Not Black and White but Rainbow Thinking About One’s Body
Contributed By: Judith Mosesso, LMSW, for Renfrew Center of Connecticut
“I am not thin enough.” “My thighs are too big.” “No one finds me attractive.” How often have you had this conversation with yourself? Does the sight of food trigger your internal calculator to determine how many hours on the treadmill will be required to burn off those calories? This is the unmistakable and very powerful voice of an eating disorder.
Individuals struggling with an eating disorder share a common dysfunction – an internal voice that is critical, overwhelming, relentless, uncontrollable and one that sees the world in a very black and white, direct cause an effect way. The thought process of this internal voice is very simple: food makes me fat and fat makes me unlovable and out of control.
At this stage of an eating disorder the internal voice has gained so much control over the individual, no room remains for interpretation, investigation or negotiation over the relationship with food or oneself.
The Emotional States of an Eating Disorder Sufferer
Eating disorders are a serious mental illness which develops from a range of emotional states such as:
- Low self–esteem
- Lack of confidence
- ‘Perfect Child Syndrome’
- Physical and/or emotional trauma
Research also suggests that genetic predisposition along with a combination of environmental and social/cultural factors play a role in the emergence of the disease. Over 20 million American females – 95% ranging from the ages of 12 – 25.8 suffer from a clinical eating disorder.
Changing from Monochrome to a Rainbow
It is possible to recover from an eating disorder and reduce the black and white thinking to more of a palette with many different colors. Treatment includes educating a person about the irrational thinking of someone struggling with an eating disorder.
Those afflicted with an eating disorder need to focus on internalizing the following:
- There is always more than one way to think about a situation
- All human beings have something unique and different to offer
- Life is full of both negative and positive aspects such as happiness, sadness, anger and all are necessary and valuable
- People come in all shapes and sizes and one is not better or worse than another
- Our physical bodies do not define or determine who we are, our successes, our intrinsic value, or ability to love or be loved.
Other Ways to Improve Your Mindset
Those struggling could also incorporate mindfulness into their daily routines. Mindfulness is a process by which one’s thoughts; feelings and physical sensations are captured and experienced in the present moment. The key to practicing mindfulness is to accept and experience these thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgment or alteration.
Another cornerstone to changing the internal voice is to alter the internal dialogue with positive affirmations. One must erase the old tape playing in one’s mind: “I’m fat”; “food ruins everything”; “nobody loves me” with a fresh positive narrative: “I’m loveable”; “I deserve to be respected”; “I am more than my physical body”; “I matter”.
Shifting the Internal Dialogue
These practices bring a shift with the internal dialogue and the inner critic culminating in a new voice with more compassion and respect.
Cultivating thoughts of self-acceptance will help to foster a belief system that their core essence is ‘good enough’ and will introduce a new way of thinking and perceiving oneself. It will increase the emphasis on the internal self instead of the external.
It is important to remember eating disorders are not about the food. True recovery begins when the individual starts the process of reconnecting with their true self and accepting themselves as who they are. It is about learning to reconnect to their inner self.
Whether you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder let them know you care. Be respectful and nonjudgmental while providing hope and motivation. Seek help from your primary care physician or a specialized treatment facility, such as The Renfrew Center.
With motivation, dedication and a specialized treatment team an individual can begin to quiet the eating disorder voice and develop a positive relationship with food and oneself.
About the Author:
Judith Mosesso is the IOP Team Leader and Primary Therapist at the Renfrew Center of Connecticut. She is a Licensed Master Social Worker and received her Master’s degree from Fordham University. She also is a Certified Yoga Instructor with over 10 years experience, a Reiki Master and Wellness Coach.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
What steps have you taken to cultivate a positive body image in your eating disorder recovery?
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 18th, 2015
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com