How to Overcome an Eating Disorder in 6 Steps.

Via on Jan 13, 2013

Body Image. The subjective concept of one's physical appearance based on self-observation and the reactions of others.

Or, rather, how I overcame mine.

I was inspired by Waylon’s recent blog about an Oprah interview.

In it he makes the amazing point that people don’t want to be told more of what they should be doing;  they want to learn how. So here’s how I went beyond being an eating-disordered girl to a self-loving woman.

 1.  See food as medicine. On your quest towards leaving your food-is-the-enemy mentality behind, see food as medicine. After all, food nourishes your body in a way that nothing else can; it is medicinal. As a foodie, I totally get that food is so much more than this; it nourishes so much more of us than just our bodies. Yet someone with a severe eating disorder is likely incapable, at least at first, of understanding this. Trying to get them to see food as love or anything spiritual or special is beyond the scope of reality. Hopefully this will come with time and healing, but focus first on not seeing food as something to fear.

 

 2. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. It’s not just the people with eating disorders who have stopped listening to their bodies. Our society as a whole does not prepare us for a life of eating when hungry and stopping when full. I’m not only talking about the clean plate club either. I’m talking about that one hour you have to eat lunch or that window of opportunity to give your kids breakfast before school. I’m talking about the no you can’t have that before dinner rule. Let me tell you, it took literally years to re-learn my body’s hunger queues, and at times I had to quite seriously fight my bosses to eat when I needed to (I won). This reconditioning takes patience and practice—and, trust me, it’s worth it.

 

 3. Stop using the F-word! Fat. It’s become an ordinary part of our lexicon—and this sickens me. I don’t believe in saying never, but I will tell you that I will never call myself fat again—especially in front of my daughter. Please, even if you think it, stop saying it. Not only are you allowing the cycle to continue for your kids, you’re allowing it to continue for yourself. Ever heard the concept that thoughts become words and words become actions? There is something real in this. Sometimes we have to fake it to make it, so I’m begging you to stop using the f-word.

 

 4. You always have the potential to become sick again. I was severely eating disordered for well over a decade, for definitely half of my life thus far. Yet I don’t see myself as eating disordered at all anymore. Ask anyone who knows and loves me; I love food and I eat extremely healthfully, yet I still eat what I want when I want (and I don’t over exercise anymore either). But you know what? Some of my absolute worst periods came after I had mentally declared myself eating disorder free. Then it dawned on me that I’m more like an alcoholic: I can be recovered, but I’ll always have an eating disorder. Maybe you don’t agree with this philosophy, and this might not be true for people that haven’t been severely ill with this disease, but I fully believe that seeing myself as having the potential for a relapse is what’s kept me well for the last decade. Sure, there’s some negativity behind this, but it’s the harsh reality for some.

 

 5. Treat yourself like a beloved friend. In some cases this might not work, because some people don’t know how to treat other people with love and compassion. However, this step really helped me. I first read about this concept—talking to yourself like a dear friend—in a book during college. Would you say some of the things you say to yourself to someone you really loved, or would you treat them with more understanding and forgiveness? Being objective in this loving manner is a huge step towards the ultimate goal of health and self-love. (And this is true for everyone, not just people suffering from an eating disorder.) Remember that thoughts become words and words become actions—so start demanding that your inner voice speaks more gently.

 

6. Practice yoga. If you already practice yoga, great. If you don’t, start. Granted I had been practicing yoga for years—as a stretching routine after a run or weight lifting session. However, when I finally tuned into a daily yoga practice, I discovered so much health and ease and love for myself and for my body. Practicing yoga has helped me overcome a myriad of physical problems—from chronic low blood pressure to SI joint pain after childbirth—and you know what? I credit it for saving the real me that had to live inside a sick person. So thank you, yoga.

If these steps seem too easy to be true, it’s because they are. Just like anything else, you can be shown how to do something but it takes your own work and practice to be successful.

Recovering from an eating disorder is possible.

For many years, I defined myself as an eating disordered person first, who happened to have other qualities. Now it’s not even part of my vocabulary, much less my self-definition—and it took many years and many setbacks to achieve this.

So how do you overcome an eating disorder? One small step at a time.

 

Like elephant health & wellness on Facebook.

 

~

Ed: Kate Bartolotta

About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She's also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people that ever lived and she's also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor's degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer then make sure to check out her writing, as she's finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer's first book, The Best Day of Your Life, is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and on her website.

