Weighty Matters

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Emotional or Physical Damage – Which is Worse?

on July 26, 2015

The physical and emotional damage of having an eating disorder are both horrible.  They’re also tightly connected and the effects of one have a strong impact on the other.

Earlier today, I was on the phone with someone I’ve known since I was in college.  She too has battled an eating disorder for most of her life.  While I don’t see or talk to her often, when we do we know that each of us “gets” it.  We were catching up with each other today.  Her husband is battling cancer.  As his wife, helper, chief support system, she’s working very hard to keep herself on track too.  “I have too,” she said.  “If I get into the food, I can’t be present for him, for anybody.”

I talked about how I’ve been struggling with the compulsion but am in there fighting.  I shared the insight I had a few weeks ago about how when I first got down to this weight I was delighted and excited.  Now that I’m at this number because I gained some weight, I’m not happy about it.

She said that the self-hatred we experience when we’re in our disease is the worst aspect of having an eating disorder.  I agree.  Most people might eat too much ice cream, cake or potato chips and feel the physical discomfort of being too full or bloated or queasy.  Those of us with an eating disorder feel those things — with a heaping helping of self-directed anger, loathing, dismay, and sadness piled on top.

Then, all of those emotions erode our confidence and make us feel so terrible that we want to medicate and anesthetize the feelings.  Our drug of choice is food and the destructive ways in which we eat.  We rip into ourselves, call ourselves horrible things and treat ourselves with so little love and kindness.  Overeating or compulsive eating, combined with the emotional backlash really results in a harsh form of self-abuse.

It goes without saying that if we are stuck in this behavior for long periods of time, we create physical damage.  Pounds pack on.  We become obese and can trigger numerous co-morbidities.  Over time, carting around excess weight strains our body, damages our joints, stresses our organs, creates conditions that shorten our life-expectancy.

Right now, I’m still overweight, but far less so than before I had surgery.  I don’t have the co-morbidities of Type II diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure any more.  I’m more physically fit.  So, in truth, the physical effects of my eating disorder are less prevalent.  For now.  I am ever conscious that I can lose this state of grace.

Overall, I am much more damaged emotionally by the current struggle.  When I feel bad about myself, I want to eat more to bury the feelings.  That just makes everything even worse.  So, while I continue to work on refraining from eating compulsively, I also consciously focus attention on what I think and feel about myself.  Equal attention to both these aspects of my disease are the only way in which I can recover.

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