The journey to recovery from an eating disorder can often feel like a battle between two contrasting selves: the Eating Disorder (ED) Self and the Empowered, Healthy Self. The concept of the ED Self and Healthy Self was first introduced to me by eating disorders expert Carolyn Costin, M.A. M.ED. MFT. in her book ‘8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder‘, co-authored by Gwen Schubert Grabb. This concept has proven to be a helpful tool for myself and the clients I support today as a CCI-Certified Eating Disorder Recovery Coach. In this blog post, we explore the tug-of-war between these two aspects of identity and introduce a powerful ally in this struggle—your core values.

Understanding Your Two Selves

The first crucial step in your recovery journey is acknowledging that these two distinct selves exist within you. One, fueled by the eating disorder, thrives on limitations, rules, and fears about food, body image, and exercise. This voice might sound like it’s offering control, but the price is your emotional and physical well-being. On the flip side is your Empowered, Healthy Self, which desires authentic happiness, connection, and fulfilling experiences. Recognizing the distinction between these two selves is vital for making choices aligned with your true, empowered self.

Core Values as Your North Star

Here’s where core values come into play. These are the beliefs and principles that are most important to you and usually, your ED Self is not in alignment with these values. Perhaps one of your core values is ‘connection,’ yet the ED voice urges you to isolate, thereby causing a disconnect with your true values. Or maybe ‘health’ is a core value, but following the rules of the ED compromises your physical and mental health. Your core values often reflect the deepest aspects of your Empowered, Healthy Self. Using these values as your guide can provide clarity in moments of struggle, acting like a North Star pointing you in the direction your true self wants to go.

Listening to Your Empowered, Healthy Self

The ED voice is often loud and persistent, making it challenging to hear the quiet wisdom of your empowered, healthy self. Mindfulness can be especially useful here, allowing you to sift through your thoughts and identify which ‘self’ is speaking. Activities that align with your core values and nourish your spirit can also help amplify the voice of your empowered self. This could be anything from nature walks that bring a sense of peace, to engaging in community service that fulfills your value of ‘compassion.’

Opposite Action for Empowerment

When you’re grappling with the ED voice, consider taking an opposite action—a choice that directly contradicts the eating disorder’s command. This is a powerful technique because it not only defies the harmful cycle but is usually in line with your core values, strengthening your Empowered, Healthy Self. For example, if the ED voice tells you to skip a meal, and one of your core values is ‘health,’ then the opposite action would be to nourish yourself. Each time you engage in opposite action, you empower the healthier aspect of your identity to take the lead.

The Ongoing Journey

Recovery is a non-linear journey full of highs and lows. But every step you take towards aligning with your empowered, healthy self and your core values is a step toward a life of freedom and fulfillment. You’re not alone in this journey—share your experiences, seek support, and let’s empower each other towards holistic well-being.


The content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The information is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental health provider, or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or mental health concern.

This blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, medical or psychiatric advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your healthcare routine.

If you are in a crisis or think you may have a medical or mental health emergency, seek immediate medical attention or call emergency services right away.

Navigating the Path to Recovery: Core Values and the Dichotomy of Self

October 15, 2023

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As coaches, we are not licensed health or mental health practitioners and do not take the place of such, thus we cannot provide medical, nutritional, psychological or other services designated for practice by a licensed professional, provide treatment, or give professional advice. If you are seeking a diagnosis or treatment for a physical or mental health concern, please seek advice from a licensed clinician or physician. The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only. Nothing contained in this site is or should be considered or used as a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment.