counseling for teens

"Dear Eating Disorder": Breaking the Eating Disorder Cycle, Healing and Recovery (Part 4 of 4)

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by julia vickers, almft

Dear Eating Disorder,

I know we’ve thought about having a secret relationship indefinitely, but I’ve learned more about you recently and I know you have tried to protect and care for me, but I am learning new ways to take care of myself and there isn’t a whole lot of space for you anymore.

Breaking the Eating Disorder Cycle:

Healing and Recovery

I remember when it came time to make a New Years resolution, something had to change. There were a two things on my list that year: You must eat normal meals everyday. Share your secret. I knew these two resolutions would help me on a practical level with breaking the restricting cycle.

I had read enough information by this point to recognize that I was destroying my metabolism which would only lead to continual yo-yo weight gain and loss. If I destroyed my metabolism, my whole body and mind would continue to suffer which would allow my disordered eating to take center stage. This would hinder any emotional healing that I badly desired to happen but was horrified to face.

Second, I had to tell someone. My sister had moved home and I told her what was going on. Hearing it aloud was powerful. The allusion of all it falsely offered began to crumble. My ED’s thoughts were still a constant struggle but I had someone to be a listening ear. It was life-changing to not be judged. Feeling someone else not judge me helped me begin practicing what it felt like to accept myself struggles and all. To accept that trying is good enough and that sometimes trying again and again is all you have. I wanted to love myself and I wasn’t going to give up. While some parts of myself were easy to love, others not so much, but I knew I couldn’t be preferential with this love. All of me needed my love. All of me needed to be known and accepted.

Remember how I mentioned that I was learning new ways of taking care of myself? Well, I have made a few changes and they are here to stay.

6 Habits I slowly changed:

1.) I ate meals with people I loved.

2.) I Opened up when I felt insecure and want to binge or restrict. This took the edge off. Transparency was key.

3.) I wrote down what my ED “told” me and made new mantras such as: “Make choices because you love yourself”

4.) I drank more water. Staying hydrated helped me distinguish when I was hungry vs. eating for other reasons.

5.) I educated myself through researching the effects of eating disorders on the mind and body and committed to a “no short-cuts” lifestyle. (Absolutely no restricting)

6.) I rest more. I let go of feeling guilty about napping instead of exercising and decided to trust the signals my body was giving me.

If you need the support of a licensed therapist for disordered eating, or a difficult relationship with food - call julia today at 630-480-0060 x 704 or fill out the “Get In Touch” form on our contact page.

Help is only one step away!

"Dear Eating Disorder": Begin to Believe Change is Possible (Part 2 of 4)


By Julia vickers, ALMFT

Dear Eating Disorder,

I’ve been thinking about how we met and built our relationship. I am starting to realize how I needed you, how I felt like you could help me solve my problems. I really thought this could work, but I think we need to redefine our relationship. I am realizing something else, I think you may be covering up for some bigger, scarier issues. Can you please be quiet for a minute so I can hear what’s going on inside me?

That particular night, after uncountable nights filled with emotional and physical pain due to an eating disorder, I heard a strong, gentle voice say, “You will never win with hate, only love”. I tried to process what it would take to make a real change after being confronted with this startling truth. I realized making progress would require me to stop hating myself. I was afraid that if I stopped hating myself that this would mean accepting someone other than my imagined ideal self. Without the hate, I would have nothing to help me put the brakes on eating or force me to go exercise… but this story is about more than food and thinness isn’t it? I began to recognize that my fixation with my body and food had started long before binging began.

Begin to Believe Change is Possible

I went to a university where all the girls seemed like they could be on the cover of Surfer magazine. I had not really struggled with comparing my appearance until then. It felt horrible. I knew how to eat healthy and would spend time exercising. This helped me feel in control and manage my negative self-talk. Despite my “efforts” I would still look in the mirror aghast at how “fat” I was. I had been thin growing up and didn’t understand curves. I hated them and worked tirelessly to get back to my pre-puberty size. I was not aware of how unhealthy my mindset was at this point. Occasionally I would wonder if it was normal to think this much about food (careful meal planning, counting calories, timed exercising, etc.). Can you relate to this endless game of comparison that leaves you feeling drained?

I had a reality check when I took a nutritional therapy class my junior year. I read Intuitive Eating (Tribole & Resch, 1995) and they explained the mindset of someone with disordered eating. I was equally ashamed and relieved to see my hidden world in print. This book proposed that my body craves certain foods for a reason and to interpret and respect these cravings was important to nurture my body. Oh, and to ditch dieting completely.

The authors encouraged readers that eating this way would eventually lead to a more balanced appetite versus the survival one I had been inflicting on myself with excessive exercise and restricting calories. Over the next several semesters I began to test reality and recognize healthy thoughts and patterns versus unhealthy ones. I tried to begin eating intuitively and stopped worrying so much about hitting a certain number of calories a day and focused on having foods I craved (which sometimes meant chocolate for breakfast-guilt free!). Exercising was important but I listened more closely to my body to determine the duration of activity. During this time, I still struggled, but was able to accept myself a little more in the messy middle. I had begun to deal with it on the surface and a step forward was a step forward.

In my next journal entry, I will share more about my experience with the cycle of recovery and relapse and how this process is normal and important to move towards a healthier relationship with food and my body.

If you need the support of a licensed therapist for disordered eating, or a difficult relationship with food - call julia today at 630-480-0060 x 704 or fill out the “Get In Touch” form on our contact page.

Help is only one step away.