Our conflicts often wage their battle in the body. In this dispute, eating disorders and eating behavior disorders are generated.
In humans there is a privileged battlefield to express the conflicts we have with the world and even with ourselves. This place is the body, which becomes the refuge of emotions.
WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT FOR US TO HAVE A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR BODY?
It occurs because the relationship of people with the body is, in itself, quite complex. The general contest is waged between the reality that, to survive, we need to follow the rules of the body but, in turn, we can and want to subject it to ours.
These disputes, between what the body wants and what the mind wants, are favored for different reasons in humans:
- We have critical capacity and we judge ourselves. In addition to confronting us with our physiological conditions and those of the environment, we have critical capacity and this is produced outwards and inwards, a quality that distinguishes us from other species. Thus, both the messages that we receive and those that we emit, inside and outside, go through a scrupulous assessment, more or less conscious, and that remains inscribed in the mind. Our body thus becomes a kind of operating laboratory in which it is itself under suspicion and immersed in permanent judgment.
- We don’t eat just to feed ourselves, we enjoy food. Humans do not eat food just to feed ourselves, but we do it in quantity and quality of the pleasure that we find in it; the determining factors of eating or not eating or how to eat multiply.
- The mouth, together with the ears and eyes, is our point of union with the outside. Through these links, everything related to the world that surrounds us enters and leaves us, in which we have to place ourselves. This implies that any problem that may occur in a subject can find in these nerve points a form of expression that, in most cases, is unconscious. The only thing that comes to the awareness of that willingness to express is the lack of appetite, the urgent need for no calories to enter the body, vomiting, with super-restricted diets or the one to crush in the gym to exhaustion.
The origin of these disputes is very uneven. Sometimes it can be generated by a very strict family discourse regarding food. Others may be a very lax and Catholic. In any case, these contradictions usually generate the different food disturbances.
That conflict is transferred to the bodies. Thus an ambiguity is installed between being recognized and not fully agreeing with the demands of the outside world. They are rebels of the, and in the body.
HOW ARE EATING DISORDERS MANIFESTED?
The range and degree to which they manifest varies greatly, although at their extremes are anorexia and bulimia nervosa.
In both paintings – which do not have any physical cause of origin – the image of oneself is distorted and, even if the scale says otherwise, they look fat.
People with anorexia fear gaining pounds and reduce the amount of food they eat to be below the recommended weight. Although each case is particular, they usually have some common characteristics:
- They are usually women facing a major cycle change. This situation typically occurs during adolescence, in which the environment of peers varies or is about to change, in addition to having to define themselves on studies. It is common, for example, in girls who have had a normal physical and academic development –or even brilliant–, who find this dilemma at the same time that their bodies have made visible gender characters, with which there is a certain ambiguity. However, anorexia is also common in college girls about to finish their degree, and even in professionals who are offered a position of greater responsibility.
- They often become unsocial people. In this case there is a contradiction between needing to find a place in the new world and being invisible. But another internal conflict is also generated by contrasting the absolute awareness of the danger of not eating with the irresistible compulsion they feel to create strategies so that calories do not enter their body. That “being aware” of their symptoms but not being able to control them makes them irascible, they isolate themselves and adopt the label of “unsociable”.
It is a variant of the above, only in this case the person does have an appetite and even gluttony. The problem in this case is that, since they feel that they are fat, they think that they should not let what they eat become fat and volume.
They have the urge to vomit every time they eat something. In this way they try to prevent those ingested calories from being transformed into extra kilos. Much of their life is spent organizing this alternation between eating and throwing it out, often without anyone noticing.
OTHER FOOD DISTURBANCES
There are people who suffer from other less extreme types of eating disorders, although also caused by internal disputes. They are not that serious but they can end up affecting mental and physical health.
- There are those who feel irresistible urges to eat anything. They are called “binges “. They usually eat to calm a feeling of anxiety and emptiness. These people do not enter into the dynamics of anorexics or bulimics but they are strong candidates to follow weight loss diets and to take tablets that help relaxation. They tend to alternate periods of abstinence with others of “letting go.” ·
- Also “gym addicts” pretend to control the body. They do it through strict and excessive training time. Their diet is subject to the carbohydrates and proteins strictly necessary for their objective.
However, these food problems are but the tip of the iceberg of what lies beneath them.
These symptoms must be taken into account, but without reducing the problem to food. The people who suffer them already know what happens to them, but they cannot get out of the quagmire alone. They are angry with themselves and with an environment that seems imperfect but super demanding.
HOW TO REGAIN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD?
To return to a proper eating behavior, it is essential to bond from the mind to the body.
Let’s pay attention to teenage girls, who may feel out of place. In childhood, the identity, the place occupied and the behavior patterns are quite well defined both family and socially. The same does not happen when you reach puberty and you have to create a place in the world. We must break with a certain model that served us until then and create another that appears as an abyss full of demands.
Let’s help them find their place in this new stage of their lives.
It is true that currently the social demand for a certain aesthetic, sexual and professional definition is combined, with a supposed freedom and variety of possibilities of choice. It is also true that in other times the roles to be fulfilled were more restrictive but were more patterned and ritualized (courtship, marriage and motherhood or fatherhood and their corresponding functions). Now, the options have multiplied, but you have to create them. Let’s open the box of thunder that means facing the rebellion of those who suffer from it.
These conflicts can transfer to bodies and become eating disorders. Therefore, for a person with an eating disorder, psychotherapy is essential.
They will not serve therapies that are only based on weight control and what they eat: besides creating a rejection strong, but do not focus on the same point at which they have arrived, and badly. You are forgetting what causes that symptom and corroborating your fears of misunderstanding and cruelty of the system.
HOW TO HELP A PERSON WITH AN EATING DISORDER?
Parents and relatives must be there accompanying them, even though it is hard. Parents can be the target of much of their criticism and rudeness but we must convey that we want to help. Even if they reject it, you have to continue.
It would be that they were putting into words all the feelings, hurts, reproaches and doubts regarding their experiences throughout their lives. Let us never underestimate the expression of your conflict: let us be your accomplices.
Let’s not try to convince them that they should eat, let’s help them understand what’s wrong with them.
Despite their apparent innocence, children and young people have not stopped making speculations about their elders, relationships, the place they have occupied, etc. Let’s try to get that hidden universe out and explain and argue some of its speculations. To do this, it may first be necessary to become complicit in their relationship with food by seeking joint strategies that take them out of the duality in which they live.
Let’s find out how we can help you make peace with your body. We must manage to reformulate the relationship with themselves, their body and the world. For that we have to open that small refuge in which they have been locked up, to know much more about their uncertainties and desires, so that they can reconcile with their body.