3 Ways to Stop Idolizing “Control” in Your Eating DIsorder
Control is the heart of many people’s experience of eating disorders, especially eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Eating disorders are an attempt to regain a sense of control through controlling one aspect of your life. For example, you might combat feelings of loneliness by controlling your food intake. As the pounds shed, you suddenly feel you have control over one aspect of your life. Emotions can occur without control however what you put in your body is a conscious decision.
A person with an eating disorder, specifically anorexia, attempts to control one section of their life through their disordered eating. Eventually the eating disorder progresses into the opposite and controls the victim. From my experience dealing with anorexia, what started out as a simple diet became an obsession when I understood that I could control one aspect of my life by controlling what I put into my mouth. Eventually I did not want to stop, and couldn’t stop because I believed that continuing was my way of control.
In any type of addiction, our perception of control is skewed. Often individuals vulnerable to Anorexia nervosa feel trapped under pressure to succeed or feel out of control in their lives. The way they exert control is through intensely monitoring their food intake and weight loss. Their weight starts to become of exaggerated importance and dominates their existence.
The problem with anorexia is it gives the victim a perceived “illusion of control.” The control that they are experience is not really control at all but more of a lack of control of underlying emotional weaknesses.
Three Ways of Letting Go of Control
1) Believe in Something Higher Than Yourself.
As with any addiction, eating disorders are a way of gaining control over pain that you are experiencing in your life. Often when you are dealing with so many dark emotions, it can be hard to put into perspective the idea that you are just one person among others who are suffering. Finding something higher than yourself can help you understand that the world does not revolve around you. If you are not spiritual, finding a higher power can mean a multitude of things. You can try and volunteer for those who are less fortunate. I find that letting go of control and regaining a perspective of how vast the world is aided me in the healing process.
2) Journal about Your Emotions, Not Your Calories
Eating disorders consume your energy with calorie counting and weight loss tracking. Often it can seem like this is the only important thing in the world. You think your happiness relies on how many calories you ate. Try this technique. Focus on how you feel on days that you do not eat. How happy are you actually becoming through your weight loss? If you find that you are fatigued more, depressed more and overall worse off than you were prior to your weight loss, it could be a sign that what you are doing to your body not just unhelpful, it is dangerous. In my experience, I noticed that when I journal my emotions next to my eating, I finally had a moment where I realized that my weight loss was not correlated to my happiness. Letting control of your eating disorder will allow you to understand how out of control life has gotten and how you need to put yourself first.
3) Make More Spontaneous Decisions
Most people struggle with procrastinating however for someone with anorexia, every second of the day is scrutinized to ensure that there is time to exercise and monitor calories. Purposely making spontaneous decisions can allow you to “lose control” of the belief that you need to be in control of your body in order to thrive. Life can and should be lived freely. When you are further in your recovery, try techniques like going on a vacation without a meal plan or a scale and perhaps eating as you go along. Knowing that there is a set amount of time where you can lose control may allow you to finally be able to do so. Then, when you return home, you may find that you enjoy living in the moment more than you like over scrutinizing your body.
The only way to understand the importance of letting go of control is to acknowledge the endless amounts of possibilities. The process of recovery is acknowledging that life is complicated and that you are just one part of a greater reality.
In recovery, the idea of “taking control” is really just letting go of control and taking challenges day by day. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.