How Do I Overcome Low Self-Esteem In Eating Disorder Recovery?

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Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Director of Content and Social Media at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Low self-esteem is commonly experienced among individuals with eating disorders, which can complicate the recovery process. For many people with eating disorders, the experience of low self-esteem can trigger the development of an eating disorder or influence behaviors that create a chaotic relationship with food and body.

Low self-esteem does not just pertain to insecurities about body and appearance, though this can certainly be part of a person’s reality. An individual who struggles with low-esteem might feel inadequate as a person or unable to contribute meaningfully due to perceived flaws about character and/or appearance.

Prevalence of Low Self-Esteem

The thoughts associated with low self-esteem can create ongoing behaviors that are self-defeating. If a person feels incompetent or unlovable, this can drastically change how an individual views him or herself and their ability to function in the world. How common is low-self esteem? The occurrence of low-self esteem is much more common than may be realized.

A survey completed by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund found that seven out of ten girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationship with family and friends [1]. With increasing pressure from external sources, such as the media and society, to achieve, perform, and look a certain way, feeling as though you “never measure up” can exacerbate feelings of low self-esteem in both women and men.

Low Self-Esteem and Eating Disorders

Smile with Self-esteemFor many individuals who have struggled with an eating disorder, low self-esteem goes hand in hand with these mental illnesses. In fact, eating disorder behaviors can magnify feelings of low self-esteem due to malnourishment and medical complications. Learning how to reframe a perspective on body and appearance is something that happens gradually over time, especially when in recovery from an eating disorder.

Growing out of low self-esteem and learning to love and appreciate yourself begins by effectively working through the eating disorder behaviors. A person cannot rationally think about themselves or their body when the brain is starved and the body malnourished as a result of eating disorder behaviors.

Becoming medically and psychologically stable from an eating disorder are the first and most crucial steps towards developing a more positive self-esteem. It is also important to know that low self-esteem is not something that magically disappears once in recovery from an eating disorder.

In fact, it is often the last piece of the puzzle to come into place, which can be disheartening for someone who has been in recovery for quite some time. Work through these issues slowly and with the guidance of a professional, like a specialized therapist or counselor, who can help you address the root factors that may be influencing how you view yourself.

Community Discussion – Share Your Thoughts Here!

How has recovery changed the way you view yourself?

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.


[1]:  Heart of Leadership.  Statistics on Girls and Women’s Self Esteem, Pressure and Leadership.

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 September 26, 2016
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