Are your food issues about FOOD or about other stuff?
This is my take…
Binging, restricting, food obsessing and guilting ARE all about the food, and that’s the habit that needs to be tackled directly, instead of going around it.
But they are also behaviors that are NOT ABOUT THE FOOD.
Let me explain how this can help your recovery.
First, a story!…
I grew up in South America with unlimited access to empanadas, sopa, rice and beans plus ALWAYS a bowl full of bread on the dinner table. Even though I shared a room with my two sisters and we lived in a small apartment with my familia, we always had food, and regardless the lack of space, I still managed to hoard more bread and butter or stuff extra alfajores in my mouth after dinner, while I washed dishes in the kitchen. If there was something I dreamed about when I was a teenager, was to have my own room with a key just so that I could binge without getting shamed by my sisters who were constantly restricting their food. (I know, SAD, but that was something I longed for…a room of my own just so that I could EAT!).
Anyway, given that I didn’t know other people like me, I thought there was something wrong with me because I wanted to eat all the time! plus I ate over my feelings ( a.k.a “emotional eating.”)
As my disordered eating got worse and worse, I started to think my food issue wasn’t really “about the food” it was about being fundamentally fucked emotionally and using food to survive my life.” 😁 😟 😁 😕
It IS true that I was born a normal eater. I loved running around as a kid, and eating spaghetti with butter, salads, pizza. I also loved sweets and eating dulce de leche from the jar. Then, life got tough and I discovered that focusing on controlling my body and my food (DIETING) combined with binging and “emotional eating” helped me cope with stress, trauma, and anxiety.
When I say “life got tough” I’m talking about being a kid in the Argentine recession and watching my mama cry at the dinner table because we were broke.
Or going to Punk rock shows in Buenos Aires as a queer teenager, with friends who asked strangers for quarters on the train until they had enough for the ticket.
Or not being able to afford those U.S imported air conditioners and melting under a fan, shared with my two sisters, in the summer nights of Buenos Aires.
Or binging on leftover bakery bread that had been thrown out, NOT BECAUSE DUMPSTER DIVING IS COOL but because I felt too bad binging on our household food.
Or getting harrassed and cat-called constantly and violently in a fundamentally machista culture were the word puta (slut-shaming slur) or puto (homophobic slur) was constantly used.
Plus, whenever I saw my tia she would point out I was getting gordita (chubby) and should stop eating sugar. “Switch to sweetener instead!” she would advice me.
So, at some point restricting my food made me feel like I was in control of the only one thing I could control…my body and my food…A long time habit was formed, and later in my late twenties, I continued to struggle with restriction, deprivation, over-exercising, and binges.
So, if I was binging, it was because I had anxiety, wanted to numb my emotions, had past trauma I hadn’t healed, and a list of other things that made it NOT REALLY ABOUT THE FOOD.
So, duh, the solution was to work on being less anxious, more confident, less shy, heal from past trauma, love myself more, make more money, set better boundaries etc. THEN my food issues would finally disappear. 🎉🎉
This makes sense, and to some level, it is true that my food issues were a habit I picked up, that did help me cope with life’s challenges, regardless the terrible consequences this habit caused to my wallet, brain, body, relationship life etc. I also think that finding a good therapist to talk about these life challenges was one of the best things that happened to me.
Twenty self-help books, five haircuts, thirty therapy sessions, one relationship later, the binges hadn’t gone away. Yes I was healing from some past trauma, yes I was setting better boundaries, yes I was feeling less anxious, Yes I was feeling more aware and less ashamed about my constant urges to go hide in the ice-cream bowl…BUT I WAS STILL BINGING.
So I decided to look at things differently. Binging, restricting, food obsessing and guilting ARE all about the food, and that’s the habit that needs to be tackled directly, instead of going around it.
What I didn’t know was that my “emotional eating” was a normal reaction to YEARS of restricting, starving, dieting, binging while feeling guilt plus shame, and feeling deprived around food.
It’s also interesting that emotional eating is a common reactive response for dieters or people who restrict their food, while most “normal” eaters don’t eat emotionally as much, or if they do, they don’t care and move on with their lives. (Think about how a dieter will GO to food when they are stressed, while a “normal” eater usually cannot eat when they are stressed.) If you are interested in the research behind this, Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size book explains what happened when she conducted a study group both with women who tried (another!) diet and women who tried the “Health at Every Size” approach.
So, what happened? I got tired of feeling fundamentally fucked around food.
I made a decision to fix the thing that wasn’t working instead of going around it. I decided to focus on my relationship to food and my body by looking at my mindset around those areas, and how my inner critic ( that voice in my head telling me I fucked up and would lose the only “privilege” I thought I had going on for me, being skinny!) acted out almost every time I put food in my mouth. I started to notice how #ToxicDietMentality and weight stigma affected my thinking and kept me stuck in the compulsive wheel of food issues. Once I got it, I was free. 💪 💜 💪 👏 👏
Finally enough, once I focused solely on the food issues without adding the extra “I’m fundamentally damaged and that’s why I eat” layer, I slowly began getting rid of that old, intimate habit of mine, until my obsessive love-hate relationship with food was replaced with an “I don’t care about you anymore, and I can eat you whenever I want, so DEUCES! (holds two fingers up to the food and runs out…or something like that!)
This didn’t mean all my probs were gone. It just means that I was free from food issues, and could actually focus entirely on growing up and finding diverse coping tools to deal with the rest of my messy, contradictory, wonderful self in this life that we all have, and how I can be an authentic human in it. ( Even on a bad day, I might have 100 different probs BUT FOOD AIN’T ONE OF THEM!) Even better, putting food back in its place once I stopped giving it power opened up LOTS of head space and time in my life to actually be the best version of myself,
(again, even on bad days!)
Although apprehending the reasons why we go to food is a great tool, the real change happened for me once I tackled the #ToxicDietMentality keeping me stuck in the diet-binge cycle.
So, yes, it isn’t ALL about the food. We all sometimes eat emotionally, we are all learning how to cope with the things life throws at us, and that’s a never-ending process. But you are not fundamentally damaged just because you had a lifelong habit of going to food, hiding in food, checking out with food, restricting your food…etc…etc…
But, it IS about the food. And that’s good news! Once you GET how your mentality around food kept you stuck in your old, damaging habits for so long, you can begin to get FREE.
What’s stopping YOU from being free from #ToxicDietMentality?
💓 💓 💙
Also, I help amazing babes like you, who struggle with food issues, end the diet-binge cycle for real. If you want me to coach you through this process, book a free call with me HERE to see if this program is a good match for you.