I’m an eating disorder dietitian and a domestic abuse survivor. Here are 5 Vital Lessons I Learned on My Journey to Healing from Trauma-Related Eating Disorders

Last Updated on: 8th October 2023, 12:22 pm

In this article, I’ll share five crucial lessons that have shaped my path to healing from an eating disorder which manifested as a result of the trauma of domestic abuse. These insights are drawn from both my personal experience and my professional expertise as an eating disorder dietitian. My hope is that by illuminating the link between eating disorders and trauma, we can begin to be more compassionate with ourselves.

The Thinness Illusion

My journey began with an unconscious desire for thinness in my twenties, driven by the need to escape the abuse I was enduring. I had already faced the clutches of dieting at the tender age of eight. However, when I met my former partner at 21, I had seemingly recovered from my eating disorder. Strangely, it resurfaced only six months into our relationship, leaving me bewildered. Despite numerous attempts to control my eating, I couldn’t understand why. It wasn’t until I connected with an eating disorder specialist that I was encouraged to seek therapy. Gradually, I confronted the truth that the trauma from my abusive relationship was manifesting in my disordered eating habits. I had falsely believed that altering my appearance and eating habits would change my partner’s behaviour towards me and lead to happiness in my marriage. Diet culture perpetuates this illusion that achieving a specific body size will resolve life’s complexities. However, thinness doesn’t mend self-esteem, end abuse, or guarantee affection. Healing from a trauma-related eating disorder is a complex journey that demands patience, self-compassion, and the rebuilding of body trust. It is undeniably challenging.

Detox Diets vs. Hunger

Those episodes of dizziness, persistent fatigue, irregular periods, and sleep disturbances while on juice cleanses, keto diets, intermittent fasting, or vegetable-only regimens were not signs of detoxification. They were, in fact, your body’s cries for nourishment. They represent food-seeking behaviors prompted by an anxious brain, not a purge of toxins.

The Food Thought Paradox

Relentless thoughts about food, often misconstrued as food addiction, are actually your primal brain’s way of ensuring survival. These thoughts are your body’s signals to seek sustenance, not cravings to be suppressed. Recognise them as cues to nurture your body.

“Out of Control” Eating as Compensation

What might seem like “out of control” eating is, in reality, your body’s response to years of deprivation. It’s a way for your body to “catch up” on the nutrients it has missed. Just as we take deep breaths after swimming underwater, we never refer to this as ‘binge breathing’, so, in the same way, eating should not be labeled as “binge eating” but instead be recognised as a natural response to deprivation.

Food as a Cry for Unmet Needs

When I did turn to food for comfort in my marriage, it was not because I was an ’emotional’ eater, it just meant my needs were not being met. I was silenced and never validated as a human being, my brain and my body recognised this. When food becomes a source of comfort, it signifies unmet emotional and psychological needs. It serves as a reminder that, as a human, you deserve love, understanding, and care. Seeking help and embracing self-compassion are pivotal steps.

Healing from a trauma-related eating disorder is a multifaceted and incredibly difficult journey. I hope these lessons provide some insights to those embarking on this path. So maybe, by recognising that genuine healing starts from within, that physical symptoms are signals, and that persistent food thoughts are not a sign of food addiction or weak will power, you can approach your own recovery with newfound wisdom and a huge dose of kindness. Remember, everyone’s recovery journey is unique, but self-compassion and professional support can make a world of difference.

Recovery is worth it. I promise.

About Me

I’m Sarah, a registered dietitian and eating disorder specialist. I am passionate about helping individuals and families overcome the challenges of eating disorders, disordered eating, and mental health conditions. My expertise lies in supporting families and individuals with a history of trauma, including domestic abuse, and guiding children and teenagers through the complexities of eating disorders, particularly those stemming from adverse childhood experiences.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.