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ED – Friend or Foe?


So many women I have treated over the years have referred to “ED” aka their Eating Disorder as a best friend and their worst enemy all at the same time. Going through the recovery process can sometimes feel like you are losing your best friend and maybe you are. However, in recovery you are opening the door for real connections and meaningful and healthy relationships, something ED is not fond of.

Eating Disorders just don't show up for no reason. As we know, they have complex origins in biology, chemistry, environmental factors, personality, and family relationships. Eating disorders will often emerge innocently enough to help people deal or manage a struggle in their lives.

If you have ever struggled with an eating disorder some of the below statements may apply.

  • “If I lose weight, I will feel more accepted by my peers and thus acceptable.”

  • “It feels good to starve or be painfully full, because then I don’t have to think about my trauma(s) and don’t have to feel the feelings associated with them.”

  • “I am not good enough at the core, but if I look prettier or skinnier then maybe I could at least be ok on the outside, or at least nobody will know how rotten I am on the inside.”

  • “I am so unhappy, but I can’t let anyone know. I don’t want to burden them, so I will take it out on myself.”

  • “I have to be perfect, and everyone knows that skinny is perfect.”

However, the above list is not exhaustive. There are many different struggles that the eating disorder emerges to help with. Although, it is not long before it turns on you and becomes the manipulative harmful enemy that I work everyday to help fight in my clients.

One of the hardest parts of recovery is that those suffering continue to doubt that there is any other way to cope with their core issues than using their eating disorder. The eating disorder thoughts are manipulative and conniving and will emerge whenever a struggle with depression, anxiety or interpersonal issues arises to say, “Hey, I can help you with that. Turn to me and I can take it away for a moment or fix it for you.”

But, it is never enough.

Whether your eating disorder leads to weight loss or not, you can never be skinny enough, good enough, likable enough or perfect enough. It pushes you deeper and deeper into the depths of despair and punishes you when you don’t comply with it’s every need. It pushes those who truly love you away and convinces you that you are not worthy of love or friendship unless your body is skinnier, and your eating or exercise behaviors are more “controlled.”

Shame permeates throughout these disorders and perpetuates the behaviors that work to destroy the body and the mind, creating more shame. Some friend!

However, the cycle can be stopped.

Jenni Shaefer describes recovery as breaking up with ED and learning to live independently of that abusive relationship. It is not easy and often there are strong pulls to return to the relationship, as well as, selective memory of the “good times” that occurred throughout it. But, just like an abusive partner, ED does not welcome relationships that seek to threaten his existence and he pushes his victims to isolate. Essentially, ED works to keep them from healing through the validating connections they need to recover. He tries to convince you that he is all you need.

Well, you don’t! You don’t need him, really you never did. He showed up at a difficult time with false promises of a better life and freedom from your struggles. However, those struggles are still there and he has added a whole other set of issues for you to have to deal with now. With sincerity, you can thank him for his attempts to help you in the past and work to move on in your life and away from his abuse. Easier said than done, of course, and you will need lot of help and support to do so. Finding the right treatment team is essential in doing so. Let us fight alongside you and be that stronger force than ED, when you need us to be.

Help is available!

If you are ready to separate from ED or want some more information on how to do so, please contact our Eating Disorder treatment team at Bayview Therapy at 954-590-0597 or directly at DrKelliPsyD@gmail.com. We are conveniently located in East Fort Lauderdale and offer individual and family therapy, as well as nutritional counseling provided by Certified Eating Disorder Specialists. We look forward to helping you break up with ED and find yourself again!

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