Find peace with food and overcome disordered eating.
Eating Disorder Therapist
Overcome disordered eating and find peace with food
Getting to the deeper roots of starving, bingeing and food anxiety
by Harriet Frew on November 25th, 2014

​What lies beneath your restriction, purging or bingeing on food in the hidden depths of your psyche? Maybe you have never really considered this and always thought it was about your lack of willpower or shoddy habits that you developed long ago through long working hours; being at home with young children or just not bothering to make time for food.

Today, you might be acutely aware of feelings or thoughts associated with eating or body dislike in the present. And much work can be done in addressing these issues to reverse these behaviour patterns and unhelpful habits through regular eating; addressing the ‘I’ve blown it effect’ and introducing new ways of coping and enhancing self-care. However it can also be valuable to dig deeper and to try and understand the roots of the problem. Often the initial roots might have very little to do with food but more about your experiences in early life; the way you were parented and how safe, secure and loved you felt.

Some behaviour patterns and how do start digging deeper…..

Restriction/dieting – this needs rules, willpower, denial of the body’s needs; your eating is based on ‘shoulds’ and an inner critic rather than listening to your inner voice. You may have become quite adept at ignoring your inner voice. When in a phase of ‘success’, this can bring feelings of empowerment; being in control; a sense of accomplishment and achieving goals. Self-esteem is temporarily boosted whilst in this phase.

Questions to dig deeper:
  • In your early life, do you recognise early figures (eg: parents, teachers, siblings) coming  from a place where you felt criticised/obliged to please and governed by clear rules about what was acceptable? Eg: pressure to achieve academically? Expectations to behave/act in a certain way in the family?
  • If you find this hard to answer, do you feel ‘bad’ for even thinking about this? Sometimes you can feel a sense of betrayal for admitting the short-comings of others, particularly your parents who you may love deeply. I am a firm believer that parents usually operate from the best place that they know (doing the best they can) and intentions are often honourable. However, I know as a parent myself that I don’t always get it right.  Far from it! Give yourself permission to explore this further and see what comes up for you.
  • Do you feel very uncomfortable tuning in to your own needs and wants? Do you fear that these might be unmanageable for you and for others? Does it feel safer to control your food and follow a set of rules? Do you fear the disapproval of others if you truly became yourself?

Bingeing or overeating (short-term) – excitement; sense of freedom; enjoyment; anxiety; rebellion; escape.

When you start to binge, the initial feelings can be quite exhilarating and freeing.  Suddenly, you are free from the shackles of rules and restriction. You can escape to ‘planet binge’ and have some relief and respite from the demands of life for a period of time.

Questions to dig deeper:
  • If you are often ruled by ‘shoulds’ in life (possibly related to early parenting; but now possibly expressed through control of food), you are in a constant battle with the part of you that requires free expression, spontaneity and getting your true needs met.
  • Consider whose ‘shoulds’ you are still holding on to? Some you might want to keep but some you will certainly want to let go of.
  • If you did not have to worry about the opinions of others, what would change? Would you let go of some of your relationships? How about your working life or career? How would you be spending your free time? Do you allow yourself enough breaks and pleasure time or are you on a constant treadmill?
Bingeing or overeating just after the binge – guilt, shame, disgust, contemptuous; ashamed; critical.

Bingeing or overeating can be a safe way to tap into some of your most negative feelings. The parts of yourself (that all of us have) that we keep hidden and secret from other people. And often from ourselves. These feelings can be more tolerable when we link them with food or body image. However, deep down, you may be holding on to guilt or shame from relationships. It might be wholly inappropriate guilt but maybe you have never explored this. Deep down you might be feeling worthless, lonely and not good enough. The feelings experienced after bingeing can almost confirm this. However, these surface feelings stop you getting in touch with your deepest fears and insecurities.

Questions to dig deeper:
  • How do I feel about myself deep down? Do I feel worthy? Loveable? Good enough?
  • What early experiences contribute to this? Did I feel loved and valued as a little girl or boy?

Losing weight – admired; flattered; noticed; pleasing to society; succeeding when others are not.
Gaining weight – loss of willpower; stuck; failing; hopeless; invisible or more visible.

In our Western culture, losing weight and striving for thin is held up as the goal to win. Hence, when you go down this route and achieve ‘success’ then society might offer the approval you have been craving. You feel better whilst things are going ‘well’.
The flip side of course, is that when you ‘fall off the wagon’, you are not a happy bunny. You can feel as though you are failing and being judged for it.

Questions to dig deeper:
  • How much of your worth is based on your body size?
  • What early experiences have contributed to this?
  • How much are you taking on cultural expectations and media bombardment without question?
  • How much are you tuning into your own values?
  • How else can you value yourself apart from your body size and shape?
Please do share below if you feel inspired. I would love to hear from you.
Finding a supportive therapist can be a valuable step in beginning to work on your relationship with food and to start to uncover these deeper issues in a space that is safe. I know personally that this has helped me to reach a point where I have a relaxed and enjoyable relationship with food.

If you feel that my approach might work for you and you would like to get in touch about working with me to explore some of these issues further, I would love to hear from you. I will shortly be starting face-to-face work in Cambridge (New Year) and I continue to work at Weight Matters in London. I also offer Skype and telephone support. I am passionate about helping you to eat all the foods you love; and feel great about your body without disordered eating or dieting.

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Find peace with food and overcome disordered eating.