Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Below are some excerpts from the book “Surviving An Eating Disorder” by Dr. Michele Siegel, Dr. Judith Brisman and Margot Weinshel. My commentary follows:
“Unfortunately, compulsive overeating is not yet taken seriously enough in our culture. The tragic view of compulsive overeaters is that they are lazy and gluttonous, or at best, lacking in willpower of self-control. Thus instead of being treated as though they have a serious problem, they are pushed into diet centers [or onto “lifestyle plans” that are mere diets in disguise], spas or “fat farms” where the focus on food and diet overlook the psychological aspects of this disorder. ”
Amen. And “fat farms” parallel most weight loss “reality” TV programming too, in my estimation. The fat gets demonized and the real culprit – difficulty managing emotions - gets ignored. The bingeing is actually our wizard, a wise man or woman from within, screaming to be heard so our emotional needs can be tended to. The food/weight obsession is a distraction. It's a great barrier - like a curtain - that blocks the wizard from view and muffles her cries. By focusing only on the "curtain" (our struggle with food), the real problem – the issues that drive us to overeat - remain unresolved.
“ … someone with an eating disorder always has a great deal of trouble acknowledging, accepting and enduring many of her own feelings. Sometimes these are feelings that can be considered negative like anger or disappointment. Sometimes they are more tender emotions like affection, longing, and dependence that cause problems.“
Isn't it amazing that strong, positive feelings can trigger a binge? It's like the alcoholic: s/he can drink over losing a marriage or because she just won the lottery. Intense positive emotions can at times feel very uncomfortable to an addict. We are often habituated to feeling most “safe” when numbed out from any strong emotion. Feeling elated, I've found, can seem dangerous. That's because scary thoughts and emotions often follow … like fears of what happens when the good feeling ends, or concern that the happiness isn't deserved or can't be trusted somehow. Feelings of affection or longing can invoke anxiety because some of us fear we're being too weak or too needy ... or maybe there's a dread that the love or good health enjoyed today could disappear tomorrow.
“A focus on body size is a way to convert worry about something inside to something outside. For example, if the concern 'Am I good enough?' becomes 'Am I thin enough?' the sufferer creates an external and measurable scale of her self-worth that offers her a less painful and more comprehensible way to cope with her fears.”
Yes! I have yet to encounter a self-initiated fat-bashing session, or intense binge episode that didn't have “help me” scrawled all over it, with my signature attached. And the “help me” message, from my experience, is a cry to attend to some non-food related need that isn't quite being met.
I offer this advice from a place of experience and relentless practice: Habitually note that your “food/fat obsession” thing is really just a “life pain” thing trying to get your immediate attention. Do that and you've located the key that leads to your escape from food and weight-related psychological imprisonment. When you're having a "life pain" moment, ask the wizard inside what she has to say (Hint: she probably won't prattle on about food or weight). Just listening might curb or eliminate your momentary eating disordered thinking or behavior. At other times it will be good to ask her what you can do that might help with whatever you're feeling.
Shalom and Asante.