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Eating Disorder Recovery: Mapping Your Progress

Eating Disorder Recovery: Mapping Your Progress

Healing from an eating disorder is a journey.  The path isn’t always easy and level, but neither is life.  You must want to get well, to move forward and reestablish a healthy, balanced relationship with food.  Once you have understood that something is drastically wrong with the choices you are making in your life, the responsibility for making positive change lies solely with you.  You must replace the false control of food with a positive control based on your new understanding of yourself and your past.

As you continue on your healing journey, allow me to give you some food for thought.  Mapping your progress can be very beneficial.  I encourage you to use a journal to assist in the recovery process.  Here are six tips for you to consider:

  1. Imagine your healing process as a journey.  Draw a map in your journal of your progress so far.  Show the path you’ve taken, the obstacles you’ve had to overcome or work around.  Write about the high points where you’ve come to understand a hidden truth.  Label it, “My Journey.”  Remember, don’t worry about the quality of your drawing.  Use color and whatever details help cement how you’re really feeling.  This picture is for you, a visual chronicle of the work you’ve done so far.
  2. Go back through a previous healing journal to refresh your memory.  Read over the statements and questions you’ve already answered.  Take a moment to put this journey into perspective.  Fill in your journey up to this point and then, if you like, anticipate some of the highs and lows that may come up as you continue.  If you can anticipate the lows, it may help you to get through them.  You’ll have an idea they are coming, although you may not be sure exactly when.
  3. Looking at your map, what are the major high points so far?  What are the major valleys so far?
  4. As you look over your past, what are you able to see now, from a more mature viewpoint, that you haven’t been able to see before?  Think about letting go of your anger.  What are your immediate reactions?  Read these next two statements aloud and then write down your answers:
    • I’ve always thought I was at fault for what happened to me.  Now I can see that what happened to me happened because…
    • It’s difficult to forgive my parents for not being perfect because…
  5. Read over the following and respond as honestly as you can.
    • It’s hard for me to accept responsibility for how I use food because…
    • I realize I’ve contributed to my unhealthy relationship with food by…
    • In order to get well, I’ve been able to…
    • I choose to accept the responsibility for my future because…
    • In order to get well, I’ve been able to…
    • I choose to accept the responsibility for my future because…
  6. You have to want to get well.  You have to believe you can get well.  Use the following statements to reinforce your desire and your belief in your own healing.
    • I have the following reasons for wanting to get well…
    • These are the reasons I know I can get well…

You have been experiencing waves of emotions that have tossed and turned you about.  It is time for some calmer waters.  Everything we do, see, and experience is sifted through the filter of our perspective.  It provides the lend through which we see the world.  Continue to document your healing journey.  In time, you will be able to reflect and see how far you have come.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.

 

Fear, Guilt, Shame, and Eating Disorders

Fear, Guilt, Shame, and Eating Disorders

People who struggle with eating disorders or disordered eating often experience companion emotions. Three of the most common companion emotions to eating disorders include fear, guilt, and shame. Addressing these emotions is a crucial part of truly recovering from an eating disorder.

Fear

If you grew up in a rigid, perfectionistic family, you may have developed an intense fear of failure and rejection. If someone you desperately wanted approval from conditioned that approval on unrealistic goals of perfect behavior, you got the message that no matter how hard you try, you were never good enough. If that person conditioned their approval on physical appearance, you got the message that being thin was the surest way to measure up.

Your parents or other family members may still focus their attention on outward appearances. They may not be comfortable, even today, talking about your feelings and emotions. They may express their approval only of your outward signs of success: your physical appearance, a prestigious job, exemplary school performance, a high salary, or material possessions. Success for them is determined by how you are “doing,” as opposed to how you are feeling. You need to recognize the possibility that your eating disorder or disordered eating patterns have come about as a response to your need for this conditioned approval. If you were unable to gain acceptance in other areas of your life, you may have turned to your physical appearance as an avenue of acceptance. Your fear of rejection has metastasized into fear of being fat.

Guilt

Children’s frames of reference for sorting out the jumble of adult actions and motivations are their own experiences. So there is a tendency for children to blame themselves for family difficulties. A child whose parents are divorcing will ask himself what he did wrong. A child whose mother is angry all the time will wonder how she can make her mother happy. Children understand when something they have done wrong produces pain in others. An immature leap in logic can produce the false impression that when they experience pain themselves, they must be the cause of it. And those feelings lead to tremendous guilt.

Eating disorders and a dysfunctional relationship with food can often be caused by past guilt manifested into control and self-harm. In order to control the guilt, an anorexic will self restrict food and liquids. A bulimic will binge to comfort the fear and purge out the guilt. An over-eater will binge to bring comfort as a way to appease the guilt. People who insist upon intentional unhealthy eating may have already written themselves off because of guilt and lack of motivation to make better choices.

Shame

A dysfunctional relationship with food thrives in an atmosphere of shame. Without significant weakening in the self-esteem and self-worth of a person, these destructive behaviors could not stand. In the progression of the eating disorder and disordered eating, shame over her inability to control her own behaviors is like a suffocating blanket. The person who has learned to love and forgive herself would throw off that blanket. But to the person who has lived in an atmosphere of shame, that blanket is a familiar, acceptable place to hide.

The anorexic feels shame at never achieving impossible perfection. The bulimic and the overeater feel shame at the out-of-control binging. In addition, the bulimic who purges through vomiting or laxatives will feel shame at the very way the food is expelled from the body. The overeater feels ashamed at simply being fat. The disordered eater feels ashamed at being unable to control those urges. Together, they constantly attack self-esteem and promote self-doubt—the perfect breeding ground for shame.

If you or someone you love is struggling with and eating disorder and the co-occurring emotions of fear, guilt or shame, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call 1-888-771-5166 or fill out our contact form and someone from The Center • A Place of HOPE will be in touch with you soon.

Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Hope Help & Healing for Eating Disorders: A Whole-Person Approach to Treatment of Anorexia, Bulimia, and Disordered Eating.