How I Learned to Challenge My Anorexic Rules and Rituals

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Kim Marshall

I was 30 years old when I started restricting. It wasn’t a choice or an attempt to lose weight. I had just found out my husband was having an affair. When I confronted him, he left to live 450 miles away and I became a single mum to our two girls, aged 2 and 4. All in the space of a day. My whole world changed and I felt out of control. I’d always lost my appetite due to stress and put my weight loss down to this. I figured it would return soon.

When I finally came out of denial, I realised that I could no longer eat without fear or guilt, and I had developed a list of rules and rituals around food, eating, weighing myself, exercise, etc. that I desperately needed to follow in order to keep me “safe” and “in control.” Now, I look back and realise that I definitely wasn’t in control, my eating disorder was, and I was far from safe.

I followed this list because the voice in my head told me to. “Ana” took any remaining self-esteem and confidence I had, and isolated me from the people around me; she treated me like an abusive partner would. However, I was dependent on her; I believed I was the most awful person but that I would be OK if I followed the rules.

My life became a nightmare and I hated myself and my body. The eating disorder didn’t save me – my goal weights became less and less and the foods I allowed myself to eat became fewer.

I knew I had to make a decision. I could choose to stay as I was or I could make the decision that I wanted to try to change.

I chose the latter. It certainly wasn’t an easy decision and it wasn’t an easy road but I finally made it to the other side. I am now recovered and feel so much happier about myself. I’m far more confident and positive than I ever was.

But what helped me most? I learned a simple technique that transformed my life, called EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) or tapping, as it’s otherwise known. I’ve found it to be a simple yet powerful tool which involves tapping on acupressure points on the body, similar to acupuncture but without the needles, which helped me release negative emotions so that I felt more calm and relaxed. While this technique may not be right for everyone, tapping helped me let go of the:

  • grief about the affair
  • overwhelm of being a single mum

It also helped me:

  • transform my mindset and the way I viewed myself.
  • stop following the list of rules and rituals as I felt more in control of my life anyway, without my ED
  • feel confident that I can cope with future stress

I can now see that:

  • I was already special
  • I already had purpose in life
  • I wasn’t fat or ugly
  • I was strong but I didn’t need to always be strong
  • I was not a failure
  • I was good enough

I was just looking at things from a negative angle, but tapping allowed me to see my life far more positively.

My eating disorder wasn’t about food, eating, or weight, but this became my focus. To be really free, the root cause needed to be addressed and my mindset changed, so that I could stand up to Ana and make her redundant.

Kim Marshall, an EFT practitioner, founded Kiss Goodbye To Ana, and now helps women with eating disorders out of the torturous place they’re in, whilst helping them feel safe and in control, every step of the way.  

Editor’s Note: Eating disorders are complex illnesses that require professional treatment. Methods described above are not prescriptive and you should consult with a professional when deciding what options will best fit your needs.

For recovery resources and treatment options, please visit our resource center. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call  ANAD’s Helpline at: (888) 375-7767 or the National Alliance of Eating Disorders Helpline at: (866) 662-1235.

If you are thinking about suicide, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. In crisis situations, text “HOME” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer from the Crisis Text Line.