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Why Food? The Role An Eating Disorder Plays In Helping You Numb

Sometimes I have clients ask me why it is they turn towards or away from food. Why food? Why not something else? Why is it that food, or the absence of food, soothes them in the way that it does?

vancouver eating disorder counsellingWhile there are many different answers to this question and, of course, many different things involved, I thought I would explain to you one of the main reasons. This blog will be short and sweet but I think it will shed some much needed light on these questions.

All of our emotions start roughly in our stomach or gut area. They travel to different places in our body based on what emotion it is (for example sadness travels up into our throat, head and eyes, anger travels to our hands and jaw etc). But they all start and travel through our stomach or gut. Eating disorders and disordered eating is a defense used to numb feeling. So:

With Anorexia, starving oneself and only feeling empty raw hunger pains allows one to feel like they don’t have emotions. Instead of feeling the sadness they feel emptiness, or hunger in their stomach. The emptiness and hunger feel safer (therefore decreasing anxiety) and convince them that they don’t have feelings.

With Binge Eating, consuming large amounts of food helps push the rising feelings down. If one consumes enough they feel a heavy fullness in their stomach which becomes the only feeling or sensation they experience. It is hard to experience the sensation of sadness when your stomach is so full.

With Bulimia one has the stuffing down and fullness sensation of bingeing with the empty feeling that comes with purging. When you throw up your stomach no longer has anything in it so it feels as though you have not only purged the food but the emotions as well.

What do you think? Does this make sense to you? Do you see how your eating disorder plays this role in your life?

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Marrah June 25, 2018, 4:52 am

    This makes total sense. I do not binge much anymore but I find myself “stuffing”, ie. I may stop when I feel full but then later I want more, even though I am not hungry, and I won’t stop until I am on the border of full and stuffed and then I obsess over how I went too far and I am starting to come into awareness of how I focus on the problem of stuffing and focuses on this keeps me from focusing on my real problems. I make food and how I deal with food my problem, when numbing out my emotions is the real problem.

    • kaela June 26, 2018, 12:13 am

      this is really great awareness Marrah, you are absolutely right that is isn’t the food that is the issue but rather the ways you use food to not deal with the painful feelings underneath. Thanks for sharing!

  • Juli April 28, 2021, 10:23 am

    Now I understand when I starve myself I feel empty and numb, I can’t think at all. It’s like I’m drifting in my mind. But when I eat I feel so aware of all the problems in my life. Thankyou for this it was really helpful.

    • kaela May 16, 2021, 5:16 am

      Thank you for being so brave as to try to understand yourself Juli! So happy you found this helpful

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