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10 Responses to “How to Overcome an Eating Disorder in 6 Steps.”

  1. Kathleen says:

    I really appreciate the ideas that you're talking about, and agree that we as a society need to change our views in order to regain the health that we have sacrificed. I am very glad to hear that these methods have worked for you in fighting and winning your battle.

    However, I find "How to Overcome an Eating Disorder in Six Steps" to be an offensive idea (though that may be exactly what you intended, I don't know). This title seems to write eating disorders off as something anyone can kick in six easy steps. We both know that eating disorders are much more complicated than that.

    • If you read through, she does discuss exactly the fact that it is more complicated and that no one can tell us exactly how to get there. The title is meant to be provocative….the subtitle immediately clarifies Jennifer's intentions.

      • Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

        Thanks, Kate. You are spot on. I wasn't going to share this, but I think I will because my husband made a great point when he asked if AA's 12 steps are offensive. There are proven and effective recovery programs that use steps. However, no one actually putting work into these steps would call them easy—and they're not meant to be.

  2. Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

    Just to clarify, I'm not talking about changing society; I'm discussing changing the self. ("Be the change you want to see in the world.")

    Lastly, sorry this struck you as offensive. I'm fairly confident, however, that if effort is actually put into trying these steps, you'll find that all of them are quite far from easy. (I never said in 6 simple, easy steps.)

  3. Anna Sheinman SOFLY_Anna says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    Great article! I've been struggling with food addictions for over-decade myself. It's a tough task to summarize it in 6 steps, but you did an excellent job highlighting what really worked for you and might help others.
    I've lost 30+ lbs myself: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/09/weight-los

    But ultimately, each individual should find her or his own path. I personally, find the most difficult #2 – I sometimes tend to eat when I am stressed or just to chew…and yoga really helps.

    Best Regards,
    Anna.
    <a href="http://www.streamoflifeyoga.com” target=”_blank”>www.streamoflifeyoga.com

    • Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

      Meant to reply to you…anyways the reply is a below comment. (I keep doing that; one day I'll get the hang of the ol' reply button ;)

  4. Jennifer S. White Jennifer White says:

    Anna! I absolutely love your story!

    First of all, thanks of course for your wonderful thoughts on my article, but more than that I thank you for bringing to the surface in these discussions the reality that an eating disorder can encompass many different relationships with food and exercise (which, quite frankly, is the reason I only wrote "eating disorder" in this blog and steered clear of other words; and hence the reason I value your comment even more).

    Ah, #2, it's arguably the most challenging. In part, I think this is because when your eating becomes disordered–especially severely and especially for long periods–this takes the most practice; and practice in the sense that you fall off the wagon and have to find the stamina and courage to keep hopping back on. For me, this is much the same as what I've gained from my yoga practice. You try and try again, and one day it just clicks like you've been doing it all your life (which is why I think you and I both have trouble remembering the exact age/number that "something" happened for us in our lives). There's a point that it feels like you've done it forever and that "old" self is you in a former life–you become so detached from your former reality.

    Thanks again for your comment.
    Jennifer

  5. [...] mean, I do understand where she’s coming from. (Just read my blog How to Overcome an Eating Disorder in 6 Steps-–obviously, I’ve suffered from a poor body [...]

  6. [...] I’ve come a long way in other areas. Read my blog How to Overcome an Eating Disorder in 6 Steps. I definitely think I’ve made some real inner triumphs that have paid off big in how I [...]

  7. David_Hoskins says:

    These are really great tips. People often opt for dieting. Skipping food is not a healthy way out. I've tried it and only to fail very badly. I noticed I started to become weak. I had to join rehab services, Bellwood Health Services in Toronto, to put down my wait. I won't ask everyone to join rehab services, as I did. Some people might be having the support or motivation need to balance their food, daily routine and daily basic exercises. I knew things but never got that motivation and that's why I joined Bellwood.
    One can have their weight lost, it will be a slow process, which is healthy one. Have proper food, in an controlled amount, at proper time. If you are having your breakfast at 8 AM that should be your breakfast everyday. Similar, should be the case with your lunch and dinner. Don't wait for you to feel hungry to have food. Some even take small amounts of food every two hours and this also proved effective.
    Do regular basic exercise in a proper way. That's all. You will think it is a tough job. Yes, it is. It is tough to maintain this routine. If you are in this routine, you would slowly, lose weight and you will not notice but will be coming back into good health and shape.

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