So, You Have an Eating Disorder?
By Gary A. Grahl,  


So you’ve gotten suckered into taking the bait, huh? You took a whiff and smacked your lips at the delectable cheese sitting so invitingly in the trap. SNAP! My heart goes out to you, as I once felt the same helpless feeling while writhing in pain after that darn metal spring practically cutting my leg off.

But hold on, we mice are smarter than IT gives us credit for. We’ve proven our whiskers by our stubbornness (which is an admirable quality when used to our advantage) and resilience. We can choose not to return the traps that have already been triggered because we remember the location of every single one. How? Find something else to sniffle other than cheese, or use your mousy ingenuity to turn the trap into board game.

Having an eating disorder can something be like this. The cheese smells so good, and all seems well at first while nibbling, then SNAP! You didn’t ask for it, nor did you see it coming. But now your tail is stuck and you can’t wriggle free. What to do?

The first smart thing is to admit you’re stuck. Yes, you can choose to drag your trap around a while like a ball and chain, but where does that get you? Maybe prolonging the pain but that’s it. Some of us like the pain because it serves a purpose, even though we can’t quite explain it. We somehow feel we deserve our “tail” being pinched, because we think we’re “stupid” or “dumb” or “can’t do anything right” or “just never good enough.” That’s what IT will tell you.

Some use their eating disorder as a means to control…well, something! Life is not an X-box with the video controller nestled comfortably in our grip. Much of it is beyond our control, like what others will think of us, or whether or not they’ll reject our clothes, our imperfect face, our “fat” body, or our real self—whoever that is. Food, calories, “the number,” the disgusting binge/purge habit, and exercise are all so easy to manipulate and maneuver to our liking. They don’t judge us when we risk trying to be ourselves. Admitting and accepting your struggle can dispel IT, and lighten the burden. It opens up your mind to the genuine possibility of changing old habits that destroy your self-worth.

Secondly, be open to asking for and receiving professional care. It’s not healthy to go it alone, even though you want to or feel you can. We all need people. Surviving on our own little island may be possible, but it’s just that—surviving. It’s not living, and growing, and having fun, and enjoying the benefits of truly being free. Friends are helpful. Supportive family is necessary. But those entrenched in serious eating disorder patterns need ongoing professional help, even if it’s just for a little while. You can always choose to slow down or back off all together if it gets to be too much.

Thirdly, be open to experimenting with healthy change. Take risks that are meant to uncover the real you, not bury you under mounds of dirt. You already know what that feels like. Change your stubbornness to courage and try purposely interrupting your daily routine. Some examples: get out of bed five minutes later; run a half mile less; start a conversation with someone you see everyday but don’t ordinarily talk to; write a favorite Bible verse or affirmation on a note card and stick in on the bathroom mirror, then make it a goal to memorize it and recite it once a day; smile for most of the day; actually tell someone “no” today; reward your hard day’s work by treating yourself to a good book before bed. The list is endless, but it must fit who you are, or want to be.

Fourth, prepare for imperfection. That way it won’t come to you as a surprise when it happens. And it will happen. Be easy on yourself when you make a mistake. The hardest person to forgive is always yourself. It won’t come naturally, and you’ll find yourself at times believing you don’t deserve to be forgiven. During moments like these, do your best to step outside the box and imagine if a friend of yours was mentally “whipping” themselves over a mistake. What would you say to them?

Lastly, give up! That’s right, give up on your eating disorder. Write IT a letter and surrender your ego. Then do an about face and walk the other way. One thing about surrendering is that you choose to give up battling your enemy, which also carries the expectation that they stop fighting against you, too. There’s no shame in putting down your weaponry and accepting that no one is going to win. Even so, if you chose to keep battling your eating disorder for the next sixty years, where will that get you? Only sixty years of fighting with no relief, plus guilt and betrayal for getting suckered in to the whole if-only-I-get-down-to-a-magic-number-in-weight-I’ll-be-happy trap. Happiness never happens that way. It only appears out of thin air when you give up fighting against yourself and learn to accept your personality, talents, feelings, body type, family, etc. for what they are—you! If you don’t like something about yourself, you are capable of choosing to make necessary and reasonable changes, and learn who you are along the way.