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When taking care of ourselves is self-harming

If you’d asked me a few weeks ago to give examples of self-harming, I would have replied with cutting or anorexia, addictions where the harm is obvious. But then I heard from a good friend that she lost someone to overeating. Robin was in her 60s and weighed nearly 400 pounds. She had a heart attack travelling and died after a couple of days in the hospital. And I thought what’s fundamentally different about that from self-harming? Nothing.

I don’t weigh 400 pounds but I could and, if I’m honest, it wouldn’t be that hard. I got myself to 296 a few years ago without trying. I just ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. But my body couldn’t burn all that food so it stored in a most efficient way as fat.

Three years ago I gave up sugar and flour and ate a crapton of vegetables and under-ate (aka dieting) for about 18 months and I lost 80 pounds. Now another 18 months has gone by and I’m still off sugar and mostly off flour but eating too much again and the pounds are creeping back on.

Here’s the thing: In each moment of eating more than I need, I feel I’m taking care of myself. I’m soothing restlessness or anxiety or fear or loneliness. But at the same time, I’m taxing my body with calories it doesn’t need. I’m making my digestion work too hard and too long every day. I’m forcing my heart and lungs to carry more weight around than it’s designed for. In other words, I’m self-harming. And that makes me very sad and determined to come into a right relationship with food again.

What might change for you if you recognized your eating patterns as self-harming? 

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