A few days ago, I published a small survey for food addicts and binge-eaters, composed of yes or no questions about their behavior in everyday life.
The questions were exclusively about their personal feelings and interactions with other people, there was nothing about diet, health or eating disorders.
35 people have answered so far (thank you for taking time for it, it is really helpful!!!). I am not certain that exclusively food addicts took the survey, but it doesn’t matter that much, because we can still see tendancies.
Why did I ask these specific questions to food addicts?
These days, a majority of eating disorder recovery strategies are still based on nutritional behaviors, as if there was a need to correct our food or health habits to free ourselves from ED.
Actually, we, food addicts, often think that we are unhappy because of our eating disorder and that without it, everything would be perfect.
Well, first of all, we love the idea of perfection, but it doesn’t exist the way we picture it ; second, the reality is that we have an eating disorder because of the way we relate to other people and to the world we live in.
65,7 % said that they « often feel like they don’t belong to the world they live in. »
I must say I would have expected a bigger rate, but it still is pretty interesting. We often feel different, atypical,weird and inappropriate to the world we live in.
Without oversimplifying or generalizing, I wanted to show through this little survey that we food addicts (and former food addicts) share common personality threads. And these are the ones who make our everyday life difficult. Our lack of self-kwnoledge and the associated difficulty to cope with our atypical personality are the main reasons why we experience bulimia, binge-eating or compulsive eating as coping mechanisms.
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« I am generally ashamed of what I am and how I behave. I think most of the people around me are so much more sucessful than I am ». Yes, 71,4 %
Shame is a typical food addicts’ feeling. I really want to draw your attention on the fact that we often think we are ashamed because we are food addicts. Please take two minutes to think about it honestly. Aren’t we actually ashamed of almost everything we are, never fully contented with ourselves and often believing we are not enough? The number of successful experiences we have in life doesn’t change much. Food addiction is only one shame-triggering experience, out of many others.
« I get bored very quickly. » Yes, 74, 3 %
« Boredom, though frequent, is an uncommonly painful experience for me.» Yes, 48,6 %.
I am really surprised by this answer ratio. It is either I didn’t put the question well enough, or I am exagerating the effects of boredom on food addicts. I remember noticing during my therapy sessions that almost all the attendees were both very sensitive and intolerant to boredom. I still believe that it is a very difficult feeling to handle for us and that it reinforces the feeling of emptiness.
Maybe I used boredom in an unprecise way. To the question « When I feel trapped in a place where I don’t want to be, I start to feel panick and despair and I need a compensation strategy afterwards (binge-eating, alcohol, self-cutting, drugs) » I got 82,9 % Yes answers ! Probably, feeling bored and feeling trapped were pretty similar experiences to me, and your answers made me realize the difference. Boredom can probably be handled, but feeling trapped and losing control can raise anxiety extremely quickly. I remember vividly experiencing it during all my schools years, feeling so desperate and angry when the teacher would hold us longer, that I had bulimic crisis straight after, every day.
Anxiety and emptiness
« I often experience huge anxiety and emptiness at the same time.» 85,7 % Yes
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Fear of being abandoned.
« When people express unhappiness about something that I did, I feel absolutely desperate. It can lead me to huge anger or extreme sadness.» Yes 71,4 %
Here is a typical example of the fact that losing obsession for food did not « fix » everything for me. I still have extreme difficulty acknowledging I could have hurt someone or have done something wrong, even if it is nothing. It leads me to complete overreaction. The most sensitive field is my relationship. I can’t stand being told by my partner that he is sad because of something I did to him and it can drive me extremely angry.
People who don’t have an hypersensitive personality would probably just say a nice word and forget about it, but in my world, it takes huge proportions.
« When I feel that someone is disappointed or unhappy with me, I’d rather break the link myself, instead of being abandoned.» Yes 74,3 %. I must confess, with a significant shame, that I threaten my partner to break up really often. These episodes always happen in moments of intense despair, when I am facing the necessity to fix something that I did to him, and I am really in a need of reassurance (however, this is some kind of manipulation mechanism and knowing it doesn’t prevent me from stopping it… YET).
It is typical of us, food addicts, to have radical thoughts about everything : something is perfect or terrible ; a person is amazing or a complete jerk ; a situation is a total success or a complete failure. So, even though I know it isn’t the reality, in moments of breakdown, I feel like if I did something unpleasant to someone else, this person definitely wants to erase me from her life. And I’d rather leave myself instead of hearing the painful sentence.
« I can’t stand being criticized by someone. I think it is really unfair given what I am going through.» Yes, 60 %. I learnt during my therapy sessions that what I am going through isn’t really anybody’s business. Even though I get it intellectually, I still feel fragile about this in real life. Before learning the dos and don’ts of communication, we often function on a fusion mode, expecting other people to adapt themselves to what we go through.
« I feel extremely sad and ashamed of any pain I caused to someone.» Yes, 77,1 %. Even though we can completely lose it in moments of intense sadness, we are very sensitive to other peoples’ feelings and it causes us genuine sadness to have hurt somebody else. Partly, it is because we are terrified to be rejected because of what we did ; but there is also a true empathic feeling, I am certain of that. No matter how agressive or mad we can get in moments of conflict, the intention is never to hurt the other people. It is something that can be very useful for the loved ones to remember when they feel hurt by a food addict.
