RESISTANCE: noun - the act or power of resisting, opposing, or withstanding
OBEDIENCE: noun - the act or practice of obeying; dutiful or submissive compliance.

As a recovered therapist I know that with eating disorders, these definitions are often applied with the wrong intent. When living life with an eating disorder, obedience is definitely a skill that is mastered. By strictly adhering to all of the rules and protocols an eating disordered mind has set up, we live a life of total compliance. From how many times we must cut our food to what plate we must eat it on, there is no room for error when following food rules. The same goes for myriad other rules we make for ourselves regarding our body and our being. Coupled with this obedience is extreme resistance. There is no end to what our eating disorder voice can persuade us to resist. It may tell us that certain foods are bad, that we are bad, that pleasure equals pain and on and on. There is often a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from withstanding all number of things.

In my practice, I encourage clients to switch the relationship between resistance and obedience. By allowing ourselves to resist the real enemy – disordered eating and the eating disorder voice – we are tuning into our soul self and pledging obedience to that self. This may be difficult at first because you may believe that you lack a soul or healthy self or you may confuse the eating disorder self with the healthy self. We are all born with a soul, healthy self, but it often becomes tainted by cultural pressures and psychological problems among other things, and thus the e.d. self is born. To begin recognizing the difference between healthy self and e.d. self, I have clients write down their eating disorder thoughts. I ask them to bring these journals into session so that together we can begin talking back to the e.d. voice, thus introducing the healthy voice. If a client struggles to recognize their healthy voice, I might have them think about what they would tell a child who is afraid to eat ice cream for fear of getting fat. Any number of similar scenarios can be helpful in accessing the healthy voice. After practicing in session and with my support, clients are then able to do this own their own. At times, they may still give in to these thoughts and engage in their e.d. behaviors. But eventually, these thoughts occupy less space and therefore have less power.

It is important for clients not to get discouraged by the e.d thoughts. The path to recovery is distinguishing between what is the healthy voice and what is not, and then to adhere to that soul voice. Obedience is not a bad thing if you choose the right master. Resisting the eating disorder voice is obedience to the soul, healthy self. Let your soul be your master and resist the tyranny of the eating disorder.

*First Published in the Gurze Spirituality Blog.

Author's Bio: 

Carolyn Costin, MFT, recovered herself from anorexia, has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders and exercise addiction since 1977. Carolyn is founder and executive director of The Eating Disorder Center of California and Monte Nido and Affiliates, which now has 3 unique residential centers in natural, home-like settings. Carolyn is a sought-after speaker at national conferences and is known for engaging her audiences and giving hands-on skills.

Carolyn's books, The Eating Disorder Source Book (2007), 100 Questions and Answers About Eating Disorders (2007), and Your Dieting Daughter (1997), have helped professionals and the lay public in understanding, treating and preventing eating disorders.