Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia recovery: fighting the abusive bully in your head

November 14, 2023

Written by Chandana (Chandy) Balasubramanian

Medically reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

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eating disorder

Key Points

  • Living with anorexia can often feel like dealing with a bully
  • Unfortunately, the abusive bully lives within you
  • You need support to help you strengthen your own voice and fight your abuser
  • A registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders can be an integral part of your anorexia recovery journey

If you have anorexia or another eating disorder, you may be battling an abusive bully in your head, all day, every day.

Let’s take a look at the list below. Does the voice in your head:

  • Tell you that you never do anything right?
  • Blame you for anything wrong that happens?
  • Want all your attention?
  • Prevent you from spending time with others?
  • Insult, demean, or shame you constantly?
  • Control your decisions?
  • Make you take actions that hurt you (but say it’s for your own good)?
  • Sabotage your ability to function at school, work, or social gatherings?

These are warning signs for people dealing with emotional abuse. The difference is, for people with eating disorders, the abuser is inside you.

How anorexia is similar to being in an abusive relationship

Like abusive relationships, eating disorders often start small and make you feel great at first. You may have lost a few pounds and received compliments. Or, you may have felt proud of yourself for setting goals, controlling calories, and avoiding certain foods. It may have also started in response to bullying at school or home.

But, over time, just like with an emotionally abusive person, the voice of an eating disorder can take more control over your thoughts and decisions. And this type of abuse, just like with an external abuser, can wear you down and impair your self-worth and emotional strength.

People without an eating disorder may find this point difficult to understand. It’s not that your loved one with anorexia does not want to hang out with you over dinner. Their eating disorder doesn’t allow them to.

Your daughter or friend with anorexia knows that their actions affect their health. But, their internal bully gets more forceful and hurtful when they do not follow its commands.

Recovery is possible

However, recovery from anorexia is possible, and a registered dietitian plays a significant role in your healing journey.

Battling anorexia is worth it, but it can be challenging. You don’t have to do it alone. Consider reaching out to a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders. Fay can help you find one covered by your insurance.

The role of a registered dietitian nutritionist in anorexia recovery: it’s not just about food

Here are some ways a registered dietitian with expertise in eating disorders can help with anorexia recovery.

Nutritional knowledge

Eating disorders are serious and can have severe effects on health. According to NEDA, eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders; the first is opioid addiction. This statistic emphasizes the importance of seeking help and that recovery is possible.

Registered dietitian nutritionists bring an understanding of the biological effects of anorexia, including malnutrition, hormonal imbalances, bone loss, and low gut health. All of these are important to remember when designing a personalized nutrition plan for recovery.

Fight the voice of eating disorders

Two-thirds of people with anorexia may also have an anxiety disorder. Also, in a study of 2400 people hospitalized with an eating disorder, 94% had depression, and over half had anxiety disorders. Eating disorders can also co-occur with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol or substance use disorder.

Females with eating disorders also demonstrate childhood obsessive-compulsive traits, rigid rule-following, and strong concerns about failing. As a result, the internal voice of eating disorders can be harsh, judgmental, and unforgiving.

Registered dietitian nutritionists can help counter the bullying voice of eating disorders by being the voice of reason. For example, if the voice in your head tells you not to eat a particular food, you will learn alternative ways to cope and oppose this voice.

Facilitate slow food intake and monitor progress

Dietitians with a deep understanding of anorexia know that the thought of gaining weight during recovery can be terrifying. They are trained to slowly manage calorie and nutrient intake while keeping your emotional sensitivities in mind.

Keep your history and lifestyle in mind

A registered dietitian nutritionist with experience treating people with anorexia will learn about your history, preferences, and lifestyle. Nutritional plans and recommendations will be created keeping your specific relationship with food in mind.

Act as your champion among medical professionals

Anorexia recovery involves several medical professionals like doctors, nurses, counselors, and psychiatrists. Many of these individuals focus on one aspect of the anorexia healing process. A registered dietitian nutritionist often advocates for a person with anorexia, advising other medical professionals about your specific case, challenges, and progress.

Stay with you through your healing

Eating disorder recovery can be a long road, and healing is rarely linear. Having a registered dietitian who understands your personal struggle, history, and lifestyle can help be a constant source of support in your recovery. 

Can you recover from anorexia?

Dealing with the voice of an eating disorder is exhausting, overwhelming, and all-consuming. Often, the only way to get relief, albeit temporarily, is to give in and do what the eating disorder tells you to do. It may feel like there is no other option but know that healing is possible with the proper support.

If you would like to talk to someone about dealing with anorexia, Fay can help you find a registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders, covered by your insurance.

The views expressed by authors and contributors of such content are not endorsed or approved by Fay and are intended for informational purposes only. The content is reviewed by Fay only to confirm educational value and audience interest. You are encouraged to discuss any questions that you may have about your health with a healthcare provider.


Fay Nutrition has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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Chandana (Chandy) Balasubramanian

Written by Chandana (Chandy) Balasubramanian

Chandana Balasubramanian is an experienced healthcare executive who writes on the intersection of healthcare and technology. She is the President of Global Insight Advisory Network and has a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

Rita Faycurry, RD

Medically Reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

Rita Faycurry, RD is a board-certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in clinical nutrition for chronic conditions. Her approach to health is centered around the idea that the mind and body are intimately connected, and that true healing requires an evidence-based and integrative approach that addresses the root cause of disease. In her books and articles, Rita offers practical tips and insights on how to care for your body, mind, and spirit to achieve optimal health and wellness.