Metaphor: The Language of Eating Disorders

What is a metaphor?

A metaphor is “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.”

Using metaphors in storytelling can be used to help a person suffering with an eating disorder. A story spins characters, events and conclusions-- all of which are used to compare to behaviors of eating disorders. Metaphors provide relatable, concrete pictures for the abstract issues surrounding eating disorders.

Metaphor Therapy in Eating Disorder Treatment

Metaphors can be a mirror that make it easier to understand what is going on emotionally in the mind of someone with an eating disorder. Dr. Anita Johnston, Ai Pono Hawaii’s Clinical Director, Co-Founder, and author of Eating in the Light of the Moon. uses metaphors to help describe eating disorders and help patients make sense of their thoughts and emotions relating to food and eating.

Dr. Johnston explains, “Discovering the deeper meaning of our hunger means learning the language of metaphor. Through the use of metaphor we can begin to see how our most feared or favorite binge foods speak to us and for us.  When we are physically hungry and crave a food, there is no metaphor present. However, when we are physically hungry, and we deny ourselves food or when we are not physically hungry, and we crave a food, we enter the world of metaphor and symbolism.”  

Metaphor therapy at Ai Pono Hawaii

Here at Ai Pono Hawaii, one of the best residential treatment centers for women with eating disorders, we use metaphor therapy as a part of our regualar structured clinical program. This is just one of the methods that are being successfully used in helping our patients.  If you want to learn more about using metaphors in the treatment of eating disorders check out Dr. Anita Johnston’s website.

Auntie Pearl

Staff Contributor



Discovering the deeper meaning of our hunger means learning the language of metaphor