Eating is a relationship, one that can be either nurturing or abusive, supportive or neglectful, nourishing or punishing. Understanding one’s relationship with food is the first step on the road to recovery from an eating disorder. The underlying factors contributing to an eating disorder are deeply complex and typically reflect feelings of shame, insecurity, and fears of intimacy. Often times food is recruited as a person’s only stable relationship and is used to help regulate the emotional problems in human relationships. Emotional eaters seek gratification through food rather than connection with people. After all, food is completely trustworthy and more compliant than any other relationship; it doesn’t abandon, reject, or laugh at us, and it is always available when we say so.
Emotional eating is when you are lonely in the middle of the night and you look for comfort in the refrigerator. Or when you are angry at somebody and you tear into a candy bar rather than biting that person’s head off. When you feel bored and empty and you can’t figure out what to do with yourself so you binge and then make yourself vomit. When you refuse to eat because it gives you a sense of power and control when everything else in your life leaves you feeling powerless. Emotional eating is using food to distract, detour, or deny your inner experience. Emotional eating is the backbone of the compulsive eater, chronic dieter, bulimic, and anorexic. While each uses food differently–gorging, bingeing and purging, or starving–all are using food as a means to soothe, comfort, and keep them company or to punish and hurt themselves for their feelings, or needs, that they deem intolerable.
Healing an eating disorder is about declaring peace with emotional eating and begins in the heart. This means learning other nourishing ways of comforting and soothing yourself and learning to turn to others for nurturing rather than to your secret relationship with food. Feeling at home in your body, treating it as a friendly ally rather than an object to be yelled at or criticized. This has little to do with thinness or fatness and can be achieved by people of all shapes and sizes. This is about reclaiming the beauty of your inner self which has been hidden by your consuming relationship with food. Finally, healing is about hope. It is about cultivating a deeply rich relationship with your inner self. Psychotherapy is a powerful channel for this healing. In therapy you will develop a partnership with another human being who is trained to help you understand the inner reasons why you have made trusting food safer than trusting people.
If you, or someone you love, are struggling with an eating disorder and want help please call, or explore the links below for more options.