To many clients, the goal is to 'stop binging,' break up with diets, or stop thinking about food all the time. I get it - binging (or whatever it is) is uncomfortable, feels totally out of control, and full of shame.
Yet, binging is not a 'bad' thing. A lot of times, it's a really great thing. It's a very clear signal from your body that restriction and deprivation is not working out. It's a sign that something in your life is triggering a very intense emotion where the only emotion is to knock yourself out. Numb yourself from the pain that deep shame often causes. Oftentimes, your body is also seeking a break from your busy schedule or pleasure from living your 'no pain, no gain' lifestyle that it seeks it out from dark, rich chocolate.
If you are taking steps towards healing your relationship with food, stop and give yourself a pat on the back. It means you are genuinely curious about what's going on underneath these surface-level binges - what you want to numb yourself from feeling.
Awareness & Emotions
Awareness is certainly a first step because as Geneen Roth says, "awareness and compulsion cannot co-exist." Yet, even if you're aware of your emotions in the moment and can identify another way to feel them (to heal them), you may still binge. And that is okay.
Emotions can be intense, raw, and can crack your heart open so wide that you feel naked and vulnerable. Vulnerability sounds great when you read about it, but putting yourself out there is a totally different experience.
Disordered eating and eating disorders thrive in secrecy and shame. I'm willing to bet that if you've struggled with any form of disordered eating, it was your little deepest secret.
Sharing your story with even someone close to you is courageous and vulnerable. As Brene Brown shares, after being vulnerable, you may have a "vulnerability hangover" where you just want to go and hide. I certainly can resonate with that.
For me, no one - honestly, no one - knew I was struggling with disordered eating. I started counting calories, restricting my food intake, obsessing about my body, and trying to lose weight to get that perfect life I dreamed of. While body image played a role, it went much deeper than that. It was about perfection, control, and being afraid to speak my truth. I was a shy, sensitive child, and I thought that controlling my food could help me be seen. My sensitivity was a 'weakness' that I had to hide, but now I realize it is one of my biggest gifts that allows me to connect with clients in their most vulnerable moments.
I opened up to a few people and started to heal my relationship with food and my body, with time. I stopped restricting my food intake several years ago, but I realized that my story was still inside of me waiting to be shared.
In the last few years, I've opened up to an incredible amount of self-discovery and the gradual willingness to see ALL parts of myself. Not only what I consider my strengths but also the parts that I keep hidden. So, I journaled about my story, then opened up to share it with all of you.
Through all of this, I had a few thoughts about just grabbing chocolate to numb myself out. To hide from being vulnerable. Yet, eating chocolate may make me feel good temporarily, it would never help me face my fears of showing up and speaking my truth, to my full potential.
I believe you have to 'Feel it to Heal it.' (I'm not sure where that comes from, but I've heard it a few times) It means sitting with those intense, uncomfortable emotions and letting yourself feel them. Yes, it means doing whatever you need to do to give yourself this space - crying, screaming, journaling, or dancing it out - when all you really want to do is restrict or binge.
After a binge, I encourage you to be incredibly gentle with yourself and open up to someone you can trust.
Find that person or two in your life that will sit with you in the hard moments of your life. The one that will be honest, open, and will just be with you. That person has to be okay with vulnerability too because to sit with someone else's emotions can be an intense moment for everyone. It can be a mirror for their own insecurities or shameful parts. Our culture tells us to put on our best faces - our masks - to show up in the world and to hide these insecurities, anxieties, and fears.
If you aren't ready to open up - or don't know who that person may be - use your journal. Writing can be incredibly therapeutic. Find a great therapist or coach to open up to.
As I sit here writing and wrapping up this post, I'm in awe of my ever-growing capability to be vulnerable. While I've personally committed to practicing courage and vulnerability, it doesn't mean I'm fearless or this is easy. Hell no - even now, I have this pit in my stomach of fear. Fear that this is TOO much for people and that I should be offering simple and easy solutions. Yet, I'm publishing this anyways because this fear is a signal for me that people need this. That I need to be vulnerable and speak my truth (again), in order to help others - even if it's just one person. If that's you, thank you for reading.