I am being dramatic in saying that your eating problems saved your life, but my point is that your eating disorder or eating problem may have helped you in some way despite all of the pain it has caused you and your loved ones. Please don’t misunderstand me I am not suggesting that you stay in your eating disorder if you are currently struggling with one.
Eating disorders do have many negative consequences, some that are life threatening. And most likely your eating disorder in some way has helped you cope with life, hurt, family issues, trauma or other types of pain or discomfort.
In the world of psychotherapy we talk about coping skills, tools to use when life gets uncomfortable. Coping skills that are encouraged are ones that help us through life’s challenges and that have few or no negative consequences. Examples include hobbies, talking to friends, meditation, exercise, journal writing, etc. Conversely coping skills that are discouraged, because they usually are associated with negative side effects, include things like excessive spending or drinking, avoidance, withdrawing, substance abuse, over or under eating, purging, over exercising etc. What I am suggesting is that your eating problems or eating disorder may be helping you cope with life in someways.
Most of us are familiar with the negative consequences of say binge eating or purging, but don’t realize that these behaviors may also provide a short-term relief from anxiety or stress.
Seeing eating problems or eating disorders as a coping skill offers perspective and can help reduce feelings of shame and guilt often associated with eating disorders. I am not proposing that those who suffer from an eating disorder should continue with their eating disorder, I am simply saying it can help to see the disorder for what it is and can be a powerful step in healing from eating problems.
It can be empowering to say “Yes,I have an eating disorder and it helped me in a lot of ways, but now I want to learn new ways to cope with life”.
In my next post I will share a wonderful video clip of Dr. Anita Johnston who uses a metaphor to further illustrate this idea.