By Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C
“I shouldn’t feel so anxious around food.”
“This shouldn’t be so hard.”
“It’s my fault that I developed an eating disorder.”
“I’m just such a shallow person.”
I often see clients struggling with feelings of shame around their eating disorders thoughts or behaviors.
I’ve also had clients who express feeling like it was some of their own “choices,” which led them to develop an eating disorder. Thus, blaming themselves for having an eating disorder.
Struggling with an eating disorder is not a character flaw, rather it is a serious mental illness that no one would choose to struggle with.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of public understanding of eating disorders and many stereotypes, which can serve to reinforce feelings of shame and stigma for those who are suffering.
Ultimately, I’ve never seen anyone successfully shame themselves into recovery from an eating disorder.
Shame actually can cause people to be dishonest, disconnected, and to not reach out for support when they need it.
Challenging Some Common Shame-Based Beliefs
The antidote to shame is having the courage to be vulnerable. It’s having the strength to reach out to someone and say, “actually I’m not ok."
It’s also important to practice self-compassion, especially when self-critical or shame-based thoughts start to come up.
The following is an example of how you can start to respond to your eating disorder thoughts, with more compassionate ones.
It can be helpful to picture how you might respond to a friend or loved one who was struggling (another exercise that I like is finding a picture of yourself as a child and practicing self-compassionate responses that way).
Eating Disorder Thought: “I shouldn’t feel so anxious around food.”
Compassionate Response: It’s perfectly understandable that I’m feeling anxious around food. I’m in recovery from an eating disorder and this is how mine manifests. How can I take the next pro recovery action anyways?
Eating Disorder Thought: “This shouldn’t be so hard.”
Compassionate Response: If recovery were easy, then my therapist and dietitian wouldn’t have jobs. Recovery is definitely tough, but it will get easier with time and practice.
Eating Disorder Thought: “It’s my fault that I developed an eating disorder.”
Compassionate Response: No one would choose to develop an eating disorder, they’re miserable. The same way that no one would choose to have cancer. However, recovery is a choice that I can keep making in each moment.
Eating Disorder Thought: “I’m just such a shallow person.”
Compassionate Response: If I were truly shallow, I wouldn’t feel so distressed about the fact that i'm fixating on weight. I’m not shallow, I’m someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder. It’s perfectly understandable that I’m having a tough time with body image, as this is one of my symptoms. What can I do to be kind to myself right now?
Eating Disorder Thought: “I’m not even sick enough to have an eating disorder.”
Compassionate Response: It doesn’t matter what someone weighs, whether they have “normal labs,” or medical complications, or how often they use behaviors. Everyone who is struggling with an unhealthy relationship to food and their body-is 100% sick enough and deserves to get treatment.
It’s Not Your Fault
It’s not your fault that you developed an eating disorder. Eating disorders are mental illnesses that are caused by a combination of biopsychosocial factors (genes, temperament, environmental factors) , they are not choices.
You are not “weak,” or a bad person for struggling. You are someone who is doing the best you can right now, with the coping strategies that you have.
Reaching out for help when you are struggling is true courage. It takes incredible strength to say, “actually I’m not ok and I need support.”
If you are struggling with feelings of shame around your eating disorder, you are not alone.
The more that we can speak up about eating disorders, the more we can start to shatter the shame and stigma.
I love working with people with eating disorders, because they are some of the most compassionate, intelligent, resilient, and brave people that I know.
Do you want to find freedom?
Book your free 15 min consultation.
The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center founded by Jennifer Rollin. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, OSFED, and body image issues. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. We also offer eating disorder therapy virtually throughout California. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
After many applications and interviews, when I interviewed Samantha Moshiri, MA, LMFT, I was blown away by both her amazing clinical skills, knowledge of eating disorder treatment, and passion for the work. I almost hired her on the spot.
She previously worked for many years as an eating disorder therapist at one of the top residential treatment centers in Los Angeles, California.
Samantha now provides virtual eating disorder therapy throughout the state of California and i'm so excited to share my interview with her.
Jennifer: Tell me a little bit about yourself and what got you interested in working with people with eating disorders?
