Shayna Schmidt | Feb. 27, 2018
February 26- March 4, 2018 is Eating Disorder Awareness Week, a national awareness event aiming to fight the myths and misunderstandings surrounding anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS). To honor this week, we chatted with Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin, Psy.D., a psychoanalyst and internationally-recognized expert in weight, food and body image issues. She brings a fresh perspective to the treatment of disordered eating, helping people understand their food issues instead of focusing on deeper issues.
In addition to her private practice, Dr. Nina writes an award-winning blog, “Make Peace with Food.” For this article, we pulled parts from Dr. Nina's posts “What do you want to lose? and "How to Soothe Yourself without Food."
In her posts, Dr. Nina discusses how many people associate a goal weight with a sense of worth. They believe if they lose weight, their lives will improve: they will suddenly become confident, outgoing and the best version of themselves. She challenges this belief, stating, “You can’t resolve a psychological problem, fear or anxiety by changing your weight. When weight symbolically represents the qualities you want to get rid of - such as shyness, insecurity, anxiety, etc. - losing weight becomes equivalent to losing those unacceptable parts of yourself.”
Changing our weight is something we as humans do have control over and therefore it’s something to which we often turn when we feel out of control in other areas of our lives. It can be easier to focus on losing weight than letting go of disappointments, fears, concerns, worries or anxieties.
Unfortunately, control cannot cure these other problems. To try to control anxiety and fear by tightening our grip on life doesn’t work. Something or someone will always throw a wrench in our plans. Perhaps you’ll get asked to go out to dinner during the one window of your day you were going to workout. Perhaps you go to a party having already eaten dinner to find out there’s a full meal there. The list will continue. Control will not ease the pain of anxiety with food, weight or anything else in life. It might place a Band-Aid on it but it won’t resolve the deeper issue.
So, Dr. Nina challenges us to think about:
What are the “bad” parts of me (not physical characteristics) I want to get rid of?
Why do I want to get rid of them?
What do I imagine will be different if I am at a different weight?
How will losing weight change me as a person?
She also encourages us to address any underlying beliefs that undermine self-esteem. When you challenge the idea that you need to change to be acceptable or worthy, you'll stop focusing on losing weight to gain a sense of self-acceptance.
And for further reference, here are links to some other awesome blog writers who tackle the topics of eating disorder battles, recovery and awareness:
Meg Dixon - Root for Food
Lex Daddio - Restoring Radiance
Lindsey Hall - I Haven’t Shaved in 6 Weeks
Angie Viets - Real & Recovered
The National Eating Disorder Association Helpline is available Monday-Thursday from 9AM to 9PM ET, and Friday from 9AM to 5PM ET. You may chat with them online here, or call them at (800) 931-2237. For crisis situations, text "NEDA" to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line. Contact the Helpline for support, resources and treatment options for yourself or a loved one. Helpline volunteers are trained to help you find the information and support you are looking for.