Eating Disorders and Shame-Based Beliefs
It's not your fault that you are struggling
Posted May 28, 2018
“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.
The reality is that 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.
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 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, 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.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Germantown, and Washington D.C. Jennifer also offers virtual eating disorder recovery coaching to people worldwide. Connect with Jennifer through her website: www.jenniferrollin.com