Posted by: VoiceinRecovery | August 2, 2010

ED and BDD

I would like to introduce you all to a new Guest Post by Rebecca Tishman. She is one of Dr. Robyn Silverman’s teen bloggers and I am honored to have her discuss Eating Disorders and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). She also shares her artwork because most of her art are extensions of therapy for her. Below is one of her pieces “Dysmorphia” from her collection called Breaking Distorted Delusions (BDD for short). Thank you Rebecca for being a Voice in Recovery!

Written by: Rebecca Tishman

Ever wondered what it would be like to have no idea what you look like because the image you see of yourself is so far from accurate you don’t know what to believe? For someone with Body Dismorphic Disorder, that is a daily battle. As someone who has looked in the mirror and seen what looks like a monster but heard that I am beautiful, it’s hard to believe some people can see themselves accurately. Not until I realized my eating disorder and BDD were playing tricks on me did I start getting a grasp on what I really looked like. On Christmas Day of 2009 my sister and I conducted a little arts and crafts project that turned out to be eye-opening

What started as a childish Christmas Day arts and crafts project turned into one of my best and most controversial pieces of art to date. The piece now hangs in my therapist’s office and is a conversation piece with each of her clients. Most people know I’m recovering from an eating disorder and know that means I have distorted ideas of what my body truly looks like, but what they don’t realize is just how distorted that view is.

I’ve had a few eye opening experiences recently where I have seen my body as it truly is rather than as my ED and BDD like me to think it is (or at least I think I saw it). I guess I’ll never really know what it looks like to an outsider (since I can’t fully disconnect from my body nor do I want to anymore) but I have been getting closer and it’s been amazing for my mental health.

I used to look in the mirror and see jumbled up images of myself where nothing seemed to fit together properly, body parts stuck out at odd angles, my thighs were just huge blobs holding up my upper half, my chest swallowed me up, and my cheeks looked like I was packing away nuts for the winter. After working tirelessly in and out of therapy to not rely on those images as truth I’ve started to reconnect with what my body really looks like. Want to know how?

·      I’ve stopped looking in the mirror. I don’t avoid seeing my reflection (that’s unhealthy too) but I’ve stopped hunting out mirrors to double check that I didn’t gain weight in the last five minutes. For me, looking became a deliberate action so instead of deciding to see what ED and BDD had me see, I just started glancing as I walked past mirrors. No halting to measure or compare to earlier views. One thing that really helped me was going to dance class and instead of looking at my body as I danced, I looked at my dancing within my body. I was able to see the beauty in each movement when I stopped thinking “my body is too big to do this move” and started thinking this move feels liberating and compliments my talents!

·      I found a body part I actually loved (or at least didn’t hate). If you know you don’t like your thighs don’t look at them in the mirror, silly! I realized in a nutrition appointment that the body part I could look at without scorn or disapproval were my eyes so that’s what I focused on. When I looked in the mirror, I saw my eyes (something I thought was beautiful about myself) rather than looking at all my flaws. If I started to look away towards what I didn’t like, I reminded myself that I thought my eyes were beautiful. I haven’t yet started saying I love my stomach but I’m much closer than I could ever be by focusing on all the things wrong with my body.

·      I acknowledge that what I see isn’t always inaccurate. Don’t look in the mirror and accept what it shows you. I knew I had an eating disorder but I thought I was the only case where I really was fat and wasn’t just distorting my self-image. HA! I went to a nutrition appointment claiming to be more in touch with my real body image than ever before and was told to draw myself. As an aspiring artist I stood with the pen so embarrassed by the drawing I was about to create. And rightly so: it was an awful depiction of reality. My nutritionist traced me and boy was I wrong. If that’s what I thought I looked like when I was “more n tune” what would I have drawn just a few days earlier?

·      I’m fighting like hell! Don’t let ED and BDD rule your life. If you’ve started the recovery process but are still holding on to parts of your ED let them go! I just took a huge step and started to show some skin after more than a year and a half of covering every inch of my body from shoulders on down. I thought I would never show skin again, but as I got ready to take my sweater off ED was in my ear screaming “Don’t you dare!” And that’s when I took the dive. As soon as I took it off, his voice became less than a whisper and I could barely hear him. His voice has been much, much tinier since I decided to kick him in the butt and do the exact opposite of what he wants.

If you have an eating disorder, you also have distorted body image so don’t rely on a mirror, or even your own two eyes; ED is nasty and will trick you any chance he gets. When people say you are gorgeous, I love your legs, you’re so skinny, you’re really pretty, etc. don’t just shrug it off and continue thinking your fat and ugly. Perhaps they are seeing you more accurately than you are because they are disconnected from your emotions and don’t let emotions cloud their judgment of your exterior-interior and exterior are two totally different parts of yourself and there is no reason to let them be reliant on one another.

“I exist. I am a person not an eating disorder and I’m going to fight like hell to keep it that way.”


  1. “I acknowledge that what I see isn’t always inaccurate.”

    I think that this is so vital, because our brains literally play tricks on us (not to mention other sources of influence like culture and parents). I actually just wrote a post on this issue if you’re interested in checking it out:

    Thanks for a beautifully written and honest post! I really enjoyed it.

    • Oh my that’s a typo it’s supposed to say “I acknowledge what I see is not always accurate” since my mind plays tricks on me by showing me inaccurate reflections in the mirror. Hope you still agree with that.
      I just read what you wrote and I love that you break it down to it’s simplest components-how our perceptions of ourselves are important in making our movements. Now that I’m somewhat in touch with my real shape and size I feel more free to move. When I thought I was so much larger than I am, I was embarrassed by the smallest movements because I thought that my body continued to move much longer (example: fat in legs jiggling long after stepping-doesn’t actually happen but I perceived that it did due to my inaccurate schema of who I am)

  2. I really love this. It’s strange to me – in some ways – that the idea of positive body image gets lost in the notion of what healing from an ED means… At least, it has for me. I’ve been in recovery — and been “abstinent” or whatever — for the past 9 years… and yet I’m *just now* starting to work on the distorted notions I have about how I look. This seems bizarre; after all, even the most superficial understanding of EDs defines (sometimes SOLELY) as about appearance (and food rituals.) But I think for many of us, — perhaps because we’ve been able to maintain our weight and follow a meal plan, perhaps because we accept (as a society) that “everyone” hates how they look — the notion of working on how we perceive our bodies gets lost. I’ve been taught to focus on what my body can DO, on who I AM, etc… and all of that has been helpful, but it’s done nothing to heal the shame I feel about my appearance. To do that, I have to work on changing my view of how my body LOOKS, and I really appreciate you addressing that here. To paraphrase a good friend of mine, “Don’t recover because you’ve accepted a false sense of ugliness. Recover because you’ve recognized how gorgeous you truly are.”

  3. It does often get lost; I agree. I feel as though we can come to terms with the fact that we have to be within a certain weight range and have to do certain things to maintain that but forget that we can also like our weight range and like how are bodies look. I remember in treatment I was able to grasp that I had to get used to my body but I didn’t think that I would like it. Just a few days ago I had a moment where I thought “My body looks so different from what I thought it did. I actually kind of like what I’m looking like. I look muscular and strong rather than brittle and week and not fat and flabby. I’m at a healthy weight and feel healthy. I like what I see and feel”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: