Gentle Eating for Eating Disorder Recovery

Gentle Eating for Eating Disorder RecoveryIt may seem like a simple biological function, but eating is often one of the most emotional things a person does. There is much more to eating than simply satisfying hunger—people eat or choose not to for any of the following reasons:

  • Some people feel that eating is one thing they can control in an otherwise out-of-control life
  • People often seek the pleasurable feelings that come from eating to self-medicate emotional pain
  • Eating certain foods can immediately recall specific memories and corresponding feelings
  • Eating triggers a feeling of reward in the brain that can be very seductive to people who do not feel adequately appreciated or loved
  • Eating connects people to each other in ways that can be either positive or painful
  • Eating can cause anxiety in people who fear becoming overweight
  • Denying oneself food can release certain chemicals that stimulate the reward center of the brain in counterintuitive ways

While many people would say that they eat because they enjoy the taste of food, the truth is that most people barely taste the food they eat. People eat so much food so fast that they barely remember the process. For most people, eating is a habitual and not a thoughtful process. For individuals wrestling with psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, insecurity or loneliness, eating can be just like drug abuse.

Using Gentle Eating for Eating Disorders

While treating people with eating disorders (such as compulsive overeating, anorexia or bulimia), mental health professionals have recently developed a concept called gentle eating. The idea behind it is that, if people can be trained to eat more slowly and thoughtfully, then they may be able to resist emotionally-driven, unhealthy eating. While different therapists use different words and techniques, the following concepts often drive the practice of gentle eating:

  • Dieting, medications and weight-loss techniques often jar the body and brain in unhealthy ways to create harmful results
  • Inserting a few seconds of conscious thought between the urge for food and eating can help people become mindful of the memories and emotions that drive their food cravings
  • Learning about nutrition, health, body functions and exercise can help people see their use of food in a more comprehensive and holistic way
  • Eating slowly and thoughtfully can significantly change the way a person feels about food
  • Counseling and other therapeutic techniques can help people get in touch with deep, underlying pain and distress that drive their relationship to food

Gentle eating can boost people who are attempting to correct eating problems, and this treatment method is often offered in both inpatient and outpatient formats.

Help for Eating Disorders

If you are concerned about your relationship to food, or if you have failed to change your eating habits, then please call our toll-free helpline right away. We can connect you with the best food programs for your specific needs. Whether you eat too much or too little, you need to develop a healthier and more mindful approach to what you put into your body. We can help, so call us now.