“I can’t eat that, I am too afraid of weight gain”.
A fear response at the thought of eating, during eating and after eating can keep an eating disorder going. The anxiety experienced can lead to ongoing compensatory behaviours – restriction, purging and exercise.
For a person without an eating disorder, the brain will respond in a favourable way to food intake, exerting feelings of joy, pleasure, reward, and satisfaction.
When you have an eating disorder, your brain is wired differently, and thus, it responds differently. The reward centre does not react in the same way. The brain generates a fear response to the thought of expected weight gain, and therefore, food is seen as a threat. There is an activation of the habit-forming regions, which in turn, reinforces a response that eating food is unpleasurable.
Your brains job is to look after you and to alert you if it is threatened.
Your brain knows that emotions influence our behaviour.
You feel guilty for eating = ‘make amends by not eating the next meal’
You feel disgust for eating = ‘you will have to purge to not feel disgusting anymore’
You feel ‘fat’ for eating = ‘if you exercise, you will feel better’
In recovery, you want to teach your brain to not fear what it is having a fear response to. You want to teach it that eating food is ok. It is safe. The way you begin to re-wire your brain to not respond with fear and anxiety during eating, is to not give into the fear response.
You feel guilty for eating = eat more
Your feel disgust for eating = distract, call a friend
You feel ‘fat’ for eating = lie down, have a rest
Our role is to provide evidenced based treatment and ongoing support to help you find food freedom, to help you build strength and resilience to manage the negative emotional response.
Your treatment team will discuss and recommend the treatment option they feel will be best suited to your needs.
When your brain does not need to fear weight gain, it can change its emotional reaction. Instead of saying ‘you did a bad thing, you need to make up for that’, we work towards a response such as ‘that was delicious, I am ok’.
Our Eating Disorder Dietitians and Psychologists have helped support many hundreds of people experiencing this exact fear and guilt response. You are not alone in this experience, if you would like to speak to one of our team we are easily contacted on phone by calling (02)43622998 or contact us. You deserve support to recovery from your eating disorder. Our team is here to support you!