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Eating Disorders Are Not About Control

I have been meeting a lot of interesting people this week, some who are in similar fields and others who have passions of their own but our paths have crossed. When I tell them what I do one of the first things I often hear about is how people who have eating disorders turn to food or restricting as a way to control things. I think in general this is one of the most common beliefs about why people have eating disorders. It is almost as though eating disorders have become synonymous with the need to control.conversations to have in eating disorder recovery

Truthfully I don’t believe this. I believe control has become a catch phrase that is used because it is well known, and more often because it seems to the thing that makes the most sense. When you ask someone about their need to control they say controlling food helps them feel safe in a world that can at times, if not frequently, overwhelm them. Man does that ever make sense. In our environment there aren’t a lot of things we have control over, but what we choose to eat or not eat is completely up to us. The challenge comes when we realize that controlling our food doesn’t actually make work less stressful, relationships less triggering, or life in general more pleasant. Instead what controlling our food does is give us a focus so that we don’t have to focus on feeling those overwhelming or scary feelings. It isn’t about control, it’s about feelings. Not eating your dinner or bingeing on a bag of chips doesn’t change anything, it just gives us a specific focal point to devote our attention to.

So how does this apply to you? I am not here saying that control doesn’t play a role in all of this. All I am saying is that telling yourself that the whole picture is that your eating disorder gives you control is like saying the only reason someone catches the common cold is because they don’t wash their hands well enough

It is important in recovery to have a really honest conversation with yourself. If you want to start by focusing on control then I would encourage you to ask yourself what you feel you really want control over that you don’t currently have? If you are ready to go a step further then take some time and right down how your eating disorder serves you. It works for you in some capacity otherwise you wouldn’t still turn to it, so how and in what way does your eating disorder work for you? What is it protecting you from? What do you feel you really need in order to feel safe, happy and secure in your life? What would you need in order to put your eating disorder out of business?

Let me know in the comment section below. Do you agree or do you feel eating disorders are all about control?

If you have any questions about this, reach out. I am always here to support you.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • aimie July 13, 2014, 4:28 pm

    Kaela, I completely agreed! When I first heard about the link between control and my binge eating disorder, I thought it was so weird. How could I be trying to control things when I feel out of control as I binge eat and stuff food in my face? But as I reflected on my habits and noted my triggers, I realized more and more how I turn to binge eating because other aspects of my life feel out of control. Whether it’s stress at work, home or friends, I realized I’ve unknowingly convinced myself that I’m “winning” over the external factors by controling my food intake. I noice this so much more when my mom would lovingly try to tell me what to eat. Despite her good intentions, it triggers me more to binge as I think “she can’t tell me what to do, she can’t control me. I can do what I want.”
    But looking deeper, I see that binge eating is what I turn towards to numb me of feelings I don’t want to deal with. Whether it’s stress, sadness,loneliness – these have become my triggers.

    Knowing is one thing.. but how do I turn that awareness into action? What do i turn towards instead? I think that’s my struggle now.

  • lisa Freedman July 15, 2014, 8:48 pm

    Hi Kaela…very interesting letter. I would agree with you in that many people believe it is only about control..but i never felt that to be the whole truth.
    Also i am having a hard time with the letter writing you suggested in the last email.I got stared on one and have not been able to finish yet…it is a very hard thing to do…and i am not sure i am doing it right.
    Lisa F

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