The lie after lie

However loyal your eating disorder feels they aren’t trustworthy and you shouldn’t believe a word they say! Even though they pretend they are your friend, eating disorders are deadly. They fuel your brain systematically with tons of false beliefs, lies and contradictions. Living with an eating disorder makes your mind a battlefield. Every single minute is filled with conflicts between your eating disorder voice and your healthy ‘real you’ voice. Your real but timid voice tries to argue away your eating disorders aggressive voice, but no matter the logic you throw at your eating disorder you keep ending up losing that battle. You are scared, your eating disorder is scared, yet they always feel empowered and you always seem to find yourself in a continuous state of distress.

I remember myself when I was living with this 24 hour brain battle that regardless of this uncomfortable feeling it wasn’t until I started recovery that I was able to identify the two voices. I learned how to do distinguish between my voice and my eating disorders... which was the biggest forward step in my recovery. Further along in my recovery journey I began to discover patterns of recurring lies that my eating always had ready to catapult me backwards.

I have composed the lies that most commonly occurred lies that my/your eating disorder told/tells you. The struggle comes with remembering that your eating disorder makes you believe that it is you that is thinking them! That’s the hard bit! But if you continue to separate your voice from theirs you will succeed in noticing all those lies that you once believed were truths… 

1.      The lie: I am fat.

The truth is, no matter how much weight you gain or lose, your eating disorder will never be satisfied and will keep telling you the same lie. 

Remember to separate your voice from your ed’s and always make sure to split from it! 

Take back your, “I”. That’s right, that it back! How dare someone else put words and thoughts into your head.. It is not, “I am fat”, but your eating disorder telling you that you are. They are an “I” stealing thief (best of the trade in fact) so watch out!

2.. The lie: I am no one without my eating disorder.

The truth is, this is something I too believed for a very long time. When my self-esteem was at an all time zero, I was filled with self-loathing and somehow my eating disorder seemed to be filling up that sickening emptiness I felt inside of worthlessness... and also a strange feeling of ‘hope’.

That’s right, ‘suffering’ from an eating disorder somehow gives us ‘hope’, a ‘purpose’ and ‘something to live for’. At first you see, you feel like you have something to wake up for each day, something to aim towards, a goal, a purpose and intention. That worthless feeling you felt inside falsely pretends to fade as your eating disorder praises you for all your ‘productive pain’. 

But the longer it controls your mind, the more you end up losing yourself. The longer you live with an eating disorder the more your true self intertwines with your eating disorder making you believe you can’t live without it. The opposite is true. You can only reconnect with your inner self when you let  go of it.

Lots of us try to fill are empty wholes in our stomach with self-destructive replacements, like drugs, alcohol and eating disorders. We turn to these coping mechanisms almost instinctively and they seem to latch a hold on us before we even know ourselves. But there is a way out, you are everything without your eating disorder, you are the complete opposite to what you are fearing.

3. The lie: I don’t deserve treatment.

The truth is, for a sufferer with an eating disorder everything in your life must either be, A) a rule, B) ‘allowed’ or C) forced. It’s true, when I was suffering my life consisted of following my ‘rule’ to run every morning, then being ‘allowed’ to sit down or have breakfast, followed by being ‘forced’ by others to have help, go to therapy or the doctors and so the cycle continued. 

Until... 

I gave myself a choice. You see it was my Anorexia that made my rules, it was her who made me run, made me do crunches and made me do this and that. It was then her again who allowed me to sit down, who allowed me to nibble on carrot sticks or pour milk in my tea. She gave the orders and she gave the ‘rewards’. It was my Mum, family and friends who forced me into therapy, it was then who pushed me through the doctors doors or spoon feed me blood tests. It was never me what did anything, choose anything, and I mean the real me, the real Margherita, who inside was screaming her choices but just never had the courage to speak them. Sometimes I would think them, but Anorexia dealt with them in seconds.

My choice was to recover. I knew deep inside I deserved a life, a real life, a voice, a say and a chance to come back. My eating disorder never shut up about me not deserving one but that’s where yet again the ‘split’ came in handy.

‘The split’ always comes in handy and it made me realise that I always had a choice. 

You deserve treatment and a happy life filled with joy and health, no matter what that **bleep in your brain says.

4. The lie: I am unlovable and worthless.

The truth is, when I lived with an eating disorder this was my 24 hour mantra. At moments I wasn’t saying it out loud I was thinking it inside my mind but the outcome stayed the same. Whatever I did, it was never good enough, I would never be good enough and nobody would ever love me. 

My eating disorder introduced herself as a life-saver, but was nothing more than a life-taker.... and so is yours. You are not worthless, nobody is! We are all worthy of love, happiness and living the life we want. You are not here to survive, but to thrive and live a great life, filled with love to give and to receive.

