Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Food Is Not the Issue

It's important to recognize that food is not the problem itself. If I'm obsessing about food, fat and dieting, what I'm doing is distracting myself from the real issues I struggle with in my life. As horrible as feeling fat is, as painful as it is to struggle with feeling fat, focusing on feeling fat gives me something tangible to troubled feelings that feel unresolvable. But...it's an illusion.

I often experience "fat attacks". They come on rather suddenly and are intense. They occur when I all of a sudden feel extremely fat, as though I've gained 20 pounds overnight. I know, rationally, that I didn't, but it sure feels that way. When I have a fat attack, this is a signal that something else is going on that's upsetting me. It seems like the source of my misery, but it's only a reflection of something else that is troubling me. If there is something that I don't quite know how to handle comfortably, I begin to focus intensely on my fat and the original problem appears to fade into the background. As bad as it feels to see myself as fat, at least I know what the solution is: lose weight.

Coping with the "real problems" requires skills that I never properly learned and therefore resolving them seems like an impossible task. I am discovering how compulsively overeating helps to distract me from the issues in my life that overwhelm me, that I haven't yet learned how to deal with effectively. And I have been discovering how effectively it distracts me, moment to moment, from the fear of facing things head on, from the pain of past hurts. No wonder it can be so addictive!

The relief, however, is temporary. It doesn't take the stress away, it only distracts me. Although what I'm doing with food distracts me from my sadness, anger or fear, it doesn't help to resolve the problems. In fact, it makes them worse. The stress worsens, the ED increases and the real issues never do get resolved.