Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Disordered Eating Part 2

 Disorder Eating Part 2: Based on the book "Surviving Disordered Eating"

What are you really hungry for that has nothing to do with food? Eating for non-hunger-related reasons, or not eating when you are hungry, can often be driven by intense—and often hidden—emotional pain, which may have roots that run deep in your heart, mind, and soul. For some reason, such as not eating enough during the day, boredom, or avoiding unhappy relationships, evening and nighttime often trigger some type of disordered eating experience. By tuning into your body and mind, you can move through that time of day without sabotaging your recovery efforts. First, tune into your body. Is it giving you clues that you are truly physically hungry? Some people report physical hunger as feeling like an emptiness in the pit of their stomachs, a rumbly feeling and sound, sharp pains, slight nausea, lightheadedness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and so forth. If your body is giving you your particular signals, then feed it! Fix a portioned snack, and eat it mindfully. If you’re not physically hungry, but you’re feeling weak about fighting an eating disorder impulse, or you are emotionally upset, depressed, or bored, try one of these ideas: wrap up in a soft blanket, meditate on pleasant thoughts, and fall asleep; then wake up proud you didn’t binge and purge. Try getting involved in a creative activity just for the fun of the process, not to create a perfect product. Call a friend. Listen to music. Make a list of how you can help yourself during your hardest time of day, and turn to it when you need to. Oftentimes, underlying disordered eating is the belief that looking “perfect” according to cultural standards will lead to feeling happy, confident, and carefree. Along with that irrational belief might be the hope that if you could do everything in your life perfectly, you would feel calm, cool, and collected, and all your problems would be solved. People who believe that perfection is attainable are often anxious, unhappy, stressed, and lonely, because they are in pursuit of a goal that can never be achieved—unless they come to realize that messiness and imperfection is part of what it means to be perfectly human. Perfectionists often start the day with thoughts like these: “I am going to be good today. I’m not going to eat any bad foods, and I will work out harder than ever.” Because the list of “bad” foods tends to increase as disordered eating and thinking grow stronger, this can severely limit your food choices, often resulting in starvation, which can then lead to eating mindlessly, which can then lead to thoughts like these: “I wanted to be so, so perfect with everything, and now I went and ate some M&Ms. The whole day is ruined! What is wrong with me? I’m so gross; I’m such a pig!” This type of downward spiral can lead to more destructive behaviors and thoughts, and it all began with unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of perfection. Drop the expectation, and you’ll be surprised at how your attitude toward yourself might shift. You might be able to be more loving and helpful and make choices that nourish your body and mind rather than hurt them. Try embracing the concept of good enough. A brain entrapped by disordered eating thoughts wants to focus on the things that don’t go perfectly: no meals are eaten well enough, no clothes look good enough, no progress is fast enough. Good enough is good enough. Many people believe the lies about appearance, self-worth, eating, and diets. If you were raised by parents who themselves have (or had) unhealthy relationships with their bodies and/or food, they may have passed on those beliefs and behaviors to you. Not necessarily because they were trying to hurt you, but because it was all they knew. This is true also of friends, coaches, teachers, and others. In order to please those important people in your life, you may have tried to perfectly conform to the standards they set for you, even though those standards were not healthy ones. Because you are a human, and humans make mistakes (from which they often learn the most), you will likely experience a setback or two as you journey toward health. That is normal, acceptable, and just fine. The important thing is not the setback, but that you pick yourself up and get back on track. Right away. What happened happened. Now, in this moment and the next, you can choose to do the right thing, the loving thing, the healing thing. Take a deep breath, and do it. Remember, life is full of setbacks. Expect them, accept them, learn from them, and move on. A trigger can be a food that for some reason makes it hard for you to be mindful as you eat it. It may activate urges to restrict or binge. Emotional upsets can also trigger the desire to use food or disordered eating behaviors to somehow deal with the difficult feelings, or to numb them. Food and emotions are things you have to face and deal with every single day. Staying in recovery is a matter of how you react when triggered, not whether you are triggered. Also, triggers actually play an important role in your recovery because they provide a chance for you to practice healthy coping skills. You have to be willing to begin, one bite at a time, your healing process. You are the only one that can accept and live out the cure. You can read books, go to therapy, visit a dietician, meet with a mentor, keep doctor appointments, but if you don’t change your thoughts and actions, you will not recover. You will have to honestly face yourself with an attitude of tough love in order to move forward. You will have to face your fears, as well as the consequences of your disordered eating thoughts and behaviors. Stop hiding from the truth, and enjoy the freedom of honesty.