As a psychologist who has treated those suffering from eating disorders for many years, one thing has become very clear...eating disorders are not about food.
In my work, I have repeatedly discovered that underneath invasive and negative symptoms related to food and body image is some kind of psychic pain. The psychic pain is vastly different for all individuals and can be related to a myriad of issues: low self esteem, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, unresolved grief or anger, dissatisfaction in relationships and career...and on and on. In most cases, the individual (either subconsciously or consciously) wants to avoid dealing with these very heavy, painful, challenging issues. Why? Because they are hard to face. They might require change, forgiveness or experiencing "negative" feelings like anxiety or depression. The problem is, if we don't step into these feelings, they've got to go somewhere. What better place than projected onto food? Instead of dealing with what is REALLY going on inside of us, we binge eat to numb the emotions only to return to our bodies feeling bloated or empty. This creates a certain kind of chaos in our lives. Once chaos reigns, slowing down and administering self care gets more and more difficult.
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So how do we break the cycle? Start with kindness and compassion for yourself. Focus on what needs attention inside and let the rest fall into place. I say this as if it's easy, and it's not. In fact, it's the hardest thing of all--to sit with what's hurting. If you're feeling alone and need support, a clinical psychologist like myself, can be a good resource to assist you in healing any longstanding feelings around food and body image. Lasting changes come slow and steady, not in lightning bolts. Begin to explore what's inside. Healing old wounds will make you stronger and more available towards the biggest gift life has to offer...You.
Dr. Hillary Goldsher is an expert on the topic of eating disorders and has a private practice in Beverly Hills, CA. Please contact her with additional questions or to continue this important dialogue.