What Even IS the ED Voice 🔉

What is the ED Voice?

For people with eating disorders, there may be specific loud and critical voice related to your thoughts and behaviors around food or exercise. Some people call this the eating disorder voice, others call it the inner critic, or the inner bully; but they all mean the same thing. This voice shouts and drowns out the other parts of your mind, it’s hard to stop it, it’s sensitive and can over react, it creates big emotions and motivation, and it also focuses on the worst case scenario.

Sometimes, it’s there because it is just easier to be critical to yourself than it is to others.


🎙Does this sound familiar?

Maybe you went clothes shopping and didn’t fit into the size that you thought you were. Perhaps you went to a restaurant and the calories were labeled on the menu. Or, maybe you were scrolling on social media and saw some fitspo pop up.


Any of these just made you feel bad and turned your ED voice on loud. Next thing you know, you were worried about what or how you should eat at your next meal, maybe started counting your steps before you allowed yourself to eat, or even felt guilty that you ate that croissant for breakfast.


Suddenly it was like something kicked into gear. You started to obsess over food, numbers, your body, or exercise and started to count or plan everything. This was just your human ability to be rational, but it was only making your ED voice louder as you focused more about food, the way you looked, and became more and more angry at yourself or guilty about the choices you made.


Your ED voice allowed your feelings to take over both your thinking and your urges and ultimately encouraged you to miss a meal, or purge the one you just ate.


😕 But why does the ED voice even exist?


As humans, we have a rational part of the brain that makes us worry, which was developed as we evolved. Unlike other animals, when danger is no longer around, we sometimes still feel threatened. We use our imagination and past memories to scare ourselves even after the physical worries have passed. That’s why animals don’t worry about how they look or about how much they ate in the same way as we might.


For us, we often criticize ourselves for self protection, as a safety strategy. For example, if you’re scared and bitten by a dog, you might be afraid the next time you see a dog. In the same way, we might have wrongly learned that certain foods were “bad”, maybe that we were valued if we were thin, or that food was there to comfort us. Now, we might be afraid of certain foods or of gaining weight or eat emotionally.


Our personal stories and experiences shaped who we are and what we learned. Often our inner critical ED voice is actually rooted in some painful memories of feeling vulnerable, alone, or rejected.


Soon to come: Using Self Compassion to Deal with Your ED voice


Gilbert, P. (2014). The origins and nature of compassion focused therapy. The British journal of clinical psychology, 53 1, 6-41 .