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Understanding Your Anger About Food

You may not realize how angry you are when it comes to food and eating. Although your feelings may be justified, they could be preventing you from becoming a “normal” eater. When you’re stressed or upset and insist that you deserve to eat, your struggle is with deservedness, not food. You’re fighting old battles when you adamantly maintain, “No one can tell me what I should or shouldn’t eat.” You’re stuck in old wounds when you declare, “I shouldn’t eat such and such” or “I know I should eat because I’m hungry” but don’t follow through.

What are you really fighting for or against? Perhaps, as a child, one or both of your parents—intentionally or unintentionally, overtly or covertly—tried to control your natural, normal food choices to the extent that it made you angry, but you couldn’t do much about it because you were dependent on them. Instead, to please them or avoid punishment, you ended up eating foods you didn’t want or quantities that left you stuffed or starving. Because it wasn’t in your best long-term interest to challenge your parent/s, you swallowed your anger and, instead, turned it against yourself. Because you couldn’t safely engage in a struggle with them, you internalized the battle and began warring with yourself. When this happens, one part of you acts like the adult—you must eat this or you can’t eat that—and the other part challenges from the position of the child—I won’t and you can’t make me.

If you’re forced to eat or prevented from eating occasionally as a child, you’ll probably take the guidance in stride. But when there’s a pattern of coercion, you grow into an adult who continues to fight with food—except the battle is within yourself. Your anger from the child within you rails against the adult in you and, more often than not, the child wins, leading to abusing food. If you sense that you have anger left over from childhood wounds over eating, it’s time to examine what they are and heal yourself. Who are you hurting now when you become rigid and defiant over food, when you refuse to eat when you’re hungry or gobble up more than you intended? Sadly, no one but yourself.

The way to stop fueling this dilemma is to recognize it. Listen to how you talk to yourself, especially to your tone; pay attention to your feelings as you think about food; recognize your anger and where it comes from. Making peace with food means not being angry about it or about what or how much you can or cannot eat. The goal is to make choices from a neutral position and what will be beneficial to you food- and otherwise, not from some childhood struggle that’s no longer relevant or winnable.