It was like I had an “on/off” switch. Only two settings to choose from. I could either eat nothing, or I’d eat everything in sight. It felt like there was no in between. My biggest fear was “Once I start, I’ll never stop eating!”
And so I spent my days trying NOT to eat anything.
But the more I resisted food, the more I obsessed about food.
And the more I believed, “Once I start eating I’ll NEVER stop.”
All I thought about was food. What I was going to eat. And what I couldn’t let myself eat. What I’d eat IF I was “allowed” to eat. Food, food, food… constant thoughts of it filled my brain. The debates were nonstop within head; if I should eat, what I should eat, if I eat x then y will happen… And it was miserable.
I stared at other people’s plates with envy. How could they eat so normally? And why was I so messed up when it came to eating? What was wrong with me?
I was completely oblivious to the truth:
The more I resisted food, the more strongly I wanted it.
Not only was I oblivious to this truth. I also was incorrect in thinking I was unusual. That there was something desperately wrong with me. And that I had this problem with food others could never understand.
I was ashamed. And kept my fears locked deep down inside of me. This only made me feel worse.
Confronting the fear
When I finally hit rock bottom, I knew I couldn’t spend the rest of my life at war with food and my body. There had to be another way to live. Although I was terrified of jumping into the unknown waters of recovery, I knew the hell that staying in the war with food would bring.
It finally became worth it to me to try something new. I needed a change.
So I sought help.
As she handed me the paper she’d scrawled a meal plan on, the friendly dietitian smiled. Like I could just follow the steps and magically be OK. Did she even realize how HARD it was for me to eat?
She couldn’t possibly understand the amount of pressure building within me. Like a river that’s been blocked for decades by a dam, the water was backing up. Ready to overflow. Pressure was building. More and more every single day. One tiny hole in the dam, and the water would overflow. Causing flooding and devastation for miles.
That’s how eating felt. Like the moment I took a bite of something I really liked, I’d never EVER stop taking bites. If I allowed myself one piece of chocolate… I would need to eat ALL the pieces of chocolate. So instead… I didn’t eat any.
How exactly was I just supposed to start eating?
I had the same question years before when I first read Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole. Their theory made sense- but actually trying it felt terrifying.
Later I read Recover from Eating Disorders: The Homeodynamic Recovery Method, Step by Step Guide by Gwyneth Olwyn. My mind was blown open as I began to understand at the root of my problem was anxiety. Olwyn describes an eating disorder as “the brain’s mis-identification of food as a threat.” She uses neuroscience and biology to explain some of the basics behind how anxiety is started and reinforced in our brains.
When I later read Tabitha Farrar’s book: Fear of Weight Gain: What it Is. Why You Have It. How to Rewire it, I recognized similar ideas.
But reading ALL the books in the world could not help me recover. It took DOING things differently to make progress in recovery.
The answer was clear in all the books. All of the blogs I read and podcasts I listened to. In order to heal, I needed to eat. But how?
Overcoming the fear that, “I’ll never stop eating”
The answer is so scary yet also simple. You have to dive in. Jump into the pool. And trust that even though you will go under water, eventually you’ll come back up for air.
The answer lies in realizing you want to eat so much because you’ve been holding yourself back. Restricting food. Denying yourself basic physiological needs. You simply can’t solve a problem the same way it was created.
Feeling out of control with food STARTS with restricting and controlling your food. It can NEVER be solved by restricting or controlling your food.
I can’t promise once you start eating you won’t feel “out of control.” You very likely WILL have tons of anxiety. It may feel like you will never stop eating.
But what I can promise is: the ONLY way to heal that anxiety is by allowing yourself to have food. Over and over again. Bite after bite. Meal after meal. As much as you want. As often as you want. Until your body and brain can finally begin to trust you will feed yourself consistently.
The only way to heal your relationship with food is to allow. And trust. Riding the waves of anxiety. Knowing eventually we will stop feeling so out of control. We will feel full. And it’s safe to eat.