Many people struggle with disordered eating, or a strained, unhealthy relationship with food. There are many social, emotional, and physiological reasons that explain our eating patterns, but too often we ignore the one that may be the most serious.
Psychologists and psychiatrists treat eating disorders in much the same way as they treat Generalized and Social Anxiety Disorder. It is commonly known that anorexia and bulimia stem from something other than a direct relationship with food.
Disordered eating is something we don’t often think of as being related with anxiety. We often attribute it to lack of willpower, lack of control, or a disgusting character trait that makes us consume foods we aren’t necessarily proud of.
Disordered eating often comes in the form of binge eating, without purging as is characterized in bulimia. Generally, a person becomes disconnected with the eating process as is no longer attuned to his or her own body’s desire to stop eating. Binge eating is coupled with negative feelings and people will binge eat in order to fill emotional holes. The longer this process goes on, the greater the link between food and feeling more self-confident.
In order to challenge this disordered eating a person needs to change their relationship with food. Here are a few steps that a person can take:
Food does not make anxiety better – food may dull the feelings of anxiety, or distract us from it, but it does not eliminate the trigger for anxiety.
Challenge passive eating behaviors – have a very direct relationship with food. When you eat turn the TV off, put down the book or magazine. Eat with only the food and attune yourself to your body and what it is telling you.
Replace your behaviors – if you are starting to feel anxious, do not go to food. Take a walk, call a friend, or write in a journal. Do not use food as your coping mechanism.