You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘bulimia’ tag.

 
 
There are some people who eat an orange but don’t really eat it. They eat their sorrow, fear, anger, past, and future. They are not really present, with body and mind united.
Thich Naht Hanh
 
 
Mindfulness, as I described in the prior post, can be applied to eating and for some this can be in a life-saving kind of way.  Those that suffer from body dysmorphia and issues such as overeating, bulimia, and anorexia have trouble with self-love that is so intense, intimate, and palpable that it invades them from every angle both inside and outside of their physical beings.  I have heard people with disordered eating describe a feeling of being detached from their bodies, disconnected from their physical and emotional selves, and a genuine viewpoint of food as “the enemy”. 
 
 
This kind of disordered eating and contorted life view goes beyond just the everyday guilt over indulging in too much chocolate or sigh of remorse when reading a scale that reveals two more pounds in our weight.  Eating when tied with eating disorders becomes inextricably linked with emotion–eating for pain, eating to hide pain, stretching the body’s physical limitations for survival to a masochistic extent becomes more than a preoccupation and turns into a life-threatening compulsion.
 
 
The problem with eating when it is tied to emotions, much like any addictive behavior, is that the satisfaction found in food is only temporary and the pseudo-healing only superficial.  After deprivation, purging, or over-consumption a person is left not only with the original pains below the surface but also new pangs of guilt and shame.  It becomes a vicious cycle and obliterates any chance at eating for enjoyment or looking at food as other than a substance to be despised and obsessed over.
 
 
So, as it seems I always find, a discussion about food leads back to issues of trauma, issues of the mind/body connection, and a desperate need for a present-centered perspective on life.  To be present in the moment means, at least for one second, to force oneself to shed the pain of the past and focus on where the pain is in the present.  In focusing on pain and it’s origins in the present moment there is a way to find the root of unhealthy habits, behaviors and compulsions.  If we can focus on how food is making us feel in the moment, as we eat it, there is a way to break that cycle of pain and betrayal within ourselves and with our relationship with food and find what the real pain is below the surface. 
 
 
Mindfulness, breathwork, and a yogic mindset bring a body/mind connection into work with disordered eating and with any person who might find food or other addictive behaviors as a mask they use to hide from themselves and their inner pain.  Through this practice mindfulness and mind/body attunement becomes a gateway to learning the self better.  I had a client tell me that she yearned to be a yogi for years of addiction because of the freedom it seemed to hold but after achieving a yogic life she still found an inability to connect with it in  a soulful way.  Sometimes we have to start with baby steps, the yoga breath, the quiet mind, the present moment and one day at a time to get to a place where a yogic mindset can be fully appreciated. 
 
 
Whether we are dealing with traumas, addiction, or just emotional pain of any kind there is a struggle to find inner peace and sometimes a feeling of ambiguity in how to get there.  Sometimes it begins with small steps of self acceptance, self-reflection, and an ability to eat an orange for the sweetness of its juicy flesh and not for fear, anger, sadness, or any other emotional cause. 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 Woman in the Mirror by MCSimon on flickr

  Woman in the Mirror by MC Simon on Flickr

 

My girl puppy has a habit of looking herself in the mirror and barking ferociously.  I doubt it is because she hates the sight of herself, or she is angrily eyeing the bit of fat under her chin.  Most likely it is the fact that she is a dog and she thinks the dog in the mirror is an oddly similar looking intruder that she can’t quite get at.  All the same, the sight of my little girl, all dressed in fur, looking curiously at herself in the mirror often leaves me thinking, “Et tu Gaia? Et tu?”

 

Ecoyogini’s blog post yesterday entitled “Feminist Yoga” reflected on body image and sexualization issues as they impact even the yogic sanctum.  Her post led me back to a book I have loved and kept for well over a decade minding the body: women writers on body and soul which discusses issues of body images and the correlating sentiments of women writers. 

 

As I begin a new job I find myself standing in front of the mirror a little too long every morning weighing multiple issues: do I look professional enough, do I look appropriate enough, and yes, am I showing “too much” flesh.  From a feminist perspective those thoughts link back to a much bigger issue than me–or my puppy–in a mirror.  These inflicted restrictions on the self come from a larger determining body–culture, society, and yes, gender perceptions and stereotypes. 

 

We all coexist in a society plagued by issues of domestic violence, sexual violence, and external abuses that are more often inflicted on women than men.  It is just statistically true.  They can lead to body dysmorphia, and subsequent body issues from anorexia and bulimia,  to cutting and trichotillomania (hair pulling) as well as other masochistic behaviors which women inflict (statistically much more than men) on themselves, on their bodies in a horribly punitive way. 

 

1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. 

17.7 American women have been victims of  attempted or completed rapes.

Women are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate partner.

Roughly 33% of girls and 14% of boys are molested before the age of 18.

 

Some women who have survived sexual trauma or abuses will gain weight as a protective shell, to try to avoid sexualization by hiding their body within their own body. Some will become overly sexualized and sexually active as a way to take power back over the act that betrayed their innocence and their bodies.  Some will carve into their flesh as a means of eradicating emotional pain by distracting themselves with the release of blood and ache in a physical way. 

