Finding peace with food, freedom from the oppression of diet trauma, fat prejudice (internal and external), food rules, using food and body to prove worth, success and lovability and healing from the symptoms of trauma is definitely a journey.
And it is never one with a smooth and straightforward path. So, if you have been trying to make sense of why healing seems to take time, feels bumpy or if you’re feeling stuck, I wanted you to know that you aren’t alone.
I have been reflecting on the hundreds of conversations I have had around this with people in session, with my non-diet colleagues, people responding to my emails, people who leave comments on Facebook or YouTube, etc. Here are some of the themes they have shared that support deep healing and also what can hold back their peace with food journey.
What supports peace with food
1. Going deeper than just reading and listening to podcasts.
We do need to renew our minds with how the body works, with how restriction creates an obsession response in the brain, and how, if we are taught prejudice at an early age, we have to choose to see others and ourselves outside of that structure.
However, I hear from people who have stayed in the “learning” phase of recovery for YEARS. Learning is always ongoing, but the pragmatic part of healing the body from restricting and binging does not have to take years.
So, what am I saying?
People who start with mechanical eating but are willing to move onto body-based eating/flexibility and then onto competent eating, struggle less with not trusting themselves.
2. Relationship to create a neuropathway for having a voice.
Recovery can be a lonely journey. People use negative language (bad food, junk, I feel bloated, etc.) as a norm so it takes a lot of desire to find the truth and live it out with how we eat, how we treat ourselves and view others.
The more that people take risks to get in partnership with safe professionals who understand how to mirror healthy relationships, help you know your own signals of hunger, fullness, digestions, emotions and sensation, needs and preferences, the quicker we can move on into having a more flourishing life.
This also means relationships with safe groups speaking life and acting, people who are willing to be curious and listen, etc.
Isolation is like putting a wet blanket on growth.
3. Getting to the root of the things that trigger you
Fears of weight gain, getting needs met and being vulnerable are all signs of experiences in a time when you did not have the capacity to cope, nor have adequate support systems. Without getting to the roots of these things that trigger you, they continue to run how you respond to present-day circumstances.
Here’s an example;
We know as adults that people come in all shapes and sizes naturally and that you cannot tell a person’s health or habits based on size or their “happiness” based on thinness. Yet we might get jealous of a thin person, romanticizing their life.
I can attest that, absolutely, people in larger bodies do get treated less well or can feel invisible by other people; it is not all a projection. Minimizing the fear of others having negative thoughts about us is not helpful. What we are talking about in this piece is working to grow our capacity in a world that is not always kind and learning to quickly catch the defense strategy of personalizing other people’s “stuff” Because fat prejudice, at the end of the day, is programming, not truth that you do not have to digest.
While it is true that thin people get projected on less about their health status or get criticized less based on size, it does not mean they are happier, have good relationships, etc.
Yet suddenly, something in us might start saying; “If I was just like them, I wouldn’t be sick, I would be more confident, etc.” yet we do not know anything deeper than what we see.
This is an example of projection and romatization, which are common defense mental strategies that we draw upon when we are young to cope with rejection.
What helps us with this is simply catching the story as viewing it from our adult “big picture” thinking ability, and witnessing the young part of us that is feeling scared, sad, etc. As well as tending to the feelings and shifting out of the mental movie that compares our insides to the stereotypes that are taught about people’s outsides.
Doing this also helps with what we spoke about above: fear of weight gain. Of course, people want to belong, yet we try to belong based upon the rules of those who rejected us, which is conditional love. By starting with not rejecting ourselves, we WILL get to a place of not needing people to give us attention, admiration, etc. through body size.
4. Learning about how being in threat response causes disconnection
The threat response is also known as our fight, flight, freeze and people please responses.
When we’re in it, the threat response causes disconnection from the good in life and from knowing who is there to help and not do harm. And it makes eating from hunger and fullness and healing from physical issues almost impossible as well as making feeling safe in the body difficult.
People have told me that this part of diet trauma recovery was the GAME CHANGER in confidence growth, having a voice, not being triggered by stuff that bothered them for years and realizing that negative feelings and thoughts about food and body are just “faux safety valves” for what is missing, which is the ability to self-soothe and stay present.
What’s missing or can hold recovery and peace with food back
1. Trying to lose weight/avoid weight gain while also trying to stop binging
These two goals are at cross purposes. Once a person surrenders that the body needs to gain weight to heal, the torment of feeling like progress is not happening can end.
2. Staying in the pride and fear of being vulnerable to receive help
These beliefs come from early childhood wounds of feelings not being acknowledged, allowed or criticized. We then develop an “I can do this myself” mentality when the truth is, wounds around food and weight happen in relationship and it is, in turn, those experiences of being seen without judgment that will heal the fear of rejection as well.
3. Turning recovery into another diet/health regimen
We must let mental management of food go. There will be a time later when, from a neutral mindset around food and weight, we can make tweaks in our eating routine that may enhance health. Most people try to do this too soon and it ends up sabotaging recovery.
This is purely a fear response.
4. Expecting recovery to happen after we read or listen to something.
Recovery consists of daily actions. In being present to what is good at mealtimes and not making other things in life a higher priority (other things of course can be equal) than eating regular meals, checking in with self and others, joy, connection, etc. It is this daily action that grows the neuropathways that life can be good without food and weight obsessions. This just cannot be achieved by only consuming information from books or podcasts.
I hope this summary of what people have shared with me about what supports and what gets in the way of their peace with food journey was thought-provoking and encouraging. Despite these uncertain times, people are thriving because thriving and growing became their focus. Those who are struggling but fighting the good fight are realizing that glimmers are there amidst the suck and that these are worth fighting for.
And if you are ready to seek support for your relationship with food and body, please reach out and book a free, no-obligation clarity call.
Tracy and team
Post updated 28 April 2022