Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode #173: Discovering the Gift of An Eating Disorder

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Podcast episode 173: Discovering the Gift of An Eating Disorder
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For many people who have ever struggled with an eating disorder, a closer look reveals that this very eating disorder can be the symptom of something much deeper. In this podcast episode,  Amanda opens up about her struggle with an eating disorder that has persisted for over 16 years.

Triggered by stress and the fear of uncertainty, Amanda has felt very frustrated by and controlled by her habits with food. However, after further digging, Amanda and Marc make some great discoveries on what her eating disorder has really meant to her and what she can do to begin to let it go.

In this powerful session, Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, helps Amanda rephrase the role of her disordered relationship with food by uncovering the important role it has played in her life. By the end, Amanda celebrates a greater self -awareness and readiness to end the cycle of binge eating that has plagued her for so long.

Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:

Marc: Welcome, everyone. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. We are in the Psychology of Eating podcast, and I’m here today with Amanda. Welcome, Amanda.

Amanda: Hi, Marc. Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Marc: Yay! Lucky me. Lucky us. I’m really glad you’re doing this. Amanda and I were just chatting, and we are speaking to each other. Amanda’s in Guatemala, and I happen to be today in California in beautiful Laguna Beach, overlooking the ocean. So I feel like a pretty lucky guy.

Amanda: You are.

Marc: I am. So let me just say a few words to new viewers and listeners here. The way the podcast works, very simple. This is Amanda and myself. This is our first time meeting. We’re having a session to see if we can do as much good work as humanly possible within less than an hour, push the fast forward button if we can on transformation.

Amanda, if you could wave your magic wand and get whatever you wanted to get out of this session, out of our time together, what would that look like for you?

Amanda: Well, I’ve had a lot of breakthroughs within the past few weeks with the whole program. So what I’m basically more excited about is just exploring the whole process a little bit more as far as how to understand dynamic eating in my personal case. Like, make it personal for me.

Marc: So specifically, what would you like to work on? If you can improve something in your relationship with food and body, what would that be?

Amanda: I’ve struggled for quite a while with an eating disorder, and I do know how like there’s a detonation button there. I know where it’s at, but I don’t know how to get a bit more hold of it. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Marc: So when you say you struggle with an eating disorder, tell me about that. What exactly have you struggled with?

Amanda: Well, it’s been 15 years now. But on and off, I do see the emotional patterns that I go through in my life where I’m just too stressed and I do not know how to deal with anxiety or stress in a better or healthier way or just avoid it altogether. So I get just very triggered and very anxious, so I start binging and purging afterwards, obviously. And I go through the motions of where I’m hiding my food, then I start calorie counting, and I start obsessing with exercise.

I can talk about right now, and I do understand that right now I’m actually getting a divorce right now. And that whole process is just too stressful for me. Instead of dealing with it in a much healthier way, I just go to food for comfort, for nourishment, for—I don’t know—just to feel safe.

Marc: So you notice that you do that. So when you go to food, what does that look like? So it sounds like you binge eat and then you might purge later. How many days a week would you say you do that?

Amanda: Six. Pretty much every day.

Marc: Yeah. So does it happen at a certain time during the day?

Amanda: Yes. At night.

Marc: At night.

Amanda: Specifically, at night after dinner.

Marc: Okay. So what time would that be?

Amanda: I’d say about eight or nine.

Marc: Are you alone at that point?

Amanda: Sometimes. Yeah. It’s when I get my alone time at home right now.

Marc: In the evening, after dinner. And what might you binge on?

Amanda: Oh, anything I can get my hands on. But I adopted a vegan diet a while ago, and I’ve labeled many foods to be not good for me. So I usually binge on things that are not vegan. It’s just a horrible cycle that I go through because I might binge on chocolate chip cookies which they just send me through the roof. And I might have eaten a salad before the chocolate chip cookie, and it doesn’t matter.

In my head, in my mind, if I ate the chocolate chip cookie, the salad, the quinoa, the good stuff that I had to eat before, that just goes down the drain. And that chocolate chip cookie sets me off to start eating cereal which I usually don’t eat anymore. That triggers me as well. Anything that’s very heavy I’ll go directly to that.

Marc: Amanda, how old are you?

Amanda: 30.

Marc: 30. And this has been happening for you since, you mentioned 15 years.

Amanda: No. It’s been about 17 years.

