Avoiding eating

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Self-Determined

MyPTSD Pro
I’m not anorexic because I don’t care about what my body looks like—for the most part—don’t care if I’m fat or thin.

But ever since starting recovery almost a year ago I find it hard to keep eating. I often avoid eating until late in the day then sometimes binge or just eat normal.

T suggested that not eating is just a bad habit. I feel some emotions and then I don’t eat. Similar to the familiarity of the inner critic and self-sabotage.

I eat enough to keep from causing myself bodily damage—so far. Sometimes I wonder what the effects of only drinking coffee and beer and water and vitamins does to a person.

I have mentioned this to T and she is not concerned.

I know how to eat, I just don’t want to. I’m not seeking validation, because I don’t think it’s right to avoid eating. Am I bragging? Certainly not! Am I looking for support? Maybe? I’m wondering if others are going through anything similar? I’m wondering if others experienced something similar and it went away or if they had to directly address it? I know that it comes and goes... some days I can eat without thinking about it and other days I don’t don’t don’t want to consume anything other than coffee and beer. Today is one of those days.
 

Abstract

MyPTSD Pro
I think the idea that eating disorders are to do with looking a certain way and even losing weight is a misconception. The truth is often more complex and when related to trauma or abuse of all kinds it can be totally false. Self pumishment, actually trying to look less attractive, avoiding bodily triggers, using starvation as a means of coping with emotional states, are all possible. It is of course possible to self punish with food without an full eating disorder but its something to think about.

Yes, I had am eating disorder for an extremely long time and it was never to attempt to look beautiful. It was way more complex than that and almost all of it was related to some sort of abuse, and some to trauma. A little was related to developmental stuff like not being taught positive ways of coping. I did recover pretty much fully in the end.

What specific help is your t giving you with this and what have you tried?

Ps.
Questions to ask:
Is this just because you dont have an appertite or the energy to bother eating.
Are you depressed and that is the cause.
Are you feeling less emotions when avoiding eating and therefore doing so.
What does it say about you if you dont eat.
What does it say about you if you do.
Are you self punishing.
Do you have a history of being denied food.
What would your inner critic and self sabotage voice say about it.
Are feelings around eating or being full triggering in any way.
Does your weight affect how safe you feel and if so in what way.
 
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joeylittle

Administrator
It would be called disordered eating, certainly. I have this problem. For me, it’s generally a combination of depression and habit.

It can help to simply put yourself on an eating schedule. Every four hours, eat something small that you’ve pre-planned. It doesn’t even need to be especially tasty - you can increase that once you’re into the habit of taking food the same way one might take medications on a schedule.

Is there anything in particular that would be easy for you? Smoothies are often suggested, b/c it’s easy to get a decent amount of calories and nutrition into 8-11 ounces.

But whatever you think you could tolerate, plan to eat that - that’s the key, making sure you can get it into your body.

Depending on your age and exercise/activity level, those mini-meals can be fairly small and still give your body what it needs.
 

Self-Determined

MyPTSD Pro
Thank you for both the responses. I want to answer all the questions, but I need to wait until I can do it fully present. For now I can say that @Abstract ’s statement “using starvation as a means to cope with emotional states” resonates with me.

The transference has swelled and I feel steeped in it. It is overwhelming and uncomfortable and begging me to sink into it. My marriage has never felt more uncomfortable and I’m not talking about that with my partner—it’s like a pact with myself to withhold my words—like when I was a teenager I promised myself that I would not reveal my emotions to my father and mother—silence was more comfortable—as uncomfortable as it was.

And if I don’t talk about my discomfort in my marriage how can I talk about the shame of the transference to my T? No shame, no shame in transference—at least there shouldn’t be—it’s an indication of the desire for deeper connection, for deeper understanding—which my body knows is not happening in this marriage—and it is up to me to say something—but I have a contract with myself not to speak—and the no speaking contract is somehow reinforced or soothed by the feeling of starvation—the starvation mirrors the lack of speaking about my disappointment, my discomfort. Since I don’t feel safe enough to speak my truth, why eat? What’s the point? It’s like a watered down physical manifestation of SI. Eventually I will succumb to food—eventually I will succumb to speaking for myself...

Unhealthy patterns of thought... I can be aware, I can be aware.

I want to come back, I intend to... I am grateful for the questions... they are a stepping off point.
 

Self-Determined

MyPTSD Pro
s this just because you dont have an appertite or the energy to bother eating.
Are you depressed and that is the cause.
Are you feeling less emotions when avoiding eating and therefore doing so.
What does it say about you if you dont eat.
What does it say about you if you do.
Are you self punishing.
Do you have a history of being denied food.
What would your inner critic and self sabotage voice say about it.
Are feelings around eating or being full triggering in any way.
Does your weight affect how safe you feel and if so in what way.

No, I do not think think this is because I do not have an appetite or lack the energy to eat.

