Eating disorders part 2
By Teri Watkin, Aug 25 2016 12:24PM
I talked a bit about beliefs in my last blog and you might have concluded from the examples given that beliefs and behaviour are strongly linked. Beliefs and behaviour together with feelings all interact together so that what we believe will not only affect the way we behave but will also affect the way we feel.
The trouble is that our behaviour and our feelings may be influenced by a belief that is either irrational or is no longer needed. Let’s take the example I used in the last posting ‘eat up all the food on your plate, think of all the starving children’ – we’ve probably all heard that said to someone, if not ourselves and of course, whether or not we leave something on our plate will make no difference to starving children. However, to a person who has heard that as a child it may seem perfectly rational to believe that it’s wrong to leave any food on the plate and they may well be unable to consider a different belief such as ‘I’m full now and finishing what’s on my plate will make me feel unwell’.
We don’t really know whether our beliefs are irrational or not until we begin to think about them and even then, they may be so much part of our sense of the ‘all being right with the world’ that it may be very hard to let go of them. Here are some irrational beliefs that may be held by someone with an eating disorder: food is the enemy; food takes care of me; food should never, ever be wasted; eating will make me fat; eating is a painful process I wish I didn’t have to eat; hunger is scary; denying myself food means I’m in control and that equals emotional strength; thin equals a perfect life; eating fills the emptiness inside of me; it’s too scary to gain weight; thin is more lovable than fat etc etc. It’s important to note that if you hold some of those beliefs, it doesn’t automatically mean that you have an eating disorder. For example, I hate to waste food but I don’t have an eating disorder.
So in order to either lose weight (in the case of someone who is a compulsive eater), or to start eating normally (in the case of someone with anorexia) it’s important to look at the irrational beliefs that are held and to begin to change them for more rational beliefs. However, that sounds really simple and it isn’t at all simple because our beliefs are so much part of who we are. If we are going to change our beliefs then we have to be prepared to go on a journey of changing who we are and that’s a very delicate process – and a process that requires a lot of courage on the part of the person who is changing.