The answer to these questions is not clear-cut, but one thing is for sure – it is NOT your fault. The line between emotional and binge eating is quite blurry and its not always easy to distinguish between the two.
The use of food for emotional comfort is often normalized in our culture. It’s very common to see TV shows or movies portraying actresses drowning their sorrows after a breakup by eating a tub of ice cream or an entire box of chocolates. That tells us that it’s acceptable to use food to cope with difficult emotions. For some people, that may be effective and not seem problematic, but it’s far more complicated for someone with an eating disorder.
Food has been a source of comfort for as long as I can remember. As a kid, food was something that I could count on to make me feel better. When my class mates criticized my size or the fact that i had short hair or that I loved studying one of the first things I did after class was ask my mom if we could stop for a milkshake or if she could make me a pizza . I knew eating that would only make my class mates pick on me more, but I also knew that for a little while it would bring me comfort and distract me from the sadness I was feeling.
Several years later, my eating disorder began with restrictive tendencies. It became a way for me to control my body and my relationship with food. It was almost like a coping skill for all of the anxiety centered on food and body image struggles. When my eating disorder transitioned into Binge Eating Disorder (BED), I felt as though my relationship with food had returned to emotional comfort.
When I was more actively engaging in my eating disorder, I knew that bingeing wouldn’t solve any of my problems. I knew that after a binged I would feel guilty and ashamed, and it would only make me spiral further into my eating disorder. However, I also knew that I would feel comfort for a short amount of time, and that almost always convinced me that it was worth it.
Last year I decided it was time to break the cycle – i needed to start taking care of me more it wasnt easy for me to get a handle on my life and my food and for years food was my comfort – it started with the horrible mean girls from school and then it went on to my way of dealing with university stress and work stress after that.
Throughout this journey there have been moments where i have wondered, will I ever be able to think of food as just something that tastes good and fuels my body, or will there always be times when I think of using it for emotional comfort? When something has been a coping skill for as long as I can remember, it feels nearly impossible to find something that could replace it entirely.
I’ve tried to focus on other things to find something else that could fill that emotional desire, but nothing has worked as well as food. I have experimented with alternatives such as photography, journaling, watching a favorite movie, etc., but they have never brought the same comfort and security that food does, nor have they felt as though they were consistently as available as food has been.
Today I feel stronger and more stable than I ever have, because I recognise the problem and I actively deal with it every single day of my life. Yet food still has this power over me. Healing the various relationships with yourself is one of the most difficult parts of dealing with emotional eating, but this is a journey and if one day you stray from this journey its fine i will survive. Lately I have noticed a different pattern – when I am angry I eat and when Im sad I refuse food. Emotions affect the way you eat every day. But I am aware of it and I deal with it. And when there are bad days I work out more or I i wake up the next day and I consciously make an effort that today will be a day that I do not turn to food. I feel that I am winning this battle today! Even though it was not easy It has become a pattern and it has become easier.
Did any of this resonate? Would you like to share your story as well?