Having had an eating disorder, I can attest to the fact that it’s literally an out-of-body experience. This is quite a paradoxical statement, considering that we view eating problems as body disorders. The truth is that they are actually problems of the body and mind and that the root of them is not being connected to both.
Eating disorders develop when we become untethered from the sensations and cues of our bodies. They become, what is called in the trade objectified, not only by others (but generally first by them) but by us. It’s as if the body is way out over there and we are viewing it in order to act upon it—as if it isn’t part of us.
There is a distinction between thoughts and feelings that are about the body (when we view and treat it as separate from us) and those that are in the body (when we view and treat it as part of us). Here are examples:
About the body . . .
- I should be thinner, lose weight, etc.
- I can’t be hungry, I just ate a while ago.
- I need to fit into these jeans.
- I want my body to look like their body.
- I can’t eat that chocolate cookie because I’ll gain weight.
- My body is too curvy, not muscular enough.
- I’ll weigh my food out/count carbs or calories so I know how much to eat.
- If I’m not attractive, I can’t be lovable.
In the body . . .
- When I eat “normally,” I’ll be able to arrive at a comfortable, healthy weight.
- I am definitely stomach hungry though I just ate a while ago.
- I can dress attractively in different size jeans.
- My body can only look like my body.
- I can eat a chocolate cookie if that’s what I really want if I eat it mindfully.
- My body is fine as it is.
- I’ll know how much to eat if I attend to appetite cues.
- I am lovable, period.
One aspect of healing from your eating disorder is not treating your body as if it is something separate from you to be acted upon with your will. Instead, listen to and treat it as if it is you—because it is. Be kind to it and let it teach you how to eat.