DIETING AS A COPING MECHANISM
Something that has been on my mind a lot lately is how my attempts at dieting, that eventually lead to my eating disorder, were at the most fundamental level, a coping mechanism.
An attempt to deal with the very real pressures including stress, anxiety, shame and fear of living in a fatphobic diet-culture that teaches us that our value as women is based solely on appearance
But the way I used it to cope was two-fold.
First, much of the stress I experienced came from the reality of how our society treats people based on body size including institutional discrimination from fatphobic doctors , to widespread body shaming from the media and just general judgements and comments from my peers and family.
At the time, I truly believed that the only way to succeed and be loved was to fit the "thin beauty ideal."
But it transcended my desire to fit into society and became my primary coping mechanism for non-weight related issues. I made my body the scapegoat for more complicated emotional needs.
Instead of articulating my feelings of not being good enough, I transferred that on to my cellulite and made that the representation of what I was feeling.
Because my family system was falling apart (I will spare you the details), and I had just moved away for college, I transferred my anxiety onto my body and food in an attempt to “gain control” of something when so much of my life felt very out of control.
There was a time in my life when leaving the house was difficult because I was so insecure and unsure of myself, such that I couldn’t wait to get home to lock myself in my room and just binge the night away.
I needed to numb myself from reality. I needed to check out.
Seeing as I was already anxiety prone, I am not surprised that my lack of tools to cope with life lead to such a damaging relationship with food and my body.
Often the emotional pain or trauma is too much to bare, so we use food to soothe our feelings or fixate on our “weight problem” to create other pain or problems in an attempt distract from the real source of our emotional duress.
And while this might offer reprieve in the short term, disordered relationships with food (diets, ED's, etc.) almost always cause more pain in the long run then they could ever actually alleviate.
For example, our precious awareness is taken up with body monitoring and self-objectification.
Our food obsession expands as we struggle to maintain any weight-loss we may have achieved.
Our physical bodies health suffer (loss of periods, hormone imbalances) from the restriction, bingeing and other disordered eating tendencies.
And out self-esteem takes a hit with each weight cycle we experience as we are taught to see ourselves as the failures.
The more effort we put into shrinking our bodies, the more our life shrinks right along with it.
Eventually, I realized that my coping mechanism of choice, my eating disorder, was ineffective and was causing more pain than it was helping me heal from.
So, I had to get real with myself, and be willing to learn other ways to navigate our weight-biased world and heal all the past trauma and regular stress of life in more self-loving, caring, compassionate and effective ways.
I had to expand my emotional coping toolkit to include things other then food and dieting.
By healing my relationship with food, I was able to heal my relationship with life.
And now I am doing everything I can to heal the culture.