Have you ever said to yourself, “When I lose the weight, then I’ll _________ (fill in the blank), be happy, go for that promotion, love myself, buy those jeans I’ve been eyeing?”
The options are limitless. But, as anyone who has dieted and has achieved their goal weight knows, the feeling of satisfaction is short-lived. That elusive state where your life is dramatically different because you’ve achieved your ideal weight usually doesn’t last very long.
Then, in a panic, you rush straight towards all the foods that you’ve been depriving yourself of because the feeling is still there. You might not know what the feeling is; but, it compels you to do something, whether it’s binge, graze, restrict food or compulsively exercise. Doing this repeatedly can create a vicious cycle that can be impossible to break out of on your own.
What is Disordered Eating?
Disordered eating — whether it’s binging, bulimia, grazing on food all day or anorexia — can develop as a coping mechanism to life’s difficult situations. People with eating disorders are often left to manage their feelings and experiences on their own. Turning to food for emotional comfort can be the only way that they know to cope. The problem is that disordered eating is a temporary solution … at best. It doesn’t address the issue you’re trying to manage, and brings its own host of additional problems.
If you suffer from disordered eating, you can begin to address it by becoming curious about what you’re trying to avoid. You may not know what it is you are trying to escape from. What you do know is that at certain times during the day or night, you find yourself eating, even though you’re not physically hungry.
Do a Body Scan
You can start to understand the underlying process by paying attention to what’s happening in your body when you feel the craving. It might be anxiety, sadness, tightness, emptiness or stress. One way to become more familiar with what’s happening is to do a body scan.
A body scan is simply a way of bringing awareness to the body and scanning for any tension, bodily sensations or feelings. For more instructions on this, there are apps and guided meditations that can act as a guide. Here’s one that is simple and easy to follow.
Help is Available
Becoming aware of the feelings you are trying to soothe with food and the sensations in your body that lead to craving are just the first steps to addressing an eating disorder. Working with a therapist who specializes in disordered eating can be a necessary component on the path towards healthy eating and body image.
Because having an eating disorder often comes with feeling ashamed and hopeless, working with a therapist can be helpful in ending the isolation, bringing insight and a sense of hope.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janet Lee is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern (MFTi) at Well Clinic in San Francisco. Her specialties include individual psychotherapy, couples counseling, child therapy, adolescent and teenager therapy and premarital counseling.
“Whatever the reason, my role is to be a guide and to facilitate a process to help you sort through what feels stuck and unmanageable in your life.”