Friday, November 16, 2012

Food & Feelings

My therapist recently recommended a book called Food and Feelings to help me sort through my emotional food baggage. Of course, after she told me to only read and do the activities from the first chapter, I read the entire thing in one sitting. 

Two very important points stood out to me in the first chapter. Both give evidence that there is much more to recovering from an eating disorder than simply eating. I was so excited, I thought I would share...

1. "As infants we suffer from two horrifying and mystifying conditions: We're often hungry and hate being left alone for very long. Being held while being fed is something close to divine. For babies it just doesn't get any better. (bad often adults, too!) and that's where feeding and feeling first intersect or fuse. When we're lovingly being held while receiving nourishment, two of our most urgent needs are being gratifyingly met at once; hence, most of us begin to associate feeding with safety, security, closeness, pleasure, and comfort. From then on, the two are inextricably entwined- married for better or worse.

Some babies, however, are not so fortunate. Their parents are out of sync with their feeding needs or fail utterly to meet them. Infants who remain hungry for too long may associate hunger with extreme emotional discomfort and distress. Or they may be handled roughly while fed, a bottle shoved into their tiny mouth, and forced to drink it all whether they are hungry or not. Some babies receive little, if any, positive body contact while being fed. In such cases, feeling and feeding are still coupled, but in a cruel way: Nourishment is associated with punishment and/or literal intrusion, and food may eventually be perceived as discomforting."

2. "In spite of the fact that food is meant to nourish and be savored, if you are a restrictive or rigid non-eater, you may use food to avoid distress or emotional turmoil because the act of saying "No" is such a huge chunk of effort and validation of being in charge of your life. If you're feeling proud and elated about disciplining yourself  to refuse food, there's very little room for upsetting emotion to squeeze into consciousness. Moreover, by rejecting food you're putting your world back in balance as  you offset internal agita with self restraint. The vert act of overpowering your innate under and craving for nourishment is a way of proving to yourself that you are strong and invulnerable."

Food and feelings are almost always, unfortunately, intertwined. They go hand in hand. The good news is, this can be reversed. As I work through this book, hopefully I can figure out how to divorce my feelings from food and develop a healthier relationship between the two.


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