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  • Dina Cohen

Think You're Special?

Well, I'm sure you are, but probably not for the reasons you think.

If you struggle with an eating disorder, you've probably had one or more of the following thoughts:

I don't have a real eating disorder, not like my friend/relative/person in my support group.

Mine isn't bad enough to be a real eating disorder.

I'm not thin enough to have an eating disorder.

I'm just a failed dieter.

I'm not sick enough to deserve treatment.

News flash: It's not the number on the scale, the number of calories you ate today, or how "bad" your behaviors are that determines how real your ED is. It's the level of suffering it causes you. If your thoughts and behaviors surrounding food and body image are causing you distress, you deserve to get help. Sometimes I ask clients what percentage of their thoughts are focused on food and body image. That number is more telling than the number on the scale.

Here's another category of thoughts you may experience:

Other people can recover, but not me.

I've struggled with an ED for so many years. How can I possibly change now?

I wouldn't know how to live without an ED. There'd be nothing left of me.

I've been in and out of treatment for so long already. Nothing has ever worked.

My body is broken.

I'm hopeless.

These are all thoughts that are characteristic of an ED. Part of why an ED is so powerful is because it makes you think you cannot live without it. Believing that you won't manage without your ED, that you are somehow different from all the other people who recover, is just another part of the disorder. Having had an eating disorder for many years is no indication that you cannot recover. People recover at all stages of life. And thinking that you must be hopeless because you've been working on recovery for years already is understandable but in no way is it the truth. An ED can develop from years of trauma or negative thinking patterns, and it can take a long time to work through those things. All that work will leave you much stronger in the end, and it will also allow you to let go of the ED in a way that feels manageable to you.

If you believe that your body is "messed up" because you've had an ED for many years, please know that while this disorder can absolutely take a toll on your body, much of the damage can be reversed. Don't fall into the trap of thinking it's too late. Improved nutrition can remedy many symptoms. Even if you cannot make up for lost time and reverse all of the ED's physical effects, you can ensure a healthier future by committing to recovery now.

Most importantly, remember that an ED is a mental affliction, not just a problem with food. This means that if you are struggling with this disorder, you are not the best judge of your thoughts. Many of your thoughts are symptomatic of the disorder. In other words, don't believe everything you think. You will need to trust others in order to get better, which is probably a challenge for you, but it is the only way out.

And, by the way? If you are doing the very hard work of recovery, you are most definitely special. Trust me.

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