Category Archives: values

What do MONEY and SPIRITUALITY have to do with eating disorder recovery?

Let me start by saying I’m a Psychologist that has worked with recovering women for the past 15 years as well as  recovered from my own eating disorder 18 years ago, so there are many, many times I have encountered resistance, both within myself and working with clients. Two of the most common areas where resistance rear up are: Money and Spirituality. Though these may seem to be two entirely different topics, they each point directly to a similar underlying question: What do you value? I remember one time, early in my recovery from an eating disorder, looking at my relationship with money. A mentor of mine had me keep track of my spending for a month and the tally up total of what I was spending in different categories (Food, Shelter, Entertainment…). We then compared what I valued in my life with what I was spending money on. What was I spending the most money on, the least? Did that match up with what I believed to be important and valuable? I had a client (shared with permission) do this exercise recently and she noticed she was spending the most money on: housing, therapy, student loan repayment, food, her car, and tea. (Yes, tea.) She was spending little to no money on: clothing, yoga, dance. We then looked at what she valued:

  • Safety
  • Emotional authenticity
  • Recovery
  • Self-care
  • Doing work that helps others
  • Being in her body
  • Community

Where did these values match up to her spending and where did they not? She discovered that food for recovery, her apartment, her therapy, her work that helped others (that she was able to do as a result of her education/student loan) were very important and therefore she continued all of these areas unchanged. However, the tea wasn’t important to her. She found she was buying (bingeing) on tea compulsively every day because she felt so deprived and restricted. She  felt like she didn’t have enough money to spend on what she really wanted and needed, which was yoga, dance, and new clothes. Then we looked at her car: how important was that and did she need it? She found that she could easily walk to her work or take public transportation. With the money that used to be going to her car, she could take yoga and (recovery oriented) dance classes as well as buy clothes that fit her new recovery body size.

Another area I often encounter resistance is around the question of spirituality in recovery. Many recovering women were raised in a faith that was abusive or invalidating toward them or they didn’t have any spirituality growing up in their childhood. So when looking at including spirituality in their recovery, they (understandably) either shy away from it or are confused about how it could be helpful. One way I look at spirituality in recovery is to again ask what values you believe in and how you can be living your life according to these. When you are in integrity with your true Self, the Self you want to be in recovery, who is that? That is what many 12-steppers call “walking the walk” (instead of “talking the talk”). When looking at what the Eating Disorder (ED) part-of-your-self has to say about values in which you believe and what your Recovery part-of-your-self has to say, you can get clear on how and where you would like to “walk your talk” in recovery. Here (below) is a chart of some examples of Recovery values and what “ED” and “Recovery” might have to say.

VALUE ED/CRITICAL VOICE RECOVERY VOICE
Authenticity Don’t show vulnerability. People won’t like you. Hide the parts of yourself that you don’t like. Be authentic! It is so freeing. The people who mind won’t matter and the people who matter won’t mind.
The Thin Ideal This is important. Looking good is more important than being authentic. Try and keep your appetite, your voice, and your body small. If you are thin, you are better (or at least good enough/acceptable). This is a cultural construct created to keep you disconnected from your power. Fight it. Listen to the-part-of-you-that-knows.
Spirituality This is not supported by empirical evidence. And has nothing to do with you. It’s nice for other people. And you should be thin in order to be spiritual. And you’re not. You should work on yourself more before you are worthy of connecting in this way. After going to yoga class, church, or 12 step meetings, there is a feeling of peacefulness and ease. That is important to pay attention to.

It doesn’t have anything to do with body size. You can, are allowed, invited, to connect with a source of Love any time you choose. It is always available.

Connection/connectivity Looking good/pleasing is more important. You will always feel lonely, anyway. Seek this- in yourself, with others, with a Power Greater Than You. This is a key: one of the most important ones. Feed this! Turn toward this. Stop pushing it away.
Creativity Not so important or valuable. We don’t have time for this. Just say no to art therapy or other “creative” endeavors. Not meaningful. Fluffy. It’s so important to make time for this, no matter how small. Making art, collage-ing, cooking, dancing connect you with your body and your emotions. This is where recovery lives.

What are YOUR values? How can you value your Self?

Feel free to make your own chart! You are also welcome to track your money for a month and see what you do and do not value according to the evidence you gather. (Note: NO shaming or blaming- just curiosity).

Many Blessings.

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