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Navigating Disordered Eating in Times of Uncertainty

Since the beginning of COVID, many of us have been spending a lot more time at home, and therefore a lot more time closer to the kitchen. If you’re someone who struggles with disordered eating, this increased time spent at home may find you slipping back into old habits when it comes to your relationship with food.

One of the many ways that disordered eating surfaces is through the need for control. There is a sense of chaos and unknown in our current global circumstance, and many of our natural coping mechanisms have been taken away due to social distancing restrictions. Wanting to gain back a sense of control during these uncertain times is a natural and understandable response to stress.

As well, often the root of our unhealthy relationship with food manifests from a need to numb and avoid. In fact, one of the main reasons we use food (and other substances such as alcohol) to numb our feelings is to soothe ourselves. So, at the heart of your desire to binge, purge, or control food intake, is frequently a very loving and compassionate attempt to prevent you from experiencing discomfort.

The problem with numbing our feelings is that it only works temporarily. Eventually, the unwelcomed emotion resurfaces – despite our best efforts to push it down. When this happens, our emotions can bubble to the surface in an explosive and unavoidable way-usually in a circumstance where food has worked to numb or avoid an emotion in the past.

If you are eating to numb pain, avoid emotion, or gain control, a first step can be awareness. Notice the times when you fall back into patterns of disordered eating and what thoughts arise when you do. Invite yourself to try to understand what is fueling the desire to reach for food, and uncover what is at the root of your anger, sadness, and pain. Get curious about the feelings and emotions you’re trying to avoid. It can be helpful to ask yourself this question:

“When I most often want to ( binge, purge, or restrict) and what feelings and emotions come up right before I do?”

The second step is to break the cycle or pattern you have with your current relationship to food. When the urge to binge, purge, or restrict comes up, ask yourself what soothing technique could replace your current behaviour. For example, change your routine and go for a walk or take a long bath, or call a friend when the urge to binge sets in.

Disordered eating is ritual and habitual. Change won’t happen overnight, but by replacing your current method of soothing with a healthier one, lasting changes to your life and coping strategies will occur over time.

The third step is to seek help. Sometimes the thought about talking about our struggles with food can feel very intimidating, especially if you’ve been hiding it for some time. You may even be struggling with feelings of guilt and shame as a result. However, once people get over the initial hurdle about speaking honestly about their challenging relationship with food, most felt a great sense of relief and a positive step forward in making the changes that they’ve been wanting to for a very long time.

With the help of a Registered Counsellor or Psychologist, you can:

  • Develop a healthy relationship with food
  • Create positive emotional mindsets about your body image
  • Challenge the voices in your head creating destructive patterns of eating
  • Learn to decrease stress and develop healthier coping habits
  • Treat your body with kindness and compassion

From where you are standing right now, changing your current relationship with eating may feel impossible.  We have been there and we understand that. Empower yourself to create lasting changes to your current relationship with food and book a consult with one of our counsellors at Kerry Moller & Associates.

Through persistence, determination and support, you can start to live the life you want to live every day.