Eating Disorders and Food Addiction
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”: though this is a nice quote, it lacks a realistic perspective.
This suggests that we have no effect on each other by the words we use, or that we can make ourselves immune to them.
To be honest, the type of person this passage describes probably doesn’t exist.
In fact, this quote was perhaps even written by somebody who was hurt by things others in their life had said, and so they resorted to the ineffective techniques of denial and repression. Though many of us wish it wasn’t so, we are affected by the words of others, especially the words of those closest to us. With the right knowledge and sense of healthy self-worth, we can take in the criticism of others without it tearing us down most of the time, but we all have to be aware just how impactful what we say can be.
As friends and family, we have the potential to help one another reach highest highs, or to drag each other down to lowest lows.
Unfortunately, it is very often the case that eating disorders begin with a hurtful comment from another person who is close to us. A mother or father telling their daughter that she’s fat and needs to lose weight can sometimes trigger that daughter to years of dysfunction.
These problems are preventable, and we have to be careful to let others know why they are valuable, so that they do not value themselves for the wrong reasons. If we do feel someone has a weight problem, there are effective ways of helping them and discussing with them our concerns without shaming and traumatizing them.
Much of our media and culture would have us believe that the physical is what is important and valuable. It is despicable what has happened to the minds of many in our culture and nation, and it is important that we realize just how flawed and wrong these views are.
People are individuals; what gives them worth is what is within. What is inside of us is complex, beautiful, and able to give fulfillment unlike anything that is in the physical world of surface level interests. Relationships must be founded first and foremost upon emotional connections if they are to be truly fulfilling, joyous, and whole.
Though it can be difficult, it is important that we form habits to focus on people from mental, emotional, and spiritual perspectives. The less we focus on the physical, the happier we will be. (While still taking care of ourselves of course) This enables us to treat others with far more kindness and value, as well as feel happy and fulfilled ourselves, having depth to our thoughts as well as genuine connections in our interactions.
What is Body Dysmorphia
Anorexia and bulimia much of the time continue under the illusion of what is referred to as “body dysmorphia”. This is the view within someone’s mind that they are overweight or out of shape when they are not.
For many who struggle with these eating disorders, it does not matter how skinny or how slim they get, they still continue to see someone who is overweight every time they look in the mirror. They will continue to be desperate to lose weight no matter how many pounds they shed.
This is a psychological phenomenon rooted in what we know as shame. Almost all addictions and disorders find their roots in this deeply painful source. Shame festers and develops, defining parts of ourselves that we sometimes are not even aware of. Until an individual can work through their feelings of unworthiness within themselves and change their perspective to what reality is – that they are enough and that they have great value – disorders and addictions will rage on. Of course, a shift of perception in this way is easier said than done.
How to Help Someone with Eating Disorder
For those that observe a friend or family member struggling with eating disorders or body dysmorphia, it is important to understand that this is not something to be taken lightly. The one struggling with the disorder needs to be made aware of their struggle and then compassionately walked along the side of as they journey to recovery.
They need to begin to understand why they think the way they do and how they got here, then face those pains and fears and replace them, developing new ways of thinking about themselves and others. But they should not venture to do this on their own; empathy and love are key components of this process.
Even if the truth is spoken, it can be very difficult for a sufferer of anorexia or bulimia to really see it for themselves. Until they believe it for themselves, it doesn’t matter how many times we tell them the truth. They must be taken through a healing process.
In addition to eating disorders of anorexia and bulimia, there is food addiction. According to recent brain studies, it has been revealed that food is addictive just the same as drugs and pornography are. Salt and sugar are the main triggers in this addiction, but also new chemicals and artificial ingredients have emerged into the food system that create dependency as well.
The same way that a cocaine user snorts lines to get their fix, a food addict consumes donuts, pizza, and fast food to get theirs.
Something that is very unfortunate about this is that unlike many other addictions, food is not something you can quit altogether to become sober. We need it to live for goodness sake! But, through the formation of new habits and lifestyle choices, a food addict can begin to change their preferences to healthy options that give their body the nutrients it is craving.
A food addict genuinely craves sugary and fatty foods, and these cravings can be very difficult to overcome. Nonetheless, it can be done, and has been by many. It requires dedication and motive. But also it requires daily planning and habit formation, along with a personalized understanding of what the stressors and insecurities are in a person’s life that have led to the addiction in the first place.
Our professionals and staff members here at YES are experienced in this process. We understand that eating disorders and food addictions can be very difficult to work through, but with the right approach and a dedicated support team, we believe we can lead you or your loved one to genuine recovery and life-changing self-love.