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13 Lies Our Eating Disorders Told Us

By Sydney Quick and Dana Land--During recovery, it becomes easier to distinguish between your voice and the toxic voice of your eating disorder. Here are 13 lies our eating disorders told us:


This article may contain content that could be triggering to some readers.

1. You don’t like that/this.  

Sydney: To this day, I still become upset with ED for telling me this lie. He was constantly telling me what foods I did and didn’t like and I believed him. I still remember having meetings with my nutritionist where we would get into heated conversations over my dislike of certain foods I had never even tried. A few of these foods are now some of my favourites.

2. The fewer calories a food has, the healthier it is for you.

Sydney: This is the one lie that I have been able to completely erase from my mind. With the help of a nutrition class and my nutritionist in treatment, I became educated on what calories really are—and that is energy. I have learned the facts about carbohydrates, fats and proteins as well as what constitutes nutrition, and let me tell you, ED knows nothing about nutrition.

3. You are a failure.

Sydney: This is what gave my eating disorder all of his power. From the age of five years old, ED already had the word “failure” in my head. He spent the next 16 years perfecting this term, using it to slowly dig that hole inside of my chest, and convincing me I wasn’t good at anything. When I was 20 years old I got my recovery tattoo which says “No Failure” as my first step to putting a stop to this lie.    

4. You’re not strong enough.  

Sydney: The concept of “not enough” relates to a lot of lies ED told me, but strength always seemed to be at the heart of my “enoughs.” Showing strength meant I didn’t have to be vulnerable and vulnerability was my weakness. Being weak was unacceptable as it was what continued to get me hurt. ED protected me from weakness which meant I had to be strong. This cycle is something that I am only now (two years recovered) starting to understand, by giving compassion as well as a voice to my vulnerabilities.

Dana: The biggest theme underlying everything ED ever told me was that on my own, I was not enough. This paralyzed me in not being able to make life decisions, entering bad relationships, and making hurtful choices. The concept of being “enough” was scary and I didn’t trust myself to be deemed “enough” without EDs approval. Since entering recovery, I find that I am “enough” in everyday occurrences. I am enough when I brush my hair instead of being too exhausted to manage it. I am enough when I decided to go out instead of sleeping all day. I am enough when I choose my classes and meet someone for the first time. The truth: I am enough all on my own.

5. The less you eat, the stronger you’ll feel.

Sydney: This was by far the most dominant lie ED told me and I believed it for a long time. I believed it because it was what I felt when I didn’t eat. Saying no to food is a powerful act and having that much control over something made me believe I was strong.

6. Your size determines your worth, femininity and beauty.

Sydney: Since I was a child I have been exposed to the message that “if you’re fat, no one will want to be with you.” This prompted me to believe that I was unworthy of another person’s love if I was fat. This belief forced me to constantly compare myself to others, where I was then introduced to the message that “being able to see a woman’s collarbones is a very feminine feature.” Something my family always told me was that I have “man hands” and because something about me had been declared masculine, I became focused on exposing the one thing that I knew would make me look feminine: my collarbones. This feminine feature became my definition of beautiful, so having it would make me worthy of love.

7. You deserve this.

Sydney: Every time I would skip a meal, purge or self-harm, ED would tell me: “You deserve this.” This was the most difficult lie for me to overcome. I truly believed that I deserved to hurt because I was a “failure,” I wasn’t “enough” and I was “unworthy.” The pain I put myself through was a way for me to punish myself as well as prove my strength and dedication to fighting for perfection.

8. You are nothing without me.

Dana: Without ED, I thought I would lack any direction. He made me feel like he was my life’s purpose and goal. I thought that there wasn’t any “me” without ED. In recovery, I am learning that there is a whole “Dana” I have yet to meet, and she constantly surprises me. ED is no longer hiding her and I’m excited to see what else she can do, such as knitting and dancing! The truth: I am a whole person without ED.

9. I will help you be better.

Dana: When ED told me that I wasn’t enough, he also told me that I needed him to be better, to be “enough.” I thought I needed ED to excel in school, activities and friendships. Even when he began to degrade these valuable things, I believed he was the key to making them improve, which reinforced my dependence on him. Now in recovery, all of these are improving and reassuring me that this was another lie. The truth: I can better myself through effective and supportive means.

10. Nothing will work as well as I do.

Dana: In treatment, when I was first exposed to recovery skills, such as things to do instead of engaging in behavior usage, ED threw a fit about how none of it would work as well as he did in soothing me. It wasn’t until I learned to push his fits to the back of my mind that I gave skill usage a true attempt. I found that there was a skill for every occasion that would work just as well or better than ED, and had long-term benefits as well. The truth: skill usage is just as satisfying and beneficial as anything else.

11. Your family will not understand.

Dana: ED assured me that telling my family about him would only cause confusion. He cited a ton of evidence to support it, and I didn’t think he could lie about that. The truth: While they may not have the understanding of a therapist, your family will give it their best attempt and try and support and love you.

12. Your friends do not care like I do.

Dana: When my friends did not support my behavior usage, ED told me it was because they didn’t care about me like he did. That was just one of his last attempts to hold on to his control of me. The truth: they cared so deeply, it hurt them to watch me hurt myself.

13. I am all you need.

Dana: When ED isolated me from my family and friends, he told me he was all I needed to not feel alone. And when I felt alone, rather than reaching out for support, I relied more heavily on him. The truth: having a large support system is the best sense of community and love, and you cannot get that from ED.

Being able to recognize these lies was an important step in our recovery. Although they still creep in every once in a while, we no longer believe them. Seeing the truth behind these lies is what made us believe that we are worth so much more than ED.    

For recovery resources and treatment options, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 800-931-2237.

About the bloggers: Sydney lives in Calgary, Alberta and attends Mount Royal University. She is majoring in psychology and minoring in women's studies. She plans on getting her master’s degree in counseling and would like to specialize in eating disorders. She volunteers at the women's center and spends her spare time hiking, doing yoga or finding new music to listen to.

Dana Land is a junior at DePaul University. In her free time, she likes to listen to the crunch of fall leaves under her feet, enjoy the spooky season of Halloween and incorporate her burlesque practice into her recovery.

For more on recovery, check out:

4 Things No One Tells You About Recovery

7 Body-Shaming Phrases to Cut from Your Vocabulary…and What to Say Instead!

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