- Elena Covo
A conversation with your Eating Disorder.
The Inner Critic voice
Dealing with an Eating Disorder is extremely challenging. Only people who have gone through this pathology can fully relate. It is a constant struggle between what we believe we should look like (to gain a sense of self-worth), and what we actually look like. It is a form of addiction as our mind constantly think about our body image, what we should or should not eat, how much we should exercise, etc. Clients define their sense of self-worth by evaluating their body, its shape, its form, or by measuring their weight. Clients often feel trapped, it is a constant mental fight, a persistent nightmare.
When I first started working with clients suffering from anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, I remember clients telling me about "an internal voice". "A voice", I asked. "What type of voice", I questioned. An "internal, mean, abusive voice" they said, a voice that told them to restrict, or binge. A voice reminding them of their body's shape, and how they should look like, or what they should engage into in order to attend perfection etc.
With my clients we decided to call this voice "the inner critic" or the "eating disorder voice" as it felt like a constant criticism to them. Do you find yourself dealing with this same issue? Can you hear your eating disorder voice criticizing you?
The wise mind
The first step to recovery is to identify this inner critic part of you that constantly tells you what to do, and differentiate it to what you know is best for you. What is best for you is actually what we identify together when we start therapy. We discuss your values, your life objectives, and your goals for recovery. We identify together what YOU want for yourself, and not what the eating disorder think is best for you.
But how do we know what is best for us when we are so enmeshed with our eating disorder? In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy we talk about the "wise mind" decision.
The wise mind is this small voice within yourself that knows what is best for you, it can be experienced as a "gut feeling" for some, or what we would advise to a loved one. The wise mind is this middle path between the emotional mind (ruled by feelings and emotions) and the reasonable mind (rules by logic and reason). It is this middle part that takes into consideration your emotions while using facts and logic. Getting into a state of wise mind requires practice, which is something that can be learned through mindfulness and self-awareness.
A road to recovery
The most challenging part is being able to "dim down" the eating disorder voice to make space for self-compassion and wise mind decisions. It is about identifying the urge, recognizing it, understanding it, but not engaging into it. This takes time and practice, but it is possible!
Recovery happens when we don't let the inner critic voice make the decisions for us anymore. Recovery happens we we feel grounded and empowered in our choices.
"Even now I hear Ed's voice. The difference today is that I do not follow Ed's instructions anymore. He throws out his comments about what I should and should not do, and I continue living my life the way I want to, my way, the way that is best for me" Jenni Schaefer.
Schaefer, J., & Rutledge, T. (2004). Life without Ed: How one woman declared independence from her eating disorder and how you can too. New York: McGraw-Hill.