Monday, March 7, 2011

Writing To My Eating Disorder -- and a Book Giveaway!


I had a really interesting journaling experience today.  While writing my morning pages, I decided to respond to a pair of prompts from the book on eating disorder recovery I just finished, Life Without Ed by Jennie Schaefer.  Jenni learned to separate herself from her bulimic compulsions by seeing her eating disorder as a separate person called Ed.  Over the course of her recovery, Jenni talked and wrote to Ed (not to mention metaphorically pummeling him and locking him out).  I found this personification of her eating disorder as Ed to be interesting, but it's not something that I ever tried or ever planned to.

But . . . sometimes the subconscious takes over.  This morning, I was responding to these prompts from Life Without Ed

  • What does Ed want me to do today?  
  • What do I need to do today to be in recovery?

Yesterday I responded to these prompts succinctly and found them helpful in setting me up for a healthy day.  This morning's response, however, took on a life of its own.  Or perhaps my eating disorder finally took on a separate person of its own.  Either way, this is what pages of my journal ended up holding (warning -- this could be potentially triggering):

Ed: Okay, here's the plan for today -- either you need to restrict your food in a big way and then spend at least an hour on the elliptical, or you need to binge and sit on the couch.  With the first option you'll get thina nd pretty very fast.  If you try to "lose weight" any other way (as if there is one), you'll never get there.  In that case you might as well just give up altogether.  If you're not going to do this my way (the right way), why bother?

Me: Oh. Well, that sort of sounds right, but I know it's not the way to go. I can achieve a healthy weight and fitness level with a moderate plan. If I do it your way, I will never have an awesome marriage or finish my novel --

Ed: You never will have an awesome marriage. Your book, finished or not, is lame. Stick with me because I'm all you can be sure of. I'm all you've got.

Me: That is absolutely NOT TRUE. I've got God on my side, an amazingly supportive husband, friends and family and church family to help me along the way, and I know the truth -- you will never make me happy.

Ed: Yeah, but you'll never be happy regardless. You're a lost cause. At least with me, you'll be thin.

Me: With you, I'll be sick. I'll look old and scary. I'll feel cold and ill and bruise easily and never heal from injuries. I won't be able to run or think straight or love people. I won't be able to live.

Ed: But --

Me: [Smothers Ed with a pillow] Shut up. Today I am going to eat three healthy meals that will nourish me and honor the God that made me. Today I will eat healthy fats. I will exercise moderately. I will meet my commitments. I resume my novel. I will not make food the epicenter of my life. I will seek help and accountability when I need it. I will pray. And I certainly will not let you take me over again.

So, uh, wow.  I definitely didn't expect that to come out when I sat down with my journal and pen in hand this morning.  But it felt awesome to confront my eating disordered compulsions so directly.  Also, it helped take some of the guilt out of my compulsions -- instead of blaming myself for my failures, I blame Ed, the disease, and do what I can to live separately from him/it.  Also, journaling in this way left me feeling more hopeful about recovery than I have for quite some time.

Suffice it to say, I will continue journaling in this manner as I feel the need.  Have you ever written to your eating disorder/insecurity/depression/insert life block here?

Want to win a copy of Jenni Schaefer's book, Life Without Ed?  There are a bunch of ways to enter, and only the first one is mandatory:

  1. Leave a comment answering the bolded question above by Thursday, March 10.  I love to read your thoughts!
  2. Share (in a separate comment) how you set yourself up for a balanced and healthy day.
  3. Share this post on Twitter, then leave a comment saying you did so.
  4. Share this post on Facebook, then leave a comment saying you did so.
  5. Blog about this contest (linking back), then leave two comments saying you did so.  Bonus! 


