“A 'No' uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.“
Acting out an eating disorder is an attempt to cope with anxiety, grief, anger, loneliness and even happiness. A certain level of stress created by external events or inner psychological habits becomes intolerable. To binge or restrict is a way to gain control and feel powerful instead of feeling overwhelmed. emotions.
Yes, reducing stress reduces the need to act out an eating disorder. But simply living a life of reduced stress puts you in a vulnerable situation. You may be guarded against new opportunities for expanding your quality of life since anything new might cross your protective boundaries and bring on stress that you can only manage by falling into your eating disorder.
Here's a way out of this stuck situation. Gandhi's validation of the power of saying no is relevant here. We can find ways to apply what he said in how we live now.
- Where is your "No"?
- When do you wish you can say it?
- To whom do you want to say, "No"? (you can include yourself too.)
- What fuels your deepest conviction?
- What value do you gain by pleasing others?
- Why is it important for you to avoid trouble?
Take notes about events, situations, requests, behavior where you wanted to say no. Consider this activity part of your normal routine. Keeping a record of wished for no's, raises your awareness. That is always the first step leading to positive changes.
When you start actually saying no, start small and be clear. Taking on too big of a no too soon can trigger you and send you to a binge or pounding the treadmill. For example, you can look at one room or closet or drawer in your home. Evaluate the contents.
Sort the contents into categories:
- What you use
- What you save
- What you don't use but might use
- What you don't use but keep for emotional reasons
- What you use but wish were in better shape
- What you keep because you don't know what to do with it
- What you keep because someone will be offended if you don't
As you sort, be aware of what gets in the way of your saying "No" to the presence of an article that you don't use or don't care about or never want to use again.
Be aware of what sets off emotions in you. Is this something you want to give more space and honor in your life? Perhaps it's a newspaper clipping of a subject you are interested in and want to study but haven't so far. Or it might be a photo of a person who represents a way of thinking or living that you admire and want for your own.
As you reorder this space, allow yourself to be assertive. Keep what is valuable to you and remove what is not. You say "No." Perhaps you can recycle your discards in some way that feels right to you.
You let what is not useful to you have an opportunity to be useful to someone else in the same form or in a new form. But you remove it from your living and emotional space. When you do this regularly you do far more than clear your space.
You make your space and its contents more relevant to what you care about and value. You exercise your ability to recognize and be firm about what is not important to you and deepen your conviction about what "No" means to you and the way you live your life.
You discover that your conviction strengthens and empowers you beyond a need for your eating disorder. The eating disorder is less of a solution to your stresses. You deal with your stress with the power of your conviction to say, "No."
- Can you select a corner, drawer, closet, desk, or room and sort in this way?
- What did you choose and why did you choose it?
- What did you find that you kept?
- What did recycle?
- Where did you find saying "No" a challenge?
- How did you feel when you said "No" and disposed of what was no longer relevant to you?
- What are the consequences, so far, of your life-honoring exercise?
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Written by Joanna Poppink, MFT. Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD, and adult development.
She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, and UT. Author of the Book: Healing Your Hungry Heart: Recovering from Your Eating Disorder
Appointments are virtual.
For a free telephone consultation, e-mail her at