Just as chicken pox always comes with spots and tonsillitis always comes with a sore throat, we are well aware that eating disorders bring negative thoughts. Whether about food, weight or body image, these thoughts can nag or scream at you 24/7, often making it extremely impossible to concentrate on anything else.
As they are often one of the last things to fade as you work on your recovery, it is helpful to learn to manage them as soon as you can. Here are the four main strategies which we discuss in detail with our service users during support sessions:
- Sitting with the thought and letting it pass
Although the thoughts seem personal to you, it is important to be aware that the majority of people with an eating disorder also have them too and exactly the same ones, so it is no coincidence.
Thoughts are just that. A thought cannot harm you in any way. They may start off quietly and then get louder and louder but they still cannot do anything to you and are completely powerless. Like all fears, they will always fade away UNLESS you give it power by doing the actions of what it's telling you to do i.e.. miss a meal, get rid of food, exercise etc. This then gives it more power to control you and you can feel overwhelmed by the disordered thoughts.
A service user once described the thoughts as being like a plant. The more you listen to them, it is like you are giving them water which will help the plant (eating disordered thought) to grow bigger and stronger. However, without water, the plant will shrivel and die.
Another service user liked to think of themselves as a tree with the eating disorder thoughts being the wind. They said that the wind would blow all around them but actually could never harm them as their roots were firmly in the ground. The wind would eventually move away!