  1. Excellent post, Beth! I'm glad you've found a constructive and truth-affirming way to deal with old Ed.I haven't ever addressed a problem directly like that in writing, but not long ago during a hoop session when things just weren't clicking and all the old lies about who I am and my worth as a person came flooding in, I plopped down on the fellowship hall floor in the middle of my hoop and, with the video still running, I addressed all those voices in my head and told them exactly how I knew they were liars and what the truth about each lie really was. It was liberating, and the rest of the hoop session went just fine. It's hard to hoop with the world (and the devil) on your back, but what Jesus said in the Bible is right on - the truth really will set you free.

  2. As for your second question (#2 in your list), I read my Bible each morning (one of those Bible-in-a-year plans) and then do my morning pages. The pages are usually an assessment of what I did and didn't get done the day before and what my plans for the day are. There's also usually something about needing to improve my health in there - typically it's a reminder to eat more veggies and fruit and less junk food, to drink more water, and to try and get in a hoop session.Also, now that I have the Wholyfit and SlowFlo videos, I'm working them into my morning routine. At the moment that consists of doing the first segment of SlowFlo (a ten-minute portion of the routine) every other morning. The plan is to get up to doing that segment each morning, then adding the second segment in, and finally doing the whole routine every morning. I'd love to jump in and do the whole thing now, but just 10 minutes in a semi-squatting, weight shifting stance is enough for my thighs at the moment. Time constraints and the need for a healthy approach tell me that the pace I'm setting for myself is the right one.

  3. yogiclarebear.comMarch 7, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    I have absolutely done this. Seperating ED and me has been a major part of my continued recovery. I remember when someone first suggested it to me it was so stupid and ridiculous. It made me feel like I wasn't taking responsibility for my actions. Later I toyed with the idea of ED as a manifestation of Satan in my life and in my head. I realized I was responsible for letting "him" in...but I there were times when truly it was beyond my control. That is why this "thing" is a disease. Anyways, as I trained in Yoga philosophy and became more familiar with the seperations of the ego self and the True Self...I recognized ED as a very destructive manifestation of ego, which can also be seen as Satan taking residence. Seperation of ED and ME has been pivotal!Great post Beth, go ahead an cancel me out of the giveaway though...someone else might really need this book to see their seperatness.

  4. I haven't written directly to Ed, but I mentally confront him all the time. I've been meaning to read this book for a long time. Great giveaway idea!

  5. "God is on my side..."Such beautiful words!I'm so proud of the progress you've made in your journey...those mental hurdles are the biggest obstacles, and I'm happy to see that you're well-equipped to overcome them one hurdle at a time, a truth to replace each lie.Strength and courage to you dear friend...

  6. Although I have never written to my eating disorder, per se, I have written letters to myself FROM my body. That was a VERY, VERY powerful experience for me. When I saw what "it" was saying (things like that it only wanted to help me, and that we had been together for so long, and that I am mean to her and she doesn't understand why, etc etc), I broke down and cried because of how terribly I have treated it. Although this exercise induced a little bit of guilt because I started viewing my body as my friend, not my enemy, and moreover, a friend that I had betrayed, I was then able to begin mending that relationship. I would say we are friends most of the time now :-) When I do find myself spiralling into a state of body hate, I let my body write me a letter again, or re-read old ones. Powerful, powerful.

  7. Question numero dos. I still struggle with setting myself for a healthy day, or what is considered healthy to people who are not eating disordered. The best trick I have found for having a "healthy" day is to write out what I am going to do the night before (do, not eat). Having tasks to accomplish gives my sometimes direction-less life a sense of purpose ;-) Unfortunately, I don't often do this and end up wondering what I should do most days.

  8. I tweeted about your contest :-)

  9. Stephanie (dancingwaMarch 10, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    An incredibly powerful post, Beth. Thank you for the courage you show in posting it, and in experiencing it.

  10. So, uh, wow. I need to do this. Thanks for sharing something so personal...and Putting the voice on paper seems tremendusly eye-opening. I am still keeping you in mind about the exploring your ceativity book....I just have to wait until I get further along in the prompts. I'm just doing it on weekends when I can really let it flow. And I can't look ahead.


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King