Build Compassion and Shed Shame to Recover from Disordered Eating from NYC Registered Dietitian


National Eating Disorder Awareness

The last week of February is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDA), a week to promote body acceptance: Come as You Are. As easy as Hollywood wants it to look, building true body acceptance takes a lot more than a revelatory moment or big kiss. 

The reality is that recovering from disordered eating is really hard. It’s lonely. It’s scary, and it can feel almost impossible. The same goes for caregivers and loved ones trying to navigate this road. 

Many who battle eating disorders have spent a lifetime convincing themselves they’re not enough. A lifetime tricking their bodies to ignore hunger signals or signs they’re sated. It’s fundamental to realize that healthy body acceptance is a lifetime of work.

A lifetime sounds daunting. 

When it’s a lifetime of self-love and health, it’s worth it. 

But how?

National Eating Disorder Awareness

Here are tips to build compassion and shed shame to recover from disordered eating.

  • Define shame. It’s important to understand what shame is. As opposed to guilt, shame is the feeling of being bad, not doing bad. Dr. Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, explains that shame is the feeling of being so flawed that we are unworthy of love and acceptance. We simply don’t belong because we don’t deserve it. Shame is probably one of the most destructive characteristics of our culture and one of the most prevalent characteristics of disordered eating.
  • Break the cycle: 
    • Know your shame triggers. Self-criticism and judgement are two powerful shame triggers. Recognize that little voice as soon as it goes off. 
    • Voice your experience. Shame has made eating disorders a silent killer. Those who struggle with disordered eating often live with the idea they are alone. Statistically speaking, this is anything but true. According to ANAD, at least 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder (everything from anorexia nervosa to binge eating disorder)in the United States. So many tuck it away and hide it, living alone and scared. It’s critical to find a support group, therapist, trusted counselor … somebody to open up to. 
  • Self-compassion is a key force in the healing process and countering the power of shame. It’s quite possibly the only antidote. Self-compassion means you are as caring and empathetic to yourself as you are to others. This takes self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. 
    • Self-kindness: Radically accept yourself, your flaws, your beauty. Recognize destructive behavior and thoughts and change them. Talk to yourself like you talk to your best friend, your daughter, the person you love most in the world. When your brain goes down that road of self-hate, take pause. Start to treat yourself like your own best friend.
    • Common Humanity: Everyone is imperfect, flawed. Everyone fails. You are not alone. Ask for help. Reach out to a support group, a trusted friend. Share your struggles and story and connect with others who are going through the same thing.
    • Mindfulness: 
      • Challenge your triggers. Remember, you’ve spent years nurturing shame. This goes back to the famous Cherokee story. You have two wolves inside you: one darkness and despair, one hope and light. Which one wins? Which one do you feed? You’ve been feeding shame for years. It takes so much mindfulness and awareness to stop feeding shame.
      • Reconnect with your body: How does it feel when you stretch on your back. How does it feel to lean to the side? What is the temperature like? Reconnect with the basic sensations of your body – the feel of a child’s sticky hand in yours; the way a blast of air conditioning gives you goose bumps. These simple feelings are the first steps to reconnecting with your body and rebuilding a damaged relationship.happy woman
      • Gratitude connects the mind to body: Building body self-esteem takes time, and it’s not a straight road. Write down what you’re thankful for every day, whether it be fingers that can type, or ears to listen to your favorite music. Gratitude begets gratitude. 

Tearing down walls of shame takes time and courage. You’re not alone in this. Please reach out for support, for help. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You deserve love and kindness. You are enough. 

National Eating Disorder Awareness