A lot of people look at eating disorders as an addiction. While they are different, it is easy to see the similarities: life is dictated by either bingeing, purging, exercising or restricting, it impacts your relationships, high anxiety etc.. One of the biggest differences that makes overcoming an eating disorder so challenging is that there is no abstinence model. Nobody can live forever without food. Nor will they live as long as they could if they are constantly binge eating. One of the areas that people get stuck when on their recovery journey is with the anxiety. Food (or the lack of food) is a coping mechanism to deal with the emotions that come up in an individual’s life. It helps them feel in control or numbs them to painful experiences. As with any coping mechanism, when you take it away the person is faced with a lot of anxiety. This is one of the first places I see people struggle. The anxiety is so overwhelming that they feel they can’t handle it and so they either binge, purge or restrict.
Anxiety during recovery is normal and in a lot of ways is healthy. It is your emotional world telling you that you feel threatened, unsafe, or at risk. While in the moment it feels like it will consume you, neither emotion, nor anxiety will kill you. When you have an eating disorder or struggle with disordered eating, anything to do with food or the lack of food will cause anxiety because your eating disorder voice in your head tells you it can’t be trusted and isn’t safe. This isn’t the case. You can have a healthy, nurturing relationship to food that won’t cause harm or obesity.
While I know how impossible this can seem in the moment one of the healthiest, albeit hardest things you can do is challenge the anxiety. Until you face your anxiety and challenge it, either by riding it through (it will go away in time) or by practicing anxiety decreasing techniques, it will forever get in the way of your recovery. It will be challenging to go against the Eating Disorder voice and face the anxiety but by doing just that it will, in time, free you from pain.
Stay tuned for some anxiety decreasing techniques in the next newsletter!