The Shame around Eating Disorders
Updated: Jul 30, 2019
Addiction and the debilitating control of an eating disorder can run a persons life for years, decades, even a person's entire life span. I should know, I have struggled my entire life with dis-ordered eating and it never goes away.
Sure, it is in 'remission' for a while, sometimes as long as 6 or 8 months at a time, but it always finds a way to sneak back into my life when I am vulnerable, sad, depressed or struggling with something emotional. Eating disorders come in many shapes and sizes, and for each person they can look so different, and to others it can appear that the person doesn't have any 'self control' which is why there is so much shame and guilt around it. There are 3 distinct types of eating disorders, each with their clear 'dictionary' type of definition, but within these 3 disorders can be a plethora of varying degrees and some that combine all 3 at different times in a person's life as well. Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating. For me, it has always been a struggle with binge eating. I have never been one to starve myself, lord knows I have tried, and the using of drugs to remove foods from my body never appealed for a variety of reasons, namely because if it isn't to save your life or help you cope with a debilitating disease, I am highly opposed to any type of pharmaceutical use. So, binge eating became my crutch.
People use food to control a part of their life when they feel other parts are out of control. It is an adaptation to covering up pain, much like drinking, drugs, shopping, gambling, sex addiction, tattoos, piercing, bodybuilding, excessively working out, depriving oneself of social situations to avoid eating... the list goes on. Anything that we do in excess, that becomes something that we feel we need to do because somehow it makes us feel better or helps us to numb out or ignore something that is emotionally uncomfortable, can turn into an addiction. The difference being, whether or not the addiction is healthy or unhealthy, and in some cases it can only be determined if you analyze whether or not you can stop it, refrain from it, or not do or not do this 'thing' and not feel panicked or out of control; basically allow yourself to feel the emotions you may not want to feel.
Now don't get me wrong, my eating disorder isn't like it used to be, and you can reach a level of normalcy within certain addictions (workouts, binge eating, shopping), but it is something that is always there, happy to be a part of your life at the slightest sign of your willingness to bring it back in. In my twenties I could plow through a box of 6 donuts, 2 chocolate bars, bowl of ice cream, bag of chips, 4 pieces of toast all in one sitting without feeling full or satisfied, the mind is a powerful thing when all it wants is to stop the pain. Now I over indulge in having an extra protein bar, or a second plate for dinner, but it's there. It's always there.
So what is at the root of disordered eating? And for that matter, any type of addiction? Pain. Unresolved pain. Pain from childhood trauma, from bad experiences, poor self esteem and body image, the list is wide and varied, and what may affect one person may not faze another, which is why dealing with addiction is so difficult; each person is as unique as a snowflake and so must be the way in which the addiction is dealt with.
Which leads me to sharing how I have managed to deal with my addiction. I know my triggers, and I know what will trigger my binge eating. I'll let you in on a little secret, I am writing this from a friends house who I am visiting this week, and I am being triggered every single day. Know why? Because in my life, in the safety of my home where I can control the foods I bring into my home, my daily routine, my daily food routine, there is a system in place that allows me to live my life feeling healthy, good, satisfied, happy and avoiding the foods that I used to binge on, which now is a trigger for me. The foods that cause the sugar addiction to rear it's head, the foods that aren't healthy but elicit a feeling of comfort. At my friends house there is everything I would never have in my house because it's a trigger for me. The foods I would have binged on decades ago but I removed from my diet because I know it is a slippery slope to stuffing my face with an old friend who's job was to help me avoid something I was going through at the time. And ironically, over the last few months I have been struggling, and being here has me constantly having to say no the voices in my head that are telling me to 'just have a little', that are trying to tell me it's my escape from the turmoil I am currently going through.
But here's the thing...the strong side of me is winning, I won't say I haven't indulged a bit more then I normally would, but you won't find me in a corner with a Halloween candy size bowl of food this time, or any time soon. My health is too important to me, and that has helped me to outweigh the numbing affect of going down a slippery slope of self sabotage. And here's the simple truth, I have no desire to run from my turmoil anymore, it's a part of me that has allowed me to become the woman I never was before, and it's in these times of emotional pain and struggle that I grow, learn, and become even more grounded in who I am, what I want, where I want to go, and how I am going to get there...and binge eating isn't a part of that.
If your'e struggling from an eating disorder, or any addiction, know you aren't alone and there is a way out for you. The 3 biggest pieces of advice I can offer are these:
1. Tell someone you trust and who will support you. You cannot do this alone.
2. Don't run from your emotions. Face them. Daily, over and over again. By running they take on a life of their own and end up controlling your life.
3. Find what works for you. You are as unique as a snowflake and how you start your journey to recovery needs to be the same.
4. Don't shame or beat yourself up. You are more a part of the norm then not. It's okay. You are still loveable, worthy and valued.
~ Monika xo