Finding Peace in Eating

Every once in a while I come across something that resonates so powerfully that it’s truly startling. Usually it’s song lyrics or book excerpts, but I recently stumbled across this incredible Ted Talk by Dr. Laura Hill entitled “Eating Disorders from the Inside Out”. It’s just under 20 minutes long, but if you have the time – it’s a wonderful representation of what it feels like to have an eating disorder:

She specifically talks about Anorexia and Bulimia, however I believe this version of self-talk and brain response is representative of many forms of disordered eating.

I’ve been slowly unraveling distortions and emotions around food on this blog (and in therapy itself) as I attempt to better understand and connect with River. The closer we get, the more access I gain to her daily experiences.

Dr. Hill talks about the noise that occurs around eating for people with eating disorders. She delves into brain anatomy (in a user-friendly way) to help explain the differences between brain reactions in individuals with versus without eating disorders. Something in particular that struck me was how she describes the absolute terror associated with even making a decision around food.

I relate to this so much.

ANY variation from River’s strict food routine causes absolute chaos. I get so frustrated by this, but watching the video helped me understand what’s going on a little better during these moments of panic and fear and confusion over eating within any given day.

If River does not know exactly what she will eat, when she will eat it, how she will eat it, and what her options are if something should go awry, we tend to either not eat at all or just have a free-for-all (not in the sense of true binging, but in the sense that other Parts will jump in on River’s panic and use that as an opportunity to eat the foods they’ve been craving, but denied).

A perfect example was this past 4th of July weekend. We went to Wife’s parents’ house for a BBQ. We didn’t plan what to eat, nor did we know what was going to be served. I (stupidly) assumed it would be fine and River would just figure it out as time unfolded.

I was so wrong.

Being in a different environment, especially an environment that tends to cause regression (which seems to happen at any place that feels like we’re the “kids”), led to a situation where River completely stopped functioning. Several other Parts were more than happy to partake in the holiday offerings and the end result was the consumption of many foods that are MASSIVE triggers/fear foods for River.

I felt this on a visceral level as it was happening, but somehow I couldn’t figure out how to stop it. I didn’t know what to do. I’d so fully enveloped River’s emotions around food that I became just as stuck as she was. And we both watched helplessly with terror as the rest of the System consumed more sugar, sodium, and carbohydrates that we’d normally eat in a month (which may or may not be an exaggeration. I honestly am not sure, but it feels that way).

I’ve been thinking that all of River’s planning and obsessing around food is all part of the eating disorder. And perhaps it is. But what this video makes explicitly clear is that it’s also part of the recovery.

Dr. Hill talks about how effective it is for eating disordered persons to plan their meals to the tee because it is the only thing that quiets the endless noise that torments them all day long. It’s the only thing that offers them any semblance of peace.

And, really, that is all I want for us. So if it means we have to bring our own food to social gatherings or eat the same food every day, so be it.

I know this isn’t the entire answer. But I think it’s a really good start.


17 thoughts on “Finding Peace in Eating

  1. Rachel says:

    I listened to this last night on my drive to therapy. Wow, really helpful information. Fascinating, I had no idea that the brain changes in such a way so that food actually doesn’t taste or provide the same pleasure sensations. I agree whole-heartedly with her idea about food as medicine and having a plan will help bring the noise down. Also LOVE the analogy to meal plan vs insulin. Makes so much sense, for any of us who struggle or have struggled with food and eating and how difficult those choices are. Thank you so much for sharing! And hang in there with all of this. I know its tough, and that 4th of July experience hits so close to home, I really empathize with how terrifying that must have felt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I was hoping you would listen to this – I thought of you as I was writing this post. I agree with everything you said about the brain and insulin and everything. Watching this was like breathing fresh air. It made SO MUCH SENSE to me. I asked my wife to watch it and she cried. She said she had no idea how awful it was. And then she said she feels a lot better about all of the planning and preparing she does for River’s meal plans and understands that she’s not necessarily enabling the behavior as much as helping quiet some of the ED noise. xo

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rachel says:

        It really does make sense! Your wife is so supportive and loving, and certainly not enabling anything. You’re doing your work in therapy, so she can be rest assured her efforts are in tandem with yours and the therapist’s. I get it, so many people talk about “enabling” behavior, when sometimes, those behaviors serve important purposes while the deep stuff gets worked out. And we don’t need to judge it b/c we are doing the work.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ambivalencegirl says:

        IKR, yay me, it sounds way longer when you say 7 months. Probably why I’m feeling so much of everything. Dang i give up my main way of numbing out and look what happens LoL I think the yoga is bringing a lot up too. Also, I’ve maybe started to deal with feeling scared and alone and overwhelmed in therapy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Andi says:

        Well that is a LOT to be dealing with – no wonder you’re feeling overwhelmed! I find that yoga tends to bring up a lot for me, too. More than once, I’ve found myself crying through a pose, unsure of why I’m even crying. It’s good for the soul like that.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. ambivalencegirl says:

    When I commented last night I hadn’t watched the video. I just watched it and that depiction of the “noise” is so spot on. And the noise isn’t only related to food. I experience that quite often and describe as the “too loud, too bright, too much” feeling I get all too often. It’s where I need everyone and everything to back away. I think it’s related to PTSD as well. Thanks again for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Yes! I totally agree! What was sorta ironic about watching this is that I had JUST written that post entitled “Noise” where I talked about all of the internal chaos. I think PTSD and EDs are just like that – there’s all this constant noise that is always running through your head.


  3. manyofus1980 says:

    Andi, I think you are right. Planning is key. I am finding that with our ed it is more controlled if we’re organised and know what we’ll be eating each day. Your spot on here. I am going to watch the ted talk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Yeah it’s super helpful. I think it just frames it in a way that’s more compassionate for how hard this can be for those of us with EDs. We don’t CHOOSE to be this way. So anything that will helps us feel more in control seems like it would be a good thing, even if it’s not “normal”.


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