by Linda K. Laffey, MFT

If you are wrestling with an eating disorder, you grapple daily with food and body image.


But deep down you know something more is going on inside you.


 Something more than hunger is happening.


Something deeper than deprivation or overindulgence needs your attention.


It may seem easier to pin your pain on calories, diets, carbs, or sweets.


But you probably suspect somehow, that the hurt behind your eating disorder or disordered eating has little to do with food.


How does who you are and what you’ve experienced emotionally, socially, and interpersonally affect how you engage food and see your body?


A relationship, even your relationship with food, is born out of something both fundamental and residual occurring in your mind and heart.


Consider whether the following factors are feeding your disorder:


1. Unmanageable Emotions: When depression, perfectionism, or a sense of being out-of-control result from overwhelming emotional pain, a disordered way of eating may seem like a way to cope.  Stress, feelings of inadequacy, or anxiety may seem more easily regulated if you can regulate and express your control over food.  Food becomes a distraction from your inner turmoil.


2. Societal Stress and Shaming: Cultural pressure regarding food and body image is undeniable.  But it’s clear that the food itself and a thin physique are not inherently bad.  The harm is taking place in the continual shaming you are likely to navigate daily.  Food doesn’t say binge or purge.  Our society says you’re fat and undesirable if you eat this or don’t eat that.  Food doesn’t make you successful or well respected.  Yet the world tells you that if you have enough willpower and control over food, you’ll be popular and achieve a very narrow picture of perfection.


3. Abusive, Controlling Relationships: Your disordered relationship with food may very well be a reflection of other fundamental relationships in your life.  Look back over your childhood for clues. Consider your connections to people in your life right now.  If you recognize a history of abuse or troubling, damaging interactions with people, there’s a good chance that those relationships are reflected in how you use food.  If you deal with low self-esteem and self-worth, control over food and your weight may seem like a way to gain acceptance.  If you struggle to communicate in a healthy way with those close to you, food may bring comfort and temporarily fill an emotional void.


4. Hereditary or Biological Influences: Many researchers believe that unbalanced levels of certain hormones and brain chemicals like cortisol and serotonin, which impact appetite and digestion, may also influence disordered eating.  Family lines and genetic factors may also be at play in your relationship with food.  Eating disorders and disordered eating seem to appear in family groups, across siblings, and between parents and children, pointing to a possible genetic element, as well as to learned behavior from what has been modeled for you.


5. Traumatic Experiences:  If bullying, neglect, physical abuse, or sexual abuse is part of your history, your eating disorder is probably connected to that trauma.  Those experiences often trigger poor self-perception, low self-esteem, and worthlessness—all emotions linked to disordered eating.  Abuse also brings up an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness.  It may be that in order to feel in control of your body again, you chose to control food and slipped into a cycle of self-abuse.



Therapy can help you determine whether it is really food and your image in the mirror that deserves more scrutiny.


Consider the possibility that something internal and historical is really begging for a closer look. You need tools and knowledgeable help to assist your examination of your relationship with food.  An experienced therapist can offer you the necessary time and guidance to search for answers that lead to self-discovery, comprehension, and recovery.


I have helped hundreds of clients struggling with eating disorders or disordered eating recover and go on to lead happier lives, free from the anxiety, pain and frustration of their struggle.  I look forward to hearing from you and discussing how we can work together to accomplish your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.


Linda K. Laffey, MFT

(805) 375-5860

(818) 591-2989

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