Anorexia: How To Overcome an Eating Disorder Permanently
Anorexia Nervosa is a mental health condition that affects so many young girls in today’s society. However, eating disorders are not exclusive to young girls as there are cases where some boys are affected too.
In today’s society especially, we are constantly bombarded with images of the “ideal” and what size we should conform to and what normal is. Unfortunately this can be dangerous for young people especially, as they feel they have to live up to certain expectations.
Contrary to popular belief, eating disorders is not strictly a physical condition; rather it is a psychological condition that can manifest itself into the physical body. Anorexia is triggered by a variety of factors and not all who experience this will have the same reasons as to how this condition initiated.
Many of us have an emotional connection to food and this can be difficult to overcome because we develop a neuro-association with it that develops into a habit. For example, some people suffer from binge eating when they are going through depression. Some people suffer from bulimia because they are bullied because of their weight.
I will explain how I developed anorexia nervosa by briefly giving you an overview of my background, what triggered it, my habits and then finally how I was finally able to overcome my eating disorder.
Coming from a Chinese background, we are often conditioned to doing everything in extremes. The word “balance” and “mental health” isn’t really part of our vocabulary. Growing up, I would watch my parents work tirelessly, and when I was studying, I would work so hard that that was all I remember doing, just constantly working myself to extremes. I didn’t know any different, and this was normal to me.
A few years ago, I was going through a very scary time in my life where some things that spiralled out of control really shook up my world. I was battling with something that I did not anticipate in my life and I quickly fell into a depressive phase.
I think when we are presented with an incident that shakes up our world, we can become inclined to turning to external sources as a way to cope. Some people cope with it by turning to drugs and alcohol; others may turn to other forms of addiction. For me, I turned to restricting my food intake as a form of control and developed an eating disorder.
I rapidly lost interest in activities that I would normally enjoy, and rapidly lost my appetite. My body was constantly in “starvation mode”. I began to be very conscious about everything I was eating especially in front of people, and I would become obsessed with restricting my calories.
In addition, I also spent a large portion of my time mindlessly doing cardio. Subsequently, I was on a chronic calorie deficit and this was further catapulted when I learned about something called intermittent fasting. I became obsessed with the idea of fasting and continued doing this on a daily basis. I rapidly lost weight and this became visible to many people around me.
Despite this, when I looked in the mirror, I would be incredibly critical and felt that I had even more weight to lose no matter how much weight I’d lost. Personally, I couldn’t see the weight loss that others were commenting on. I was incredibly self judgemental and constantly wanted to put my body under more stress by seeing how much more weight I could lose.
My Journey to Recovery
My eating disorder became apparent when people around me would comment on how much weight I’d lost. There was a growing concern amongst people I spent my time around with. I was in denial for a long time and to be honest, I neglected any care that was shown towards me because I felt good about myself that I was able to lose weight — something that many people struggle to do. It was my body, my personal journey and I felt that other were interfering and I isolated myself for a long time.
Eventually it became apparent that there was a deep-rooted problem that I was contending with after a series of incidents. When I finally came to terms that I was suffering from an eating disorder after battling with it for some time, I decided to reach out for help.
I went to the doctors to see a psychiatrist but to be honest I didn’t find it very helpful because much of their help was based on taking prescription drugs. I wanted to get to the root of my problem and find a way to really face it. I began to research online about others’ experience of anorexia nervosa whilst spending a lot of time reading self help books and then I came across a book called “Awaken the Giant Within” by Tony Robbins.
The fundamentals of this book is about pain and pleasure. All our decisions that we make are generally to attract pleasure and avoid pain. Reading this book taught me so much about myself; I was able to identify the truth behind my decisions and why it was so difficult for me to change my habits.
I had formed a neuro-association with my eating disorder. I linked pleasure in restricting my calories because this was a metaphor for having control in my life; something that I felt I had lost as I was going through a deeply personal and challenging moment in my life. In addition, I had formed a belief that by me being in control of my body, I was able to somehow manifest this as a means of coping.
How I Eventually Overcame my Eating Disorder
I knew that in order for me to overcome my eating disorder, I would have to do the following:
- Link massive pleasure to giving up my current habits of starving myself and the new habit.
This was not an easy task, as I had conditioned myself to associating starvation with having self importance and being in control. I decided to write down a list of pleasures that I could experience if I would give up my eating disorder, even if I didn’t fully believe it. I would say affirmations such as:
“I am in control of my life and restricting my calories will not give me the energy I need to make progress in my situation”.
“I will have a better relationship with the people around me that I used to if I stop self sabotaging”.
“I will have more energy to do all the things I used to love and more”.
- Link massive pain to my current habits.
Everyone is motivated by different incentives and everyone’s pain points will vary. For me, I was fortunate enough to have someone close to me who could see that I was self sabotaging and I could see how much my habits were destroying our relationship. I probably valued this more than I did my health or well-being.
Eventually, I was able to associate massive pain I was inflicting on the relationship and cultivated the references to support this belief by reminding myself of certain incidents that occurred as a result of my habits. For example, due to my habits, I was detaching myself from enjoying a relationship that I held so dearly to me.
Here are some examples of affirmations I used to associate massive pain to my current habits were:
“If I continue to live like this, I will cause even more pain to those around me”.
“If I do not overcome this psychological condition, I may lose my loved ones because I am detaching myself socially and emotionally”.
“If I continue to live like this, I will be critically ill and my health will deteriorate dramatically”.
- Get to the root cause of my anorexia and destroy the belief that by me controlling my calories was helping me with dealing with my current situation
I was able to identify the root cause of my eating disorder by writing down my emotional triggers and practising mindfulness. I was able to come to terms and face my emotional traumas that I was experiencing without turning to restricting my calories to “control” my situation. I realised that there was no direct correlation between the two. Logically, I understood that by me controlling my body was not reflective of me controlling my situation.
- Develop a new belief that anorexia was going to severely and negatively impact my health, relationships, life, and support this belief by developing references.
After practising mindfulness, positive affirmations, I was able to cultivate a new belief system that helped me finally overcome anorexia. Overcoming a chronic mental condition does not happen overnight, and requires regular practice, time and the right support to be able to overcome. You must really believe that it is something that you can overcome.
Ultimately, for anyone suffering from an eating disorder, the key to overcoming this is to address the root by acknowledging your triggers and be mindful about these triggers and try to put things in place to manage them. Get curious about what the real cause of this is. Are you trying to distract yourself from something else? Reading the book “Awaken The Giant Within” helped me understand how to take control of my emotions and then subsequently making better choices and overcoming anorexia.
Have you, or anyone you know suffered from an eating disorder? What has been some emotional or external triggers?