(a chapter from Telling Ed No! by Cheryl Kerrigan©)
One of my biggest challenges was that after each meal, my mind would go into overdrive and refuse to let go of my bad body image. With every bite that went into my mouth, I imagined the food forcing its way through my body, which was being morphed into a disfigured mess. It was mentally and emotionally painful.
One day, when I was describing the insanity of it all, my therapist Bob said, “Let’s think of it in a different way.” We chatted first about the reality of what happens when the brain is starved: it doesn’t think straight, it becomes more delusional, thoughts become more obsessive, Ed is much louder, and there is a negative impact on concentration and affect.
Then Bob said, “Think of eating in this way, Cheryl: swallow up.”
“Swallow up? What the heck are you talking about?” I asked.
He suggested that rather than imagining the food going down into my body, I could think of it going up into my brain. Eating would feed my brain, and, as a result, my mind would function properly. I thought that analogy was pretty cool, and I was ready to give it a try.
So from then on, I decided to visualize the food I ate going up instead of down. With each bite came clarity, and with clarity would come recovery. Focusing on all the benefits of nourishing my brain was a new perspective that helped get my mind out of its usual eating disorder thoughts. It was a good “reality diversion”—a diversion tactic that is rooted in reality, which gave it more power.
In thinking this way, I discovered that my recovery voice grew louder, I could focus better in therapy, my body image improved, I found laughter again, and my mind was open to more recovery and life possibilities. Thinking about swallowing up also helped take the edge off the visions I was tortured with each time I ate.
Swallowing up is a reminder of the good you are doing for yourself, not the bad. You are nourishing your brain, and when your brain is fed, you have more ability and power to fight.
Feeding your brain is essential to clear thinking. When you sit and eat a meal or snack, where do you envision your food going? What feelings do you experience? Fear, comfort, anxiety, relief? What would your “reality diversion” look like?
With health, hope and strength,