Eating Disorder Recovery – Lesson #3

It wasn’t until this morning, while stretching at the end of my workout, that I had an idea about what Lesson #3 would be. I mean, I’ve learned plenty of things along the road to recovery from Binge-Eating Disorder, but the first two lessons (No Food is Off Limits and Listen to Your Body) really seemed like the most important. Until today. Today I was reminded of an even more important recovery lesson: “Talk Back to Your Inner Critic”. Whether you want to call your inner critic by a specific name (“Ed”, “Ana”, “Mia”, etc) or simply think of your inner critic as a voice separate from yourself, you must learn to talk back to it.

I was reminded of the importance of this when I was stretching this morning. As I stretched, there were several men nearby talking about a female athlete who attends the gym. I won’t repeat their conversation but I found it offensive and rude. My inner critic, however, latched on to what they said and started saying things like, “They think she’s attractive. You don’t look anything like her. That must mean they think you’re unattractive. In fact, they probably think you’re hideous. That’s why they never speak to you. You’re so ugly you can’t even get average guys to say ‘hi’ to you.”

“ENOUGH!!!” I screamed (in my head) at my inner critic. “I do not have to be attractive to all people. Those guys are shallow anyway.” My inner critic responded with stunned silence. I happily walked into the locker room and packed up my things.

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For someone who was raised to be polite, to give compliments freely, and to not talk back or be rude to others, Lesson #3 has not come easy. The voice of my inner critic, who I called “Ed”, was much louder than any other voice within me. At the start of my recovery, Ed had been running my life for fifteen years, telling me what to eat and when, arguing against all logic, and convincing me to ignore my body’s needs. The first time I consciously talked back to Ed (long before my therapist recommended it) the conversation went something like this:

Ed: You know you wanna buy a doughnut.

Me: Well, sure, it would taste good, but I’m not hungry.

Ed: Just do it!

Me: Why? I’m not hungry!

Ed: Listen, you’ll be driving past the bakery in one minute. Just pull over and get a doughnut. They’re soooo good!

Me: You’re right. I’ll stop and get a doughnut.

Ten minutes later, as I brush powdered sugar off my lap…

Me: I feel so full! I wasn’t even hungry! Why did I do that?

Ed: Because you’re weak. You have no willpower. You’re such an idiot. You can’t stand up to even the smallest of tests. You’re worthless.

Me (crying in the car): You’re right.

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Okay, so talking back to Ed didn’t have the best outcome the first time I tried it. But that one attempt opened the door to continued efforts. When my therapist recommended I read the book, “Life Without Ed” by Jenni Schaefer and Thom Rutledge, I realized just how important it would be for me to develop this skill of talking back. So I practiced. Future conversations went more like this:

Ed: You know you wanna buy a doughnut.

Me: Well, sure, it would taste good, but I’m not hungry.

Ed: Just do it!

Me: Why? I’m not hungry! My therapist warned me about you.

Ed: Forget your therapist! What does she know? She never even had an eating disorder.

Me: That doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to help me.

Ed: Whatever. Listen, you’ll be driving past the bakery in one minute. Just pull over and get a doughnut. They’re soooo good!

Me: No. I don’t need a doughnut right now. And I think this is a good chance for me to practice saying ‘no’ to you.

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You can see that it got a little easier with time and practice. In my book (click here to read more about it), I write about my daily efforts to talk back to Ed. Looking back now, learning that skill really was the turning point in my recovery. By talking back to Ed, I soon began to recognize the inner strength that allowed me to listen to my body and make sure that no food was off limits.

How can these lessons help you in your recovery? Start by talking back to Ed and find out.

Peace, joy, and health,

Megan

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