Yes, I do believe I am depressed. Maybe this only happens when I get depressed, and I am recognizing that depression is a main player in the transference cycle. I bet if I can say what I need to say to break this transference I will eat again no problem.

I haven’t thought about if I’m feeling less emotions when not eating, but I would say the answer to that leans more toward yes. That would mean that not eating is a way of coping with emotions by avoiding them. If I eat, will that mean I am facing my emotions? Like facing the transference? Like facing the disappointment and discomfort? Maybe, possibly.

My T says I self-punish because it is familiar—it doesn’t feel like punishment to me, it feels soothing. I know that it is unhealthy—familiar to be uncomfortable, but unhealthy to put myself in that situation.

I don’t remember being denied food regularly, but I have one isolated memory of a cruel manipulative move on my dad’s part to deny me food. Also my dad had a very idiosyncratic relationship with food—it had to be on a certain kind of schedule and the family accommodated him—typical of his narcissistic behavior.

My inner critic would say—“Not eating suits you. You’re fine. It doesn’t matter. You’ll eat eventually. You always do whatever you want eventually. You’re stubborn that way.”

My self sabotage voice would say, “How long can you go? If you go the whole day without eating and go to sleep it will be the first time with no solid food all day. Did you notice that it’s getting easier not to eat? It feels good to get past the grumbling. Look how thin you are without even trying?! A dancer’s body! And no one notices that you aren’t eating, isn’t that great? Don’t let it go too far because you don’t want to get yourself committed. Remember to take probiotics when you start eating again. You’re fine. Just do whatever feels right. It doesn’t matter.”

Yes, feelings about eating are triggering. Eating triggers feelings of being vulnerable. Of being shamed somehow—like being small and hungry and eating and then getting laughed at or mocked or chided. Also wanting to eat but not wanting to interact with a parent to gain access to food—being manipulated or shamed about a food preference or choice.

Feeling full is triggering too—it feels like I need comforting sometimes—I prefer to not get full, but when I binge I need to do several things afterward to relieve the feeling—often revolves around smoking cannabis or when very intense, self-pleasure—sometimes drawing or reading—usually sleep because most binging for me takes place before bed, and I know exactly which position to sleep in and how to drink water through the night in order to process the large portion.

I haven’t thought too much about whether or not my weight affects how safe I feel, though answering a previous question brought this to light. When I answered about the self-sabotage I saw in my answer that my body image actually is a factor—that I feel powerful as a thin person—because I do feel bad for my friends who struggle with being overweight and I can have a thin body without even trying—does that make me feel powerful? Kind of? It seems like it’s less to worry about. I don’t complain about my body or brag about it, I do take it for granted. No makeup no fashion no drawing attention. I am grateful for positive affirmation when someone thinks I look good. If I were fatter would I feel less powerful? Actually, I think I would feel more powerful and more beautiful if I were fatter, because it would be a sign of self-confidence to me. So maybe I’m conflicted. Clearly some parts of me like the thin body, but other parts of me feel like more fat would be safer, or an indication of that I feel sustainably safe.

Thank you so much for all those questions. I like how you helped me see that for me at this point eating is like, or is in reality, facing my emotions—which I realize is also the point of talking about the transference with my T and talking about how I feel in this relationship with my husband.

@Abstract any support and feedback is appreciated. I’m glad you waited for me to answer those questions because they were important and helped me break it down, to see it spread out instead of all wadded up. One thing that feels very hopeful is that I recognized that this tends to only happen during depression—at least to this extreme. My depressions don’t usually last longer than about 5 days, and I’m on what feels like day 2. Numbing is a huge part of my depressions and avoiding emotions is pretty much the same thing.

@joeylittle thank you for those concrete suggestions. The four-hour maximum for going without food seems completely reasonable, and seeing it like vitamins, just something you do.

Perhaps this is the beginning of figuring out how to schedule my day. I’m about to have a summer break from work and my tendency is to avoid all schedules like the plague and just do whatever feels right—but for balance I believe I need to put just a little scheduling into my life—something different—just to try it.
 

Self-Determined

MyPTSD Pro
@Abstract One more question to answer, your first one... My T is not giving me any specific help on this. She seems to have labeled it like how @joeylittle stated it—a combination of depression and bad habits. She says, similarly, to eat what sounds good in the moment—that that’s the only way—and to feed myself like a loving grandmother would—to tap into the self-compassion.

I almost turned off the light without eating. But then I remembered that I didn’t answer that first question. Thinking about the answer is motivating me to think, to contemplate, what would I want more than anything right now if I could have it? I don’t know and a part of me is resisting the process of thinking of an answer—part of me says, “Won’t say! Can’t say! Leave me alone!” Sounds very young—maybe 6?

I will talk to it directly. What do you want?

Grumble grumble harrumph.

If you could have anything what would it be?

