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  • Helly Barnes

Be The Hero, Not The Victim: Eating Disorder Recovery

An open journal to a page on which it is handwritten, "Sometimes you have to be your own hero".

“Abandon the idea that you will forever be the victim of the things that have happened to you. Choose to be a victor.” 


Are you the hero or the victim in your story of overcoming an eating disorder?

Life can be tough and for some people it delivers more blows than to others. This can seem unfair and unjust. It can make you feel that life is happening to you and that you don't have any influence over it.

It can leave you with a victim mindset.

And it's easy to adopt a victim mindset when an eating disorder has taken so many good things and opportunities from your life.

But why not be the hero of your story and not the victim, as you finally overcome the eating disorder and determinedly create a future that is freely and authentically yours?

An Eating Disorder Can Create A Victim Mindset

When you have an eating disorder, it can be easy to fall into an angry and blaming mindset, focusing on all the injustices that have impacted on your life.

You might ask "why me?", fixate on the past and what it was that left you, and not someone else, with this powerfully destructive eating disorder.

When you are fixating on the past, looking to blame others, traumatic events or past mistakes, you will stay trapped.

When you are in a victim mindset, your focus is diverted from taking the necessary steps to change your situation and move forward.

The stance of the victim can make you brew resentments, focus on times gone by with anger and hurt and it can stop you from looking to what needs to happen next so that you can heal and grow stronger.

Let's face it, anger, hurt, blame and feeling aggrieved are never helpful emotions to hold onto and find yourself stuck in.

When you are in a victim mindset, you might give yourself the perfect excuse to not take active steps forward towards recovery. It can allow you to remove your own self-responsibility towards healing. The position of victim then becomes your reason to continue in the driven, addicted and eating disordered life, to not eat more or fail to address the behaviours you need to change to overcome the eating disorder.

That's not to say that you are at fault for having fallen into a victim mindset or that it's a weakness you have chosen to adopt. In fact, the "why me?" mindset is a naturally protective brain response.

But it does defer your sense of responsibility to fix things, so protective or not, continuing to play the victim, won't get you to a life of freedom. And the longer you stay in a victim mindset, the more hardwired those reactions become in your brain and the harder it is to move past them.

Ultimately, the harsh truth is that once you realise that you have taken on a victim mindset, it becomes a choice that you make about how you move forward.

Be A Hero, Not A Victim in Eating Disorder Recovery

What if you can choose to be a hero, not a victim, as you embrace the difficult process of eating disorder recovery?

No matter what life has dealt you, it's the mindset you approach those challenges with that will ultimately turn you from a victim, into a victor and the hero of your story.

When you step away from asking "why me?", you start to grow, heal and look to your future with intent, taking responsibility for yourself.

You leave the past where it belongs and you become stronger for it.

Becoming A Victor Is About Perception

You can choose not to be a victim and to become a victor in your own life and future.

You can accept that life might have been a bit (very) sh*t but to use your story to grow, gain strength and skills in resilience, and become mentally strong. It's up to you to recognise and acknowledge the positivity in the world around you (because it's always there) and when those resentments or anger about the past come up, remind yourself, "that was then, this is now".

That doesn't mean that you are forgetting or disregarding the past. The past still makes you who you are and you can grow from it and because of it*.

And to heal, it's often necessary to grieve what has been and what you have lost. Crying can be a cathartic part of the healing process as you stop burying your emotions and start to process them.

There's a difference between grieving and processing pain and staying stuck in blame and anger.

I've certainly done my share of crying, grieving the past and what might have been and that was a painful process I needed to tolerate and go through. But that pain and those tears were different to the other mindset I'd adopted in the years gone by of anger and blame about things that were long gone…

Learning to acknowledge those thoughts and emotions when they came up and choose a different response was a far from perfect but necessary part of letting the eating disorder go.

Ultimately, in overcoming an eating disorder, we all need to accept that as individuals we can start to take responsibility for our own thoughts, behaviours and actions, no matter what came before.

You will find that it will be a messy learning process but like anything, the more self aware you are and the more you work on your own sense of self-empowerment, the more of a very real victor you will be.

What Are The Qualities Of A Hero & How Do You Become One?

It's said that a hero has focus, generosity and courage. They are determined despite setbacks, find allies for support and use all the resources they have to win.

A hero will seek to thrive, not just survive.

As a hero, you can inspire yourself and others. Be the person today who lives by their deepest values and become the hero of your own story.

This doesn't mean denying your past and the fact that life has been hard for you but how you choose to respond to those hardships will make a huge difference to your future life.

Ultimately, the people who are happy and get the most out of this life, are those who, despite traumatic histories, truly become the hero of their own story and move forward.

So, whether you find yourself adopting a victim mindset because of an eating disorder and/or other things that have happened in your life—acknowledge that it does suck (big time) but then choose not to be a victim.

Notice when you are blaming or becoming angry and choose to think and feel differently.

Begin to take greater responsibility for your circumstances today and use the strength and courage that you do have to change them.

Seek support from allies to help you, use all the resources that you can find (and then more) and seek to thrive.

Perhaps it's time to ask yourself,

"How could this eating disorder be an opportunity for my future?

Who can I be without an eating disorder?

Where might being open and curious and oh so brave actually take me to in this world?"

The past is gone. Today is all we have.  Be the hero of today.

As you work to overcome the eating disorder, this might mean that when you notice yourself playing the victim card, you prove to yourself that you are in charge and most definitely not a victim by grabbing the most terrifying foods you can find, curling up on a couch and letting yourself feel how strong you truly are.

To conclude, a quote by Paul Coelho,

"You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure.

It all depends on how you view your life."

Perhaps, one day you might even begin to find some sense of peace, even gratitude for your past, as it enables you to become a person with values, insight and a drive that you might never have found otherwise.

*For those of you who have trauma or intense emotions arising from your past that are making it impossible to move forwards, seeking appropriate therapy from a qualified professional will be essential to work through it and be able to let the eating disorder go.

**For more information on eating disorders and how to overcome one, please don't miss my newly available books,


If you like to listen, as well as (or instead of read!) then this blog post is the transcript of a podcast episode which you will find on my podcast series,

available on this website, all mainstream podcast platforms and on YouTube**


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