Negative body image can be one of the initial triggers for an eating disorder and one of the most difficult symptoms to overcome in recovery. Body image encompasses how we see ourselves both in the mirror and in our minds. A distorted body image makes us see things that aren’t actually there, and also cause feelings of depression and isolation….and this can be one of the major catalysts that perpetuates eating disordered behavior. In recovery we work on overcoming behaviors, trauma, depression, anxiety, and try to normalize eating patterns. But body image tends to be the one thing that hangs on long after recovery has begun. It takes continual effort to arrive at body acceptance but it is possible! Here are some tips for overcoming negative body image and thriving in your new, recovered life.
First the Facts
To set out on the road to body acceptance, it is important to know what influences our size. Look around you. Do you notice that everyone is unique? No two people look the same. If you walk down a crowded street in the city you will see that every body looks different. This is one of the most amazing things about being a human being! There is truly no one like you on earth.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, if we all started the same diet and exercise regimen on the same day, in one year our bodies would still be different. Why? Because genetics plays a huge role in our body types. We all have an ideal body weight, a “set point” that our body wants to live within. How will you know if you’re living at your set point? You will have energy to move around, you will be able to concentrate, and you will feel healthy overall.
Eating for Life
Eating disorder recovery requires us to normalize our eating patterns and mitigate behaviors that keep us stuck in the illness. While in treatment we may be required to adhere to a specific meal plan until ideal body weight is achieved. Once at maintenance, a dietitian may adjust this plan accordingly or encourage intuitive eating. If you are eating when hungry, stopping when full, and eating exactly what your body is asking for, you will settle at your set point. Listening to your body is essential for good health and nutrition. Combined with moderate exercise, monitored by your treatment team and adjusted as necessary, you will be able to maintain your ideal weight and have the energy you need to live your life at an optimal level.
Quieting Your Eating Disorder Voice
This all sounds wonderful, but we know that recovery is not so easy. We know that the eating disorder voice is going to do everything it can to keep you stuck. It will perpetuate your negative body image by telling you that you are overweight, useless, unworthy….the list can go on forever. In treatment you will learn techniques to quiet this voice and replace the negative with positive. Healthy Place provides some helpful responses to the negative eating disorder voice:
- My clothes fit the same way they did yesterday, so I haven’t gained weight overnight.
- My weight isn’t the problem. I am just fixating it to avoid something else.
- So what? Who is really going to judge me on my body? And do I want people in my life that judge based on appearance?
In treatment, especially when you are being asked to gain weight, your body will feel strange and your negative body image will be exacerbated. This is the time to get into an argument with the eating disorder voice! It is also the time to ask yourself what is really bothering you? Once you determine that you can ask for help and care for the root of the problem. Remember, fighting back against negative body now is taking on the fight against a major trigger against eating disorders.