By Emily Bryan
“I thought this getting to this number would solve my problems”
Often, these words echo in the back of your mind when experiencing disordered eating. Initially, it all starts with innocent intentions, like downloading a calorie counting app, monitoring your steps, or perhaps trying out one of society’s popular diet trends with the hope of boosting your self-confidence and body image and solve all your challenges. Soon it becomes an obsession and controls your every thought and action.
You might find yourself pondering how you arrived at this point and why a mere number on a screen wields such power over your energy. The number you once believed would bring happiness now disappoints you, soon your rules increase, only to be caught in a perpetual cycle. Negative self-talk begins to spiral, leaving you feeling trapped in your thoughts and uncertain about how to break free. But let me reassure you that you are not alone in this journey, and your worth extends far beyond a calculated number.
Millions of individuals with all walks of life struggle with disordered eating. Disordered eating can be viewed as a spectrum from normal eating to a clinical eating disorder, the in-between can look like having some eating disorder behaviors or symptoms but with less severity or frequency. Do not let a lack of diagnosis turn you away from asking for help, as your experience is valid and deserving of support from a counselor.
Society has begun to accept and promote these behaviors through trends like the widely shared “what I eat in a day” videos and the proliferation of yo-yo fad diets on social media. People willingly participate in these trends, claiming their life has improved significantly by being healthier and losing weight. Perhaps someone even recommended some of these approaches to you when you expressed discontent with your appearance. However, it’s essential to recognize that everyone’s body and genetics are unique, and one person’s experience may not yield the same results for you. This discrepancy is not a reflection of your effort or dedication.
Frequently, underlying unconscious motives and emotions drive these actions, camouflaged by the surface intention of losing weight or improving health. Certain phrases or thoughts might surface, such as I wish I was good at something, or maybe its feelings of inadequacy, a lack of control, or a way to connect with others. If you’ve experienced such thoughts, seeking support from a counselor or dietitian can be beneficial in breaking free from this unhelpful thought cycle and uncovering the root causes of these behaviors.
Seeking support for disordered eating may be overwhelming and may produce a lot of anxiety. Feeling unprepared to make any changes at the moment is okay, and there’s no rush. The first step is a journey of self-exploration with a counselor, examining where you place your value and how it has impacted your health and happiness. By embracing mindfulness and engaging in self-reflection within a safe space, you can gradually process your emotions and experiences, discovering your identity beyond your physical appearance and body size. With time, my hope is that you will come to realize that there is a beautiful world beyond numbers and tracking, which often prevents you from fully embracing the present and experiencing all the joys that life has to offer.