Binge Eating Recovery and Building Self-Esteem

April 11, 2022 Emma Parten

Last weekend I was able to spend a special day with someone I love. We went to town, snacked on sweet corn empanadas, and ended the day with dinner and drinks. The next day, I decided to bake all afternoon for fun. It was a weekend of enjoyment and indulgence. That's when I noticed that something had changed in the way I feel about food, and myself since I started my recovery from binge eating disorder (BED). I was able to settle into the moment and allow myself to enjoy and savor instead of feeling guilty about indulging. 

In my experience, my eating disorder has always been rooted in poor self-esteem and self-denial. Whenever my eating disorder speaks up, it says: "I shouldn't, "I need to be fixed", and "I don't deserve this". This is how I stood before the world, and how I entered rooms and conversations. I was living to hide.

I've been working on rebuilding my self-esteem in tandem with recovering from BED for over six years. There are little moments like last weekend when I notice how my eating disorder mindset has slowly changed. I'm learning the distinction between the internal self, and the external self. I build self-esteem when I am kind to myself. I am learning not to base my self-esteem on external appearance, the food I eat, and the mistakes I make as I continue to live.

Eating Disorder Recovery and Self-Esteem

When I started recovering from years of disordered eating, I realized I had to form a different kind of relationship with myself and my body. My eating disorder had become a way I defined who I was. Who was I without all my restrictions and guilt?

As I got curious about myself, I asked my parents questions about what I was like as a child. They told me I loved to paint. I was stubborn, goofy, and observant. I was naturally drawn to exploring food, cooking, and baking. I watched the Food Network instead of cartoons, and I watched my Grandma and Grandpa prepare stew and fresh biscuits for the family on Sundays. I was an adventurous eater, and hardly ate something I didn't like. 

My love of food and creativity has always been a part of my authentic self. I've had to find my way back to those joys. When I accept and allow my authentic self, I build self-respect and self-esteem.

Tips for Building Self-Esteem During Eating Disorder Recovery

These strategies helped me rebuild self-esteem and authenticity while I recovered from BED. On the whole, I believe the most helpful teacher is time. We're all doing the best we can right now, and as time passes, we'll shed old selves for newer, more authentic ones. 

For now, here are some tips to help you focus on building more self-esteem and confidence starting today.

  • Pick one small thing, and practice it -- What is a skill or activity you have always wanted to try? One way you can build confidence is by picking one small thing you want to try and then starting. I decided during recovery that I would learn how to bake bread. Getting good and confident in one small thing helps give you the confidence to try the next small (or big) thing. The goal is to start an upward spiral of confidence-building. It sounds silly, but when I finally made my first successful loaf of bread, I felt like I could accomplish anything.
  • Be still -- Building self-esteem is the process of recognizing the value and beauty of who you are, and who you've always been. For me, it's been an internal, digging-deep process. It may be helpful to save moments in the day to sit still and check in with your internal self and see how you're doing. Learning how to meditate has helped me learn about myself and what I care about, and what I can let go of. 
  • Find your true north -- Your "true north" is a metaphor for your chosen direction in life, or what you want to spend your time doing. As you build internal self-esteem, you might become more familiar with what you love and care about. Your values. These things are your "true north", or what you aim to keep as high priorities in your life. For example, my true north is my family, creativity, and connection. It's helpful to know what guides you, so you can redirect yourself to what is important when you are feeling low.

The purpose of rebuilding internal self-esteem is to build a healthy love and understanding of yourself that does not change with the constant frenzy of the external world. Our bodies will change, and our circumstances will change. That much is certain. As I've heard someone say before, "Life is hard enough already, let's be kind to each other and ourselves." 

I hope you do one thing today that you love to do. Enjoy a little moment for yourself. I'd love to hear how it goes in the comments. 

APA Reference
Parten, E. (2022, April 11). Binge Eating Recovery and Building Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Emma Parten

Connect with Emma on her personal blog.

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