Eating Disorders


October 5, 2015

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

Desire for recovery typically doesn't take place until a person surpasses the intersection of where the benefits of the ED (yes, there are some) no longer outweigh the costs.  Until this happens, there isn't much incentive for recovery.  Dr. Barrett, founder of Center for Change, explains that recovery is a function of he following equation:

pain + hope = change

Without the presence of pain a person is unlikely to have the motivation required for the extremely difficult quest for recovery.  The ED is a terrible illness, and the average length of the recovery process is years, with many ups and downs along the way. 

Consider this, if a person only has pain but no hope, their hopelessness will prevent change.  And if a person only has hope but no pain, change is just a possibility with a low likelihood of action.  It's the combination of pain and hope that results in change.

Early on in the ED the benefits far outweigh the costs.  The ED serves a function for the individual.  It might be a distraction from distressing life events or a way to cope with uncomfortable emotions.  Or perhaps the ED offers the illusion of control when everything else feels chaotic.  Whatever it may be, the ED works for the person, at least for a period of time.  During this stage the costs are fairly low.

Over time, however, the costs start to add up, and eventually surpass the benefits.  Costs of the ED may include decline in physical health, poor relationships, worsening depression and/or anxiety, inability to think clearly, obsessive thoughts about food/exercise/weight, and many other things. 

It's only once the sufferer recognizes that the costs are no longer worth the benefits that he/she will be ready to change.  This can be very frustrating to their loved ones. 

I find it important to acknowledge to clients that the underlying needs that the ED was serving are totally valid.  For example, we all need ways to cope with distressing emotions.  And we all want to feel worthy of love (the fallacy of the ED however is that worthiness is dependent on weight/appearance).  The key to recovery will be finding ways to get these needs met without the ED.  That will take time and practice. 

If you are suffering from an eating disorder I encourage you to take an honest (and perhaps painful) inventory of the costs and benefits of your ED.  Consider asking a trusted loved one for their input, as they may see things that you don't (because part of the ED is denial, and we all have blind spots when it comes to ourselves).  As you add up the costs, also consider how the costs will continue to increase over time.  Eventually it will make more sense from a cost:benefit standpoint to recover.  How about starting now?

Embrace any reason for recovery – Jenni Schaefer, author of Life Without Ed


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