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Food and Self-violence

Occasionally I hear a description of eating, especially bingeing, that seems to my ears to be tinged with violence. This may sound like a harsh word to apply to eating, but it is appropriate. Sometimes a person actually uses the term “violence” to describe her binges; other times I can hear the self-hate and self-destructiveness in her tone.
Stop and think if you are someone who would use violence to describe the tone of your eating. This kind of behavior is never, ever about food, but indicates your mood and feelings about yourself or others. There is cruelty behind it and masochism, perhaps even the desire not only to obliterate your feelings, but yourself. Because of the aggression of your eating, food might as well be a loaded gun: you want to hurt someone and hurt them bad. Unfortunately, that someone may be you or someone close to you.
Violent eating may be difficult to acknowledge. You may feel shame that you are trying to hurt yourself or others with food and/or may not believe that you have such negative and brutal intentions. Rather than be judgmental, why not be curious about your behavior and offer yourself compassion. Remember, self-judgment shuts off discovery (which is what your “normal” eating journey is all about), whereas curiosity and self-acceptance open your mind to insight, understanding, and change.
If you are someone who eats with violence, why might that be? Perhaps you suffered physical, sexual, or emotional harm as a child and internalized how you were treated. Now you visit that cruelty on yourself because you believe you deserve it or because it is familiar behavior. Maybe you were so neglected and disconnected from emotions that you use self-harm (in the same way someone might use cutting) to feel anything at all. Or perhaps you can’t express angry feelings at someone close to you except through violent eating.
Next time you catch yourself eating violently, stop and connect to what you really want to destroy—a terrible event/trauma in childhood, your mother or father who severely restricted your food intake, your school mates who made fun of you because you were fat, siblings or friends who ignored you and left you too much alone, an abusive or unsupportive partner. Allow yourself to explore what you’re feeling and what brought about these painful emotions. Focus on compassion for yourself and tapping into the part of you that wants to get healthier by soothing yourself without food. If you need help in this exploration (personal or professional) get it. Stop the violence, now!