Is What I’m Experiencing Emotionally Linked to My Change In Diet?

By November 19, 2012

For several years, I’ve struggled with disordered eating and, during this time, my eating patterns have fluctuated pretty randomly. I often adapt to situations in which I must eat in an attempt to hide my struggle and then purge, restrict, etc. in order to compensate when I am again “free” to determine what and when I eat. For the past two months, I’ve been overseas in a pretty controlled environment. I am not able to determine the content and frequency of my meals and I don’t have as many opportunities to compensate for all of the food I’ve been eating. I’ve noticed that I get full really quickly and it’s tough to finish a full meal, let alone three a day. I also find myself a little tired, moody and on edge emotionally; getting overwhelmed in situations that normally wouldn’t phase me. I guess I’m just wondering if what I’m experiencing emotionally may be linked to my change in diet…it this a normal reaction? I think that this time will be good for me. Being forced to eat a more consistent diet may be what I need to return to a degree of normalcy that I have not had in awhile. I would, however, like to do what I can to control what I am experiencing emotionally. I would really appreciate any guidance that you have to offer. Thanks. – anonymous

Dear anonymous,

Since there is not a significant or detailed amount of information in your question about the nutritional makeup of your diet, I am going to respond to the question of your mood/emotions and assume that the choices in your new environment are varied, representative of the major food groups, and support growth and development needs.

You describe very openly that you perceive you have struggled with disordered eating for several years. Additionally, you write that you were able to “adapt to situations” and play with what you were eating, how much you were eating, and whether or not you would keep it in your system or force it to leave. Your email reads as if you were able to spend a fair amount of energy and time on food. Now, you reside in an externally controlled environment. It sounds as if the institution is deciding what is served and when it is served. And a part of you surely must panic about this loss of control.

In the past you were able to play with food in such a way that it helped you cope. Most likely, you were not as aware of what you were feeling internally because you spent the greatest amount of your personal energy adapting. I imagine you have fewer opportunities now to “adapt” and “control” or pull back in the new setting. It sounds as if you are having to respond to and exist in a structure that will challenge your former coping mechanisms.

The changes you’re experiencing (mood swings and tiredness) may be a sign that you are stressed with the transition to the new environment. Please know there is no reason to be alone. Writing this question and submitting it to the web site is an excellent step. Next, I recommend you consider finding a support group near you or contacting a counselor who can assist you with understanding your own emotions and needs. If you are unable to find in-person support nearby, you might consider ordering materials that will help you feel safe and understood in the meantime. A few that I recommend are Breaking Free by Beth Moore, and Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole. But please do consider finding someone to talk to. Counseling is an important step required for any recovery journey.