Nothing!!! Go away!!!

Anything, anything, anything...I’ll go to the grocery store right now, my love.

I don’t know!!! Beer!!!

A food, my love. I will buy you a food. Rice pudding?

No!

Canned peaches?

No!!

Pickles?

No!!

A sweet?

No!!!

Chips?

No!!!

Anything you want, I will get it for you, any time—even the middle of the night, no problem....

Well, that didn’t work.

Kombucha. Maybe I would want kombucha. Or chia drink. Yes, maybe a chia drink.

I don’t want to go to the store for you after all. I still love you, but you should eat something here. You can figure it out. Don’t hate me. Just eat, seriously.

I don’t know if that was helpful to talk to myself or not. I can see that I’m not that dependable with myself. Making false promises, then pulling them away.
 

Self-Determined

MyPTSD Pro
Still haven’t eaten. It’s almost 10pm. Thinking about having a beer or smoking cannabis.

Experiencing a bit of trauma release—some trembling in my chest.

What is the most loving thing I could do for myself right now? Maybe drink some milk? If I drank milk and smoked, that would be better than beer and smoke.

Maybe I could do that.
 

Freida

Sponsor
yes - milk and smoke is better than beer and smoke.
Baby steps - and you are doing it!
You had two options to choose from and understood which one was "better".
Did you follow through?
It's ok if you didn't -- because ...baby steps. You know which one to choose when you are ready

I'm just the opposite of you - I stress eat. Hellooooo Hagen Daz!
but so much of what you said made sense -- on the opposite end of the spectrum.

What about instant breakfast shakes or something like ensure? Get you protein and calcium without actually having to eat?
 

joeylittle

Administrator
The longer you go without giving your body some fuel, the more muddled your thinking will become. That’s just another reason to try the every four hours thing.

Another benefit is that you’ll never feel full off of those mini-meals. So it’ll eliminate that aspect of ‘eating as stressor’.

Personally, if I think of eating well/regularly as a form of self-care, it becomes more difficult. I struggle with giving myself support, generally. So for the time being, equating food to medication, and making it quick and almost thoughtless seems to do the trick.

Next, I know I need to work up to being present for the eating - the mindfulness piece of it. I’m just not there yet.

Hope some of this helps.
 

Muttly

MyPTSD Pro
I experienced what you are going through. For me it snowballed and became pretty serious anorexia at one point. I did do my body damage. For years it wasn't like that and I guess I thought my "weird eating" wasn't an issue. And when it did start getting bad, my psychiatrist (he was doing talk therapy) didn't seem worried. Not saying any of that to scare you, just that it is something worth paying attention to and dealing with.

I don't think my eating is fully normal now, I still tend to restrict eating when wanting to avoid feelings. It's an effective way of numbing out. When it starts becoming to habitual, I really refocus on doing what @joeylittle suggesting and eating at a schedule and taking out the debate. It doesn't matter about if I want to eat, it's just something I have to do.
 

Self-Determined

MyPTSD Pro
@Freida I did not follow through yet. It’s the next day now. I only smoked and went to bed. Thank you for telling me it’s ok, baby steps.

@joeylittle yes, thinking of it as self care DOES make it harder—will try to think of it as medicine without judgment.

@Muttly thank you for sharing your experience and the warning that it absolutely could get worse.

I told myself that I shouldn’t respond until I eat, but it hasn’t happened yet. The self-sabotage voice is high.

I think I know the cause. It’s related to the line of questioning that @Abstract provided. It’s related to the depression and expressing my emotions.

I realized that my husband wants more than anything to reconnect with me. I also realized that I feel completely scared and unsafe about voicing my depression, let alone my discomfort or disappointment.

Why? Because my husband has taught me that if I say I’m depressed or any negative emotion—he will say things that indicate how my negative emotions have the potential to ruin his evening, his day, his life. Also if I’m depressed then it’s an obvious indication to him that I’m unhappy and that he should leave so that I can be happy.

So I can say this, “I am nervous to tell you when I feel depressed or uncomfortable because I think you will take it as a sign to leave or it will hurt you.”

Why am I depressed? Partly because of how my marriage is oscillating between ending and beginning again. Partly because the transference with my T is on high level too, which is related to the marriage problems as well. So I’m afraid to talk about my depression, because I’m judging it, saying why can’t I be okay? But whatever, all I have to say is I feel scared to talk about it.

Also, there is more than one part of me that wants him to leave. That wants me to leave. But we have three kids and he is devoted to the kids. He wants to be devoted to me too, but my body rejects him.

I am learning to navigate the gray area, the not knowing. I’m getting more comfortable with it. Maybe that will help me eat—not trying to make it perfect—expecting that I might feel uncomfortable while eating but doing it anyway. I do love me. I do love me. I can do this. Whenever, however it happens will be fine, even if it’s confusing.
 
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