Some people think that having an eating disorder is a choice. Some people think it is a pathetic way to obtain attention from others. Some people think that EDs are no real diseases, but a way of living. Would those people say "a flu is not a sickness"? What they have not understood is that EDs are a symptom. Not a cause.
The real problem is not the ED. The real problem are the causes for the ED. The ED is more of a symptom, just like a cold is a symptom for a virus which the body is trying to get rid of.
The bad news are that this symptom can be mortal. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all psychological health issues. A cold does not kill you. Anorexia does.
The real issue we have to tackle is the root cause of this symptom. Like the virus in our cold-example. What is causing people do become anorexic / bulimic / etc.? This is the real question we have to ask ourselves. And honestly - I could not have tackled this subject without professional help. Then, all of a sudden, structures which have been in your brain forever get questioned. Is it normal to have a body image like that? Where does it come from? Does somebody in your family who has a big influence on you pay a lot of attention to anything related to food / sports / looks? Did that person maybe do that ever since you can even think? Was there that one skinny friend which you were always jealous of? Did somebody ever make fun of you because of being a little bit "chunky"? Do you think there is somebody in your life who made / makes you think that happiness is linked to weight? Do you think that overweight people can be happy?
There are a lot of questions like that you should ask yourself in order to find out the real cause of your ED. For me, it was important to know where it came from in order to make peace with it, forgive myself, and move on.
In order to get to the cause, these questions might help you. Ask yourself if in any way you were taught at some point in your life that only skinny people can be happy / are successful / are "good" people. If so, you probably have engraved that pattern into your brain just as I used to. It is the "normal" image for you. Skinny equals success and happiness. You have become so used to that image that in the end, this is the "real world" to you. You are convinced that the skinner you are, the more successful you will be, the happier you will be, the more people will like you.
Just think of yourself. Do you have a "normal-weight" friend? An overweight one? Or a family member? Do you like that person less because they are not as skinny as you are? Are they really less successful? Less attractive? I for myself can say for sure that weighing 10 kilos less I was in no way happier than I am today. On the contrary. Are YOU really happier being more skinny? Try to think back - when you had more weight, were you less happy?
Be brave and attack the cause. Re-build the highway in a different direction. Keep telling yourself that skinny does not equal success or happiness. Keep telling yourself that there are plenty of reasons to love and trust yourself. Keep telling yourself that you have the right to recover, that you have the right to get help, that you are worth it!
In the beginning your brain will always try to take the easiest way - the one it knows. That's absolutely normal. Stay on that new-built, unknown way. This can actually be learned. Trust yourself. Tell yourself that you can do it. And that your new, happy and healthy yourself, will make the hard way worthwhile taking.
Here are some simple things which can help you build this new road and stay on it:
- Make a list of things which you are proud of
- Write down motivational sentences and put them where you see them regularly. My preferred one: There's no better yourself than you.
- Think of a good friend or a family member of yours who you admire for being authentic and happy. Who does not care about a number on the scale.
- Take care of yourself - especially when you do not feel like doing it. We tend wanting to punish ourselves for having eaten too much / not having worked out enough, etc. If you see that dark feeling coming up, take it as an indicator. Ask yourself what this feeling really wants for you. Why is it there? For me it usually wanted to be loved, feel good, be happy. And this is when I told myself "Wait a minute. NOT taking care of myself is not what will make me happy here." and I learned to be good to myself. Do things I like if I feel down. Get a coffee, meet up with friends, go for a walk... make a list of those little things you can do which give you a good feeling.
And last but not least: Stay with it. Don't give up. Don't ever get tired of telling yourself that you have the obligation to be good to yourself. Because in the end the only person you can always rely on is yourself.