Samantha: When I was struggling with my own eating disorder, I went years holding onto the impression that it would be a daily battle I would face for the rest of my life. This felt daunting and often times made me want to give up on my recovery. However, finding and working with a therapist who was recovered from an eating disorder herself and who advocated that full recovery is possible made the effort feel worth it and provided me with the hope I needed to make a full recovery myself. It is now my passion to help provide guidance and to help hold hope for other men and women who are navigating their own journeys to recovery from an eating disorder.
Jennifer: What was the most helpful for you in your own recovery journey?
Samantha: Working with a therapist who I felt I could trust was integral to my recovery process. I needed a strong and trustworthy bond with my therapist to help combat the lies my eating disorder had been telling me for so long. This trust with my therapist also allowed me to be truthful about where I was in my recovery journey and allowed me to be met exactly where I was every step of the way, which gave me a sense of safety.
Jennifer: How is your recovered life different from your life trapped in an eating disorder?
Samantha: I conceptualize the difference between my life when I was trapped in my eating disorder versus my life now as the difference between telling myself ‘I’ll be happy when I change some aspect of myself’ to now believing ‘I am enough just the way I am.’ In my eating disorder I felt like I was constantly hoping that by changing my body my life would improve, however, what I know now is that the pursuit of changing my body was in fact a large part of what was making me miserable and not the other way around! For me freedom from dieting has meant freedom to live a full life. I'm now happily married, I'm a proud mom to two kids-and my life is so much more joyful.
Jennifer: How would you describe your approach as a therapist?
Samantha: I am a person centered therapist, which means I see clients as a whole and not as the disorder or issue they wish to overcome. I believe that in order to heal one must feel seen and understood. Thus, I strive to meet clients with compassion exactly where they are at and provide them with evidence based resources they can learn to use themselves. I also use a health at every size informed approach to treatment, which I believe is crucial when it comes to helping people to recover from eating disorders.
Jennifer: What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job?
Samantha: The most challenging aspect of being a therapist in the field of eating disorders is continuing to come up against society’s constructs of beauty and happiness.
But one of the most rewarding aspects of being a therapist is getting to witness a client start to let go of negative body talk and begin to more fully engage with their lives. Helping people to recover from eating disorders is incredibly rewarding and I can't picture doing anything else.
Jennifer: What would you say are some of the benefits of virtual therapy?
Samantha: Clients share that they appreciate the convenience of not having to drive anywhere or sit in traffic. For some clients, being able to do therapy from the comfort of their own home feels like an added benefit. It's also great because we can do recovery-related challenges exercises virtually, such as meal/snack challenges, cooking together, helping someone figure out what clothing to get rid of-i'm all about incorporating a creative approach to treatment alongside CBT, DBT, and mindfulness skills.
Jennifer: What are your biggest pet peeves about diet culture?
Samantha: One of my biggest pet peeves about diet culture is the myth it perpetuates that thinness equates to happiness. In my own recovery as well as working with hundreds of other men and women along their recovery journey I found that dieting is actually associated with more internal distress, sadness and anxiety. While making peace with one’s body (at whatever natural size it is) and food helps combat depression and anxiety.
Jennifer: What would be a few of your tips for someone who is struggling with negative body image in recovery?
Samantha: The first thing I would want someone who may be struggling with poor body image to know is that struggling with negative body image does NOT mean that you are incapable of fully recovering from an eating disorder. Next it is important to be able to recognize when you are having negative thoughts about your body and actively choose not to engage in eating disorder behaviors despite these negative thoughts. Thoughts can just be thoughts and not be taken out on your body.
It's also important to highlight that we are not born hating our bodies, we learn how too. Therefore, just as negative body image (and placing value on weight) can be learned-it can also be unlearned. However, just like learning a new language it takes time and practice-but the payoff is well-worth it.
One of my favorite mottos is to meet yourself where you are at so if you are struggling with poor body image please do not beat yourself up and therefore add extra negative self-talk. Instead, when possible, try to counteract a negative thought about your body with either something you are grateful towards your body for or a neutral thought about your body. This does not have to change over night, but by not letting your thoughts lead to eating disorder behaviors as well as practicing reframing your negative thoughts about your body into more helpful (or neutral) thoughts- you will notice a shift in how you feel about your body (and ultimately your life).
Book your free 15 min consult with Samantha!
The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center founded by Jennifer Rollin. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, OSFED, and body image issues. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C, as well as virtually throughout the state of California. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.