You’re told by loved ones, health professionals and friends that your eating disorder is bad. You hear people rattle on about eating more, gaining weight, and reducing your exercise. Your parents are worried sick, your teacher pulls you aside, your psychologist begs you to add more food to your diet.
But what’s all the fuss about, hey? I don’t have a problem, and maybe even if it do, I could not live without my eating disorder, “ED”… after all ED is my best friend.
For the lay person, this is a foreign concept, but for anyone who lives with an eating disorder, this makes total sense. An eating disorder is rewarding and more comforting than snuggling under your doona on a winters day.
Reward and Comfort in my Eating Disorder
You feel rewarded for losing weight and relish in feeling light, mini or dainty. Bones protruding is your idea of success. Loose clothing (especially those baggy skinny leg jeans) make you feel safe, happy and free. If people comment on your weight loss, you take it as a huge compliment (even if they’re being negative): Super thin is your ideal.
Diet restriction in itself feels like an achievement. It makes you feel powerful and provides purpose. It distracts you from other life difficulties and is a reliable source of happiness and inner comfort. You feel in control of life and unique in your willpower and discipline.
Extreme exercise makes you feel super human, as your body withstands everything you throw at it. You feel invincible.
Binging or “cheat” meals/days reward you for your efforts. With the rule book out the window, you feel freedom at its best. Eating “forbidden” foods and feeling full in your belly provides comfort and relief.
On a whole the eating disorder is predictable and familiar, something you know you are good at. It is also your closest confidant; a secret relationship kept from the world that provides a predictable source of validation.
That’s right, your eating disorder is your best friend…. isn’t it?
Well let’s face it, ED certainly has some similarities to a best friend: It gives you loads of advice, it provides comfort and validation, and it is a master of distraction!
However, here’s the thing, while ED has your full attention, it slowly steels your most precious gems – your relationships, fun, future and health. At first, the consequences may not seem too severe or immediately obvious, but overtime, an eating disorder takes… and takes… and takes.
Consequences of an Eating Disorder
Your relationships suffer, often leaving you alone and isolated. You tend to avoid social events that involve food. If you do socialise, your ED thoughts distract you, making it hard to be fully present and connected. Hunger also makes you tired, irritable and sensitive; making you snappy and intolerant towards loved ones. As a result, others often feel they’re walking on eggshells around you.
It’s hard to have fun. Given ED thoughts occupy 90-99% of your thoughts, you’re barely present in life “moments”. Whats worse, is the nature of your ED thoughts are often punitive and critical.
Your future may be compromised. You may struggle to focus on study or work, which leads to reduced performance or complete disengagement. As well, given ED provides comfort and purpose, you may prioritise it over other life pursuits.
Your health is impacted. Your bone density depletes, putting you at risk of osteoporosis later in life. Your heart function may be compromised, and you may be at risk of a heart attack. Your teeth may decay. You may experience fertility issues. Your immune system will be run down, and you’re constantly cold, even in summer.
If you suffer from an eating disorder it can be hard to notice or acknowledge the consequences of your eating disorder, but perhaps a good place to start is to acknowledge that a real best friend wishes you well for your future, prays for good health, and hopes for a life full of connection and love.
How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help?
We are a team of warm and professional psychologists, who have a specialised interest in eating disorder treatment. Our psychologists are not only competent in delivering evidence-based treatment for eating disorders, but they understand the fears surrounding recovery. Contact us today to be matched to a psychologist who suits your needs and personality.