Overeating: The Curtain the Wizard Stands Behind
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.
Member Comments About This Blog Post
Thanks a lot Melly! I really appreciate your feedback.
1772 days ago
I am glad I have found your page/blogs even if it is 3 months after you wrote them! Great stuff!
2052 days ago
You're quite welcome Soulfish! Thanks for taking time to read it and for your kind compliment too :)
2142 days ago
This is a really deep and educational blog, thanks for posting it.
2143 days ago
Wonderfully said! Your determination, your chutzpah, is so admirable and I'm grateful for your shared wisdom. Thank you.
I'm so happy to hear your work with the positive affirmation is helping you so much! It reminds me of some of the CBT work I've done and am still doing. It's so obvious reading your posts that you're passionate and very dedicated to your personal growth. That's really inspiring to me.
Until we "talk" again, take care!
2150 days ago
Emotional probing absolutely helps. It just feels dangerous while we're on the edge. Once we jump in, it becomes a human-size issue.
All of the destructive behaviors that you mention such as prostitution, drug abuse and over-eating are a result of suppressed or repressed feelings. I don't believe that they are chosen consciously. I believe that when we abdicate responsibility for our honest self-exploration our unconscious chooses for us. The feelings have to go somewhere. They never evaporate or disappear. They just take on a new form. It's like Einstein's law of conservation of matter. Nothing ever disappears. It just changes shape.
Also, once we become aware of our feelings, especially "unacceptable" feelings we can make a conscious decision not to carry out the impulse. However, this places US in charge--not our unconscious which usually takes it out on ourselves.
For example, if we admit that we are furious with someone and we have the impulse to do harm, we are in control of not carrying out the impulse. We may even make a conscious decision to move away from the source of the pain.
Right now, the affirmation I am focusing on is "I deserve love, joy and all good things". As simple as it seems, I did a lot of work to get there and initially I could not remember it. It took me a long time and writing it many times to get there. However, I find that it is helping to propel me forward.
Now, excuse me while I meditate for a few minutes before I continue working on my upcoming event. Speak to you soon!!!
2151 days ago
Thanks so much Ladybug! I appreciate you cheering me on.
2151 days ago
Great blog again!
2151 days ago
Thanks so much for expressing your appreciation. That means a lot to me!
" Acknowledging, admitting and feeling our pain is hard enough. Working it through is a lot to ask. We (I mean "I") would rather endure being overweight that acknowledge that there are feelings not being expressed b/c then I would be even more vulnerable. How would I ever get past it?"
This is an exquisite articulation of the fear I and many people I've known experience. The fat and obsessed thinking seems safer than facing feelings directly. My guess is many of us were taught, often indirectly, that emotions are dangerous things, or at the very least, socially precarious and unacceptable. Many of us seem to have come from families where it really was dangerous to express a range of emotions. In my childhood home, expression of strong emotions often met with mockery or physical abuse. Tragically, my case isn't such an exception.
Problem is, we find our way to food or prostitution or gambling or drugs thinking it's less terrifying or harmful for us than having and expressing our feelings. As adults IMO, some of us still have the broken hearts of little children; the hearts of emotionally damaged kids who, as adults, still think we're weak and can't handle emotions. It's easy to fall into the illogical trap that food addiction is safer and more satisfying than learning to get in touch with what's inside.
The difference is, as adults, we have more resources. And we get to be choosy in who we are vulnerable to, and when. We are no longer the powerless the way we were when others made decisions for us. And so, when ready ... if we want to ... we can practice being vulnerable incrementally. We can go into the shallow end and test things out. We can open up emotionally, a little more and more over time ... first to ourselves, and maybe to others who've earned our trust. I use "we" to reflect what seems to be true for me and others I've worked with as an addictions counselor.
"Right now, I am reading Louise Hay's companion book to "You Can Heal Your Life". ... I am finally tackling some of those questions. It is making a big difference, not only to my eating, but to my ability to do my work. However, we are all on the same page here. Kudos to you for your courageous blogging. "
How wonderful that you're on this path of healing and courage. I love that your introspection is helping with eating AND larger areas of your life! I've found that doing this kind of awareness work actually makes me calmer and more centered, though my initial fear was I wouldn't be able to handle the emotional probing. Have you found this that to true for you too? Thanks as always! You input is greatly appreciated :)
2151 days ago
The wisdom in your blog is very clear and rich. Acknowledging, admitting and feeling our pain is hard enough. Working it through is a lot to ask. We (I mean "I") would rather endure being overweight that acknowledge that there are feelings not being expressed b/c then I would be even more vulnerable. How would I ever get past it?
Right now, I am reading Louise Hay's companion book to "You Can Heal Your Life". She asks questions that dig into very sensitive areas (I guess that's why she makes the big bucks).
I am finally tackling some of those questions. It is making a big difference, not only to my eating, but to my ability to do my work. However, we are all on the same page here. Kudos to you for your courageous blogging.
2151 days ago
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