I was reminded of something again the other day that I hadn’t thought about in awhile. It’s something I’ve largely walked away from but it can, at times, still have it’s lingering claws sunk into me.
Disordered thinking about food and eating.
I guess on some levels, we all grow up with some kind of disordered thinking when it comes to eating and feeding our bodies.
If we’re fortunate we live in a family where balance and health is taught. We may or may not be so fortunate.
Food was always important in our family. Holidays, celebrations, birthdays, big Sunday meals, food was a part of everything.
That’s not inherently, bad. Food is a part of life and a part we should be able to enjoy and have fun with. Food nourishes us and gives us life. Food brings us together.
Unfortunately, food can also become as much of an addictive, powerful, and deadly force in our lives as drugs or alcohol.
My grandmother and mom were amazing cooks. It’s where I learned that nothing compares to homemade baked goods. They taught me how to read recipes and be inventive. I totally acknowledge I learned all I know about food and cooking from them.
Both of them, were also morbidly obese.
More was always better growing up. Clean your plate. Leave nothing behind. Seconds, well, of course you should have them. Eat until you felt your stomach would come through your skin.
That is such a gross feeling. It’s one I haven’t experienced now in so long I can’t tell you… I haven’t eat like that in more years than I can count… and I don’t miss it at all.
I’m not beating up on my family. It’s just the truth of my reality.
It wasn’t till I was a full grown adult that I could really see much more clearly the impact food had on my family… in a negative way. Besides my grandmother and mom having all kinds of health problems from being to fat, there was the emotional aspect of food and eating that I could identify much more clearly.
Food was comfort. Food met unmet emotional needs. Food was love.
I was in a family of overeaters and binging on food was quite common.
Eating disorders at it’s finest.
Thankfully, as I began my health journey and started getting a handle on my weight and where I was heading, I also had eyes that started clearly seeing what I had grown up with thinking it was normal and ok.
It wasn’t. Overeating and binging on food is never ok.
And I’m not talking about, you know, Christmas dinner where you have an extra roll and potatoes. Those are special occasions where you might be tempted to eat a bit more than usual. I’m talking about it as an unhealthy lifestyle.
The other ugly end of the spectrum of course, is not eating or withholding food. Anorexia and bulimia, two major eating disorders wreak as much havoc on people as eating to much food.
All of them, incidentally, are listed as mental illnesses. Did you know that ?
All of them in their own ways, destroy the body. Food is one of the few things we have power over in our lives…what we eat…how we eat.. how much we eat…we have exclusive control. In a world that we might seem to have no power… we have power over our food intake…or lack thereof.
Consider a few of these stats:
One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia. 2-3 American women suffer from bulimia. An additional 10% of women report symptoms consistent with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge disorder eating leaving the numbers at a staggering 75% of American women who endorse some unhealthy thoughts, feelings, or behaviors related to food or their bodies.
Of course these numbers don’t reflect men who suffer from these diseases as well. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders states approximately 8 million Americans suffer with eating disorders. There are indications from other forums that those numbers are actually, higher.
Those are staggering numbers.
Eating disorders — such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder – include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females and males
Now back to my opening line of thoughts that still sink their claws into me…
No, I don’t believe I ever had a full blown eating disorder. Well, I know I didn’t.
Disordered thinking regarding food, absolutely.
There were times, certainly, when I was pretty thin. After all, isn’t that what’s pushed at us?
Be thin. Thinner is better. Except during those times I never viewed myself that way… I didn’t see myself as I really was…mentally I thought I was heavier… but the world saw a very tall thin woman.
I ran the gambit of things growing up and well into adulthood.
Skipping breakfast, not eating till dinner, eating ridiculous small portions that weren’t enough food, pushing a lot of water, chewing gum to try and ignore my hunger, frequent check in’s with the scale, crazy fad diets.. yeah…disordered at its best. Thinking about food all the time or when I could have it (weird how when you are in those places, food can dominate your thinking, especially when you keep yourself hungry all the time) then when I finally allowed myself to eat… of course.. it was inhaled because I was so hungry.
Those thoughts can sometimes still creep in…
Like thinking about the calories of something when I know I need to eat…like after or before a workout. Thankfully, I view food more as fuel for my body and a way to nourish it now days but sometimes I find myself thinking… maybe I don’t need that…
Maybe I should skip a meal.
Maybe I don’t need a pre-snack before a long hard workout.
Ignoring my hunger when I know I need to eat.
Sometimes not eating enough food.
However, those thoughts are rare now, and I think I have an overall healthy attitude with food and keeping it in a proper place in my life. I know eating well not only fuels my daily activities but what I enjoy doing physically. I’ve learned eating three (healthy, nourishing meals) keeps me from being hungry and not thinking about food all day.
Not only that, good nutrition and athletic activities have given me a strong, powerful body that I prefer now over the vague quest to just be “thin”.
Some of you reading this might struggle with that very thing: keeping food in a proper place and relationship for what it is. Maybe you struggle with your perception of yourself.
Perhaps you’ve been there but have it managed now.
Food is, and will be a huge part of our lives. Understanding how we relate to it and the role we allow it to play in our lives is huge.
Again, as I mentioned earlier, it can also be a “power” issue.
The power to choose. The power to withhold. The power to overdo. The power to eat and hide it. The power to secretly eat to much and throw it up.
This can give us a sense of “control” when our worlds might be, or seem, out of control. Unfortunately, for some, these diseases can become what controls their lives.
These are such deep, broad issues that I’ve barely touched on. The reasons why someone struggles with it is wide and varied.
Eating disorders have no economic or social boundaries. Both sexes can struggle with them. Having an awareness of the issue is the first step to wellness and a healthier relationship with food.
For more information or help visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org