Feelings, food and weight

So, as many of my followers know, I’ve been binge-free for a while. I couldn’t tell you exactly how long, but I’m guessing somewhere in the area of 4 months. Does this mean I’m completely cured of my eating disorder? Well, I will say that I have zero desire to binge anymore. I do still struggle with emotional eating and body image issues sometimes, but even in those areas, I’m a million times better off than I was a year or two ago. So, does this mean I still have an eating disorder? Maybe, maybe not. I think it just means that I’m a normal woman. I’m not sure if the labels are that important at this point.

Along with being a normal woman comes hormones, depending on your stage in life. At this time in my life, hormones tend to hit me pretty hard, and they sometimes make me question all my progress and success – in other words, ED’s voice becomes louder. As I noticed this happening earlier in the month, I came across this quote from one of my favorite bloggers, Isabel Foxen Duke:

“Worrying about food or weight is the ultimate distraction from what’s really going on.”

So true. I love her. So, along with hormones and other life stuff, I’ve found myself doing exactly that – worrying more than usual about food and weight. Not a fun place to be – back in ED’s world inside my head. However, I realized yesterday that’s NOT the problem. My food and weight are fine. I’m doing fine in BED recovery. I’m simply avoiding my OTHER problems by pretending it’s a food or weight issue. I don’t know whether to be happy or unhappy that I’ve figured out one of my mind’s own tricks! 😉

I think it’s a good thing. Sure, sometimes it would be easier to obsess about food or weight instead of dealing with the HARD stuff, the emotions, the anxiety, the stress … real life. But, many months ago when I came to the crossroads where I could choose either life or ED, I chose life! I’m not going back. ED is no longer welcome here.

Next time you’re stressing out about food or weight, consider that it might be a signal that something else is wrong. Don’t let ED distract you from dealing with real problems and life goals. You – and your life – are worth so much more than that! 🙂

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Is binging really about emotions?

The answer to this question is partly yes. Binge eating disorder is a complex disorder with lots of different causes that vary from person to person. Emotions are just one of the contributing causes, but they are a really, really big one. But I hear many BED sufferers saying that their binging has nothing to do with emotions. To this, I have two things for you to think about.

First, consider the possibility that you may not even recognize the emotions triggering the binging and ED thoughts. Compulsive behaviors and addictions are so good at numbing our feelings, and many of us have been doing it nearly our entire lives. If you have struggled with food or other compulsive or addictive behaviors for much of your life, there is a good chance you may be rather out of touch with your emotions. I know I was. Simply identifying and naming emotions was incredibly difficult for me at first, and initially I refused to believe that I was an emotional eater! But not being able to recognize emotions is actually a sign that you probably ARE an emotional eater. This is particularly true of many of us who developed disordered eating or other mental health issues during childhood or teenage years, before we could develop into emotionally mature adults. And it’s OK that it happened that way. It really is. However … it IS up to us to take action to change. It’s not easy, but it can be done. For now, I’ll leave it at that; stay tuned for many more posts about emotional eating in the future. J

Second, for those who still don’t think your binging is emotional at all, consider this. Perhaps there is no particular emotion is triggering your binges. I think that is possible! But at some point during the process, emotions do enter the picture. Whether you’re just starting to pass from normal eating into binge mode or whether you’ve already been binging for quite some time, you’re likely feeling some altered state of emotion – you might think of it as a “high” if you’re feeling intoxicated by the pleasure of eating, or you might think of it as an extreme “low” if you’re feeling guilty and self-punishing while you eat. Or maybe you feel kind of numb, not really feeling anything, especially if you’re watching TV or doing something else to distract you. Fair enough. But EVEN THEN, I argue that emotions come into play. Notice what happens if you try to stop eating, if you tell yourself it’s time to stop, or if you (or someone else) forces yourself to stop before you’re ready … the odds are, you’re going to feel something at that point! It could be intense rage or sadness, or it could be as simple as a feeling of slight anxiety, unease, or disappointment. You’re feeling something difficult because it’s hard to stop eating. And that’s usually why you keep eating, keep binging, even when you know you’re going to eat yourself sick – it’s because you’d rather face the familiar after-binge bloated, guilty and miserable feelings than facing the unfamiliar feelings of discomfort that arise when you try to stop eating. If you were truly feeling no emotion at that point, you would simply stop eating because there is no logical reason to keep eating to the point of sickness.

Of course, I’m not saying that emotions are entirely to blame for binging. They are not; other psychological, biological and social factors are likely involved as well. But I believe the emotions are perhaps the most powerful cause, and the reason they have so much power is because we have been avoiding them all our lives. Still, this is not a hopeless situation … we need not be ruled by negative emotions and compulsive behaviors. By confronting our feelings – ALL of them, even the difficult ones – they lose that all-consuming power over us. This is by no means an easy thing to do, and it takes a lot of work and practice and patience with ourselves. But it sure beats binging! As they say, the worst day in recovery is still better than the BEST day in the life of an eating disorder!! Choose recovery – choose YOU and your life! 🙂

What are your thoughts about the role of feelings in your eating disorder experiences?