Do Eating Disorder Thoughts Ever Go Away?
Amy M. Klimek, MA. LPC
Eating Disorder Program Coordinator, Timberline Knolls
The average person has between 50,000 and 75,000 thoughts per day, which translates into 35 to 50 per minute.
When an individual struggles with an eating disorder, thoughts are repeatedly directed towards the disorder: “If I eat that, I will gain weight” or “How can I hide my next binge and purge from my parents?” The disorder strives to be center-stage, becoming the driving force of all actions, sending commitments and values to the side.
Because the person has abdicated all power to the disorder, they perceive these thoughts as truth, than will react to the thoughts impulsively. In turn, this automatic behavior becomes conditioned. If the thought “I am fat” presents itself continuously, the person will emotionally agree, often taking on personal ownership of the negative statement.
When entering recovery many people often wonder if the thoughts will remain. The answer is yes and no. The thoughts may show up, but how they experience the thought and how they choose to respond will change. A thought by itself is just a thought: a recollection of an experience or event, an idea, or a product of a person’s onhealthy evista mental activity. How one thinks about the thought, spends time with it, responds to the thought is in the control and influence of the person. To notice the thought is to experience the thought, then invite space and time to respond to it in a healthy way. In recovery that requires support and compassion.
As the days were once spent using behaviors to quiet the mental chorus composed by the disorder, now the days are filled with recovery work, new experiences, attitudes and growth, as well as time spent with supportive people.
The disorder thoughts are not being cultivated and tended to; this naturally allows more time and space to spend in the healing process. And the beauty is this vacancy space allows new thoughts to enter in, such as present moment experience, new ideas, and experience of the now.
The few negative thoughts that remain will no longer be loud and intrusive, but over time, will grow quiet and weak. Every time a thought is denied the attention, the eating disorder loses power. One of the strengths of recovery is for every person to take back the power they abdicated because it is theirs and theirs alone.