Marc: 17 years. Uh-huh. Do you remember the first time that you binged and purged?

Amanda: I do. My mom was first diagnosed with cancer at that time. My brother and my sisters and I weren’t really informed of what was really going on. We were just picked up by somebody else from school. And when I asked about my mom, we were just told, “Well, she’s not here right now.” And when we were finally informed of what was going on, it was just, “Ok, but is she going to be well? Or is she not going to be well? And what’s going on?” And along with me just being transferred from schools, it was just too much. There was just stress going on all around.

And I had gone through that same thing of not knowing where my mom was because seven years prior to that my sister got cancer as well. And we went through that whole thing where, “Why are you picking me up instead of my mom? Where’s my mom? Why haven’t I seen her in a couple of days?” This not knowing of where I’m standing, I don’t remember planning on it to happen. I don’t think that a lightbulb went in my head, and I just thought, “This is wonderful. I’m going to binge on a box of pizza and just going to do whatever.” It just sort of started happening.

I stopped eating for about three months, and then when I finally started eating, I couldn’t keep it down. Emotionally, obviously, I just felt like I was growing by the minute every time I ate something. And being transferred in a new school and being the new girl, and I felt like I had an eye on me all the time. People at school started noticing me losing weight and having very dark circles around my eyes and just not looking good at all.

And I started drinking and I started smoking. And the drinking helped me as far as the not eating part. And it just became a crazy cycle where drinking sort of helped me on the days that I couldn’t binge and purge because I was with somebody and I didn’t have any alone time.

Marc: Sure. Now, you mentioned you’re getting a divorce. How long were you married for?

Amanda: A year. Fourteen months to be exact.

Marc: Do you have children?

Amanda: No.

Marc: And are you still living together?

Amanda: Yes. We actually just went to couples therapy the day before yesterday, and I went to my own private session yesterday. And the therapist was like, “No, this marriage isn’t going anywhere.” And I remember one of the modules you were talking about a specific case study, and something just clicked on me. Because I’ve gained a lot of weight since I got pregnant—since I got married. And a lot has happened 14 months ago from now. My father passed away a week after I got back from my honeymoon. So that was two weeks after I got married.

Then my husband had to have a really big surgery like two days after that happened. We just had a really hard time. I’m very passionate about running, or I used to be anyways. And I signed myself up for an ultramarathon which was supposed to happen in December. And seven months ago, I could not get myself out of bed. It was hard for me to just do whatever it is that I had to do on a daily basis.

I’m very fond of my relationship with Netflix and TV in general. And I started gaining weight. I’ve gained like 20 pounds over the past seven months. And I’m also writing a book along with the program. I’ve noticed while I’m writing I have these a-ha moments where I just feel so trapped in my marriage and I’m not going anywhere I feel.

I read somewhere that poppy flowers—if one is taller than the other… It might’ve been you that wrote that. But when one poppy flower is taller than the rest of them, it stops growing until the others meet it to where it is. And then it keeps on growing. That’s how I started feeling in my marriage. I felt so trapped. And so, it was hard for me to get out of bed. It was hard for me to just do any exercise whatsoever. And when food came, it was like, “I have to have everything.”

Marc: Sure. Let me ask another question. Are there times when you notice that, “Huh. I didn’t binge and purge as much this week. It was less than usual”? Are there times when it’s not as intense for you?

Amanda: Yes.

Marc: What do those times have in common? What do you notice? Why would that occur?

Amanda: Because I’m feeding myself off of other good things. I do quite a bit of traveling. And so, on those travels of mine where my husband wasn’t there, I would just go about the day and I would just enjoy sitting down, having a good meal. Even if I ate a chocolate chip cookie, it wasn’t a big deal at all. And usually just in general, when I’m not in my house with him or when he’s not around or—I started to make a mental note of, “Huh. There’s something different about today because I did not have to chow down on that entire pizza box by myself.”

Marc: But even prior to marriage, before you knew him, you said you’ve been binging and purging 17 years. So before you met him, when would be the times? What would describe times when you’re just binging and purging less? What would be different back then?

Amanda: Like I said, I’m feeding myself off of other things. For instance, on a good day where I usually get up really early and I go out for a run which usually involves a lot of trains, a lot of woods and forest and stuff, I come back. I meditate. The day starts off really well. And I just feed off of different energies. I’m in my element.

