Mantras and messages to shut down that ED voice!
Just checking back in to bring you a quick list of the messages I like to repeat to myself whenever I'm having a bad day or my ED voice is getting a bit too loud. This is something I've picked up from @megsyrecovery, as she has her own mantras that she uses when facing challenges, and I have stolen some of my favourites, as well as using them as inspiration for my own!
1. You might not love your bigger body, but you'll love your bigger life
- On those really tough, bad body image days, the urge to restrict can be especially strong, as our ED's like to tell us their twisted versions of events in which we were happier in our sick bodies. I find repeating the above saying helps me shut down those thoughts and build the momentum to apply opposite actions. This is because it reminds me that by allowing my body to sit at it's set point, I will be freeing up my mind to focus on things other than food, and that by doing this I will be able to be present in the real world and form meaningful connections with others. Our ED's can make us selfish as they prioritise our thoughts around food above anything else. It means we are unable to look forward to, or enjoy a day out because we'll be stressing about what we'll be eating and at what time. It means we can't be spontaneous, as a surprise date night or meal with friends doesn't fit into our rigid plan or set number of calories for the day. It means that we are distracted, already thinking about the next time we'll allow ourselves to eat, or feeling guilty about what we've already consumed. So no, whilst we might not be crazy about the extra weight we have already or are still to gain, that weight is what allows us to live a life we love. Body positivity might seem like a bit of a stretch for many of you, because I know it is for me, but I like to come from a place of body neutrality. My body doesn't care what it looks like or what I think it looks like, it just wants to fuel a happy life for me, and so when I repeat this message, I am reminding myself of the life my healthy body will enable me to enjoy.
2. Short term discomfort for long term happiness
- I use this phrase when I'm struggling with physical discomfort as well as when my ED voice is punishing me with the horrible anxiety I get for disobeying it. It reminds me that - yes, right now it feels like the worst thing in the world, but by smashing these challenges, I'm paving the way for an easier future, and a life that's not ruled by my ED.
3. Feel the fear and do it anyway
- This one comes in handy in situations such as facing a fear food for the first time, as my anxiety levels will be at their peak. It reminds me that by applying this opposite action, I am not in fact losing (as my ED would like to convince me), and that those thoughts about weight gain, or calories, or comparing what I'm eating to others around me, may be present, but they do not control me! Many of us who suffer with ED's will also have issues surrounding perfectionism or 'being the best', and so one thing my therapist talks to me about, is trying to use this mindset to my advantage. Instead of letting it fuel ED ideals as I have done previously, I can now view recovery as my challenge, and whilst I have to be careful in avoiding expecting perfection from this too, it can be a good motivator when I'm struggling physically, to do something I'm scared of. It tells me to accept that this is difficult for me and won't feel especially pleasant, but that that won't stop me - I can acknowledge the feelings and chose to act against them.
4. You will remember the real happy moments, not the fleeting joy that anorexia brings
- This point in some respects, links back to my first mantra, as it affirms for me that whatever recovery action I'm taking, it is contributing to me being able to make genuine, happy memories with those I love. Furthermore, in regards to the 'fleeting joy of anorexia', it reminds me that the little kicks I get from my ED such as seeing a low number on the scales, or eating fewer calories than the day before, are not actual examples of happiness. Not only are they resulting in me being generally miserable and disengaged from real life, but I also won't remember them when I'm old. I don't plan on spending the rest of my life with an ED, and unless you do, then you are never going to reminisce over, or even recall the buzz you got from not eating that cake 30 years ago. You would however, look back fondly on fun times with family and friends, and these moments will only ever occur as a result of you breaking free from your ED so you can finally engage in life.
5. Different bodies, different needs
- Throughout my illness, I have always had disordered behaviours surrounding comparison, such as having to eat the least, or to have gone without food for the longest, to be the skinniest, or to have done the most exercise. These thoughts are some of the more frequent ones my ED voice continues to throw at me, and so I have to constantly reinforce the idea that my body is independent to everyone else's, and that what it needs is not affected by what someone else's body might need. I use it to remind myself that I am in recovery, and that I can't fall into the trap of feeling guilty for eating more than normal, because I have put my body through trauma and so it's requirements are a response to that.
6. Opposite actions
- This one may seem obvious, but once I've identified an ED thought (Step 1), I often find it helpful to have "opposite actions" playing on a loop in my head, or even saying it aloud to force myself to continue to Step 2 - challenging the thought. This is the really hard part remember, and so it can be useful to reinforce to yourself what it is you have to do to ensure that you force yourself to follow through with it.
7. This is recovery, it's not supposed to feel comfortable
- Again, this may seem overly straight forward, but when I'm feeling completely gross or I'm experiencing a lot of physical discomfort, I sometimes need a little reassurance that I'm doing the right thing. It can be frustrating when you're feeling really motivated to commit to recovery and then you do it and are hit with all the horrible side effects that remind you why you feared it so much. This one helps me push through that feeling and look to the other side of the process in which I am finally able to live a more fulfilled life, free of my ED.
8. I want to be a Mais sized Mais
- I stole this one from Megsy as it's something her boyfriend said to her, and that really hit home with me. I like it because it shows me that my body at it's natural set point, is not defined by the way it looks or by how I or others view it, it is simply a home that allows me to live the life I want to. I have different values that I deem important, such as being able to be honest with those I love, to spend time with them, and treat them with kindness and respect. I will be the first to admit that at times my ED has prevented me from upholding these, as by restricting my body, I have restricted it's ability to let me live and function as Mais. Therefore, I repeat this phrase to myself when I feel like running back to my ED, because I know that no matter what that disordered voice is telling me, I want to be able to honour the things I deem important, and so I need to be in the body that was designed for, and allows me to be the real me.
9. This is your recovering body
- I have gone back and forth as to whether to include this one, as it is body focused and this is something I am trying to move away from. Despite this, I know that it is helping me in times that I am not able to take this standpoint due to my ongoing battle with body dysmorphia and bad body image, and so I thought it was worth sharing.
If being underweight was a symptom of your ED and thus weight gain is part of your recovery, you will likely have experienced bloating amongst other physical changes. When we begin increasing our intake, our body does not instantly redistribute the weight we gain evenly across our bodies, and in most cases it will gather around the stomach area. There are many studies that explain the science behind this, and all confirm that this is normal, to be expected, and over time as we gain more weight, will eventually sort itself out. This information has been crucial to me as it has helped me to accept that what my body looks like 1 week, or 1 month, or even 1 year into recovery, will not be what it looks like forever. I may also not end up loving my recovered body, but the reminder that this is what my body must look like now in order to heal, has aided relapse prevention as it equips me to argue with my ED voice that wants me to run back to restriction. Tabitha Farrar has written an excellent post on this with more useful resources that I think are worth checking out, especially if you are considering whether adopting this mantra could aid your recovery. https://tabithafarrar.com/2012/04/coped-fat-tummy-recovery/.
Congrats yet again if you made it this far... I know I said this post would be quick but I had more to say than I initially realised! I hope that maybe you were able to connect with a few of these messages and can potentially use them to aid your recovery!
If you have any of your own you think could help others, please share them below or message me over on Instagram @the_recovery_bean
Hope everyone's doing well, more from me soon!
Mais // the Recovery Bean <3