19 Dec 2023

How to #QuietTheNoise of an eating disorder this festive season


An estimated 75% of people with eating disorders will also experience a toxic inner ‘voice’ or noise.

This can be highly distressing, often described as an intruder or abusive bully in your mind that tells you what to eat and how to behave.  

This eating disorder (ED) voice ensures food, weight and shape concerns are never far from your consciousness, constantly reminding you of the opinion that your self-worth is tied to your weight.

This ‘self-talk’ can play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of disordered eating behaviours, and has been linked to high rates of relapse, longer duration of illness and greater use of compensatory behaviours.  

We asked our recovery and support team for their advice on how to Quiet the Noise of an eating disorder this festive season. 

Separate yourself from the eating disorder 

The eating disorder is an illness impacting you – you are not the eating disorder. Some people find benefit by externalizing the eating disorder & giving it a name, which can help you to separate the illness from yourself.

Being aware of your ED thoughts and calling them out can help you to recognise that these thought patterns are opinions and that you can challenge these ways of thinking. You can’t always stop the voice, but you can work towards giving it less air time and not believing it’s stories.  

Prepare for change 

The eating disorder voice can be particularly loud and strong when you’re going through a stressful or anxiety-provoking experience, such as festive mealtimes or eating out at a new restaurant.

It can also be difficult to manage if you’re in the early stages of recovery and have stopped engaging in disordered eating behaviours. This might be because you relied on these behaviours to feel less anxious and uncomfortable and more in control. 

Lean on your support networks when you know something is coming up that might be challenging, and if possible, make a plan with your treatment team or carers. Talk about what the eating disorder might say during these times and find ways to counteract the noise and re-frame the thought. 

Stopping the thought in its tracks  

It can be helpful to come up with some recovery-orientated helpful statements that at least a part of you believes and would tell others. When you have an ED thought or urge, refer back to these statements and aim to speak back to the negative thought and shut it down. Remember – just because you have a thought, doesn’t make it true.  

Nurturing self-statements  
  • “I am more than my body. I can work towards accepting myself.”
  • “Even though I don’t like the way my body looks in this moment, it’s not ok to hurt or abuse it.”
  • “If purging is the problem, it can’t be the solution. I want to find real solutions.”
  • “I don’t have to react. Try to do three other things first before engaging in a behaviour.”
  • “Unless my body needs food, eating is not going to fill up my emptiness.” 
Reframe the eating disorder thought

Eating disorder thought: “I can never stop counting calories [or insert other ED behaviour]. It would make my anxiety unmanageable.”  

  • Reframe: “My eating disorder voice will be loudest when I stop engaging in ED behaviours because I am beginning to heal, but it won’t always be this difficult if I keep focusing on recovery. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life counting calories and being obsessed with food and my body.” 

Eating disorder thought: “If I gain weight, I will be unlovable.” 

  • Reframe it:  “I don’t stop loving my friends or family when their bodies change, and my worth is not tied simply to my weight. I am more than my body.” 

Eating disorder thought: “I will only be happy when I weigh XYZ Kilograms. Until then I am a failure, and must [insert disordered behaviour]”  

  • Reframe it:  “Even though I don’t like the way my body looks, it’s not ok to hurt or abuse it. My happiness is not dependent on my looks or size, and I know you won’t be happy at XYZ kilograms – you will make me work harder and longer to reach another unrealistic target.” 

Eating disorder thought: “I’m not hungry, so I don’t need to eat” 

  • Reframe: “My body needs regular nourishment throughout the day. My hunger and fullness cues might be out of sync, and I need to ensure I’m fueling myself so I can restore these cues.” 

Eating disorder thought: “I’ve failed at recovery because I’ve done (or haven’t done) XYZ. There’s no point in continuing recovery.” 

  • Reframe: “My recovery does not have to be perfect. I know that recovery isn’t linear, and it’s actually normal to have setbacks and relapses. I can always start again tomorrow”.  

Don’t focus solely on food   

Whilst there is a significant focus on food at Christmas time, it can be helpful to shift this focus and reflect on even one thing that you are grateful or even proud of.

Considering all the challenges of the year that has been, being able to spend time with loved ones is something to celebrate.

Eating disorders often put a negative light on so many things and enjoy sabotaging positive events and occasions. So, instead, make this time less about the food and more about the things that you appreciate and that bring you joy.   

Finding it too difficult? Aim to be kind to yourself & seek support

It’s not easy to change your thought patterns and stop the ED noise in its tracks. If you’re finding it difficult to reframe the disordered thought into a healthy alternative, aim to speak to yourself like you would talk to a good friend or someone that you care about– you wouldn’t be overly critical, mean, or judgmental to your friend or a loved one, so you shouldn’t talk like that to yourself!  

Eating disorders can thrive in isolation so it’s important that you lean on your support networks and let people know you might be struggling – because Talking Helps.  

If you’re not sure where to turn to, Butterfly’s Helpline counsellors can be reached 7 days a week, 8am-midnight (AEDT) [excluding national public holidays] by calling 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673), chat online or email support@butterfly.org.au | If you’re in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or 000 in an emergency.  

How you can help

Every year, the number of people reaching out to Butterfly’s Helpline over the holiday period is increasing. We’re here to provide resources and support for eating disorder recovery, but we can’t do it without you.

This festive season, we’re aiming to raise $50,000 to support our critical treatment and recovery services that can help people #QuietTheNoise of an eating disorder. You can help by donating today.


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