I notice that when that happens, when I feel like myself, when I just do things that I love to do, whether it’s running or walking or when I get to travel or read a good book or when I hang out with my family. We are about 75 of us on my mom’s side, and we’re just very close. And when we all just hang out together, I just feed off of the good stuff.

Marc: Yeah, I get it. Yeah, when you’re around people, when you’re around people in a good way, you are less apt to be in the eating disorder.

When you’re outside of your usual surroundings, you’re less apt to be in the eating disorder. That all makes perfect sense to me. When you feel plugged in and you’re doing things that feed you and nourish you, so that all makes sense to me. It makes perfect sense.

Who do you think you would be different if this eating disorder was gone, if you weren’t binging and purging anymore? It’s done. It’s over with. It’s finished. You couldn’t care less about it. You don’t need to do it. Who would you be? Who would you be different than you are now?

Amanda: Oh, things would be so much different.

Marc: Tell me. Tell me. I really want to know.

Amanda: I’d have a huge S on my chest. I’d be superwoman.

Marc: Tell me what that means.

Amanda: Well, that means that my emotional relationships would be much better handled than I usually do, because I manage my life the way I do food. So in business, I do that as well. I think I would have things a bit more under… I want to say under control because that’s what my instinct says, but I think I would be much less attached to everything that happens because I’m very apprehensive.

And I think being free from an eating disorder would allow me to just be in my essence, to just give more freely as well as being able to provide for myself, my comfort. I was talking to a friend the other day, and she was telling me, “You’re just waiting for this wonderful man to drop into your life and give you his trust fund and do this for you and save you from whatever it is that you need to be saved from.” And we concluded on the line that I need to be able to provide my own trust fund. I mean not financially but in every sense of the word.

I need to be able to provide myself the comfort, to provide myself nourishment. Sure, if I can share it with somebody else, that’s wonderful. But being so dependent on my relationship with food and the outcome of me eating or me not eating or me eating too much or not eating enough or not nourishing myself and not with the good stuff, that just sets me back so much during the day. I just feel like I want to crawl out of my skin the minute I start, “[Gasps]. Oh, my God. I just ate two loaves of bread. I should not have done that.” It doesn’t allow me to do the best that I can do during the day.

Marc: Sure. I understand that very well. Oh, I’ve got a lot I want to say, but I have still a few more questions to ask you. Let me see if I could ask this in a good way. Let’s assume for a moment—and we’re going to talk about this, but every eating disorder always, always, always has a good reason for it. It’s not just a dumb behavior. There’s actually reasons why it makes sense to our psychology or our biology.

But from your vantage point, from you, how do you think you benefit from having an eating disorder? What strange benefits might it give you?

Amanda: Hmm. I think it sometimes allows me to feel in control of things. I just realized this this week. But it also allows me to feel like I’m back in that time where my mom was still alive. I know it sounds pretty crazy. But my eating disorder started when my mom got sick the first time, and it was somehow, I don’t know why, comforting that at the end of the whole thing, my mom was okay. That’s how I dealt with my mom’s disease, and somehow this just takes me back.

Marc: Uh-huh. So how many years ago did she pass?

Amanda: Ten years.

Marc: Ten years ago. Okay. Okay. So just let me repeat back what you said so I really get it right. So I asked you if there’s a strange advantage to the eating disorder what might it be, and first thing you mentioned was, “Hey, it gives me a sense of control. Like I’m in charge of this thing. I eat almost whatever I want, and I just expel it out my body, like, hey, I’m in control of that.” That makes sense to me.

And you also said in a strange way it takes you back to that time when your mother had her disease and things were a little intense. So in a weird way, it reminds you of her and reminds you of at least how you got over a little hump there.

Amanda: Yes and no. Because there’s so much that just is triggered by this eating disorder I go through. Like, for instance, I remember my mom being called to the principal’s office so that the principal would let her know, “Hey, your daughter has an eating disorder. Do you want to know how we know? Well, because the whole school knows about it, and the girl’s talking to her friends about it.” So they gave her a brochure. I remember it specifically. It was labeled “My daughter has an eating disorder. What to do about it.”

