Separating Your True Identity From Your Eating Disorders Identity

Contributed by staff of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center.

Recovery from an eating disorder involves far more than establishing a healthy relationship with food. It requires breaking old habits and learning new skills to cope with the ups and downs of life. It takes strength, dedication and patience to face the inevitable challenges. Additionally, it takes a real commitment to rediscovering oneself.

An eating disorder gives nothing to a woman or girl — it only takes. It takes her health, robs her of connection to friends and family, and worse, it seeks to steal her entire identity.

The longer an individual has an eating disorder, the more she is defined by it.  All decisions, reactions,   activities, perceptions and values are viewed through the eating disorder’s lens. The more it takes over, the less of “her” remains intact.

Once in recovery, the eating disorder identity begins to fade, allowing her true identity to reemerge. This can prove difficult. Often, the woman or girl simply has no idea who she actually is anymore.

At Timberline Knolls, we use Dialectical Behavior Therapy as a core component of treatment. When embarking on the process of self-discovery, we find it beneficial for a resident to first define what a meaningful life looks like to her. It might be finishing high school and attending college; or getting married and having children. This exploration includes an analysis of how this goal will be achieved.

Next is the question of compatibility. Is an eating disorder compatible with the vision, or does it exists as an obstacle? Successfully completing high school isn’t realizable if bingeing and purging is part of daily life; similarly, whereas marriage is possible, having a child may not be feasible if anorexia is part of the equation.

So the  question remains:  does what an individual values, what she desires for her life, her personal goals and aspirations – are they worth the challenge and hardship involved in recovery? The simple truth is that eating disorders are opposed to a meaningful life; the two can’t coexist.

The process of rediscovering identity continues with each additional day spent in recovery. Likes and dislikes, values, personality traits, morals, even unknown talents are revealed through new activities and experiences. Every new revelation has great value because it contributes to recreating the whole — the whole person that the eating disorder sought to destroy.

*Information provided by Mansi Totlani, MA, LPC, Eating Disorder Specialist at Timberline Knolls


Article Contributed by our Sponsor ~ Timberline Knolls Treatment Center

Published Date: February 4, 2013
Last reviewed: By Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 5, 2013
Page last updated: February 5, 2013
Published on, Information for Eating Disorders Treatment Help