This Above All Series

This Above All: Every Day Life v. The Emotional Mind

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I’ve talked about my own experience with binge eating disorder before. I talked about it in the fall when it was triggered by PTSD. oh there she goes again. Remember, you can always stop reading or stop following.

Anyway, moving on.

Eating disorders have huge gray area, but I don’t think many people realize that. What we know to be true sometimes isn’t what we say to ourselves.

A former client of mine told me she started going to therapy because as she put it, once her and I cleaned up the fitness and nutrition part of her life, she realized that there was something more. She explained that when reaches a goal she usually stops and reverts back to bad habits. At this point, she’s lost the 20 pounds she set out to and did so by learning about macro nutrient counting. We calculated her numbers and talked about why those numbers were hers. We talked about how and when to adjust them. She’s now calculated macros for a few people her in life.

Looking at food from different angles changed how she thought about food. But, there’s a but, it also opened her eyes to the relationship she had with food before that she realized was creeping in.

There’s anorexia and there’s bulimia – while no eating disorder is clear cut, those two are very common and have more understanding or at least seem to. This woman explained, she never thought of herself as having disordered eating, but she started to realize she did and does and that there’s a deeper place that it comes from.

There is always more to our behaviors than we think on the surface. Remember that.

I had a check in this morning with a current client and I swear, the ways I help her, I can count the number of ways she teaches me. She is much wiser beyond her years and sometimes she will say something and a light bulb in my head goes off. I think that’s how the relationship should be. Symbiotic.

I had asked her to write about five of her favorite foods and why those were her favorite foods. I’ve talked about food in this way before. I’ve said that experience impacts behavior and memory can be connected to foods we enjoy or hate.

She said thinking about this list was tough. It was harder than she thought because she’s counting macros using a high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate emphasis and when she thinks about the foods she enjoys, they’re good for her. They’re healthy. It’s eggs and avocado. It’s fresh artisan cheeses. It’s protein. She knows these make her feel good. They make her feel energized.

She continued to explain that her personal relationship with food is much more complicated and it’s about control. It’s about stress and coping. It has nothing to do with being fat and lazy. She is not alone in these feelings. These feelings are a million times valid.

In 1990, a document was published by the National Eating Disorder Centre in Toronto, Canada discussing as the first line says “anorexia and bulimia are metaphors of women’s psychological distress in the face of contradictory social expectations.” The document continues to talk about perceptions of dieting and control and how women in particular revolve around these concepts. Control and self-esteem can and are closely connected.

Psychology Today published an article in 2015 that talks about control in eating disorders, even 25 years later. Society hasn’t changed as much as we may think.

I rephrased and asked “What is the difference between the foods you enjoy to eat and the foods you use for control and coping?”

“They’re fundamentally different than things I know to keep me fueled that I enjoy.” The foods she explained are carbohydrates like breads or ice cream or other sweets. They are things that are consumed quickly because you have to take effort to chew vegetables and meats.

This made me think. It’s not that the foods we choose when we are trying to find control are necessarily bad, yes, sometimes they are, but it’s the pressure we put on them.

Eating disorders are gray area and look different for everyone. They can also evolve over time.

I’ve been asked about triggers and how can I have such control over foods that are consideration temptations for others. My answer is, my binging isn’t about restriction. It’s not about feeling compelled to consume large quantities of these foods. I know in my head that they will be there tomorrow, I can stop at a serving or two and call it a day. I also know that physically, these things outside of moderation don’t make me feel good. It’s not guilt, but physical bloating or pain or sickness.

It’s tied to my anxiety and my PTSD and at times manifests differently than I’m expecting. But, it all comes back to one thing. My binging is 100% tied to control. I’ve blacked out during binges and was essentially a body going through motions that she didn’t realize. The last binge I was very much present and that was new for me because I had never experienced a binge where it was more than searching for something to turn off the chemicals. Taking bites of a pepper and a cookie, peanut butter and broccoli. Sugars or salts. Maybe a texture. But never both at the same time.

What this client said made me think about my own history and what impacted it before and what impacts my present.

What we know in every day life is different than what we know when we are in an emotional mind. I know now, that for me to keep calm or in control, I need a process or schedule to feel like I’m at zero. That’s why I get up at the same time every morning and go to bed around the same time every night. That’s why I keep a strict calendar. It’s why I make lists and have dessert at roughly the same time every day. It’s why I excel in a deadline driven setting – I have always excelled in that regard.

That’s actually why I like baking so much. JP’s co-workers truly do benefit.

The process of reading, pre-heating, mixing and pouring for me is relaxing. Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying biology so much, the process in lab puts me in control at first and then I get to sit back and see the reactions, see if my hypothesis is proved right or false.

Health is much more than eating right, whatever that means for you. It’s more than measurements and the scale. Health is a feeling. It’s about the confidence behind the psychology of the decision making process. Saying, I not enjoy what I’m eating, but I feel good about choosing it. It’s also realizing when something throws you through a loop and developing a plan that may help you solve the problem.

Something, something, inspiring.  I want people to think about things differently. I want people to see the world from different angles. It’s not just that there’s an eating disorder in your history or in your present, it’s something much deeper than that. It’s not that you don’t have your shit together, it’s just that sometimes things slip away and regaining control is found in losing control.

The conversation I had this morning with my client made me excited because she was able to start seeing things from different angles. It’s not about failing. Yes, it’s frustrating because she knows what makes her feel good and fueled, but that’s not what drives her own desire to regain superficial control.

Take what you learn from yourself and others and move forward, especially in tough times. Move toward forgiving yourself for not being perfect. Forgiving those around you from wishing that you were perfect. Be kind to yourself because if you can’t do that, then why should others?

Remember, you’re not crazy, it’s just that others aren’t talking about their own issues out loud for you to hear.

<3 Cristina