 

Many others will use the cutting, other self abuses, and weight gain or particularly loss (as in anorexia) as a self punishment for abuse in their lives they blame on themselves.   The use of overeating, undereating, and purging (bulimia) is also used as a method of control over the self when other things in the world have not been controllable for that woman– such as the abuses or control inflicted on them by some external force. 

 

Women intake all the world’s garbage and bile about body image and take it in or purge it out in ways that can be deadly.  And even when it is not physically deadly it can be catastrophic for a woman’s self image, capacity for self-love, and ability to take care and heal themselves.  These disruptive and unhealthy coping mechanisms woman have used as shields to protect against future harm. 

 

And as minding the body explicates on our image of ourselves, our perception of what is “right” or “good” for a woman, and what we “should” be is not limited to the self-abuses inflicted following being abused by another person.  Our bodies can be our abusers. 

 

I think of my endometrioisis and the pain it brings me.  As I sit here now I feel the ripples and spasms fluctuate through my body and I try to list what I did or what I ate today that might have, on my part, contributed to the ache.  minding the body also references issues around infertility, cancer, and other physically, biologically inflicted wounds that jar and mangle the parts of ourselves we see as “woman” or as “beautiful” by the standards and precepts we have been given to judge ourselves.

 

Some days I hate my body.  For its shape with thick bold curves and an ever expanding waistline with every year.  For the pains it brings me.  For how I look in my clothes or the parts of myself that seep out of even the most professionally geared garment just due to my biologically endowed physique.

 

On days like today, when I probe into the whys and hows, I feel frustration at having those moments of self-loathing.  I feel that I should “know better” but of course knowing is not feeling and we all have to work constantly not to submit to what we have been taught is the only acceptable perfection as a woman: to be overly dramatic the image of a Stepford wife pops in my head, devoid of any emotional depth or ache, a perfect chef, with a non-existent waist , and whispy blonde hair. 

 

So how do we love ourselves when it feels that so many images and perceptions of beauty tell us, for one reason or another, not to?  For the everyday body image issues of a cursory lack of self-satisfaction I would say taking into account all of these external forces and maybe applying a little of the perception piece I talked about yesterday can be a starting point.  But often the pain of the body and hate of the self can be rooted so much further than skin deep.  It can come from pains and aches that are far below the surface and far beyond the reach of what can just be seen by the eye or in a mirror. 

 

 The premise of body-oriented studies and therapeutic treatments is the opposite of self-loathing and idolizing the impossible; it is meant to be self-embracing.  It is a potential holisitic antidote to the pain many women contain within their hearts, minds, and bodies.

 

Yoga and body-oriented therapies can work to mend some of that pain by creating a safe and healthy relationship with the body and a way for someone to love themselves and care for themselves by learning how to enjoy what their body is capable of.   Yoga is being used and spoken about more and more in reference to trauma (as I have talked and written about before) and for eating disorders.  Other methods that access our bodies to help us love ourselves and heal include dance therapy and anything else within the arena of movement arts. 

 

The body is the entry point for so much pain and for many women it is where their trauma entered them, invaded them, and brought them to an emotional place where they feel hate, shame and blame for their own selves.  The body is a place of much trauma and pain for many women and is a place where healing can begin.  Yoga in particular can teach us to breathe again, teach us to move with empowerment, and can bring a sense of love for the body that contains so many memories of pain and hate. 

 

The practice of yoga must be touched on lightly and often, with trauma, I think if someone is going to try yoga or body therapies as a means to healing from trauma they should work slowly, work with someone who knows trauma, and often starting small and individually  before entering the often bombarding sphere of a classroom.

 

This is also why I think it is so important to have more trauma-oriented yoga professionals because as a teacher you never know who will enter your class and what they will bring with them as well as what the class, with its access of the body, may bring up for them in a powerful way.  It is also why I think it is important to have more and more training for yoga professionals, mental health professionals, and persons from a trauma background that explain the nature of trauma and the relationship to the body and mind as well as a way to use yoga in a healthy way for traumatized persons.  Whether the trauma is internal–illness or injury–or externally inflicted there is a need for all people entering into this field of mind/body connection to be as educated and aware as possible. 

 

That is why I have begun formulated and giving such trainings for professionals of many fields and persons who are suffering from trauma.  If you want more information on my endeavors please see the “Trainings” Section of my website Embody (W)holistic Mental Health or for information on trauma and yoga you can look at the articles on the same website. 

 

I want to thank EcoYogini for focusing on such an important issue as body image on her blog and giving me the inspiration to focus on this area that is so important to me.  

 

My thoughts and heart go out to anyone suffering from trauma and pain emotional and otherwise.  I want every woman to know that I am thinking of you as I write this and the pains you might have suffered.  Love yourself in some way today.  Do something for yourself because you deserve it. 

 

 I plan to eat some cheese and stretch.  Because I love cheese as much as a mouse and stretching as much as a cat. 

 

 

daring by MC Simon on flickr

 daring by MC Simon on flickr

 

You use a glass mirror to see your face.  You use works of art to see your soul.

George Bernard Shaw

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