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Can healing an eating disorder also become a path of self-discovery?


Perhaps there is a reason why the things that we consider bad, unhealthy, broken, and dysfunctional still exist. If it’s here, it is serving a purpose. Everything serves, and there is wisdom in all of it.


A common practice used in working with eating disorders is to quiet the voice of “ED” or the eating disorder. However, I believe that no aspect of ourselves should be disregarded. Instead, everything about ourselves can be embraced in order for us to transcend or move beyond a limiting, painful perception of the world.


I think re-encouraging a split within the psyche where the eating disorder is a problem only adds to the client’s feelings of internal conflict. Instead, we can include the eating disorder as a part of the client and find a deeper meaning in the experience.


As a therapist, I will often ask the following questions:


  • What wants to be said or heard?

  • How did the eating disorder protect you when you were younger?

  • What part of the unconscious wants to become known?

  • And how is it perfect that it became intolerable and caused you to seek help?


Many eating disordered clients can feel like they are living inauthentically. Maybe they are living according to family or societal standards that have been internalized or introjected.


The eating disorder can be a form of rebellion, a reaction against the socialized self, and can provide insight into how the client wants to authentically show up in this world.


By uncovering what may be underneath the voice of the eating disorder, I have seen many clients become closer to a more empowered and expressive side of themselves that is willing to set boundaries and speak their truth. Rather than rejecting the parts they don’t like and pretending they are not there only to have them resurface later, clients learn to be with the uncomfortable aspects of themselves, integrate them, and become bigger than them.


Ultimately, the path toward recovery can be a spiritual one that helps clients learn about themselves on a deeper level and discover who they really are.


Share Holland, MA, LPCC, EDIT Certified Therapist

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