Distinguishing Your Voice From that of Your Eating Disorder

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Recovery can be really hard when you are unable to distinguish the eating disorders “voice” from your own. Making decisions becomes an uncertain task that can end up taking up far too much of your time because you are anxiously torn between what you want and what your eating disorder wants, and not being able to tell which is which. Because the voice actually sounds like your own thoughts, this can make it really difficult for someone to tell what thoughts are really theirs, and what are those of the eating disorder.

When it comes to telling your voice and the eating disorder’s “voice” apart, the first thing to think is “do I really want this?” Some people are able to quite easily separate the two with just that first question, and others are still unable to do so.

When it comes to food, and choosing to eat a certain food or comparing between two choices, the easiest way to tell what it is you want is to ask yourself; if it had no calories, would you really want to eat it? Or would you prefer something else? If the two you are comparing to had no calories, which one would you actually want to eat more? Another thing to do is think, if I walked away with this one and bought it, would it give me more anxiety than the other option? The one that you have more anxiety over is the one your eating disorder wants you not to choose, and is therefore the one you should choose to confront and overcome that anxiety. I would bet that the other one is something your ED picked to get you to choose that “safer” option rather than the one you really want to eat.

When it comes to negative thoughts about yourself – that’s not you. Hands down anything negative that comes into your head will be your eating disorder. I say this because now, in remission, I rarely have negative thoughts about myself or my body. When I do, they are quite mild and I can tell that they come more from a “normal” brain and have developed because of the society we live in. Negative thoughts caused by an eating disorder are usually very forceful, very malicious, and very hateful. They are cruel comments, not just “hmmm I’m not sure I’m loving those back rolls but meh okay what was I doing let’s carry on with that.” They are hurtful, vindictive, venomous comments like “you are disgusting” or “you are worthless” or “you are a worthless fat bitch”. When you experience thoughts like that, they are the lying, bullying voice of the eating disorder and you need to recognise that that voice does not carry truth. It just wants to hurt you. I would place my bets on saying that 99.999% of negative thoughts going on in the head of someone with an eating disorder are eating disorder thoughts.

When you are eating, or buying things for yourself, or doing something you enjoy, etc etc, and a thought comes into your head about not deserving to eat it, or buy it, or do it, then that is not your own thought. That again, is a bully inside your head that should not be there. Kick it out. Tell it that it is wrong. You deserve all the things that you want and you should be able to have all of the things that are within your reach.

When it comes to negative thoughts or thoughts that you don’t deserve something, ask yourself “is that something I would say to someone else?” If it isn’t, chances are it’s your eating disorder speaking. The things that eating disorder says to us, we would not find it acceptable to say to others, or let others say it to us, but we let that internal voice say it to us and submit to it. Start changing that and fight back. Recognise that the “voice” is just playing on your insecurities and is making unacceptable and vile comments towards you. Tell it to f*** off.

When it comes to other habits or behaviours, for example using certain items of cutlery, using certain plates or using only bowls to eat out of, challenge that. If you feel like using a bowl, use a plate. If that invokes anxiety in you, then using the bowl is a disordered habit. Use  a different fork/knife or spoon. If that invokes anxiety in you, then using certain items of cutlery is a disordered habit. The same goes for every habit or behaviour. Test out if they are disordered by switching things up. If you find it hard to sit still or sit down, but are pretty sure you’re just an active person, have a duvet day. If you eat at certain times because, you know, that’s just how it is, make it earlier or later. If you avoid white carbs because you just never really have the urge to eat them, make up a nice crusty roll or a bowl of pasta or some egg fried rice using white products. If you are eating low fat yoghurt but are pretty sure you just love it, buy some full fat yoghurt. Stop making excuses and just do it. It won’t be a problem if it is not a disordered habit. If the change freaks you out, the habit or behaviour is disordered.

These are some ways for you to tell apart yourself from your eating disorder when it comes to decision making and making the choices for you instead of your eating disorder. These tactics, of course, are not exclusive. I would welcome any comments to this post suggesting other ways for people to distinguish between their eating disorder “voice” and themselves. The more the better.

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8 thoughts on “Distinguishing Your Voice From that of Your Eating Disorder

  1. Kira

    Okay so almost six months into recovery and that voice is still there. It’s only been in the last few months that I have even recognised that the voice isn’t my voice. I call it ED and ED is a (insert swear word). I hate him, but at the same time, he has controlled me for a long time and it’s hard to let go of that comfort. It’s weird that it’s comfort, but it is. I know him, I know the process and I accept it. Only recently have I had the strength to challenge him.

    In the beginning of recovery all I could do was get through a day without purging, then a week and then a month. Now I’m starting to work through the brain side of recovery, the letting go of all the pain and how I got here and why I feel I have no value or worth.

    The first step, knowing that ED is not me.

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  2. krayolablue91

    For me I just use the same thought process in regards to ED types of thoughts as what I learned for OCD, remembering a quote from the book, “Brain Lock”. That is something to the effect of “OCD can seem to mimic the feeling of reality, but reality never mimics the feeling of OCD…Therefore, if it feels like it even MIGHT be OCD, it is.” That being said, in terms of prevention, trying to figure out what is an ED thought, or is not…Well, if it already is, then it’s kind of too late already, but rather focusing on doing what you want and what is healthy; Taking healthy actions doesn’t change regardless of whatever thoughts are floating around. That being said, that idea of what is “healthy” can be confusing, but seeing what is driving said thoughts, actions behaviors is crucial. Seeing if by doing something you are trying to lessen anxiety or whatever emotion by trying to control, cope with or control in an unhealthy manner.

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  3. anorexiarevealed

    what a great post. thank you for this. you’re right you have to realize that your ED thoughts are now you…they’re ED. He makes you think negatively about yourself. it’s all about drowning him out. stay strong love! xoxo

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  4. punkkimono

    This is really helpful, especially because it’s so simple to remember when you need to. I’m gonna think of it as ‘the anxiety test’ to remind me. Thanks, Sarah. Your posts are golddust.

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  6. Stacey

    Thank you so much for this. I can usually recognise the evil bitch (my ED) when she’s speaking to me, but the strategies above sound amazing – I do struggle sometimes with ‘is it really what I want or is it what ED wants?’ Because I genuinely do like ‘healthy’ food – the imagining that there’s no calories might be a handy trick! I have only just found your website, but it’s already helped so much. Thank you

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