"Not about the food"

This quote from Around the Dinner Table has to be THE BEST explanation of the saying "An eating disorder is not about the food."

It's often said that it's not about the food, it's about the feelings, but it really is about the food, it's about eating no matter how you feel.  That's what recovery is.  And finding a new way to deal with feelings.  I guess that's sort of like telling an alcoholic that it's not about the alcohol, it's about the feelings that lead you to drink!  You still have to eat or stop drinking either way.

Yes, this.  This is exactly it.  No, an eating disorder really isn't "about" the food, but you also can't ignore the food at any point in recovery, whether it's at the very beginning or you've been doing well for years.

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Dana said...

I agree, that qoute sums it up perfectly!

evilfii said...

I'd argue that it's only about food in early recovery to be honest. but maybe that's because I accept a 'scientific' explanation for the maintenance of the eating disorder not the first cause. especially because for me it didn't start with a 'diet', I just basically stopped eating for no apparent reason. sure, I realise there's a kind of cycle of malnutrition that goes on and that means that when you're deep into it you really do just need to pull your finger out and eat a sandwich (over and over and over until it sticks!) but later on once you are weight restored and eating intuitively there's no way it's 'about' that anymore. I can 'ignore' the food now, in that ignoring it doesn't lead me to undereat because my body is in control and I naturally eat what I need. and I think I could live this way for the rest of my life...as in the actual 'disorder' part is gone. but I still want to understand more about why I got so ill, because in the very beginning it wasn't about malnourishment or brain chemistry. something has to happen to get that cycle going and I think I'll live a happier life if I 'get' what it was and why it happened. equally, I think there's a role for the wishy-washy 'psychological' stuff AFTER recovery ironically enough, because you have to make sense of what happened to you when you've been through such a devastating, life-changing illness.
despite all that though, on a simpler level I do wholeheartedly agree with you that at the beginning of recovery you can talk til you're blue in the face about eating but until you actually do it you're kind of screwed ;)

Renee said...

To me, it is very much about the food. Because I have bad IBS, so much of what I eat seems to bother me, so food remains the focus. Indeed I have very little confidence that I'll make a full recovery from my ED, because figuring out what to eat and whether it'll hurt me (and it usually does) is a daily battle.

Hunter said...

for me, at times it IS about the food. being forced to eat a food item regardless of what it is, stuffing an already bloated and hurting stomach. however, when the plate is empty and you've done what you must to "recover", the feelings are still there, heavy as ever.

hatinged.com said...

i always say "it's not about the food but it isn't but it is." It's a complicated and intertwined issue, and that quote hit the nail on the head. Thanks for posting that.

Cathy (UK) said...

I agree with the quote, but I also agree with 'evilfii' (above). To recover from an ED (in my case AN) a person MUST attain a healthy weight and follow an eating pattern that enables the body adequate nourishment.

However, for many (most) people, there is a REASON why they started to restrict food/over-exercise (or whatever) in the first instance. This reason will vary from one person to another, but re-feeding alone is unlikely to make it go away.

My psychiatrist always told me that the important therapy comes after weight restoration, and he is correct. There were complex reasons underpinning my food restriction as an 11-year old. My AN helped me to cope with and 'block out' the distressing thoughts I had as an 11-year old, but those distressing thoughts returned as I gained weight. It has therefore been important for me to find and develop alternative ways of coping with life so that I don't instead resort to anorexic behaviours.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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