Comparing Past and Present in Binge Eating Disorder Recovery

June 14, 2022 Emma Parten

When we recover from binge eating disorder (BED), or any other type of eating disorder, we are changing our way of being in the world. We change behaviors, our reactions to emotions, our environments, and the way we think about ourselves and compare ourselves to other people. Recovery is a massive internal and external renovation that is difficult to see up close. Sometimes, you can only notice changes when you compare how you feel today versus how you felt many years ago in eating disorder recovery.

I recently saw a photo of myself from when I was in middle school, and I was transported back to the memory of being myself at that time. I remember I was struggling daily to eat "normally," as my friends seemed to. My body felt heavy, foreign, and wrong. I was extremely vigilant about my appearance and focused on how other people presented themselves. 

So much has changed within me since that time, but I still recognize that young girl as myself. We share the same challenges, even though I have made progress in my recovery. I have noticed how much I still compare myself to other people. 

Comparison During Binge Eating Recovery

I keep a note on the wall above my desk that says, "Take a moment to look at how far you've come." My experience of being recovered from an eating disorder fluctuates from day to day, but this note reminds me of how I have changed for the better over time. This is an example of how comparing can be a tool to acknowledge the work and progress you have accomplished. 

Comparison doesn't have to be negative during BED recovery, but you have to be aware of what exactly you are comparing. Are you mainly concerned with the external appearance of yourself and other people around you? Do you notice the changes in how you feel and inhabit your life? 

I imagine this difference as an external versus internal comparison. Here are some examples:

  • External comparison -- Do you notice yourself being jealous or critical of other people's lives, bodies, and possessions? Do you focus on the physical appearance of your body? Do you compare how you look today to how you used to look?
  • Internal comparison -- Do you notice changes in how you feel week to week? Do you recognize when you've made strides in recovery? Do you reflect on how you have grown as a person? Do you admire the strengths of other people in your life and find ways to develop those aspects of yourself?

I split comparison into external and internal categories because I know external comparison leads me to feel inadequate. Internal comparison helps me stay focused on what matters to me, which is growth and self-awareness. I use internal comparison as a tool to observe myself clearly and acknowledge how far I've come. 

How to Deal with Comparison During Eating Disorder Recovery

When you are feeling low while recovering from an eating disorder, how do you refrain from comparing yourself to the people around you?

I recommend building a strong value system to remind yourself of in low moments. Why do you want to recover? What are your core values? Why do you want to let go of old habits? How do negative habits hold you back? You can write down your thoughts to help clarify and strengthen them in your mind. 

The next time you notice yourself externally comparing yourself to someone in a way that makes you feel worse, gently remind yourself why you want to recover. Remind yourself consistently of your "why." You will get better and better at noticing when you need to remind yourself to focus on internal growth and values instead of external attributes.

External comparison can take so much power away from our rich, internal growth. I hope you acknowledge today how you have grown so far on your journey. More growth will come. Also, please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts or suggestions when it comes to comparison and eating disorder recovery.

APA Reference
Parten, E. (2022, June 14). Comparing Past and Present in Binge Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 12 from

Author: Emma Parten

Connect with Emma on her personal blog.

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