The cyclical imbalance of binging and punishment
Updated: Feb 28, 2021
When I was a teenager, my relationship with food was fraught with conflict. I carried an unhealthy obsession which spilled over into other facets of my life. In a nutshell, I viewed food as an addiction, and perceived exercise as my punishment for binging. Instead of exercise being a celebration of all the things my body could do, I would workout to eviscerate every calorie consumed.
My social life also took a beating. When I wasn't making excuses to not leave my house, I would eat a minuscule amount and would tacitly tell myself that I would pay for it later. When you're in the throes of an eating disorder, you feel anchored and trapped to that lifestyle. It is NOT just a matter of low willpower, but rather, it’s a voice that constantly reminds you that you are not enough. The lack of friends you keep, the sadness that follows you...that voice convinces you eating less and extreme exercise is the answer to all your problems. At first, it’s a welcome friend because usually there’s a reason you come to that place to begin with. Treating the root cause is vital when it comes to any type of disordered eating. At the time, I felt constantly inadequate in a school of indulgence, lust, and popularity to boot. With every compliment and positive reinforcement I received, that inner voice would justify my obsession. From my social life to my sleeping schedule, I was a shell of the positive woman I claimed to be.
Fast forward years later, my relationship with food is a reward, and I view exercise as an ability to showcase my strength, resilience, and grit. When I work hard, I eat foods that will nourish me on a holistic level, without making me feel fatigued and/or lethargic. There are days, of course, when I allow myself to consume more sugar or processed foods. Why? With bouts of deprivation,, failure will inevitably follow, and for every diet there is an equal and opposite binge. Only years later did I realize that my disordered eating was actually 'emotional eating.' In the moment, I would 'soothe' myself with food, only to punish myself an hour later. This was symptomatic of a larger problem and led to a lot of shame and guilt on my end. I turned the shame into appreciation and a greater ability to tune into my body. Now, when I feel that craving for excess food, I listen to what my body is telling me and tap into a greater sense of mindfulness. I utilize new healthy tools (e.g. Yoga!) to recognize any imbalances or patterns...and ultimately, learn to cope in new ways.
Healing is slow and gradual, but is possible. Through rewiring the brain and self-love, moving forward day by day will lead to positive change as well as a higher level of emotional health.