Karen's Blogs

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Reasons You Won’t Recover from Your Eating Disorder

One of the reasons I eventually was able to overcome my chronic dieting and emotional and overeating was that I’m a tenacious person and not inclined to give up when I set my mind on doing something. So, persistence served me. More importantly, there is no area in my life that I wouldn’t discuss and try to change (with the help of a therapist) in order to become a “normal” eater. I was willing to delve deeply into whatever was wrong in my life (lots!) and take steps to remedy it. Nothing was off limits for discussion and discovery if it would help me stop being a crazy person with food and weight.

One of the barriers clients have is shying away from aspects of their lives that are obviously not working for them. Even talking about those areas makes them squirm. At first they may deny problems, but eventually (if they don’t drop out of therapy first) they begin to nibble at the edges of them. I am patient and understand, but the fact is that you will remain stuck with eating problems if you’re not willing or ready to consider what’s wrong in major areas of your life and find solutions (rather than ignore these issues or simply complain about them).

1. Romantic relationship problems. Clients often are in unsatisfying, unhappy romantic relationships, married or not. Lack of communication, shared values, sex, cuddling, or joint interests prevent them from feel loved and lovable. Arguments keep the tension high and clients turn to eating to stuff down feelings and comfort themselves.

2. Parental problems. Clients have major unresolved conflicts with their parents. Their parents may be alive or dead (for decades), may have grown and become nicer or may still be difficult people. The underlying (usually unconscious) desire to hurt parents and rebel against them is a common motivation for emotional eating. To stop hurting themselves and heal, clients need to resolve old issues.

3. Work problems. Because clients spend a substantial amount of time at work or thinking about it, having a stressful job can impede becoming a “normal” eater. If you’re somewhere you don’t want to be much of your week and turn to food when you’re unhappy, this is a set-up for food problems. You at least need to explore the possibility that job stress is causing your unwanted eating and learn how to cope with it better. Maybe you can stay in your job and cope better—or maybe not.

4. Children problems. Most clients are willing to talk about conflicts with their children, but some have very difficult situations that add stress to their lives. This is often because they want their children to be a certain way, have difficulty seeing them as separate beings, and take what their kids say to and about them way too personally.

There’s often a good deal of enabling, inconsistency, lack of consequence, co-dependence and parental differences going on which worsen the situation.

5. Traumatic or adverse events. There’s a correlation between eating disorders and traumatic or adverse events. Many of my clients were sexually abused or raised by alcoholic, mentally ill, or abusive parents. This took an enormous toll on them. Some were raped or sexually assaulted later in life. We can’t just bury these kinds of events and expect not to have emotional or behavioral repercussions. Exploring and healing from these experiences are part and parcel of eating disorder recovery.

If you see yourself in any of these descriptions, it’s time to get help. Or you may have other ongoing problems I haven’t mentioned. I understand that you’d like to sidestep what’s wrong in your life and simply focus on eating. You’re welcome to do that, but you won’t heal from food problems that way. I guarantee it. Make right what’s wrong with your life and you might be surprised at how your eating and self-care improves.







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