Food ‘Takes Up All My Life’ – Want to Be Free

By October 31, 2012

Over the past few months I have begun to realize that I have been suffering with EDNOS for a long time. I was an overweight child and lost a lot of weight when I was a teenager by completely starving myself until I seemed to reach a weight I was happy at. Just under 2 years ago I started a new school and suddenly became very obsessed with weight loss. I completely cleared up my diet, cutting out many food groups, since then I have lost about 3 stone (42 lbs.), made myself anemic (which I am no longer) and I haven’t had a period for a year. I have been to see a nutritionist and know what I need to eat its just doing it that I find hard. I have had a full treatment session with a cognitive behaviour specialist which seemed to temporarily resolve my problems. But within weeks I had unknowingly slipped back into my old damaging behaviour. I am also vegetarian, and I work out quite heavily at the gym despite not having the energy to do so. I am only able to stabilize my weight for a few weeks and then I lose some more. I am now a little underweight, and I know this isn’t healthy and that I will never get my periods back but I just don’t know what to do. When I start eating properly I become petrified I will lose control and become what I was before. At the moment food takes up all my life. It restricts me in all aspects, and I feel that I am just wasting my life away. I want to be free from the demon that holds me but don’t know how too. I am going to university soon and am worried what will become of me when I am left to my own devices, because at the moment my mum is supporting me so much and making sure that I eat three meals a day. I desperately want to change the way I view food and just eat normally but I have no idea as to how to get rid of my fear and obsession. I never skip meals but I just don’t eat enough. It’s my attitude that needs to change, but I don’t know how to change it! I would be grateful if you could offer any advice. – Annabel

 Dear Annabel,

Your submission makes the definition of the word torment come to life.  The dictionary states that torment is to cause severe, usually persistent, or recurrent distress of body or mind. And you write the following:  “…food takes up all my life; It restricts me in all aspects; I want to be free from the demon that holds me.” I feel the distress regarding starting to be trusting about eating yet being tangled up by the fear that you would return to that overweight child of the past.

Collaborating with a nutritionist on creating meal plans that will nourish your body is important. Please keep doing that.  Additionally, I would return to the cognitive behaviourist and do what worked before.  One of the most significant lessons any person in recovery must learn is that we never get above being “triggered”.  Just when you begin to believe you have worked through all that you thought were your issues you will be back to square one.  The reason?  You got “triggered”.  Now, step back out of those behaviors by repeating what has worked in the past.

I think it is important, anytime we are dealing with food, to understand how deep—truly deep—food issues go.  Food nourishes the very frame that gives our soul its physical structure. You are not just behaving unhealthily, you are most likely hurting and in need of deep healing.  It might be helpful for you to spend some time investigating how it was that the little girl of the past was overweight.  What was she (you) doing? How did the weight help?  How did the weight not help her? What was she maybe holding on to?  What need, in your life at that developmental time, perhaps was not met? What were some of her disappointments at that age?

The reason I propose you investigate the past is to learn from it.  You write that you fear you would return to the past “you.”  I encourage you to take the personal time to look at those stages of you that are in the past and ask yourself: “What did I teach myself?  What do I know about that? What do I want to investigate more?” so that you can own all of you.  You must own all of that overweight young girl as well as you do yourself today. These experimental practices help you ground yourself and break away from fear that is not real or necessary.  Consider working with the cognitive behaviorist on what beliefs you took from life at that age that may be stopping you from fully living in the present.

The torment may be increasing or remaining because you are working to control how you look (I can stop EDNOS any time, I am okay, I will get things back to normal, etc.) instead of taking the time to sit with your own self and investigate how you got where you are.