Giving the eating disorder a name like “Ed” is a common way to externalize the disorder, or think of it as separate from your own mind and body. Many people can distinctly hear the voice of ED. He criticizes and trys to control, like an abusive ex-boyfriend.
Your ED voice pipes in as you sit down to a meal and criticizes what’s on your plate. “That is way too much. Ugh, carbs again? Those are not gonna help you with your beach bod, honey. There’s still time to choose something else. Or you could always just eat the veggies and leave the rest.” So, how do you respond? Here’s a few ways…
#1 Fightin’ Words
You mentally respond by bashing the ED voice and bossing it around. “Only eating veggies for dinner is RIDICULOUS! How can you be so stupid, ED! I hate you for trying to lead me in the wrong direction. STOP it ED! Just STOP.”
Indeed, the ED voice is ridiculous and stupid. This is a great response when you are feeling angry towards your ED and want to let off some steam. You go girl!
However, reasons you may not be able to confront him this way every time. (1) Sometimes you’re exhausted. Emotional battle is tiring and you’re not always in a fighting mood. (2) Even though he seems like a different voice, ED really is coming from your brain…even if you don’t believe what he says. So you’re sort of beating yourself up. (3) You know what fighting words do? They cause fights! ED may have a clever comeback. Now you’ve got a back and forth battle going on in your head at the dinner table while your food gets cold and your family looks at you quizically.
#2 The Pollyanna
You respond like the A+ nutrition client that you are…with facts and positivity. “Carbs give me energy and I need them to function. I’m eating the amount based on my trustful body’s cues. Also, I already have a fab beach bod! I love my body!”
Similar to above, this is a great response! I applaud it! Seriously, when people use nutrition information to talk back to their ED…it just gives me goosebumps! (Did you know dietitians are nerds? Or maybe just me?)
However, similar to above, this response may not always be feasible. You might not know off-hand the nutrition information needed to defend your actions. Or maybe you don’t believe or trust it enough today. Also, maybe your just feeling “meh” about your body right now. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but you just can’t feel positive all the time.
#3 Talk to the Hand
Don’t act on the voice, don’t talk back to the voice. This expends less energy on your part. You don’t have to explain yourself to him! Just carry on with your meal. You may find that his voice starts at the front-and-center of your thoughtspace and ends up moving to the side or back of your brain. Still there, but not as prominent. It’s possible, though, he could be like my 3-year-old daughter…when she doesn’t get a response, she gets louder and more frequent. This method is worth experimenting with, though, for sure.
#4 The Parent
Mentally say one of the following one-liners with compassion. Choose whichever fits your personaility best so you’re able to say it without sarcasm:
- “Bummer. How sad.”
- “I love you too much to argue with you.”
- “I bet it feels that way.”
- “I know.”
- “Maybe you’ll like what we have for the next meal better.”
Wait, why would I be neutral, or even nice, to my ED voice? Well, that voice is still actually a part of you. In this example, you are responding in a loving way, but not agreeing with what it’s saying. You can acknowledge and even wonder what purpose the voice is serving you… it might be worth talking to your therapist about this one. My point is, you can respond with compassion without doing what it’s telling you to do.
I’m actually trying this out on my own critical voice related to the perfectionist in me. I’m realizing that hating that part of myself, the critical part, is not making it go away. So why not try treating it with love? Seems like something Jesus would do.
I’m also trying is on my kids. Seriously, I took these lines straight from a parenting class!
Let’s try it out!
To remain compassionate and non-sarcastic, picture ED as a small child instead of an abusive ex-boyfriend. Aaaaaand go!
ED: This is way too much.
You: I bet it feels that way.
ED: Ugh, carbs again? Those are not gonna help you with your beach bod, honey.
You: I bet it feels that way. (note: It’s ok to be repetitive)
ED: There’s still time to choose something else. Or you could always just eat the veggies and leave the rest.
You: I know. *Takes bite of carbs*