One of the benefits of being a kid is the array of choices of sayings and attitudes that are commonly used, and the inventive ways they can look at the world. These choices are just for kids, which holds some of the appeal, since grown-ups don’t bother with them any more.
In thinking about some of them, it occurs to me they can be applied to the very adult problem of an eating disorder. If you say them with great confidence and conviction, they can help you see things in a new light, and establish or maintain a recovery attitude. Here are five ways to talk to your eating disorder like a child:
1. When you hear the old nagging voice in your head telling you that you ‘have’ to binge, purge, or use some other behavior, put your hands on your hips and say out loud: You’re not the boss of me!
That declarative sentence held such sway when we were kids. We were not going to take orders from another kid, or even our parents (if we were really feeling daring), and pointing out just who is boss around here felt powerful. Remind yourself that while an old habit of a particular eating disorder behavior may feel like it’s in charge, you are actually the boss of you.
2. Remember being a kid and making a silly statement like “I hate chocolate cake!” or “I love having to do lots of homework!”, then explaining it all away with how it’s Opposite Day? That was the day when you tried to say things that were completely opposite of what was true, all in the name of grade school humor.
When you hear an old tape running in your head, such as how you’re ugly or worthless, declare it to actually be Opposite Day. In truth, you are beautiful and valuable. Challenge the thoughts that hold you back and begin to visualize the opposite of them being the actual truth.
3. One of the best games as a kid was pretending that The Floor is Lava. The goal was to walk around a room without touching the floor, pretending it was hot lava and would burn you. You couldn’t help but get the giggles maneuvering from couch to chair to table top to counter, blazing a trail that was at least a few inches above the floor. It wasn’t an easy way to get around, but with persistence and creativity, it could definitely be done.
Think about things that you do that contribute to keeping you sick with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder or EDNOS, and treat them like lava. Fashion or celebrity magazines that just leave you with low self-esteem? Lava! The scale that you see every time you visit the bathroom? Lava! Pro eating disorder websites? Lava! Use this buzz word to remind yourself that engaging with unhealthy things is ultimately only going to burn you.
4. When you feel an urge to do something like use a certain eating disorder behavior or avoid doing something that is ultimately healthy for you, treat that urge like the voice of someone who does not tell the truth. Say to it: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! That simple rhyme was such an emphatic way for kids to put a label on something that deserved it.
Label the urges you feel – the voices that try so hard to drown out the healthy part of your mindset – as the liars they are. Remind yourself that skipping part of your meal plan will not help you – that’s a lie. Going out and buying binge food supplies or diet pills will not solve a problem – that’s a lie. Begin to identify the ideas and beliefs whose trousers are always in flames.
5. When you feel alone and like you don’t have someone to support you and cheer you on in your journey through recovery, do what so many kids do for companionship they can control: invent an Imaginary Friend. As silly as it might initially sound, think of the imaginary friends that kids invent. It’s usually someone who is fun to play with, who looks out for them, and upon whom they can always rely.
When you are having a difficult moment or day, think about what your imaginary friend would say or do that would soothe you. How would she or he support you? Picture this support being an ever present being you can reach for whenever you need it. Even if you can’t find someone to tell you that you had a good day in recovery or that your feelings of sadness or anger are valid, your imaginary friend can indeed validate you.
These 5 suggestions are ideas to help challenge the stubborn part of an eating disorder that keeps you rooted in the illness. You may be able to come up with some more on your own. Just as they were catch phrases as a child, they can be new mantras in fighting for your recovery.
And if all else fails, you can always get a cootie shot.
Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating disorders information and recovery: http://www.graceonthemoon.com
Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account of vastatesparkstaff licensed for use with attribution via Creative Commons.