Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's the emotions

Hi Bloggerettes!

Remember how yesterday I said I had a good sesh with my therapist and would talk about it more today? Well here I am, following through on my promise :)
Throughout my recovery, I've been encouraged to love my body no matter what it looked like. I've come to see the follies of dieting and restricting, and hold (at least dieting) in contempt.

We are all beautiful in our own way.

Or so they say.

But in my meeting with my therapist yesterday, we discussed my "buffer zone" (my doctor wants me to be at a slightly higher weight than I am at now in case I lose weight at college) and my fear of gaining weight when I go back to school. I told her that if I were to become overweight, I would feel like a failure. I would have failed to control myself, failed to eat in a moderate and healthy manner, I would probably be failing socially as I'd be too ashamed to go out, failing academically because I would probably feel too depressed to work, and overall falling short of my own expectations.

Then she asked me: What do you think of people who are overweight?

My answer was twofold.

First: I feel sympathy. They are probably dealing with some issue that is causing them great pain and thus they eat emotionally. I feel sad for them.

Second: I feel critical. Many people overeat because they don't know much about nutrition/portion sizes, or else they eat mindlessly (i.e. in front of the TV). Or... They are gluttonous and indulgent.
(do you recognize the ED voice?)

She asked me if I would be able to turn some of that sympathy toward myself if I were ever overweight. I wasn't sure.

But something I have learned from recovery is that weight and physical appearance are never the issue. It's always emotional.

If we want the issues of overeating, under-eating, obesity, or anorexia to be resolved, we need to stop pumping the diet industry full of skinny cow ice creams, and really invest in therapy, counseling, just letting our emotions out. When our emotional selves start healing, the physical part will follow.

Today, our society puts so much focus on escapism. Escape from your hectic life with a cruise through the Greek Islands, with a day at the spa, with escapist literature (Twilight, anyone?), running, food, TV... Forget your stress, your anger, your pain. Leave it all at the door as you buy into the latest diet plan, as you bite into the richest, most indulgent dessert, as you get in the zone and sweat it out in the gym, as you put as much space between you and your chaotic house and fly to Italy for the week.

So yeah, great. You've left it all behind, and now you feel great. Free, open, amazing. Yes, you think, no more stress. My life is wonderful. But at some point, the vacation will come to an end. The gym will close for the night. You'll stop losing weight. You'll turn the last page of that book.

And then what? It's back to reality. Bitter, harsh, repellent reality. Where we have so much work. Where our relationship with our mother is, well, not the greatest. Where our house is a land mine of children's toys and dirty laundry. Where we're so, so afraid... of failing. Of losing the ones we love. Of failing that test. Of losing our job. Of losing our husband. Of... Fill in the blank.

And then we go back to our unhappiness. The pounds we lost from our latest diet start piling back on - and then some. We have to start working overtime again, to save up for the next cruise. We have to go out and buy another book to distract us from our parent's constant fighting. We have to go on another run to get the endorphins, that high. Another massage is required to knead out the latest knots in your back from all the stress.

My point? We can't keep running from our emotions. We can't keep ignoring them, or our behaviors and day-to-day life will continue to be a living hell. This is so, so true with eating disorders and addictions, but it's also true for any negative feelings of pain, sadness, anger, you name it.

So what do we do? We have to face our emotions, head on. Journal about them, sketch, blog, vlog, talk to a therapist, your best friend, whomever. We have to realize that yes, we do feel afraid that we are inadequate in our jobs, and thus we diet to distract ourselves from our insecurities and try to be good enough.

First, recognize the emotion that is eating you up. Do not judge yourself, no matter what the emotion is. Maybe it seems inappropriate, shameful, horrendous. It does not matter. Accept that you feel it. Countless others probably feel it too (yes, that includes your friends and family who seem so 'normal'!)

Then recognize the consequential behavior (restricting, dieting, binging, exercise compulsion, overworking, perfectionism...) you use to ignore the emotion.

Now, express it.

I hope this has been helpful to at least one person.
Ignoring my emotions has certainly been a problem for me, and recognizing, accepting, and dealing with them has been so key for me in my recovery.

Have you been ignoring an emotion? Have you used behaviors to distract yourself?


  1. It's so true what you say, we really can't escape from our emotions I didn't learn this until recovery but It's such a great lesson for everyone to learn so it's great you shared it :)

  2. Yes, I know so many people who tell me "As soon as I do xy and z I'll be happy" and don't realize that it's not the physical things of their messy houses or whatnot that keep them from happiness, it's the emotions that hide from themselves.

    Thank you so much for visiting my blog! I hope you keep reading - I have lots in store for it ;)