This wonderful recovery story was sent in to me this week.
Hi everyone, I am a community-based therapist in the Bay Area. I have struggled with binge eating since I was an adolescent. I have come a long way from the person I was at seventeen, and feel much healthier in my mind and body. I still struggle sometimes, but have created a primarily healthy adult life. The most valuable thing I’ve learned over the years is how to take care of myself. My hope is to offer a perspective and some support that stems from a combination of my professional and personal experiences.
When I was in my late teens, a very wise person told me “you just need to change the tapes in your head.” Part of me wanted to run to the snack drawer in my family’s kitchen and inhale the homemade scones or cookies that I’d abstained from all week. “Just change those tapes” I thought, “that’s it,” I muttered under my breath in a huff. I was angry and sad and anxious, and in that moment at seventeen that advice felt like an insurmountable chore. I had to lose weight first. I had to go for a run. Would I ever look like I did when I was sixteen? I had to do get thin again. My gaining weight was probably why the boy I thought I loved broke up with me. It was clear that these were the exact tapes I was being told I needed change, but I didn’t see them as tapes. These were true, and if I started thinking – a walk would feel good or my boyfriend and I weren’t right for each other or I was wonderful just the way I was – then I was only covering up the truth; lying to myself so I would feel better.
I’ve come a long way since seventeen. Recovering from an eating disorder is absolutely a process that often involves several different kinds of support and levels of self-discovery. However, just as this blog talks about the power of language – fat talk, thinking you have to do this or that – an important piece of recovery is changing those tapes, and it may be a good place to start. Over the years, it has also become apparent to me that we too often privilege negative over positive thought. This privileging can be attributed to the fear that focusing on positive thought means you are giving up or lying to yourself. I have certainly been scared that focusing on the positives will mean the truth will come back and hurt. But when we think about it, negative and positive thoughts are created in the same place, so why would we not give them equal voice? And to take that step further, consider how negative thoughts impact your life…if I think, “I can’t have a good day unless I run” it doesn’t serve me at all, but instead I feel trapped and unable to gain consistent contentment in my life. If I then think, “I will have a good day because I am strong and capable” that is no less true, and I feel empowered and competent.
So, that wise person was onto something. It took me a long time, and the forming of my frontal lobe, to recognize the power in what we say to ourselves. I am certainly not immune to negative thinking, but I am better at stopping those thoughts or at least questioning why I am giving them power. I encourage you to do the same. If you have negative thoughts, pause, ask yourself where they stem from, learn from them, and then flip them upside-down.
Thanks for reading.
If you have a recovery story that you’d like to share here, please submit it to bingeeatingtherapy (at) gmail (dot) com.