One of the first conversations I had with my ED therapist involved her uncovering the fact that I find other larger bodies beautiful and normal, but mine being larger now is unacceptable to me.
I told her I didn’t know why. She responded, “Because we’re so. Fucking. Mean to ourselves.” And I believe her.
Eating disorders have a way of bringing out the meanest version of ourselves to, well, ourselves. EDs teach us to berate ourselves, teach us we’re not good enough, teach us our bodies need to change. Eventually these negative thoughts and beliefs become our core thoughts and beliefs toward ourselves, and unfortunately something I’m learning through treatment is that they don’t magically go away when you enter recovery, they become one of the hardest pieces to heal because they’re so deeply engrained in us.
We need ways to learn to be kinder to ourselves in recovery, when we’re working to loosen and disconnect from those deeply engrained negative thoughts and beliefs about ourselves. So here’s a list of a few you can try next time you find yourself being mean to you. Because you don’t have to take that shit from you.
1. Would you say that to 5 year-old you?
One of my therapist’s favorite things to say to me is, “Would you say that to 5 year-old you?” And it gets me every time. Because the answer is always no. Hell no. I would never say the things I say to me to her. Not in a million years. So asking yourself this question when you’re having negative thoughts about yourself will help interrupt them and give you some much-needed perspective, because I’m guessing your answer will be hell no as well.
2. Take time for self-care.
Being kinder to yourself doesn’t only mean your thoughts, it also means physical acts and behaviors, because positive physical acts translate to our brain as self-compassion. Start small. Put that face mask on tonight. Sit down and watch one of your favorite movies. Put a relaxing essential oil like lavender on your wrists and chest at bedtime. Make yourself a smoothie with your favorite fruits. Small acts of kindness towards ourselves will go far to ease our journeys in recovery.
3. Consciously counter negative thoughts about yourself.
Thoughts are like hiking trails. The ones you use more are well worn and easy to use. The ones you use less are grown over and difficult to use. With eating disorders, our negative thoughts have been used so much and become so normal that they’re automatic and easier for our brains to go to. The positive thoughts are hard to force our brains to have, but the more we do, the easier it’ll become. So we start consciously countering the negative thoughts we have with positive ones.
Example: when you’re having thoughts about how much you dislike your body, you consciously make an effort to list 5 things you like about yourself and/or your body. They can be as simple as the color of your eyes or you like that you’re a good listener. The point is to counter those negative thoughts with positive ones so we can start using those hiking trails and make them easier to access.
4. Buy yourself clothes that fit.
This is a big one. And a really, really hard one. And one I put off for years. I’ve spent years in the same pairs of black leggings and they’ve stretched with me as I’ve gained weight from binge eating disorder. I haven’t yet bought myself new pants because frankly I just can’t do it yet with pants. But recently, like really recently, like if you follow me on Instagram you know it’s only been over the last 1-2 weeks, I finally bought myself a few new tops that fit me. They’re not too big to hide me like the t-shirts I’ve been wearing for years. And they’re not too small like all the clothes I still have that no longer fit me. They fit me now. And while I can’t say it was life-changing in big ways, it was life-changing in small ways that count for a lot in recovery.
Wearing clothes that fit made me feel the tiniest bit more confident. It made me feel a little bit more worthy; worthy of buying new clothes for myself. It made me feel a little bit more normal (whatever normal is), like someone who buys new clothes instead of someone who wears the same ones for years on end because she can’t handle shopping.
See? It changed things. Not big things. But little things that have an impact on everyday life.
5. Keep a journal.
Our minds are not always (not usually?) very nice places to be in recovery. There’s a lot of eating disorder voices challenging us, negative self-talk, influence from the outside world and diet culture, and a lot of comparison going on as our bodies change. Having a safe place to process through thoughts and get them out of your head and down on paper can be invaluable. Journaling gives you the opportunity to explore what you’re feeling and thinking, including things that you wouldn’t be comfortable talking about with someone else. I’ve also found that having a way to process those thoughts and feelings can be supportive in eliminating eating disorder behaviors as eventually the journaling becomes one more thing you can go to instead of engaging when you’re triggered.
So there’s your five ways to start being kinder to yourself through your journey. Self-compassion is such a huge piece to eating disorder recovery; learning to care for ourselves gently and lovingly, something we’ve never done before.
Start easy, jumping into everything at once is usually a recipe for disaster and that’s the last thing we need. Start implementing things little by little and as they become part of your routines and habits, try implementing more. These ideas aren’t a race, they’re for longevity to support your recovery.
Share your favorite or one you’re going to try with me below in the comments so I can cheer you on. Until next time, xx