Eating Disorders

Overcoming Denial in Eating Disorder Recovery

Overcoming Denial in Eating Disorder Recovery | Libero Magazine
In my recovery, I was not able to truly make progress until I was able to believe that I had an eating disorder that warranted treatment. Overcoming my denial and recognizing that I had a problem happened slowly and over time.

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How many of you who are battling an eating disorder have ever thought to yourself “I’m not ‘sick enough’ or ‘thin enough’ to have an eating disorder?” I’ve definitely been there.

Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illnesses, and yet the nature of an eating disorder is to view one’s health, body, and even the disorder itself in an irrational way. This often leads to people who are slowly killing themselves being in denial about how ill they are, causing the eating disorder to spiral even more out of control.

In my recovery, I was not able to truly make progress until I was able to believe that I had an eating disorder that warranted treatment.

Overcoming my denial and recognizing that I had a problem happened slowly and over time.

This is so much easier said than done. Everyone needs to find their own path to recovery, but here are the top ten ways I have been able to overcome my denial about my eating disorder:

1. I started seeing a dietitian who specializes in eating disorders and put my trust in her expertise.

My dietitian is fantastic, and she has a ton of scientific evidence to back up her recommendations of how I should be eating. Sometimes I still argue with her and accuse her of “just wanting me to be fat,” but I have to remind myself the accusation is ridiculous. She has a degree for a reason. She is an expert on nutrition and she wouldn’t have gone into this field if she didn’t have patients’ best interests at heart.

2. I educated myself on eating disorders and body dysmorphia.

Knowledge is power. When I started reading about the symptoms of eating disorders and what experts say, I was able to realize why I thought the way I did about food and my body. I acquired knowledge I could use to oppose eating disorder thoughts and beliefs.

I went from thinking “I must need to lose weight because my reflection says so” to learning my convictions about my body could not be trusted. I learned you can die from an eating disorder at any weight. I learned eating disorders are more complex than the images shown in the media, so I shouldn’t compare my experience to those images.

I even educated myself on how denial is one of the top symptoms of an eating disorder, so I came to recognize that not feeling like I had a problem didn’t mean I didn’t have a problem.

3. I stopped comparing.

Eating disorders thrive on competition, and your eating disorder will always tell you that you don’t measure up. In reality, your eating disorder is feeding you lies to keep you sick.

There is always going to be someone with an eating disorder that is “sicker” or “thinner” than you. It doesn’t mean you aren’t sick. This includes people who write memoirs about their eating disorders.

I realized early on in my recovery that eating disorder memoirs only served as a source for comparison. There are also always going to be people who don’t have eating disorders who make unhealthy decisions about food, and seeing those people engage in unhealthy behaviors isn’t a free pass for you to engage in them as well.

Common behaviors are not necessarily healthy behaviors, especially since we live in a culture encouraging a thin ideal body image and where disordered eating is rampant.

4. I made a list of everything I lost to my eating disorder.

It is easy to romanticize one’s eating disorder since it serves as a coping mechanism. It can be helpful to take the time to sit down and reflect on the ways in which having an eating disorder detracts from happiness, health, relationships, goals, etc. Whenever I start to romanticize my eating disorder, I look at my list and remind myself of how destructive and serious my eating disorder is.

5.  I identified the difference between my disordered thoughts and my healthy self, and I have an open dialogue between the two.

This is definitely a process, and it takes time. I learned to create a separation between my healthy self and my eating disorder by reading Jenni Schaefer’s Life Without Ed. The separation allows me to “talk back” to my thoughts from a disordered place and disobey them.

For example, if I find myself thinking I have to restrict in order to feel better about a social rejection, I can take a step back and realize the thought is coming from my eating  disorder – not from the part of me that has my best interests at heart.

Jessica has a B.A. in Psychology and Women's Studies and is pursuing a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. She is passionate about social justice and hopes to make a difference in the lives of others and advocate for social change. Having recovered from an eating disorder, Jessica is committed to spreading the word that freedom from eating disorders is possible. Through her writing at Libero, Jessica hopes to empower those struggling with eating disorders to fight for the health and happiness that they deserve.

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