Today, I’m honored to publish a guest post by Laurie Glass, a pastoral counselor who works with women with eating disorders. She also recovered from anorexia and shared her story on Weightless several years ago. (Here’s part one and part two.)
Below, Laurie offers powerful advice on changing your thoughts in eating disorder recovery. But I think her suggestions are valuable for anyone working on challenging and revising negative, damaging thoughts.
While in the throes of an eating disorder, it seems that the negative thoughts rule one’s behaviors. It feels like the taunting eating disorder voice will never shut up and the self degrading thoughts shout so loudly that it’s impossible to hear anything else. Even so, there is hope to change those thoughts!
Changing one’s thinking is vital in eating disorder recovery. When critical thoughts are in charge, they only lead you deeper into the eating disorder. But when you are able to change those thoughts, that’s when steps toward freedom come.
But how can you change your thinking?
First, examine your thoughts and recognize those that are leading you down the path of self-destruction. The conclusions that feed the eating disorder have to go. Perhaps you think negatively of yourself, that you’re ugly, not talented, or that you’re a failure.
You may also have negative thoughts about your ability to recovery, that it will never happen or that you don’t deserve it.
You may want to list the negative thoughts. Then, really look at these words and see them for the lies that they are.
Secondly, while identifying the problematic thoughts is important, just deciding to no longer let them rule is not enough. While trying to change thoughts or behaviors, it’s vital to have something to replace them. If all we do is determine to not think something in particular, that just keeps us focused on that troublesome thought.
For example, if I told you to think about any color you want except for red, that you should determine to not think about red, that you can focus on any color but red, it makes sense that you’re going to think of the color red.
It’s reasonable to expect that my focus on the color red is only going to make it more difficult for you to put that color out of your mind.
On the other hand, if I told you to think of any color you want except for red, that there are lots of other colors to think about such as green or pink or lavender, burgundy or blue or peach, that’s going to help you to focus on a different color.
As you think about things associated with colors like green or blue or lavender, your thoughts can begin to go a whole different direction.
This color example may seem really simplistic, but the bottom line is that we really do need to change our thoughts while in eating disorder recovery. And having truthful statements to focus on in order to replace the musings that are harmful is a great place to start.
Thirdly, think of what encourages and inspires you. Are you touched by music, poetry, quotes, Scripture, the words of a kind friend or something else? Search and find the lyrics, quotes, verses or other words that are meaningful to you.
Do your best to find something positive to combat each lie and negative thought you have.
For example, if you think you’re a failure, focus on specific instances that remind you of what you’ve done right, all the times you’ve done your best or how there’s still time to have many successes in your life.
If you think you’re ugly, perhaps you can find a song or poem to remind you that you’re beautiful in God’s sight.
Change the thought that you’ll never recover by reading recovery stories and select quotes from those stories that reinforce it can also happen for you.
You might find it helpful to write those positive and inspirational statements on note cards that you can carry with you, tape them around a mirror, put them in your phone or do something else to help you keep these truths and positives easily accessible.
Keep in mind that thoughts affect emotions and emotions affect behaviors, so changing your thoughts is an important step in recovery.
Consider how it might change your emotions and behavior if you focused on how even baby steps add up to a journey instead of listening to the lie that recovery isn’t possible.
If you were able to accept your appearance instead of believing you’re ugly, think of the difference that could make in your recovery.
If you believed the truth instead of lies, imagine how your life might be different.
Remember that the critical thoughts may be pretty deeply embedded, they have likely been with you for a long time, and it will take time to replace them.
But with consistent practice, you might be surprised at the difference changing your thoughts can make.
The lies don’t deserve to rule over you. Let the truth and the positives about you and about the hope of recovery lead you one step closer to freedom from your eating disorder!
More About Laurie Glass:
Laurie Glass is the creator of Freedom from Eating Disorders at www.freedomfromed.com. She is a recovered anorexic and Pastoral Counselor who provides e-mail Christian counseling for adult women with eating disorders. She is the author of Journey to Freedom from Eating Disorders as well as other works about eating disorder recovery from a Christian perspective. In addition, she was quoted in the April, 2012 issue of Women’s Health Magazine.