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‘The role that identity plays in the recovery of an eating disorder’ by Benjamin David

A few years ago I approached an especially fascinating article written by ‘Ramey Nutrition’, an organisation in America who provides different treatments for a variety of different food-related issues. The treatment that this service provided was rather unorthodox in methodology because it viewed identity (or lack thereof) as being one of the biggest prerequisites to the development of an eating disorder. Scarlett Ramey and her team at the unit have stated that an array of different causes play a part in the discovery of an eating disorder such as Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa. They stated that one of the things that it seen time and time again is a lack of harmony between the sufferer with their identity. According to Ramey Nutrition, sufferers frequently talk of confusion about who they are, what it means to be them and what it is in life they wish to remembered by. The treatment at the unit is especially efficacious, boasting a respectable success rates in patients with eating disorders.

Issues such as ‘identity’ are commonly seen as being psychological issues, but they also have major philosophical implications. What it means to be oneself has been something that has troubled many intellectuals for thousands of years. The things which we love, fear, aspire to, devour, appreciate, long for etc are all constitutes of identity. Memories and psychological traits always play a substantial role in sculpting ones self of identity.

When I developed Anorexia Nervosa at the age of fourteen, I found myself in a certain proclivity towards control, or rather, the need to feel “in-control”. It veered away from a mere conscious desire to an unfamiliar and hidden subconscious one. Despite my issues with

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food and my body image (which were both terribly bad at the time), there was one thing that was vehemently clear which was that I lost my stepping in the world. I completely lost track and found myself overwhelmed with a diffidence over the things which make me unique, the things that define me and the things that my loved ones appreciate and identify as being “me”. I felt like I was trying to (unsuccessfully) define a new me; a me that had considerable contingencies to the feelings and the niche of self-control and a so called “positive body image”. Are these really the things of which define us? Surely, our lives have deeper value in society? This is partly what such unorthodox treatments such as the ones conducted by Ramey Nutrition have examined and explored with patients with great success.

The treatment of an eating disorder needs to be holistic and eclectic and many issues need to be addressed including the physical health of a sufferer, the mental health and nutrition (indeed this is pivotal to the successful treatment of any eating disorder). With that being said, I do believe that an explorative trail within those philosophical issues regarding identity through a course of self-discovery and self-creation with those trained to assist them will be and indeed is essential to the positive formation and association of one’s personal identity and how he/she views the world from his or herself.


'Men Get Eating Disorders Too' is a registered charity in England and Wales no. 1139351.

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