Disordered eating is not about food. It’s about the emotions that lie underneath, the anxiety, the sadness, the lack of confidence and self love.
We use food to deal with those emotions, to escape from them. For me restricting was about focusing on the food, creating something that (I thought) felt good and that I could control so I didn’t have to think about the negative stuff. When I turned to binging it was a way of using eating food to escape from real life.
The only problem is that you can’t choose which emotions to numb. If you try and numb the negative emotions, you’ll numb all the positive emotions too, like happiness and excitement.
When recovering from disordered eating, learning to feel your emotions again is one of the most important steps.
It’s amazing, those first few times you learn to feel again. The feeling of joy flooding through your body. But also it opens you up to all the negative emotions you were trying to avoid.
And they’re strong. Sometimes it can feel hard to breathe, you don’t know what to do, you just want to escape. It seems unfair that the body is equipped to make you feel that way. You don’t know how to deal with these emotions (I lost count of the number of times I just burst into tears in unnecessary situations!).
Learning how to deal with negative emotions is one of the hardest but most integral part of recovery. Even after you’ve recovered your weight, you’re eating normally, and food no longer seems like the enemy then you can still struggle to know what to do with negative emotions.
However, every time I feel down, I remember all of the times that I’ve been able to feel unbelievably happy as a result of letting myself feel again. All the times when something as small as the colour of the sky has made me tingle all over. That is worth ever second of sadness that comes with feeling emotions. And you know what? Feeling sadness has made me feel more human. Emotions make humans human. Sadness is something we all feel, and it can unite us at difficult times. Whilst it is hard to deal with, sadness is a privilege we should never wish, or force, away.
How do you deal with negative emotions?