5. The lie: I have to deserve and compensate my food.

The truth is, most people with an eating disorder can resonate with this, whether in active recovery or not. When you’re eating a meal or want to grab a snack, that voice urges you to either stop eating, skip the snack and wait till later or just leave a bit on your plate in case (loads) “just to be sure”.

“Just to be sure”, refers to either the chance you’ll be confronted with a situation in which you have to eat something unexpected later which you have “prepared yourself for in advance by restricting earlier”.

But, no one has to deserve food, let alone compensate it. Your body needs energy to live, to be healthy and to make it possible for you to live the happy life you want.

6. The lie: I will eat normally once my weight is X kilograms.

The truth is, doesn’t this sound ridiculous? But for a last sufferer like me, current recoverer or sufferer this sounds all to familiar. Why on earth would your eating disorder ever be satisfied? They won’t, ever! But they’ll damn well put all their energy into tricking you that once you ‘lose a little more, you eat normally again’. This thought was very common in my ‘in denial’ stage. In the moments that I didn’t believe I was ill I was convinced that it will ‘all stop’ when I get to a certain goal weight. It would all stop, I would eat normally, exercise normally and just go back to my usual habits. Yet what happened was that when I finally reached that ‘goal weight’ it dropped to another one, a lot lower and then I convinced myself again that it would definitely ‘stop this time’.... but it never did and the cycle never stopped, I was never low enough, or felt worthy enough. 

Not until I was without my Anorexia did I ever feel worthy.

7. The lie: I am not ‘skinny enough’ to have an eating disorder.

The truth is, your weight doesn’t define the severity of your eating disorder. Yes, most people clinically-diagnosed with anorexia are underweight, but I in my almost six year battle with Anorexia I was only underweight for about 70% of the time, the remaining 30% of time I was a normal weight and looked healthy. I was still suffering in that 30%, in fact some of my worst times with Anorexia I have been at my healthiest weights. Sadly and disappointing I may have not been diagnosed at those healthy weight stages despite the pain in my mind.

Furthermore, the weight is the least of the problem and only an ineffective coping mechanism for not being able to express emotions. The real problem and severity of the illness lies in issues like self-loathing, a lack of self-worth and acceptance, a low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. The longer you live with your eating disorder, the more brain and body damage will be caused by it and the harder it is to find the way back up. Never think your case isn’t serious enough! Your weight neither defines you and neither define the severity of your eating disorder. It is a MENTAL illness.

8. The lie: Treatment professionals (Doctors, Dietitians, Therapists) want to make me fat.

The truth is, your treatment team isn’t your enemy, they are what they say they are, your ‘team’. They want to help you and guide you along your journey of recovery. Their only goal is to see you happy and healthy again, so don’t believe that voice when they are trying to convince you otherwise.

9. The lie: If I start eating I will lose control.

The truth is, this thought is based on a fear. The fear that, “If I enjoy this meal today, I will end up losing control and never be able to stop eating.” Its about letting yourself eat and enjoy rather then just eat to survive. The fear of losing control is very common for people with an eating disorder. I used to have it myself, and I would think if I had one biscuit I would end up eating the whole box, but does it make sense? No, it doesn’t.

You won’t lose control. This fear is the direct result of malnutrition. You become obsessed with food and it damages your brain and ability to think clearly. You will see that once you start eating according to a healthy and balanced diet (provided by a nutrition expert) your body will be able to stabilise its thoughts and the fear of losing control will disappear as you begin to encourage intuitive eating.

10. The lie: If I don’t weigh myself every day my weight gets out of control.

The truth is, I used to believe this for a very very long time. In fact, it was just a way of coping with my self-hate and low self-esteem. I had to monitor my way (excessively and obsessively) or I felt like it would fly out of control and I would gain 10 stone overnight.

I thought I could handle everything as long as I controlled my weight. Oh, how wrong those lies were and how wrong I was to be fooled by them.

First of all, your weight fluctuates within your ideal-point range ALL the time. That is the natural beauty of your body. I used to think I could easily gain a few pounds in one day but really the only weight you can gain in a day is by the fluid you have drank. You don’t need to weigh yourself every day, you don’t need to weigh yourself at all. Leave the weighing to the professionals. I remember that I used to ask to shut my eyes so that I didn’t need to see- as it’s really just not helpful. Trust your body’s wisdom! Focus on learning to love yourself and you’ll be able to see your real beauty!

I really hope that these 10 lies and 10 truths will help you. Remember to listen to your own voice and not your eating disorders. Because solider… you are never wrong if you are always you. Don’t let yourself be fooled and covered by the figure and voice of ED.

 Photography by: Daniel Brookman

Photography by: Daniel Brookman

Margherita Barbieri