Friday, April 15, 2016

Binge Eating Disorder: Uncomfortable with Emotions

I had another therapy appointment this week. I journaled my food and my feelings for two weeks to try to figure out what my “triggers” for emotional/binge eating are. It was insightful.

But when I told my therapist about how each time I was unable to control my urges to eat, it had been preceded by some kind of

“feeling”, she then asked what feelings I was having.

And then I was stumped. Sometimes I didn’t really know what I was feeling, but it was uncomfortable and I didn’t like it. So while I might have felt stressed or anxious, those are umbrellas of feelings which include numerous other feelings and emotions. They’re very broad terms.

I felt kind of silly when she then handed me a paper with various facial expressions and the name of the emotion listed below each picture. She asked me which emotions I felt comfortable feeling. To my surprise, there were very few which I felt comfortable with—they were all of the more positive emotions.

A few that stuck out to me as being the most uncomfortable were anger, frustration, guilty, ashamed, overwhelmed, nervous, and shy.

And then she began explaining a concept called Emotional Intelligence. We measure how much we know by IQ, and similarly we can measure our emotional intelligence (EQ). It is something that is often overlooked but is extremely important.

Whether we know it or not, we have been conditioned to accept some emotions as acceptable, “good” emotions and others as “bad”. We all know someone stoic, who seems to be without emotion—and often it seems to run in families.

Believe it or not, being “stoic” (often wrongfully thought of as “strong”) is actually very unhealthy and can manifest in health problems. It is a good thing to be able to have emotions, to recognize the emotions, and then process the emotions. This is called Emotional Intelligence.

I feel like I have a pretty high EQ, but on the same note I struggle with my own emotions. I am aware of the feelings of others and can identify their emotions. Sometimes I think people like myself are too in tune with the emotions of others that it can have a dramatic affect on us. You could call it emotional sensitivity—it’s a great attribute to have because it makes us considerate of others, but it can also be a nightmare because we essentially “feel” too much.

But here’s the kicker, while maybe I have a high EQ—I am not comfortable with certain emotions. And so, in an effort to avoid feeling the emotions, I stuff them inside. I do anything to avoid “feeling”. As my therapist said, I “self-harm” by certain behaviors including binge eating. This causes me to zone out because, in some odd way, these self-harming behaviors are comforting to me. Of course, this makes me feel ashamed.

It makes perfect sense.

For example, the other night after a stressful “event” I thought I was hungry. So I grabbed a bowl, Cheerios, milk, and some fresh fruit. When hubby saw me, he asked “are you hungry or are you eating for an emotional reason?”.

I realized I wasn’t physically hungry. And so, one by one, I put each item away. I left the kitchen and I began to feel emotions come over me like a huge wave. I didn’t like it—it made me very uncomfortable. And so, I distracted myself by doing something else. I never truly felt the emotions, but at least I didn’t eat.

This is a pattern that happens over and over again. I know without a doubt that this is why I’m overweight.

My official diagnosis is a moderate Binge Eating Disorder. I have been listening to podcasts about eating disorders in general and the psychological similarities between Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating are incredible. However, Binge Eating Disorder is not commonly talked about as being in the same camp.

For me, treatment means identifying the psychological reasons that I want to compulsively eat. I am learning more about myself the more that I pay attention. There are definite patterns.

After that last appointment, I felt hopeful about overcoming this. I am also beginning to understand that the struggle will never “go away”, but I can learn how to cope with my emotions better.

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