My mom, she showed up, and she was like, “Just go to the car. I have to talk to the PTA moms.” And as soon as I sat in the car, there was the brochure there. And I was so sure that she was going to talk to me about it, and she never did. She never mentioned the eating disorder to me. She never mentioned her concern for me having that, and somehow it just felt like my private world of me dealing with it and… I don’t know, but maybe it allows me to be the victim maybe more.

Marc: Okay. Okay. That’s actually helpful. So whatever the case is, it’s connected to her in some way. In some way, it brings her onto the movie screen. Let’s just hang with that for a moment. Let’s just kind of put that to the side. I asked you the question who would you be if you didn’t have this. You talked about being free, just being able to be you. You didn’t necessarily use these words, but it just felt like you could be the real you. You could step into your power. You cannot be held back.

So why do you think it’s so hard to change an eating disorder?

Because in a weird way, even though you can’t change it, you’ve been in an intimate relationship with it, so you know more than the average person actually. Why do you think it’s so hard to change? And this is just an opinion question by the way. There’s no right or wrong answer; I’m just interested like what your thoughts are.

Amanda: Well, in my case, I just feel like letting go of that part of control… It’s been such a big part of my life, because I felt for the longest of time that everything else is so out of my hands, so out of my reach, that this is the only thing I can do for myself. I can be in control of either being skinny or being not so skinny. I think there was a point in my life where I felt that I’d lose my character. I’d lose me. I’d lose the essence of my drama if I ever were to let go. And that just terrified me because I would have to go through all this new search of who I am, and that’s scary.

Marc: Got it. Got it. So let’s push the pause button there because that, to me, is pretty profound what you just said. So I want to piggyback right onto that statement, and here’s what I want to say. There’s a certain subset of women, and I’m giving you observation and opinion. So this is my observation, and this is my educated opinion.

I’ve noticed there’s a certain subset of women who have eating disorders who are really, really smart. And they’re very aware, and they’re very educated. They could tell you what’s going on. They could tell you what they’re doing. They are awesome at self-reflection. And it’s an amazing gift that they have, and it’s an amazing challenge at the same time because a lot of times we’re so smart about ourselves that we don’t know what to do in a weird way. The distinctions that you have are so good, and the challenge is how to put them into action.

So what I want to say is that there’s a stage I have noticed that many people, men and women, go through in an eating disorder. Not everyone has this stage, but many do. And it’s the stage where we become so wedded to the eating disorder it becomes our significant other, and it becomes our intimate other. And it becomes special. Your eating disorder has a special quality to it, meaning it’s yours. It’s your thing that you have behind closed doors.

And like you said, you’re in control of this. You could eat four donuts. You could eat 14 donuts. You could purge once. You could purge twice. You can do it anytime you want. For the most part, “Okay, we do it at night when I’m alone.” But like you said, it gives us a sense of control. It gives you a sense of control. Everything else in my life is out of balance; it’s out of control. This I can control.

So when we have that sense of control—and I’m just sharing with you… This is not my original idea. I’m just sharing with you some of the common wisdom around this which is we often go for behaviors that give us symbolic control as a way to feel some sort of power in a world, in a life where we feel like we’re getting beat up a little bit. So if I’m a young person and there’s family challenges and my sister got sick and my mother got sick and there’s things out of my control, yeah, I want to find a way to control things. An eating disorder is one way to do that, especially if it can control my weight which seems to control how people love me or not love me.

So I think you very accurately, accurately identified the benefit of your eating disorder. It’s your intimate significant other. I’m going to make a bold statement to you.

As long as you have the eating disorder, it is going to be near impossible for you to have a significant other that will last for you and be what you want it to be because you’re sleeping with somebody else. You’re sleeping with the eating disorder.

That’s your significant other. That’s what takes your time, energy, and attention. That’s what’s actually most important, and I’m not saying that as a judgment. It’s just the way it’s been for you.

Amanda: Yes.

Marc: So when you say to me something like, “Wow, if I would give that up, I’d have to go on this journey of who am I, and that’s scary.” Those were kind of your words, and I’m saying you’re 100% right. This is one reason I asked you why do you think it’s so hard to give up an eating disorder. You came to that statement on your own. I’m just over here agreeing with you. That’s one of the big reasons why it’s so hard to give up.

I’m just saying it’s hard to give up because it becomes us. We identify with it. We’re familiar with it. It’s predictable. It’s controllable, and it’s you. It’s become you. It defines you. So if I give this up who the heck am I? What am I going to do at night? What am I going to talk about? What am I going to think about? What am I going to obsess about? Where does all that energy go? That is a scary proposition because it brings us face to face with the unknown. And the whole point of the eating disorder to begin with was to help you deal with the unknown.

