Image: Amy Goh
The eating disorder demons began entering my life around the age of 14. Things started changing and my body was growing. As a result, I became more aware of the opposite sex and wanted to become more attractive.
In order to achieve these goals, I started what I thought was an innocent diet. This soon escalated into something much larger. I lost weight, gained compliments and it became my thing. I felt good, but it wasn’t sustainable. One day, I ate “too much” and my body felt full. So, in what felt like an ‘aha!’ moment at the time, I made myself sick. It was a way of punishing myself for eating too much.
This complicated and unhealthy relationship with food lasted for many years. In my early twenties I finally called on all my inner strength and wisdom (this what the start of my spiritual journey, although I didn’t know it) and stopped purging. Yes, of course there were temptations to do it again, to take ‘control’. While there were a few relapses, it essentially came to end.
What is clear now though is that it was only the purging that stopped, the ED voice was still there.
That is the thing with an ED, it isn’t really the food that matters, it’s much deeper. My self esteem was crushingly low and my attitude towards my body and myself was unhealthy.
I used to have this constant chatter in my mind telling me that I was fat, I was ugly, I would never be loved, I would always be alone. I used to call these voices “the hamsters”, because it felt like they were on repeat running around and around my mind.
This all reached a final breaking point when I turned thirty. My ED was affected all my relationships and friendships. I needed a lot of external validation and didn’t know how to give it to myself. After a series of events, I went to therapy, deepened my yoga practice and discovered Buddhism. This is when the real recovering and healing started to happen, everything started to change.
The negative self talk slowly started to get quieter, I started to get to know my body again, appreciate all the beauty and gifts that it holds.
I felt the most free I had ever felt, it was great. This has been an uphill yet amazingly rewarding journey, one that has led me to teach yoga and share how it IS possible to cultivate a positive and healthy relationship with your body.
One thing I have learned along the way though, is that the “Hamsters”, demons or limiting beliefs are fierce and they will always be there. What’s the best way to deal with them? To make friends with them, get to know them, and discover what can you learn from them. Rather than resisting or pushing them away, which is natural thing to do, take the time to get to understand know where they are coming from.
In my experience, when the demons come back it is because there is something I am not doing to take care of myself. It is my higher self actually telling me I need to take action to be softer and to pay attention to my needs.
However long you have been in recovery, here are my
top 5 tips for making friends with your demons:
1. LABEL it
As I started therapy, I started noting down each time my demons came back. I even gave my demons a name; I called them the “Critical Becky” This not only increased my awareness of my behavior patterns, but also allowed me to disassociate it from my actually identity, from the true me. It enabled me to start seeing things more objectively, knowing these thoughts were just thoughts-they were not part of me. This sparked my curiosity and was key to recovery.
2. Be KIND
As hard as it might seem, especially in the early days of recovery, cultivating a kindness towards ourselves is key. Start small, write down 10 qualities you love about yourself that don’t have anything to do with your weight or appearance and keep these close by. Whenever the negative self talk comes back, use this as a reference.
3. Know your NEEDS
What is it that makes you feel comforted? What are the things that make you happy? I wrote down a list of all of my needs; this included getting enough sleeping, eating 3 nourishing regular meals a day, being creative, seeing friends, listening to music, having enough space to do nothing, Write these down and keep them close. You can use them as a reference point. When the demons start making noise again, check this list and ask yourself, “Are my needs being met?”
4. MOVE your body
Moving the body is the greatest healer of them all. However, this doesn’t mean hardcore exercise or really intense workouts. Find a gentle way to get the energy flowing around the body again. I find yoga, walking in the countryside and dancing helps me.
Laughing and connecting with loved ones is essential. Know who your core tribe are and go and have some fun.
As The Buddha says,
No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.