Feeding Your Emotional Wellness

For some people, eating can trigger severe emotional trauma. For them, a preoccupation with food and the way they perceive their body shape becomes an unhealthy obsession. Most eating disorders stem from emotional unwellness and that can lead to serious physical problems.

Low self esteem – One of the most common factors behind eating disorders is low self-esteem. Embedded within this belief system is the idea that if we were thin and attractive, life would be perfect and we wouldn’t have these negative feelings. Of course, in most cases, the cause of low self-esteem is buried in the subconscious and usually stems from an event in the past. Yet these feelings can lead to sufferers avoiding exercise and social activities because of their body perception, further aggravating the issue.

Feeling good about who you are is at the core of healthy emotional wellness. That means self-acceptance, faults and all. Everyone has bodily flaws: some people just have more difficulty than others accepting those flaws.

Societal pressure – We are constantly bombarded with images of the perfect body in the media. TV, glossy magazines and billboard advertisements all remind us of what we’re not and what we could be. For some, the belief that you have to obtain and maintain unrealistic body perfection to be attractive to a potential partner, or ensure your current partner stays with you, leads to body shame. The pressure can be intense and can only lead to emotional turmoil, which ironically, also can lead to comfort food cravings, making things even worse.

Feeling helpless – When you feel powerless about a situation, do you turn to food? This can happen due to major life event, such as the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, loss of employment or having to relocate. Because you have no control over a situation, food becomes a perceived way of taking some degree of control back. In the same way, some people comfort-eat and use food as a coping mechanism to help them feel like they’re still in control when, in fact, the reality is the opposite. After bingeing or purging, feelings of shame and guilt compound the sense of helplessness.

Emotional disorders – Eating disorders are frequently associated with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and even drug addiction. In fact, almost 50% of all eating disorders are linked to depression. All of these conditions can lead to bingeing, purging, self-starvation or simply eating the wrong types of food, which can lead to malnutrition.
Eating disorders generally require professional help, as the sufferer isn’t always aware they have a problem. In cases like this, it’s up to friends and family to step in and make sure the individual gets the care they need.

Getting help – There is no shame in having an eating disorder and you certainly aren’t alone. It’s thought that nearly one in ten people seek treatment for an eating disorder at some stage but many cases go unreported.

Break the cycle – Most eating disorders are cyclical. Treating them is all about breaking the habit. Try to identify what factors trigger the emotional response that leads to an episode. If you can do that, you’re one step closer to finding a solution.

Do something else instead – Once you’re aware of the stimuli that causes an episode, find ways to avoid it. What makes that feeling go away? It might be as simple as going for a walk or engaging in a favourite pastime.

Sharing is caring – A cure for the ‘shame’ that comes as a result of a food disorder is communicating how you feel with others. While shame thrives on silence and secrecy, sharing is the opposite. Share the burden by talking to someone.

Get to the root of the problem – Deep-seated emotional problems need professional help. Don’t be afraid to ask. If someone close to you appears to be experiencing an eating disorder, talk to them. They may not even be aware they have a problem.

The path to recovery can be challenging when the idea that thinness equals acceptance and love is engrained in a person’s psyche. But it’s only by working to remove the underlying causes and belief systems that cause unhealthy eating patterns that you can start to feel good about yourself and begin to enjoy food again.

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