A common core belief at the heart of an eating disorder is self-loathing. It feels like a deep, unshakable fact. That person feels like there is something wrong at their core. It’s an old thought they typically have believed for a long time and not one that even feels very logical. It just feels true.
Interestingly, someone can feel trapped by a sense of self-loathing and simultaneously be able to recognize positive traits about themselves. They may see they are competent, kind or caring. They may recognize an innate ability to be a good friend or employee. However, recognizing these qualities doesn’t seem to make a dent in the core negative belief.
Often when someone has a deep sense of themselves, it isn’t based on true events from their past. The belief seems to precede any sense of identity or of the true essence of that person. It’s a belief that feels grounded in their basic self-image. Rather than the belief stemming from events in someone’s life, generally facts of one’s life are twisted to reflect the core self-loathing.
This is the place where the eating disorder becomes relevant. Once the eating disorder starts, the behaviors reinforce the core belief that there is something wrong with the person and justifies the self-loathing. Even though the self-loathing always precedes the eating disorder, the eating disorder morphs into the overall explanation and justification of the self-loathing.
It then becomes easy to see why this cycle becomes difficult to break. If the self-loathing encourages the eating disorder and the eating behaviors strengthen the self-loathing, it feels like there is no escape.
Treatment needs to aggressively question the self-loathing. The therapy can bring to light the nonsensical logic behind the self-loathing and help that person see that this core belief is not rooted in reality.
The harder part of treatment is that the self-loathing needs to be replaced by love. This doesn’t mean a false belief in self-love. It means the experiment of being lovable, of accepting a profound sense of being loved even when that core of doubt and fear is exposed.
It’s remarkable how letting that love land can help someone find their way out of the vicious cycle of an eating disorder and self-loathing. As I have written many times in this blog, love is the true antidote to an eating disorder.