Amanda: Geezus, yes.

Marc: So the whole point of the eating disorder was to help you deal with difficult to deal with emotions. What’s going to happen to me? What’s going to happen to my life? What’s going to happen to my mother? Am I going to be okay? Let me do this thing that gives me control. Ha-ha! I’ve got control now. And it’s a symbolic form of control that gives me some kind of power. But then to let go of that means I’m letting go of control which then kind of puts me back to the same place.

Here’s the difference: you are not a young girl anymore. You’re not 15 years old anymore. You’re 30. You have experience under your belt. You are more mature. You’re more aware. So what I am telling you right now, I’m essentially trying to plant some seeds for you. Because right now, in this moment, I don’t think you’re ready to give up your eating disorder, but what I do think is you are getting ready to be ready to give it up.

It’s almost like, I don’t know, you walk into the hospital and you go into the waiting room. So there’s two steps. If you want to get into the hospital, you’ve got to walk into the hospital first. Then, you go into the waiting room, and then at some point you get in. To me, you’re at the point where you’re approaching the waiting room. You’re kind of getting ready to make the leap. You’re not quite there yet.

But you’re going to get there because I’m hoping and I’m imagining that you’re seeing that this is not a good, long-term relationship for you. This is not who you want in your bed, the eating disorder.

Amanda: No.

Marc: Okay. But right now, it’s still giving you control. It’s still giving you a sense of power. It’s still giving you predictability. You are going to have to be willing, at some point… At some point, you’re going to have to be willing to go, “Uh-oh, if I’m going to let go of this eating disorder, that means I’m going to be in the unknown. That means I’m going to get nervous. That means I’m going to be anxious. That means I’m going to be uncertain. That means I’m going to feel a lot of uncomfortable feelings.”

And you then have to be willing to manage those uncomfortable feelings differently. And that is something that a woman does, that an adult does, that a mature human does. A kid, a child, does the best behavior that they can to survive. That’s what you did as a child. So when you adopted an eating disorder, you did the smartest thing you know how to do. It’s automatic almost. Your brain just knows it. “Oh, this is a behavior that will give me temporary control and relief.”

Even though it’s not good long term, it gives you temporary control and relief. In a strange way, it worked back then. It gave you a sense of power. So it was actually for you, Amanda, a very good survival tool. It doesn’t work anymore.

Amanda: No.

Marc: So you’re outgrowing it. So you’re outgrowing it, and then it becomes a question of are you going to be willing to be really uncomfortable? That’s where the work is.

Amanda: Oh, my goodness.

Marc: Right. Because right now what you’ve done and from a few things that you’ve said, you have your life or you try to make your life very well set out so you don’t get upset. So things kind of flow for you. So you’re doing things that you enjoy. So you avoid situations that are going to throw you off.

Amanda: Yeah.

Marc: Instead, what the future needs to look like is whatever happens, happens, and you will be prepared for it. Some days, life is easy. Some days, life gives us some interesting, weird challenges. Some days, you wake up on the right side of the bed, and you feel good about yourself. Some days, you wake up and it’s like, “Why am I not feeling good about myself today? I felt good about myself yesterday.” Those are the places where you then have to not be a 13 or a 14 or a 15-year-old girl anymore. But you have to be 30-year-old you.

So the other piece that we kind of played with about the eating disorder is that it has a connection to your mother. We don’t exactly have to tease out the specifics because there’s a lot of ways it’s tied in. It started developing right around the time that challenge was happening with her, so it represents the challenge. It represents her. It has a memory of her. It’s attached to her. So there’s a certain place where the eating disorder, it’s almost like letting go of your mother if you let go of it. There’s a place where your mind probably believes that. You’re letting go of something precious that’s connected to her and you.

One of the things I would love to see you do is to—and maybe you’re already doing this. I don’t know—find a way, maybe a more symbolic or ritual way to bring your mother into your life now. I don’t know. It might mean making an altar. It might mean making sure there’s a little place in your house where here’s her picture. Here’s a few of her possessions. It’s just a way for you to see her and notice her and connect with her and not need to have the eating disorder to do that. Do you follow me?

