We don’t hear much about them, but you know those voices — the two that constantly compete for your attention from the time you get up until you go to sleep. Sometimes the voices may even get acted out in your dreams. It’s the healthy voice that says food isn’t bad, it’s okay to eat, you’re not fat, you don’t have to binge, you can take care of yourself and get the things you want and need. Then there is the eating disorder voice. It tells you all the things you don’t want to hear — you’re fat, ugly, stupid, worthless, undeserving, good for nothing and doomed to live a life of hell. You are not crazy – the voices are part of the eating disorder.
Where does the ED voice come from and why is it SO loud? This voice usually starts before the ED does. It is a compilation of messages you have gotten from others, including TV and magazines, who didn’t understand what kind of impact they would have on you. Most people who develop eating disorders have low self-esteem. When self-esteem is low to begin with, any negative messages become confirmation that the bad things you believe about yourself must be true. That voice also developed strength the more you dieted. You had to be meaner and meaner to yourself in order to maintain the strict eating rules you devised for yourself. The hungrier you got, the more the voice told you how fat and ugly you were in order to keep you from eating. The voice can get so loud, especially when you allow yourself to eat. It berates you for being so weak and giving in. It yells at you to get rid of those calories– now. It tells you how fat you will get because you gave in. It may even try to convince you that you are only a burden to those around you and that you don’t deserve to live.
The first thought you had about getting help was your healthy voice fighting back. It’s really hard to believe that the healthy voice could be right. That you could truly be happy, have freedom in your life, eat without fear, deserve the same things that others have. You can know that it’s right because it’s still there, as quiet as it is and as quickly as the ED voice can overwhelm it. If it wasn’t right, it would be gone for good. It’s still there waiting for you to listen to its wisdom. Recovery is about listening to that healthy voice and working to develop its strength so it can challenge and defend against the ED voice.
You have the ability to stop, wait and listen to that healthy voice. Do that right now. What is it telling you? Regardless of where you are in your recovery process, you always have a choice. You can always choose to tune in to your healthy voice. This takes a lot of energy. It even takes more energy to face the fears the ED voice has created and do what your healthy voice is telling you. You can’t go around this or find an easier way. You have to go through the fears head on in order to silence the ED voice and render it powerless. Recovery is the process that allows your healthy voice to, once again, become your only voice.