When people talk about eating disorders, they usually talk about the behaviors – the starvation, the obsessive calorie counting, the bingeing, the purging, and other dangerous things we do to control our weight. What you don’t often hear about is the voices.
People with eating disorders will often describe a voice (or voices) in their head that is constantly telling them to do or not do something. This voice, commonly known as Ed or Ana, is caustic and mean. She constantly reminds us we need to lose weight, that we are fat, disgusting, and worthless.
You wouldn’t want to spend two minutes with this person. She’s manipulative and controlling. She’ll tear you down one minute and then applaud you for doing something dangerous the next. You’re never good enough for her, no matter how much weight you lose.
I have ED voices in my head. I’ve had them in my head for so long it’s hard for me to tell the difference between them and my own voice. I hear myself telling me that I’m too fat to be loved, that I don’t deserve to eat, and that I should purge every large meal so I can lose weight. The voices are harsh and critical. I would never speak to someone else the way I speak to myself.
And right now, they’re louder than ever because I’ve made a lifestyle change. I’ve started eating Keto! There are some very good reasons why I’m doing this that I won’t go into here (because it’s not my story to tell), but I do recognize that I’ve put myself in a dangerous position.
Any formal “diet” is dangerous for a person with an eating disorder. This one is dangerous for me not because of the high fat part of the diet (which is what I thought I would be obsessing over) but because of the low carb part of the diet. I’ve found that I’m obsessively counting my calories/carbs every day to make sure I stay under the recommended 30g. And the urge to purge is dangerously high.
Of course, one of my reasons for starting this lifestyle is to lose weight. I’m not calling it a diet because this isn’t a short term, quick fix idea. I’m going to eat Keto for the rest of my life. But the voices in my head will not SHUT UP about needing to count the calories and needing to purge. If I want to make a healthy lifestyle change, I need to find a way to drown out the voices.
PsychCentral wrote a blog about the voices of ED and included suggestions for ways to shut them up. These are the suggestions I plan on taking:
- “Create a new voice.”
I’m tired of hearing the same old lines over and over again. I’m tired of the emotionally abusive internal monologue. I’m going to start telling myself new things — things that I would tell a friend who is struggling. Things like:
- You are allowed to eat!
- You are loved and worthy of love!
- You are beautiful!
I’ll have to put these new mottos on sticky notes where I can see them daily until I get used to saying them to myself. It will be like learning a new language. At first, the words will feel very strange and awkward to say. But eventually the noises will become easier to make.
This is going to be hard to do when I’m obsessing about losing weight. So I’m going to put together a food plan to keep myself on track. I plan to eat five meals a day (three mains and two snacks), which will be plenty of food.
The keto diet actually recommends not counting calories. In general, the plan I am following is that 65% of my calories should come from fat, 30% from protein, and 5% from carbs. I do not have a calorie limit (which is difficult for me to accept), I just need to make sure I’m eating mostly healthy fats.
- “Parent your mind.”
I can teach myself to turn to healthy coping mechanisms instead of listening to the ED voices in my head. I have two books about overcoming eating disorders that I need to start reading again: Life Without Ed (by Jenni Schaefer) and The Diet Survivor’s Handbook (by Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel).
- “Learn about yourself.”
The more I know about myself, the easier it will be for me to stand up to the ED voices in my head. I’ll do this by sitting down with myself for an interview. It seems a little cheesy, I know, but I’m a writer, and that’s what I do.
Eventually, I will drown out and beat the bullies in my head. I must, or I will ultimately give in to them and start doing what they tell me to do. Relapsing into my eating disorder is a dangerous sign for me because it means I am close to relapsing in my addiction.
I’m grateful that I have enough sobriety now to recognize the warning signs and take action to keep myself healthy and sober.