While it is important to know why your eating disorder started, what can be even more important in eating disorder recovery is what are the factors that are maintaining the eating disorder? What beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are keeping you in the eating disorder?
In Carolyn Costin and Gwen Grabb’s book, 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder, they identify the “real issues” that contribute and perpetuate eating disorders. They are as follows:
1. Poor Self-Esteem 2. Need for Distraction 3. Fill Up Emptiness 4. Belief in a Myth 5. Drive for Perfection 6. High-Achievement Oriented 7. Desire to be Special/Unique 8. Need to be in Control 9. Wants Power over Self, Others, Family, Life 10. Wants Respect and Admiration 11. Has a Hard Time Expressing Feelings 12. “Safe Place to Go”/Doesn’t Have Coping Skills 13. Lack of Trust in Self and Others 14. Terrified of Not Measuring Up
In looking at this list, think about which ones you can identify with. Think about possible examples and what is the need for any of these so important in your life. For example, if you believe in the myth that I will be happy and successful if I am thin, I would wonder how you define “happy” and “successful” outside of being thin. Is that the only way? Has thinness granted you happiness and success in the past or present? Are their other ways to create happiness and be successful? I know that I lived by that myth for most of my life.
When I was my thinnest, I was the most miserable I have ever been. Was I successful? In achieving thinness, yes. Mostly I was successful in landing myself in several hospital and treatment stints and realizing that I had to give up the myth if I wanted to have a meaningful life not measured by my weight. I was successful at wasting my adolescence and my young adulthood. That certainly did not make me happy. I have gleaned much success in recovery because I have done the work from the inside out, instead of trying to change my outsides to make me feel better on the inside.
It’s okay if you relate to all of these—awareness if the step to change! Even after all of my years in recovery, I’m not perfectly satisfied in all of these areas. I still have insecurities that come up. The difference is that I deal with them appropriately instead of using food, my body, and self-destructive behaviors. It is such a process to let go of these issues—but it is completely possible!