Why do eating disorders promote a competitive culture? Can you have the courage to take a stand for yourself out of love rather than shame? What is the mark of holistic and real recovery? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks about replacing competitiveness against others and yourself for self-compassion with Susan Osher.


Susan Osher is the founder and clinical director of Connected Eating, a multi-disciplinary eating disorders treatment center, providing individual counseling, group treatment, an intensive outpatient program as well as training to other health care practitioners. She is a certified eating disorders specialist and supervisor, providing both nutrition and psychotherapy.

Visit Connected Eating and connect on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


  • Eating disorders promote competition
  • “What is the competition for?”
  • Create courage from self-compassion
  • Understand that people are not judging you
  • Recovery

Eating disorders promote competition

Eating disorders can sometimes be created as a person’s maladaptive coping mechanisms in an attempt to help them feel safe, secure, or loveable in their community or society. The ideals of eating disorders are often based on looking a certain way or having a certain body type, and that body type is often about what “not” to look like.
If the goal is to be “thin” then you have to have someone who you’re “thinner than”. (Susan Osher)
Meaning, over time, there can develop a sense of competition to “achieve” the sense of validation or acceptance by looking the “most” correct, according to a set of standards designed by the diet culture industry.

“What is the competition for?”

If you have ever been wrapped up in the blind-chasing of the competition of an eating disorder, did you ever stop to ask yourself, “What is this for?”
Where are you heading? What is it? … Even if [you] reached [your] magic number … then what? You’re actually kind of in hell because then the competitiveness really kicks in with yourself. (Dr. Castagnini)
What is on the other side of achieving this nearly impossible standard? If you are chasing love, acceptance, confidence, or “beauty”, remember that these things all depend on how you see yourself. They can only be improved once you love yourself as you are because you cannot shame yourself into love. Only real, effective, and genuine change can come from a place of love, honesty, and sincerity. It may be tough but rather a tougher love than shame.

Create courage from self-compassion

Notice [yourself] with a lot of compassion and curiosity, right? [ED] is such a fixed mindset [but] people do recover from eating disorders. Most people actually do recover if [they] actually have the courage and are willing to take the risk of challenging it. (Susan Osher)
Understand that this is difficult to do, but have the self-compassion to be gentle with yourself and invested enough to truly give it a try, and take a stand for yourself against the eating-disordered voice and thoughts. It’s going to feel uncomfortable when you go against it but that is a good sign – it signifies growth, and that you are starting to make a good change!

Understand that people are not judging you

I hate to break it to everyone but most people are self-centered, they actually don’t notice you! … You’d think that everyone’s judging you [but] most people aren’t. They’re just doing them. They’re in their lives, they’re doing their world. (Susan Osher)
The people around you are not looking at you as intensely as they are looking at themselves. People are likely worried you are judging them as much as you are judging yourself! But in reality, everyone is too busy with their own lives and wondering what people think of them to actually be thinking about anyone else. So, who are you doing all this harmful work for? Additionally, if there are people that are noticing or judging you, then know this: they are not the right people for you. Whether they are friends or loved ones, people that truly care for you will not judge your worth based on your looks.


That’s a wonderful thing for people to focus on and hear … I love that you brought up connecting with the breath and connecting with the body and [its] motions, the signals. That’s really what it’s about, connecting with ourselves. (Dr. Castagnini)
Love your body, fully and openly. With recovery, you can learn again how to be present and aware of and within yourself. You can learn to regulate your emotions and handle stress in ways that are safe for your mental and physical wellness. You can allow yourself to live a full life without restriction, and in pursuit of nourishment in both food and memories and joy.



  I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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