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Eating disorders/beliefs about food

By Teri Watkin, Aug 25 2016 12:24PM

Well, so much for blogging more often once the studio/therapy room was finished – the sun came out and the garden started to grow and demand attention – and anyway, who wants to sit in front of a computer when you can be out in the garden. But over the last couple of months whilst the garden has been claiming my attention I’ve been thinking about writing about eating disorders.

Eating disorders are a mystery to people who don’t have any problem with eating but our relationship with food is more complex than we imagine, so before we look at the issue of food, let’s look at belief systems.

We all have belief systems even if we don’t realise it, and these belief systems provide a framework for our lives – they help us to predict what will happen and adjust our behaviour accordingly. Examples of beliefs about life might be; show respect for others, don’t walk down dark alleys at night, don’t tell lies, live with integrity, don’t rely on anyone else, don’t expect too much then you won’t be disappointed etc. The particular set of beliefs that we hold about life are our belief system. Even those who go against the social norms have a belief system – theirs might be something like – be unconventional, kick over the traces, don’t obey rules etc.

We might not realise it but we all have beliefs about food too. Some of the more common beliefs are: don’t talk with your mouth full, use your knife and fork in this way, always have a milky drink before going to bed, never eat cheese last thing at night. Now imagine what your beliefs might be if you had been told as a child “finish everything on your plate – think of all the starving children in Africa” (you may have a belief that it’s wrong to waste food and find that you eat more than you need in order not to waste it), or if you’ve always been given a chocolate bar when you hurt yourself (you’re likely to comfort eat), or supposing when you said you were hungry you were told you couldn’t possibly be hungry (you may find that you don’t trust the feeling of hunger and so can’t respond to it), or supposing you’re a stunning looking girl and your peers are jealous so they tell you that you look fat (you’re likely not to trust your own judgement about how you look).

Of course, that’s a very simplistic way of looking at things and many people have experienced some of the examples above and not ended up with an eating disorder. However, I’m sure that you can relate to one or two of the examples of belief systems that I’ve given and wonder if you can imagine thinking the opposite way? Our belief systems are very powerful and are deeply ingrained in the ways that we interact in the world. I’ll talk a bit more about the belief systems that someone with an eating disorder has in the next blog.

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