Eating is meant to serve a physical need, to provide energy and keep our bodies functioning like well tuned machines; oh – and savoring a creamy piece of chocolate once in awhile. I doubt that there’s really anyone out there that doesn’t already know this to be true, but the sad reality is that many use destructive eating habits as an emotional crutch, similar to alcohol, drugs or smoking. Sadly, most don’t make the firm connection between the two, seeing it for the compulsion it can become, leading a disordered eating habit.
Disordered eating isn’t just about binging after dinner, eating an entire container of ice cream or downing a big sized candy bar at our desks. There are several eating disorders out there that can be anything from binging to not eating at all and everything in between. These eating irregularities don’t all have a clear cut, diagnosed name like bulimia nervosa to anorexia nervosa either, making treatment challenging unless you seek professional help.
An unhealthy change in eating habits can be brought on by mental disorders like clinical depression, or everyday factors like overwhelming homesickness, significant life changes, financial issues and more. Disordered eating habits that aren’t related to a specific eating disorder can be just as destructive as more serious eating compulsions like anorexia and others, and often include poor body image and low self esteem. If you feel that you or someone you love has an eating compulsion, it’s important to reach out for reputable help like Fine to Fab for consultation.
Are you or someone you love experiencing disordered eating problems?
There are a number of ways to tell if you have (or are leading toward) a disordered eating problem. Usually it’s based on some trigger that causes unusual eating habits. The obvious signs are that it won’t be eating for energy or sustenance, it’ll be eating, or even not eating, in order to get yourself free of the stressful or emotionally empty feelings you’re having. The problem is any eating compulsion will only lead to unhappiness, a loss energy, digestive problems and other health issues as well as depression.
There are some questions you can ask yourself to find out if you are one of the many who have problems with disordered eating, and if treatment is going to be a necessity. First of all, do you eat when you aren’t hungry? Do you skip meals because you’re busy or because it distresses you to eat? Do you find yourself binge eating because of distressful events? Does the person looking back at you in the mirror look overweight but the scale tells you different? If this sounds like you get help now because the farther you go down this road the more dangerous these habits can get.
If you pay attention, you’ll find it fairly easy to tell when it isn’t physical hunger prompting you to eat because you won’t feel a growling sensation in your stomach. Unfortunately you can’t always count on a simple “hungry” feeling to be the real sign of your body requiring sustenance because it can be misleading. Basically if you know that you’ve eaten a healthy portion of food what you’re feeling aren’t really hunger pains. Most of the time hunger starts in the stomach and then goes to your head but with disordered eating you’ll feel it in your head. Compulsive eating issues start with mind clouded with thoughts of food (connected to emotion), causing you to over eat or starve yourself; both extremes are signs of disordered eating. You might even feel regret if you don’t eat a certain food and then wait until later. Don’t let these feelings get to you and if you aren’t able to fend off the thoughts on your own, writing them down can help. Keeping track of your triggers and what causes you to turn to your eating compulsion will help you understand the different kinds of hunger you feel.
Another helpful technique is to take action when you feel a destructive trigger coming on and do something that eases your mind and changes the emotional road you’re heading down. Take a relaxing bubble bath instead. If work is stressing you out, get out and take a brisk walk before or after you have lunch, or end your day with a funny movie and a nice cup of chamomile tea. There are plenty of alternatives you can turn to in order to get more out of life and fight off the negative emotions that lead down a destructive eating path.
Even with stress relieving alternatives in place there will still be a time when the cravings or emotional reactions to negative situations will hit you hard. Emotional eaters often say that they feel powerless when it comes to food and the challenge can almost seem unbearable. If you can’t help yourself then you need to give yourself a time limit. Unhealthy habits, like most negative emotions, pass and luckily they often pass quickly. If you find yourself wanting to fall into your disordered eating habits again, make yourself wait a few minutes first. Putting five to ten minutes between your chaotic habits, from skipping meals to binging, and the actual time you give into your compulsion will begin to make the yearning less intense, if not eliminating it completely. Avoid telling yourself “no you can’t” leads to making something forbidden and much more alluring, but making it a wait simply makes it a bit less desirable and you are more likely to avoid it.
Disordered eating compulsions are suffered by people of all ages from trouble youngsters to college students cramming for finals or adult facing emotional to physical triggers. Disorders include abrupt changes in eating habits from skipping meals to cases of anorexia or bulimia. Occasional changes in eating patterns are to be expected but if you notice them turning to a habit, it’s important to seek help before they turn into destruction behaviors.
Living a healthy, physical and emotional lifestyle might sound like cliché’ advice but it is essential if you ever want to live a happy, fulfilled life. Fortunately, if you are already in deep and feel as if you are controlled by your disorder, whatever it may be, there is help available that can get you from distressed to FINE to FAB. You need to understand that you’re not alone; there’s help out there, offering the support you need. Being in control is an entirely different sort of high and one that won’t leave you filled with regret. Contact FINE to FAB for consultation when you need an experienced shoulder to lean on, and get back in control of your life.
If you need to get a handle on your fear of being not good enough, please reach out. We can help you can get on with your life.