ED Self vs Healthy Self
Identifying and understanding these two aspects of yourself will help you understand your eating disorder, learn how to resist it, and ultimately get you well.
If you have an eating disorder it means that over time, as you restricted, binged, purged or engaged in other extreme food behaviors, your thoughts and actions began to take on a life of their own. Soon there was a part of you that did things automatically. This part of yourself acts stronger and stronger and becomes a separate, adaptive, disordered self, the "eating disorder self," which is different from the core "healthy" part of you. The eating disorder self has different feelings, thoughts, and behaviors than your "healthy self."
It is your eating disorder self that will "talk you into" behaviors like vomiting, not eating all day, taking laxatives, cutting your food into tiny bits, or eating a whole box of cookies because you ate one. You have a healthy self too and it comes forward to help others, but is quickly overpowered by your eating disorder self when you are dealing with you. To prove you have a healthy self, just ask your self what you would tell anyone else who told you they have to engage in the behaviors you engage in.
Recognizing you have an eating disorder self that has taken control, creates a foundation for you to contact, communicate with and learn from this part of you in order to understand the purpose it serves.
You need to strengthen your healthy self. Your healthy self will need to be able to pay attention and respond to the real feelings or needs underlying your eating disorder thoughts and behaviors.
Getting your healthy self stronger takes time, and working at it varies in degree and intensity from individual to individual. When your healthy self is strong enough and can handle the various things that happen to you in life, your eating disorder self will no longer be useful or necessary. You will be able to handle your problems, even those concerning weight and shape, without resorting to eating disorder behaviors.
If you continue to work at communicating with your eating disorder self, challenging the way it tells you to behave, and finding healthy alternatives, you will go through the stages of recovery until your eating disorder self and healthy self are integrated.
During the stages of integration your healthy self gets back in control thus your eating disorder self no longer has a job to do and ceases to exist as a separate entity. However, rather than disappearing, your eating disorder self is integrated back with your healthy self and you are one whole person again. That part of you will then serve an important role as as an alarm system, alerting you when something is wrong or needs tending to. But...you no longer experience the thoughts of an eating disorder or the desire to engage in eating disorder behaviors because your healthy self knows how to handle things and take care of you. This is being recovered.