Amanda: Yeah. That makes sense.

Marc: So it’s bringing her into your life as if she was still alive in a weird way, meaning if your mom is on the other side somewhere, what would she be telling you? How would she be cheering you on? What words of wisdom would she speak? What do you think your mom would tell you about this time of your life? If your mom was just an angel on the other side for you and she’s looking down on you and she was talking to you and saying, “Sweetie, here’s some advice I’d love to give you for this time in your life,” what do you think she’d say?

Amanda: Oh, she was always more focused on just choose to be happy, whatever it is that you do. And if it’s not making you happy, then change it. And if you don’t find happiness there, then keep on looking. I think that was her main focus. She went through so much stuff that at the end of the day she would be like, “No. I went through so much stuff and then I just realized at the end of it all that none of it matters, not the car, not the house, not the money. Just enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing and love, love, love above everything else.”

In my best guess, that’s what I keep hearing and probably I just mirror that off of my memories but, yeah, just love, love, love whatever it is that you’re doing. And if it’s not it, then keep on looking.

Marc: Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. I want to share one more idea, opinion, about an eating disorder and yours in particular. And it’s a simple statement, and it goes something like this.

In order for you to have an eating disorder, in order for you to go and binge and then go and purge, a part of you checks out and a part of you goes to sleep and a part of you goes dark. Plain and simple.

In order for us to do anything that goes against our higher judgment, that goes against our highest wish for ourselves, that goes against higher moral ground, in order for us to do that a part of us has to go to sleep and go dark. So there’s literally a part of you that when you binge and when you purge, you get unconscious. Then, later on, you go, “Oh, that didn’t feel so good. Oh, I wish I wouldn’t have done that. Oh, my god. Oh, wow.” That’s you waking up.

So when we’re in the actual act of the actual behavior of the eating disorder, we go to sleep. When we come out of it, that’s where the guilt, the shame comes in because, “Oh, whoa. What did I do? What happened there?” So I say that because I want to let you know and I wish this wasn’t a mystery for people, but ultimately the way we help ourselves out of an eating disorder is to understand that we have to slowly learn to stay awake in the moments that we normally fall asleep.

If you were, I don’t know, a 20-year-old guy who had an anger issue and whenever he got angry he hit someone and then he felt guilty after he hit the person, I’d say the same thing to him. I would say, “When you get angry and you hit somebody, you go unconscious and you go dark. And then afterwards, you go, ‘Oh, my God. What did I do?’ You have to learn how to stay awake when you’re angry so you watch your impulse to hit. And you go, ‘Whoa. Wake up. Time out.’ And you catch yourself in that moment of awake and asleep. And you will yourself, you choose to stay awake.” Very hard. Extremely hard.

But that’s your only way to do it. It doesn’t just happen overnight. It doesn’t come in a revelation. It happens usually for people very gradually through practice, through effort. But it’s the practice of staying awake and aware. It’s the practice of reminding yourself to notice when you’re going dark and about to do a behavior that you don’t want to do and catching yourself in that moment. Are you going to be successful in that every time? Absolutely not.

At the beginning, you might be successful one out of 100 times in waking up and stopping yourself. But that’s all you need is one success, and then you start to get a little bit of momentum. You start to train yourself what that feels like. And then you build on that. So I just want to plant that seed that that’s kind of how it works, and it’s work. And letting go of your eating disorder and then not knowing who you are, that’s going to be work.

So we, you, have to be willing to do the work. The good news is when you do the work you get the benefits. And the benefits are awesome. The benefits are the real, empowered you. The benefits are the life you want to live. But to have the life you want to live, we have to pay the price, and the price is work.

But this is the good work, and this is the only work in a sense truly worth doing which is the work on self to elevate ourselves to be who we’re meant to be anyways.

So I’m talking a lot. How are you doing? You’re listening to all of this. What’s your thoughts right now?

Amanda: I’m very overwhelmed but very excited at the same time because I just had a realization about what you said somewhere in the past few minutes. And this is going to be a bit too much to share maybe. But I just remembered that I used to be a very chubby little girl growing up, and I was actually abused very young. And when I lost the weight initially with my eating disorder, that stopped happening. And that was the one thing I was able to control, and that’s what I think happened. I thought, “If I can control this, I’m going to be safe, and nothing is going to happen. Nothing bad is ever going to happen because I am in control.”

