Can we self harm with food? This is something I've been contemplating. Self harm is usually lumped together with other disorders and is commonly known through cutting, but we don't cut - WE EAT. So I got to thinking....what is the real definition of self harm and would that help me decided if we can self harm with food.
Self Harm according to the Mayo Clinic is defined as
"Self-injury, also called self-harm, is the act of deliberately harming
your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It's typically not meant as
a suicide attempt. Rather, self-injury is an unhealthy way to cope with
emotional pain, intense anger and frustration.While self-injury may bring a momentary sense of calm and a
release of tension, it's usually followed by guilt and shame and the return of
painful emotions. And with self-injury comes the possibility of more serious
and even fatal self-aggressive actions. Because self-injury is often done impulsively, it can be
considered an impulse-control behavior problem. Self-injury may be linked to a
variety of mental disorders, such as depression, eating disorders and
borderline personality disorder."
What stood out to me what "Rather, self-injury is an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration.While self-injury may bring a momentary sense of calm and a release of tension, it's usually followed by guilt and shame and the return of painful emotions." WOW - is eating things we are not supposed to eat self harm? Well we do know it is an unhealthy way to cope for emotional eaters. When I emotionally eat I feel better right then. I always have since I was a little girl. When I was sad I ate. When I was depressed I ate. When I was anxious I ate. When I was bored I ate. Pattern of emotional eating established.
I took a long look at emotional eating with my therapist prior to my WLS, but all the prep in the world can't make you stop. It is a brain change. It is a pattern change. It is learning new tools for use instead of eating to make you feel better. Prior to surgery emotional eating soothed me. It was the friend that didn't make fun, leave me, or abandoned me - then - but what I didn't see is that my emotional eating wasn't healthy. My emotional eating made me feel worse afterwards. Sure the cake batter tasted good and I found a way to justify why I needed it, but then there would be a moment where my pants wouldn't fit - up another size I go - or my shirt would be too tight, I wouldn't get asked out on a date and the pattern would lead me to "guilt and shame and the return of painful emotions." The definition for me hit the nail on the head. Emotional eating is a form of self harm for me. I can't emotional eat. I need to recongize it. Be aware of it. Learn to deal with it and not let it control me like it did for so long.
This might be a controversial statement that I'm making and I understand that. I'm not a doctor and I'm not a psychyatrist, but I am someone making connections for me - for my journey - for my triggers. I'm not saying I'm diagnosing myself as a self harmer and I even had this conversation with my doctor on tuesday - this is a way for me to metaphorically look at an action that I do and understand it. That doesn't mean that I am that behaviour - but the behaviour of eating sugar could hurt me. The behaviour of over eating on my pouch will hurt me. I will feel satiated in the moment, but I will not long term. I might feel good going down but dumping won't help me feel better. Overall it is not a healthy behaviour.
I admit it - I still go to food and think of going to food. That brain change hasn't gone away. It has lessened with tools that I've learned. I've learned to journal and I blog! I've learned to put my energy into something productive and eating cupcakes is not! I've learned to call and talk through my feelings and share what is going through my head. I've taken steps to have action steps when I feel the urge to emotionally eat.
My steps are:
1. drink fluids
2. get out of the kitchen
3. if need be get out of the house!
4. craft - do something with my hands that will distract me from needing to eat like that
5. talk through my "head" issues
6. realize the behaviour and note it
7. talk to my support group
These steps are working overall, but I'm still human. I will fight this for the rest of my life, but in addition to the steps listed above I have put my mental health as a priority just as my physical health is and has been. For the last 10 years I've put my sanity and my brain to be looked at and guided. I've taken the time to learn my anxiety and depressive triggers. I have plans of what to do when and I've made my support group strong and large and far reaching. I am open about my condition and I'm aware when I'm going down hill. I've surrounded myself with great doctors and I've become an advocate for my mental health - because no one else will today. I've learned to take my meds, live a scheduled life, and embrace it because I live a normal average life with my meds, my tools, my support system. Sure I have bad days, but those days are farther in between than they used to be - actually ever in the last decade. This is just another facet of my journey. Understanding yourself.....who knew that would be such a big deal as a result of my WLS?