"It's not about the food." I can't even begin to tell you how much I have heard this phrase in the last year. Yes, eating disorder recovery involves changing your relationship with food. It involves eating and letting go of whatever way you use food to cope in your life. Without adequate nutrition you cannot recover from an eating disorder, no matter how much other work you do. But your behaviors, feelings, actions, beliefs and reactions around food usually mirror something much larger and this is what I mean when I say, "it's not about the food."
I have an intense fear of eating too much and of being full. This fear combined with all of my years of under-eating has completely thrown my body signals as well as my perception out of whack. While some people actually struggle with eating too much, physically stuffing themselves to being uncomfortably full, this isn't the case for me. Throughout the last year there have been many times that I have complained of being way too full and eating too much. I have laid curled up in fetal position on the couch practically withering in pain and uncomfortableness. Although it may sound overly dramatic, in the moment it's how I feel. I've gone into my nutritionists office complaining that "it's just too much food", "that there is no possibly way I can eat another bite". Each time she has responded with the question "What's too much? because it's not the food."
Last night John and I ate dinner. I followed my meal plan and ate what I needed to eat. Although it was a bigger dinner then the night before it wasn't a large amount of food. About an hour after we finished eating I was consumed by omg-too-much-food-I-am-way-too-full feelings. It wasn't completely mental as I felt hyper aware of my body and my stomach actually hurt some. Being the amazing, supportive guy that he is, John comforted me and reminded me that I didn't eat too much and that these feelings will pass. Instead of distracting myself, which is my usual way to deal with this, I sat through the discomfort and tried to tap into what I was feeling under this. For the next 20minutes I shared with John my fears and frustrations from the day. Out came my fear of being noticed and seen by others and of being too much and too big in this world. I don't want to go into details for privacy purposes, but it was some pretty deep and intense stuff. Sharing with him didn't make the feelings and fears go away but I was now able to breathe. Instead of feeling overwhelmed I felt ok. The fullness that I felt was 100% completely gone. Less than an hour before I couldn't imagine ever having room to eat another bite and now just after I was already starting to think about my before bed snack.
I was shocked. Although on a logical level I can realize that most of the time I am not eating too much, it's hard to truly believe something when you haven't experienced it yourself. Last night I saw first hand that it really isn't about the food and that my feelings of "too much" are much deeper than the amount of food I am eating. Although this realization didn't cause the fears and beliefs to diminish and I know the struggle will still be there, I feel a little more confident that once I begin to heal some of the underlying issues and work through the shame and false beliefs, I will be able to fix and change my relationship with food.