Powerless Over Food

By Tommy Barnett

Which is worse, the fear of eating food or the shame you experience after you eat something? The pain of hunger and the necessity to live always led me to eat. I can remember being so afraid of taking a single bite because I feared that I would gain weight. When I would eat, the shame would penetrate my core and force me to engage in eating disorder behaviors.

I can remember a time when I was in a treatment center. During snack time, I was called upon to go and see my primary counselor. Before I could leave the group, I was told I had to eat the yogurt that was given to me. I tried to sneak out of group because I didn’t want to eat the yogurt but the therapist caught me. As I stood in the middle of a group, I ate every bite of yogurt. The fear I was facing didn’t come from eating the yogurt but more from the shame I felt that everyone was watching me.  I felt naked and embarrassed being in my own skin.

Someone once stated that the difference between guilt and shame is that guilt is when you do something wrong and shame is when you feel you are wrong. Having an eating disorder is fighting a double battle. It takes so much effort to face the fear of eating and an even greater effort to be okay with ourselves after we eat. Every time I would eat food, I can remember using self-hatred as a motivator to engage in eating disorder behaviors. I felt like I couldn’t live with myself after I would eat something. The trick is, that in order to live you must eat. This was the cycle I lived in for too many years.

As we approach the holidays, being around food of any sort is almost inevitable. Today, I am neither afraid nor am I ashamed. I value my mind, body and soul and to do that is by practicing both a kind relationship with myself and with food. My hope is for you to find freedom from your pain and realize the true nature of yourself. A kind and loving soul, no matter how far down in the darkness you have gone. Beneath your fear, guilt, hurt and shame is a light waiting to shine through. Be strong my friends for you are never alone.