Today I want to share something that isn’t typically discussed in our culture: disordered eating.
When thinking about eating disorders (EDs), anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge-eating disorder (BED) usually come to mind. But, in reality, much of the population suffers from some form of disordered eating.
Why do I say this? I say this because over eating and frequent dieting are also forms of disordered eating. Frequent phases of deprivation, over indulgence, and reoccurring weight fluctuations are not natural, and are certainly not desirable for our bodies.
So why do we do it? For humans, food is so much more than physical nourishment. Food brings people together, provides comfort, gives immediate gratification, and connects us to the world around us. There are huge social and emotional components.
While I could go on and on about all of the reasons people eat, over eat, and diet, today I want to talk about something specific. A subject that hits home for me. I want to talk about the correlation between adverse life events, stress, and disordered ways of eating.
There are significant links between childhood trauma and disordered eating. People with EDs, including AN, BN, and BED, commonly have one or more experiences of trauma. This could be sexual abuse, physical abuse, physical neglect, emotional abuse, and/or emotional neglect.
It is my belief that many people suffering with forms of disordered eating do not recognize the correlation between their experiences and their behaviors. When people struggle with a negative life event, it is often pushed into the subconscious. Although it may seem dormant, those memories are very much alive, active, and quietly influencing daily thoughts and behaviors.
Although clinical studies have mostly examined the specified EDs mentioned earlier (AN, BN, BED), I want to address the other common irregular eating patterns – the frequent dieters and the over-eaters that suffer with constant discontent in their bodies.
Stress and life-changing events, both past and present, have the ability to impact weight, mood, and natural functions. Many people who frequently diet and/or over-eat suffer with personal struggles that go far beyond their plate. It could be a past memory that lowered their self-esteem, such as a childhood weight issue, distress about their social class, or a negative comment that they adopted to define them. It could also be a current event, such as unemployment, financial stress, a death of a loved one, an accident, or an illness.
The reason I want to discuss this topic is because I am passionate about treating our bodies as a whole unit rather than simply focusing on the obvious and recognizable symptoms. If we ignore the root causes of our prevalent problems, we will enter into a vicious cycle of dis-ease within our bodies. Disease and stress only breeds more disease and stress.
If you are a yo-yo dieter or on a constant quest to find happiness within your body, I want to encourage you to dive further into your past and present situations. Is there something you are holding on to? If so, that may be why you are holding on to those extra pounds.
We are a society that spends so much time seeking out solutions, but how can we seek out solutions when we do not fully understand the problems?
People spend millions of dollars every year on weight loss shakes, fad diet books, magic potions, and all the other “easy fixes”. We turn to alcohol, drugs, tv, food, and other mind numbing habits instead of owning our emotions and tending to them. We are externally focused, when what we really need to do is look inward.
The answers to your ongoing problems will not be solved by a wonderfully marketed product or by ignoring your problems completely. You have the power to take control of your life, but it requires mindfulness and honesty.
My life mission is to help people overcome their personal obstacles and live their best life imaginable. It is easy to blame people, our past, and negative life events for our current circumstances, but things that are easy usually aren’t worth much and blame only gets you so far.
Be daring, be courageous, take ownership of YOUR life, get out of your comfort zone, and do the work for yourself. The beautiful life you will create as a result will be worth the great efforts.
With Love & Gratitude,
Guillaume, S. et al. Associations between adverse childhood experiences and clinical characteristics of eating disorders. Sci. Rep. 6, 35761; doi: 10.1038/srep35761 (2016).
Nierenberg, Cari. “Stress from Negative Life Events Linked to Obesity in Women.” LiveScience, Purch, 14 Nov. 2017, http://www.livescience.com/60936-stress-negative-life-events-obesity.html.