviors, rather, acknowledge the challenge, and then try to summon up the energy to change your thinking.
Living in accordance to my eating disorder is mildly torturous, but it also gives further credence and validity to the irrational, making it more difficult to trust and act on your truest self’s values over time. It’s far easier to change behaviors when you change the beliefs that underlie it first. Every day it’s a work in progress.
Remember, we developed our values for a reason, and we have every reason to trust ourselves over our eating disorder.
In strength and healing
About the Author:
OJ is currently experiencing and documenting the ups and downs of eating disorder recovery. She and her partner (CJ) share their dual perspectives on eating disorder recovery through a queer lens on their blog www.thirdwheelED.com. OJ’s writing focuses on the intersectionality of eating disorder recovery as a self-identified queer and lesbian woman. She also documents her eating disorder recovery in conjunction with other mental health illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Jamie volunteers with Project HEAL Boston.