“I just want to lose weight”.
If you’re struggling with binge eating you might hear yourself say that a lot. Sometimes it can feel like the extended dance mix is playing on a loop in your head with repeated choruses of “I hate myself, I’m so disgusting”.
With such conscious thoughts, it’s easy to believe that all you want is just to lose weight and if you could do that (ideally instantly) then everything would be OK.
However, while there may be a part of you that really “just wants to lose weight”, there may be another part that really doesn’t. And while the part that wants to lose weight is very well known to you, the part that doesn’t can be completely unfamiliar.
The thought of changing your eating behaviour can be terrifying.
It’s often a struggle to believe that you can feel conflicted about changing your eating behaviour, but it happens a lot.
You can be doing really well making peace with food when bam! you’re back to bingeing quicker than you can say “where are my car keys? I’ll just pop to the all-night garage”.
While relapse is a perfectly normal part of recovery, these episodes go beyond a bit of overeating or occasionally reaching for food when you’re not hungry. It feels like something else is going on here – some subconscious self-sabotage at work.
So why might you be conflicted about resolving your issues with food?
It’s a really good question to ask yourself. Does anything come to mind? Is there a small voice inside you trying to get your attention?
There can be many reasons why you might be afraid to change.
If you turn to food to look after yourself emotionally the thought of changing your eating behaviour can be terrifying. If you’re not going to binge to suppress your feelings how else are you going to deal with them? It can feel like nothing will ever replace food, nothing else will do the job you need it to do.
Maybe there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to conform to Diet Culture body ideals. Maybe you have a sense that someone you know will be threatened if you change how you eat and relate to yourself.
One of the most powerful reasons for gaining weight as a result of binge eating is sexual protection. This reason can be complex in itself. On the one hand, the thought of reducing in size can make you fear being more sexually attractive and, therefore, vulnerable to attack. On the other, you can be concerned if you’re any smaller you’ll become sexually promiscuous and will turn into someone you don’t like.
Understand the scared part of you as well as the part that desperately wants to change.
Dealing with conflict is a normal part of the process of recovering from emotion-driven overeating and it’s where your psychological energy is best spent. Try as you might to make peace with food, if there’s a part of you not on board you’re going to struggle.
There’s no point trying to force yourself to do something a part of you fundamentally doesn’t want to do.
The part that doesn’t want to change motivates you to binge. It doesn’t care about nutrition or how much weight you gain or how awful you feel physically. It’s just trying to help you survive emotionally in the world and it believes it needs food in order to do that.
In the battle of to eat or not to eat, it will always emerge victorious.
So please get to know it, maybe start by writing down how you truly feel about resolving your issues with food. Be gentle with yourself. Understand the scared part of you as well as you do the part that desperately wants to change. In this way, you might find a compromise between these conflicting factions of your personality that seemingly want very different things.
Then perhaps you can begin to make peace with yourself and heal your relationship with food.
©️ Julie de Rohan 2017.
Here are some more thoughts on how to deal with inner conflict.