The first time I used food to cope, I was eight years old.
We were allowed one piece of candy per night from our Halloween stash, and on this night, I became a rebel. I snuck into our snacks closet on the edge of our kitchen. The adrenaline at the possibility of getting caught was a rush, and soon after, I developed a craving for it.
The moment that mini Reese's touched my lips, I felt my body release into relief and comfort. I began to yearn for that relief constantly.
I’m working through that yearning to this day.
I don’t just “have" an eating disorder. I developed one. I didn’t just stop eating the foods I found triggering. I found the reasons why I was eating them.
I found the parts inside me who needed to soothe through eating in the first place.
I first began the process of healing my eating disorder a few years back. I started with small behavior changes. I swapped my potato chip binges out for peanut butter, carrots, pickles, pesto. I set up a reward system for myself: Every day I didn’t binge, I set aside a dollar. At the end of the month, I’d use that money to buy myself bath bombs.
The process was slow, and worth it. The more I removed the behaviors, the more deeply I got in touch with myself - but something was still missing.
My weight would yo-yo. I’d go months without bingeing, then fall into a cycle again. When I was 25, I found myself the healthiest I’d ever been. I began to fall in love with food prep, went keto, and started working with a personal trainer. I felt strong and fit, and I knew I could never go back to my old habits.
And then I did.
What I hadn’t realized during my keto chapter was that, while my behaviors had changed, my mentality hadn’t. I was just as obsessed with control over food, and I thought about food just as constantly. I chose to project those thought patterns onto a way of eating that was healthier for my body.
When COVID started, I relapsed heavily into overeating. It quickly became a nightly practice and I felt so frustrated. I thought I had worked through this! I knew there was still work to do, but come on, this chapter was supposed to be over.
Photo: Persephonic Witch
I had to take a step back and ask myself what it was that was missing. Why was I still coming back to this, having now experienced a much healthier lifestyle?
When first beginning to heal my relationship with food, I would ask myself, “Why are you engaging in these behaviors?” from a space of love and curiosity. “How do I heal my body?” That self-love opened a line of communication with parts of me I hadn’t experienced before. I heard beautiful and pained answers.
But what if, I asked myself, there's more to lasting healing? What if there’s a deeper question here, a root cause of it all?
I thought about my history with eating behaviors. I traced back to developing anorexia at 13. Yup, there was some trauma there, that makes sense. What happens when we go back further? What if there’s a correlation between eating, comfort, and control that starts before the label of eating disorder is placed on the behaviors?
I changed the question. “How do I heal my body?” turned into, “What does my inner child need to heal?"
My 8-year-old self shared the Reese’s story with me. She shared the reasons why she turned to food. She shared with me the love she’s needed ever since.
It’s with that trust and knowledge that I move forward into lasting healing. It’s with that love that I find joy - and so does she.