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If you suffer from an eating disorder now or have in the past, please email Joanna for a free telephone consultation.



Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.


Eagle Awesome strength 3386693324It's time to free yourself.

Eating disorders develop over time and create their own internal environment that becomes a full internal world with set pathways and few options. This means that you live your life based on the rules, routines, habits, perspective, thought processes and behaviors established by your eating disorder.

People pleasing, a well known phrase in the eating disorder community, becomes a way of life. You please others to get support, make them like you, avoid criticism, feel important and valuable because you are needed. 

People pleasing behavior becomes so ingrained you do it automatically and even seek out opportunities to please others.  It becomes a major aspect of how you perceive your identity. 

Isn't it time to fly, based on your own agenda?

One of the major problems with people pleasing for a person with an eating disorder is that you, unknowingly, will binge on people pleasing.  You can wind up living an exhausting life where you are busily saying yes to other people’s demands and requests.  You even anticipate their needs and doing your best to fulfill them at great cost to the quality of your life.

Learning to say no, to parse out your time and resources carefully, seems the way to end this exploitation.  For someone who has dropped into a bad habit of saying yes continually to others’ request, this is a reasonable way out. You make a to do list of what you will do and give yourself a list of coping mechanisms that help you say no or set reasonable limits.

But that doesn’t address you inner landscape, does it?

If people pleasing is well established in your psyche then you experience as very real and constant flow of demands and criticisms in your own mind. A to do list won’t stop them. That onslaught has been building over time and is the eating disorder’s way of creating a template for your life. If you rush about trying to please and live up to the expectations of your inner demands you will find yourself not only exhausted but also unfulfilled.

Trying to live up to the demands of those inner voices keeps you in a perpetual action phase where you must please those voices or suffer severe punishment in the form of devastating self esteem criticism and assaults on your self worth.
You have become a slave to the eating disorder regime within which is never satisfied.

Simple revolution, saying no or never again doesn’t get you very far.  Mustering your courage, your rage and your indignation to fight back may give you hope and even a moment of respite.  But then what?  Your inner landscape hasn’t changed.  Your identity as a nice person who is generous and is always ready to help others hasn’t changed.  Your need to protect yourself from criticism and the lonely despair that accompanies it hasn’t changed.

So the slave’s revolution is temporary and then, not knowing how to live on your own and being frightened without people around you depending on you for services, you slip back into the slave role and fit into the inner eating disorder landscape once again.

There is a way out of this.  Look at any successful revolution.  The rebels don’t just say no to the dominating regime. That leaves them with nothing.  Successful rebels say no to the dominating regime in order to say a more full yes to what they care about.  And that’s where your authentic life is and where you power to live it comes from.

If you weren’t following the people pleasing orders in your mind what would you be doing with your time and resources?

Instead of looking over your shoulder at the whip ready to crack on your back, what if you looked through the bars of your prison at how other people live and begin to recognize opportunity?
Suppose you pushed the boundaries of your eating disorder defined inner world and then transformed the entire landscape?

For example, you go out exploring, looking for what interests you and catches your imagination.  This  means you give yourself regular time to wander about observing. This means that you honor this time. You walk in your neighborhood, look in shop windows, watch people on the sidewalk or in the park. You go to museums, art galleries,hardware stores, toy shops, furniture stores.  You browse the UCLA extension catalog and www.coursera.org.  Your only purpose is to take note of what appeals to you. Keep a notebook.

Eventually you’ll want to take another step in the direction of your interest. It doesn’t have to make sense, fit in with your current lifestyle or be agreement with what anybody else thinks. This is for you. 

Your first surprise is the joy you feel as you tentatively make your move toward what touches your heart and your imagination.

Your second surprise is that you will discover new people who welcome you into this new venture of yours. 

You’ll find that you become at ease and confident when you say, “Sorry, I can’t. I’ve got another commitment.” When your inner people pleasing demands come through you’ll see how weak they become.  You won’t need to obey them for security and to maintain your identity as someone who follows orders.  You’ll be getting your security based on your authentic identity that gets stronger as you honor what you genuinely care about.

Your eating disorder mental landscape fades. Your inner landscape reconfigures and transforms to reflect the real you.

Starting Questions:

  1. Where will you browse to discover what you care about?
  2. What are old dreams that you left behind but still are dear to you?
  3. What physical objects do you keep in your home as momentos of what you care about?
  4. What are the books you’ve always meant to read?
  5. What are the hobbies you’ve always meant to pursue?
  6. What are the causes you want to support?

This article was inspired by a reader comment:  "Managing external and internal demands."

* pix awesome strength, Dawn Huczek, U.SA. Creative Commons

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