Rewiring the fear of weight gain versus focusing on underlying issues
Updated: Aug 23
Warning: abuse is mentioned in this post
Call me crazy, but personally I've never heard of someone recovering from their eating disorder when they started focussing on the underlying issues in therapy while not rewire the elephant in the room, no pun intended: the fear of weight gain.
Here’s the thing. Everyone, EVERYONE, has some sort of underlying issues and has experienced trauma in their life. Maybe not a 100% of the population, but lets say 99% of our world has lost someone dearly, has experienced a breakup, lost a pet, has been bullied, maybe had a difficult childhood or something else traumatic. That in combination with insecurities can be experienced as really traumatic.
Trauma comes in all shapes and forms. Sexual abuse will have a different effect on someone in comparison with being bullied. What we've seen in studies is that people who've experienced sexual abuse, want to keep themselves as small as possible so they don't get noticed or attract any attention.
Let’s take my mum as an example. She had a pretty traumatic childhood if you ask me. I don’t have to go into details, but I would've suffered if i'd had a mum like she did and she also experienced sexual assault. My mum has two sisters, one of them has been traumatized by her childhood, the other one not at all and my mum has not let it affect it in her adult life as much.
She has created coping mechanisms like not letting people come to close and other things, but it hasn't been too bad. She doesn't have a genetic predisposition for an eating disorder, so she never used food or any compulsory behaviours as a coping mechanism.
I, however, have had a different childhood than my mum for obvious reasons and I did develop a life threatening eating disorder.
Sidenote, you don’t have to be stick thin in order to be in a life threatening situation. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and its depended on our unique metabolism how our bodies react to malnutrition.
My mum would agree that I had a pretty traumatic childhood due to my parents unstable and rocky marriage, but my dad would probably disagree. The beauty of it all is the following; it doesn't matter what anyone thinks except for me. Situations are subjective and to me this was traumatic.
Long story short, my therapists would always dig deep into the underlying problems of why I developed an eating disorders and they would also blame my parents for still using certain disordered coping skills.
Devils advocate here. I think it goes like this:
- Genetic predisposition
- Develops Eating disorder
- Creating core beliefs like fear of weight gain
- Stuck in eating disorder
I don’t believe it works to dig deep into (childhood) traumas or reasons why you created your eating disorder in the first place. Moral of the story, everyone has had trauma and everyone deals with their trauma in a different way. There's no one way to recovery, but one thing I have noticed:
IT DOESN'T WORK TO WORK ON TRAUMA ALONE AND EXPECT THE EATING DISORDER TO GO AWAY.
You have to work on the main issue as well: FOOD.
My mum didn't develop an eating disorder and I did and because of my genetic predisposition I would’ve developed my ed under any circumstances. Therapists and psychologists need to focus more on changing the core beliefs that you have RIGHT NOW in combination with working on past traumas.
You can’t recover from an eating disorder if you’ll work on past traumas but you still are terrified of gaining weight and eating more, because of your belief that weight gain resembles being unworthy and unloving.
In the end: first come weight gain (if you’re underweight) and nutritional rehabilitation and then working on traumas. You’ll automatically use your eating disorder as a coping mechanism if you’re going to work on traumas first.
I first made sure I was weight restored and worked on changing my core beliefs around weight gain and after that I worked on the deeper issues, because I was strong enough to not let it affect my food intake.
If you can work on your recovery in combination with working on past trauma, that's marvelous. But one thing is certain: you have to work on food and sports as well.