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
The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.