Your Eating Disorder May Be Holding Your Brain Captive. Here’s How to Take The Power Back

I have recently found myself in a world of recovery. Recovery from surgery to fix a stress fracture in my femur plus recovery from anorexia and over exercising.

This also comes at a time of no employment, school or real sense of purpose. My master’s degree is long done. I left my café job that wasn’t healthy for me or really possible at this point physically. I also lost a teaching job and wedding planning has come and gone.

For some people this may be a welcome rest period. Yet for me, (and I imagine many others who suffer with eating disorders) this amount of unoccupied time is a version of my personal hell.

Your brain – held captive

It is amazing when you stop to think about it (or actually physically make note of it like I did) how many times a day the eating disordered brain thinks about food and exercise. It is astonishing and pretty scary.

The sheer amount of time and energy spent thinking about foods, calories, weight and exercise would exhaust anyone.

So what happens when your exhausted and worn down brain gets an influx of free time? Well, it can’t fight off the temptation of the disease. More and more brain space gets taken by disordered thoughts.

It’s a really horrible cycle. You initially have more free time but paradoxically, you actually end up with less free time. This “free time” that your eating disorder takes hold of ends up making you feel more exhausted and worn down.

I’ve found myself with so much free time on my hands but no “free time” in my brain.

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Why you need to take back the power

This leaves me with not only a desire, but a need to take back all that brain space from my disorder. I need this time to recover mentally and physically. Allowing my eating disorder take up so much of my mind is not productive. Not only is it not productive, but it could begin the spiral into a relapse.

Recovery to me means taking back brain space from the eating disorder and using it to heal our minds and bodies.

Taking back brain space allows for rest and enjoyment. It means fulfillment from things that won’t only wear us down more. Space can be reclaimed for school or careers, but these aren’t always manageable options.

And besides, you can’t spend all of your brain space you take back from the disorder here. I am finding that taking back brain space happens in pieces and that it needs to be chiseled out and safeguarded.

Brain space is freed with the intention of bringing more joy and fulfillment into the everyday. This break from the anxiety and stress allows healing and progress.

How I’m using my newfound brain space

I’m am trying out a lot of new things with my newfound brain power. I’ve noticed that when I start to chisel out new space, the activities I turn to in order to free it are often good distractions.

Things my reclaimed brain space has been used on include:

  • Reading a variety of novels

 

  • Connecting with nature through walks and picnics

 

  • Decluttering and organizing my apartment (clutter wreaks havoc on anxious brains)

 

  • Browsing Pinterest for holiday decorating ideas

 

  • Creating a vision board of decorating ideas for a future house

 

  • Taking free online courses

 

  • Networking with individuals in the industry I aspire to join

 

  • Volunteering

 

  • Writing as a creative outlet

 

  • Refreshing my French language skills

All of these things are so much more fun and productive than obsessing over food and calories. Maybe some of these ideas will inspire you to make a list of things you want to do to reclaim the space in your brain.

The possibilities are endless, Warrior. What will you choose?

Let me know some of your ideas in the comment section below ????

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1 Comment

  • Courtney,
    We are sharing a similar path. I am standing with you ready to fight this disease once and for all. Anorexia and exercise compulsion has taken front and center stage far too long in my life. It is time to break the chains, break out of the egg shell my brain has become. Time to get uncomfortable to become comfortable. I have also found distractions are helpful. I like how you state training our brain to focus on other things is like finding space you forgot existed. We can start to shove aside the space taken up by all the numbers on a food label, calories burned on a smartwatch, steps taken in the day or pounds flashing at us on a weight scale. I love your list! A few things I have found I get lost in is painting (and I paint using a template, definitely no Picasso here :)), puzzles, blogging and reading “trashy” historical romance novels.

    Best of luck in your journey. I am pulling for you!

    -Kristin

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