• Gabrielle Morreale

Challenging the ED Voice

By Abby Emmert & Gabby Morreale

One of the first steps we try to take in recovery is to distinguish between the healthy part of our brain and the eating disorder part of our brain. It may sound odd if you have never struggled with an eating disorder, but the ED part of the brain acts as “voices” that tell you how to eat, what to eat, when to eat, how much you can have, and so on. The ED voice contrasts the non-ed voice that we all have, that wants the best for us. The Non-ed voice is one that we all have, one that listens to hunger cues and tells us we want another plate of dinner. With both of these voices in your head at once, it can be really difficult to know which one is talking to you. We also know that the ED voice can overpower the non-ed voice, which makes it almost impossible to hear anything your non-ed voice says to you. The reason we want to work hard at separating these two voices is to gain awareness at which voice is creating your thoughts and what actions you want to take in response!

Before we get into an example of identifying which voice is talking, here is a helpful tip to recognize which voice is talking to you. We know that our true self wants the best for you, whereas the eating disorder voice wants you to stay in your ED. One way to know the difference is to ask yourself is the thought you are having keeping you stuck in your eating disorder or can it help set you free? Ask yourself is this voice or thought serving me of depleting me? Some examples of the Ed voice may sound like repetitive intrusive thoughts about controlling your intake, obsessions around when and how much you can eat, pressure to increase your exercise routine, questioning your worthiness or how loveable or loved you are just to name a few. The ED voice is often loud and mean and sometimes in therapy I refer to it as the bully in your head. I'm here to tell you you are stronger than this voice. Your true self YOUR voice has the power to come through it will just take practice don’t give up girl...WE BELIEVE IN YOU! Here is a common example of an intrusive ED thought and a tip for how to challenge and overcome it.

The ED voice, “I ate too much today, I shouldn't eat this.”

First, distinguish the purpose: Will this thought keep me stuck in my eating disorder or will it all be to experience life and be free of it? The statement above belongs to your ed voice.

Second, accept that this is a thought you had, and give yourself grace for the process you are working through. Recovery is hard!

Third: identify what your true self would say back to your ED voice. It may look something like, “I deserve to eat no matter what I ate before,” or, “I don't need permission to eat.”

Fourth: Decide how you want to respond to the ED voice. Once you accept that this is a thought you have, and try not beat yourself up for it, you can take back the power to respond and quiet or even silence the ED voice. This can look like participating in a self-care act or eating what it is that you wanted! There is no “right” answer here, other than to treat yourself with the love and respect you deserve!

We understand this can be a hard process when starting out in recovery. It is not linear, and it certainly will not be perfect when you try this out. It’s ok healing is messy. The important part is not that you “nail” it each time, but that you try! If you need support please reach out to our amazing team at You’ve got this!!

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