I Talk to My Reflection When ED Thoughts Re-Surface
It would be a blatant lie to insinuate that eating disorder (ED) belief systems and thought patterns never cross my mind. Even with all the diligent, consistent recovery work I have put in over the years, I am still not immune to occasional insecurities, temptations, and criticisms from the eating disorder voice that once consumed each waking moment of my life. However, while I used to reactively listen and submit to this voice—no questions asked—I now understand there are healthier, more empowering alternatives. So how do I respond when these ED thoughts re-surface? I talk to my reflection in the mirror.
Why Talking to My Reflection Helps Me Combat ED Thoughts
The short explanation is this: It reminds me of the truth. When ED thoughts re-surface, they blitz the real estate of my brain with lies, doubts, anxieties, fears, and other negative influences. If I allow those feelings even a small amount of airtime, they could escalate from ED thoughts into full-blown ED behaviors. In order to prevent this outcome, I need to reclaim the power. I need to speak truth out loud over myself to silence the fallacies in my head. So I talk to my reflection—and, more often than not, it works.
I do not always want to believe the truth, even as I speak it. After all, the easier option is not to resist eating disorder temptations, but merely to succumb. However, since I refuse to consider this option, I need a coping mechanism that feels both practical and accessible at a moment's notice. So, if I can locate a mirror (the selfie function on a smartphone also does the job), I find it useful to watch my own lips and hear my own voice counter a deceptive ED thought with its factual inverse. What do I tell my reflection when these ED thoughts re-surface? Allow me to illustrate with a recent example from earlier this month.
How I Talk to My Reflection When ED Thoughts Re-Surface
About a week ago, I was at my friend's house for a game night when she offered me a warm blueberry scone, just baked from scratch. Full disclosure: I love scones, but I rarely (if ever) allow myself to eat them. However, this particular scone, with its fresh blueberry speckled exterior, was calling out to me. So I enthusiastically polished it off, a rare feat in my own eating disorder recovery. Of course, within minutes of finishing the scone, a current of ED thoughts rushed in to obliterate any sense of pleasure, and I spent the next hour internally duking it out with two familiar opponents—guilt and shame.
As always, the fallout was predictable—I could not be present for the meaningful human connections around me because I was too fixated on the negativity inside of me. But since I know this pattern well, I also have the ability to counteract it when I choose to reach for that power source. So I went to the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, peered into my reflection, and began to denounce this harmful self-talk with the antidote of truth. It felt silly, but it proved to be successful. Here is what I told myself:
"Years from now, you will not remember the shame of eating a scone. Nor will you remember the fear that it could irrevocably alter your weight and appearance (for the record, it will not). But you will remember these moments of hysterical laughter, deep conversations, and authentic bonds of community with the friends you love so much. The food you eat is just secondary to the relationships you invest in and the fleeting, precious time on this earth you make the most of. You are still the exact same person you were before consuming that scone. You look no different. You have not changed. Your intrinsic value as a human is still firmly intact. What you eat has no basis on your personal identity—food is nourishment and enjoyment, nothing more or less. These thoughts in your head are irrational fears, which means their power is fragile, and they can be overcome."
If this exercise feels overly simplistic, that is the point. When I am in the throes of an ED thought spiral, I need a back-to-basics solution. I need to recall why the continued work of healing matters. I need to reflect on what is truly enriching and important. I need to know that I am more capable and self-aware than my eating disorder wants to give me credit for. I need to believe there is more to life than obsessions with food, weight, calories, or body image. So I talk to my reflection when ED thoughts re-surface—and I take hold of what is true.
Schurrer, M. (2022, June 15). I Talk to My Reflection When ED Thoughts Re-Surface, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, October 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2022/6/i-talk-to-my-reflection-when-ed-thoughts-re-surface
Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
This is so helpful! Thank you:-)