Marc: Yes.

Amanda: And letting go of that I know it’s going to take time for me to acknowledge that. It doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be safe anymore. It just means that I’m a grown woman, and now I can defend myself in a different way and I couldn’t before. Even though it’s a bit scary not knowing the real me, this better empowered version of myself, it’s so definitely exciting to have something to look forward to.

Marc: Well, Amanda, I’m really glad you shared that because that’s a very important connection. It’s a very important connection, and it’s important to understand how in a child’s mind that logic makes sense. This eating disorder keeps me safe. This form of control keeps me safe. And that’s been a survival strategy. That’s been a religious belief that’s worked for you. And now, it just doesn’t work anymore. That belief isn’t true, at least not anymore.

The eating disorder doesn’t keep you safe anymore. You keep you safe.

Your understanding keeps you safe. Your womanhood keeps you safe. Your boundaries keep you safe. Your intellect keeps you safe. Your instincts keep you safe. Your intuition keeps you safe. Your ability to speak up for yourself and say yes or say no keeps you safe. That’s what keeps you safe.

So that’s what you’re learning. And you’re right; it takes time to uncouple that. But you see what your work is. You see what, “Oh, that’s what I’m letting go of. I’m letting go of this thing that seemed to give me power, safety, and control. I’m understanding that it doesn’t really give me that and especially not anymore. So as I let that go, it’s going to feel a little strange.” It’s going to be like getting rid of your wardrobe. Like, what am I going to wear? Who am I? And that’s going to be a beautiful exploration. And that’s, believe it or not, a wonderful thing to look forward to. Is it going to be scary? Absolutely.

So get scared. You can get scared and not have to turn to food. You can get scared and not have to turn to food. You can get scared and not have to turn to anything. Turn to friends, turn to family, turn to loved ones. Turn to whoever gives you good support.

So I’ve got a lot of confidence for you. I feel like you’re very well positioned right now, and you’re gathering good information. And you’re gathering good insights. And you’re gathering good wisdom. And you’re kind of recovering from a lot of events in your life. And you’re in some challenging events. And while you’re in a divorce process, you’re also in a conversation like this about, “Hey, how do I work with this eating disorder thing? Like, what’s the next step?”

So I see you doing good steps is simply what I’m saying. You’re on the right track as far as I’m concerned, and my wish for you is that you can be patient with yourself. And while you’re being patient with yourself, to be kind with yourself. And to stand by yourself as if you’re your own best friend. That makes this journey so much easier.

Amanda: Yeah. It’s just sometimes hard to grasp the whole I have to treat myself the way I would treat my best friend. I’m not always my best friend.

Marc: I understand. Yeah.

Amanda: Yeah.

Marc: But we have a target to shoot for. That’s what we’re aiming for.

Amanda: Yes.

Marc: And we’re all here growing. We’re all here learning. None of us are perfect, and it takes time and energy and effort.

And I hear you doing the work, and I congratulate you on getting this far, really. And you’re going to make it

Amanda: Yay!

Marc: You’re going to have your breakthrough. Yeah. You’re definitely going to get there. I’ve got no doubt.

Amanda: Looking forward to it.

Marc: Yeah. Yeah.

Amanda: Yeah.

Marc: Yeah. And look forward to the work that you’re going to do to get there, because if you could look forward to the work to get there, you get there faster.

Amanda: Fair enough.

Marc: Because then the work is less work, and it’s more just like, “Oh, this is what I do to get there.”

Amanda: Yeah, they are just stepping stones towards something greater.

Marc: Yeah.

Amanda: Nothing bad about that.

Marc: Amanda, thank you so much. Thank you for sharing so honestly and so real about your journey. And to me, this conversation, I know a lot of people are tuning in and listening, and you’ve just been very generous about like what really goes on in your inner world. And I know you speak for a lot of people. You speak for a lot of women. And I’m over here cheering you on, and I look forward to more and more of your success here.

Amanda: Thank you, Marc. Thank you so much.

Marc: You are so welcome. And thank you, everybody, for tuning in. We appreciate, I appreciate your time, your energy, your attention, your enthusiasm for this kind of conversation and this kind of work. And there’s always more to come, my friends. And thank you so much. Once again, I’m Marc David on behalf of the Psychology of Eating Podcast.

Podcast episode 173: Discovering the Gift of An Eating Disorder

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