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OPINIONS AND JUDGMENT
« While having a conversation with other people, I always wonder at the same time what they are thinking about me and what is their idea of me. I adjust my behavior to what I think they have in mind.» Yes 77,1 %.
We don’t realize this when we are not aware of our personality specificities, but this desperate need to be loved leads us to almost never truly be present when we are among other people. We are geographically present – I am not even saying physically because I believe we are not even fully physically here – but completely lost in our thoughts, expectations and projections.
It is something to learn and practice, and it is extremely important to do so, because never truly being present in the interaction leaves us in constant need for more interactions. Our social needs are never fully nourrished and we expect other people to bring us something that we are not even able to receive anyway.
« Among other people, I am very careful of not looking different and of respecting all the rules of the group. » Yes, 65,7 %. Fear of being rejected leads us to consider what we think other people expect from us and to completely forget what we truly are and want. Instead of adapting our reality to our true self, we adapt ourselves constantly in an attempt to fit in. This is why we feel so empty and end up not even knowing who we are.
« I criticize people very easily, at least in thoughts.» Yes, 82,9 %. One of the first things I have learned during my group therapy sessions is that we, food addicts, are generally very judgmental people. We have an opinion on everything : other people, their behavior, their life. We tend to overqualify every situation and to classify them as successes or failures.
We judge the others a lot, but most of all, ourselves. And by judging, I don’t only mean negative criticism, but any kind of appreciation in general. Even considering something as perfect or successful can be a form of damaging judgment.
One of the first steps to free ourselves from food obsession is to learn to notice instead of judging, to be more contemplative and less analyzing. Judgment, even though pretty human in some proportions, is completely fake and dysfunctional. We don’t have all the information to judge any kind of situation or person. And, most important, it makes us unhappy and anxious.
« The way a person looks at me or talks to me can completely ruin my day. » 74,3 % Yes. We are extremely sensitive to other people’s feelings. The benefit is that we can detect more quickly than others when something is wrong and be more sympathetic to what the others feel. The problem is that we tend to interpret signs through our believes and sometimes forget that people have their own life going on and that a bad mood can be caused by a million things, not necessarily by us. It took me a long time to feel less sensitive to others’ people behavior, and I still am super fragile, especially when it comes to my loved ones.
Need to be loved and/or admired.
« When someone mentions that he/she needs something, I immediately offer my help, even if it is not convenient for me.» Yes 68,6 %
We are terrified of not being liked by someone, and we will use any opportunity to gain points in other peoples’ hearts. Though I believe we truly want to be helpful, this feeling stops being genuine when we are not doing it gladly or by choice. Offering help to someone without questioning ourselves about whether we really want it or not first is a form of self-disrespect. And the consequences are generally bulimic crises.
« I often regret having commited myself to something during moments of euphoria ». Yes 65,7 %
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QUEST FOR « PERFECTION »
I must say the answers for this category were pretty surprising to me. I would have expected a vast majority saying that they are preoccupied about perfection, but the results were pretty balanced.
« It hurts me very badly to hear a compliment about someone else.» Yes 31,4 % only !
I would have bet the exact opposite. Still now, but mostly when I was completely obsessed with food, it can make me very to hear someone else be complimented, because it makes me feel like I am not enough, as if there was a limited amount of good points to get.
Although, now I am writing this, I remember that, in the past, compliments direct toward someone else could also create a complementary reaction : a decision to be as « good » as the complimented person. It would lead me to undertake tons of things I didn’t truly want to do, just to fix this feeling of insufficiency. And doing what we don’t truly want results in… bulimic crises.
An other surprising result to me :
« When someone gives me a compliment, it hurts inside, like a pinch in the heart or the stomach, because I feel like, he/she doesn’t know the real me and gives this compliment to someone else.» Yes 54,3 %
I must acknowledge here that, probably getting a compliment can have two kind of effects on me. Either feeling like I am an impostor and that if the person knew the real me, she would have never complimented me OR, more difficult to recognize and trickier, it can activate the « perfection » string, for a short-time only (I overreact to this specific compliment and start to judge me very positively, but it lasts a few minutes and then I feel even worse).
«I want to be perfect in every aspect of my life and I won’t rest until I achieve it.» 57,1 % Yes Here again, I am pretty surprised, I would have expected more « Yes ». Is it due to the way I formulated the question, or to me giving too much importance to this « quest for perfection » question ?
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I learnt so much during my therapy sessions and through my personal work. I started feeling better and getting rid of my eating disorder when I accepted that my personality had to be worked on. I am still super sensitive to most of the issues raised in this survey, and I have to be constantely careful not to go back to my old schemes.
Sometimes, I fail. Let’s say, approximately once a week, I fail. I get very sad, desperate, I let my brain being invaded with lots of sad thoughts, I get very agressive and angry… Still very often, I am anxious about what other people think about me and I have to make a serious effort to remind myself that this is not what matters.
But you know, I am doing my best and am trying to give love everytime I can. And I am trying to respect my wishes and momentums the best I can as well. What a tiring but entertaining recovering life 🙂
Use these comments as suggestions the best you can, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Just do your best and take one step after another.