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Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Truly. Our stature, weight, coloring, scent and other physical attributes are highly unique. Some may find us beautiful, others repulsive. So, why have we fixated on weight as a measurement of beauty? Further, why do we see highly controlled eating as admirable? Where does beauty, character and Binge Eating Disorder come together?
BED can strike all walks of life
In my years as a therapist, I have known many individuals in various stages of recovery from binge eating disorder. Most have struggled with weight, but not all. These BED sufferers I have crossed paths with have been bankers, attorneys, teacher’s aides, homemakers, college students and teenage kids. In every case, their struggle with binge eating disorder was damaging to their self-esteem.
BED is a disease
These BED sufferers had a tendency to view themselves as lacking self-control, gluttonous and undisciplined. Rarely did they offer themselves the compassion that one would typically offer a friend who was dealing with a disease. And, let’s be clear, binge eating disorder is a disease!
It is not a character defect or lack of will power. The DSMV 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, 2013) states BED is a disease, and the world of medicine and behavioral health treatment now recognizes this as a disease as well.
These binge eating disorder sufferers also tend to be critical of their physical appearance. If the binge eating has resulted in weight gain or obesity, they often feel ashamed of how they look.
This creates enormously painful feelings of insecurity. Some tend to gauge their entire appearance by their weight, forgetting about their beautiful skin, hair, eyes and other physical attributes.
Inner beauty is unfairly trivialized
What stood out to me the most, in every case of binge eating disorder, was that the magnificent uniqueness, character and inner beauty of each individual was unfairly trivialized and devalued.
Instead, these folks tended to myopically focus on their binge eating behavior and their resulting disappointment in themselves, their behavior and their appearance.
As the BED sufferer delved deeper into their academic successes, career and community accomplishments, it became clear to them that though the struggle with BED was painful and significant, it in no way defined them. They recognized that their integrity, kindness and capacity for compassion for others were beautiful internal attributes that they all had in spades.
A more balanced perception of themselves developed as these individuals increasingly appreciated their significant contributions to the well-being of others as spouses, parents, siblings, friends and co-workers. Their evaluations of their worth increasingly became internally focused on character, integrity and their capacity to love and care for others.
Healthier perceptions of themselves, their character and binge eating disorder
Interestingly, as the BED sufferers developed healthier perceptions of themselves and their worth, they tended to be less preoccupied with the binge eating behaviors. The escalating internal evaluation of their self worth coincided with the lessening concern about external appearances.
Also, when and if they did slip off their recovery plan and fell back into binge eating disordered behaviors, they were less likely to beat themselves up.
As a result of my anecdotal findings, I believe that a significant tool in healing and recovery from binge eating disorder is deepening one’s capacity to appreciate all facets of beauty within oneself, both internally and externally.
If you struggle with BED, I encourage you to appreciate all that makes you beautiful and focus on these attributes. Value these lovely aspects of yourself deeply. It may be difficult to recover from BED, but it is definitely possible. And, you can love yourself through the entire journey.
About the author:
Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC – Founder & Director
Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC founded Eating Disorder Hope in 2005, driven by a profound desire to help those struggling with anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. This passion resulted from her battle with, and recovery from, an eating disorder. As president, Jacquelyn manages Ekern Enterprises, Inc. and the Eating Disorder Hope website. In addition, she is a fully licensed therapist with a closed private counseling practice specializing in the treatment of eating disorders.
Jacquelyn has a Bachelor of Science in Human Services degree from The University of Phoenix and a Masters degree in Counseling/Psychology, from Capella University. She has extensive experience in the eating disorder field including advanced education in psychology, participation and contributions to additional eating disorder groups, symposiums, and professional associations. She is a member of the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), Academy of Eating Disorders (AED), the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (iaedp).
Jacquelyn enjoys art, working out, dogs, reading, painting and time with family.
Although Eating Disorder Hope was founded by Jacquelyn Ekern, this organization would not be possible without support from our generous sponsors.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 28, 2019