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Can Your Self Esteem Halt Recovery From An Eating Disorder?

Last Updated: May 28, 2024

Self-esteem is commonly connected to those with many physical and mental health disorders. Low self-esteem can often be considered a catalyst to developing an eating disorder.

Whether referring to anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, the mind is often focused on the harm food may cause instead of the benefits. Battling low self-esteem while attempting to recover from an eating disorder can add unexpected complications. The negative feelings toward yourself can over continue to trigger the chaotic relationship with food that originally led you to where you may currently be in your battle with food.

Similarly, those who struggle with overeating and excessive weight can battle against low self-esteem. The feeling of one’s body looking one way and the mind telling them what they see isn’t really what their body looks like. For example, I personally thought for years that I looked more muscular and not quite as big as I had gotten as a result of years of secretive overeating. I didn’t see the harm I was causing my body because my mind made the image in the mirror not reflect accurately.

Years of low self-esteem tied to my physical appearance is still something to struggle with even now when I’m way closer to my personal weight goals.

Low self-esteem does not always relate to insecurities that evolve around the body and how you look, but can also encompass you as a whole person. The thoughts of never being good enough, or that you cannot be a functioning member of society due to your appearance may also constantly be present.

The occurrence of low-self esteem is much higher than originally realized. For many who identify as having low self-esteem, struggling with an eating disorder may also be present. In fact, eating disorders may increase feelings of low self-esteem due to never feeling good enough.

What defines your self-esteem?

When thinking of self-esteem, you are often referring to your personal evaluation of what you believe you are worth. Everyone’s list of what they believe is important may vary, but common items that are included are:

  • How smart I am
  • What kind of job I have
  • How much money I earn
  • How thin am I
  • How many friends do I have

Reflecting on your personal list can help determine how you view yourself and what your self-esteem is built on. While looking at your list, did it consist mostly of items related to your employment status, financial worth, or was it strictly focused on personal appearance and how it compares to others?

If you are finding that your self-esteem is based solely on physical appearance, it could indicate that there is work to be done prior to battling your eating disorders.

Increasing Low Self-Esteem?

Having higher self-esteem not only makes you feel better about yourself but also causes you to create positive choices with your physical and mental health. Self-esteem as a whole can be very unstable as it can fluctuate fairly quickly without a true cause.

Finding ways to create a strong and appropriate high self-esteem can ultimately lead you to make smart choices regarding your food. Ways to increase self-esteem include the following:

  • Use Positive Affirmations correctly: Ensure you are focusing on the progress and not your ultimate goal. State “I will continue until I succeed.” as opposed to “I am going to be a great success”. Having the statement seem obtainable and not cause anxiety is important.
  • Identify your abilities and develop them appropriately: Take pride in your true abilities. If you have a hobby of knitting, focus on finding ways to become more knowledgeable in new patterns. If you enjoy cooking, consider taking a cooking class.
  • Learn to take compliments: This can be extremely hard especially when you don’t see yourself in a positive light. Creating a goal to appreciate compliments when given will help make them easier to accept. Be prepared with a “Thank You” or “That is very sweet” as this will also make it easier. Build positive relationships: Having a proper support system is always important. This support system can be anyone that you view as a positive influence within your life. Having them be present within your life will help stabilize your self-esteem.
  • Give yourself a break: This is not a quick or easy fix. Everything takes time and practice. Remember to take your time and not rush into something that you are not prepared for. It is okay to fall back or engage in behaviors you are trying to eliminate. Remember that it is always okay to get back up and restart with your positive thoughts.
  • Engaging in acts to increase self-esteem on a daily basis will help you understand your true worth. While this may take time, this is a positive step that is needed to treat your battle with Eating Disorders. As the development of eating disorders is closely linked to the lack of self-esteem and worth, reducing or removing a trigger can provide a kickstart in overcoming your battle with food.