By Lori Hanson
One of the hardest things for loved ones to understand about eating disorders is this is not a logical condition! It’s not the same as messing up on your diet because you ate two cookies when you know you shouldn’t have. Or staying out past your curfew when you know you’re going to get grounded for doing it. Those are for the most part, conscious choices.
People suffering with eating disorders have a distorted view of their bodies. What they see when they look in the mirror is NOT the same thing that you the outsider sees. It doesn’t matter how many times your tell your daughter (or girlfriend or wife) that she looks great and doesn’t need to lose weight it won’t matter. There isn’t any way for them to process the information.
When I was growing up Twiggy was THE model. As I surveyed the world in grade school and high school, I noticed that guys were attracted to girls that were built like Barbie Dolls. Tall, thin, long legs and big boobs. I’m 5’1″, with a muscular/athletic build and have curvaceous hips. So in my early development I picked up the message that my body wasn’t acceptable or normal (for several reasons). Even in my thirties when I dated a couple of guys who told me they loved my curves I didn’t believe them. “They were just saying that.” No matter how many times I heard it, it didn’t match what I knew in my head to be true, (that men wanted women who look like Barbie). So I could never accept the compliment. This stereotype continues to be validated in Hollywood today…
This is only one of the things got plugged into my brain at an early age that distorted my view of the world and contributed to my bulimia. I had pressure from living in the shadow of two older sisters. One was a 4.0 student, on the gym team, played piano by ear and more. All things I couldn’t do, or achieve and it seemed all the attention went her way. The “cool kids” in high school didn’t give me the time of day. So the message I got loud and clear was, “you don’t fit, you aren’t acceptable, you aren’t good enough, you don’t measure up.” Ever heard the term perception is reality? We all have filters we use to process what we see and hear. These filters determine how we use the input we get in life.
I spent my life in search of acceptance from other people. I was incapable of accepting myself and knowing that I WAS fine, just the way I was. I did a lot of crazy things growing up (and later) because of my desperate need for acceptance. I pity the guys that knew me in those years! I must have seemed incredibly needy.
One thing that’s interesting to me is somehow I’ve always maintained my independence. I’m a bit of a loner and actually get wigged if I don’t get enough space or time alone. The seeds were always there. I was always looking for a way to evolve and overcome this horrific obsession I had. It drove me crazy. Constantly berating myself for things I did, or didn’t do. Beating myself up for being so stupid. It went far beyond the bingeing! I had no sense of who I was. What I was about, or for that matter why I was here.
The first big turning point for me was the discovery of an audio series by Jack Canfield, Self-Esteem & Peak Performance. I learned about affirmations and how to plug positive or affirming thoughts into my subconscious which helped me improve my sense of who I was. I kept sticky notes in my drawer that I could read when someone said something hurtful or made me wince. One of these was “No matter what you say or do to me, I’m still a worthwhile person.” I referred to it often in the beginning!
Through Jack’s tapes I also learned about goal setting, visualizing and achieving what you want. This helped to improve my belief in myself.
Much later in life I discovered the power of body work and meditation. Using Hellerwork, Holosync meditation and energy healing I was able to reconnect my mind and body and begin to accept myself. Waking up in my forties realizing I spent the bulk of my life focused on something that in the grand scheme of things is pretty small (my body) was a jolt. Learning how to appreciate the gifts I bring to this life has been very freeing.
So if you, or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder. Realize that no matter how many compliments you throw their way. No matter how many times you tell them how smart and beautiful they are. No matter how many times you try to convince them they aren’t fat. It won’t help. In fact you’ll only drive them farther away because you’re reinforcing to them that you don’t understand. You don’t get it.
What they need, when they’re receptive and know they have a problem. Is to understand what’s causing it. Eating disorders are about control and lack of self-esteem. I highly recommend body work as part of the discovery process. It will help them understand who they are, why this is happening and will provide the ground work for quantum leaps in recovery.
For more information on bodywork, please refer to the Resources Section on my website.