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Ask a Therapist: Is This Obsession Really About Food?

Q: I had naturally been apprehensive to meat when I was younger. I liked to eat, but I didn’t really like meat (aside from the taste). Then, 6th grade came along, and I started having problems: depression, (the past, not now) suicidal and many other things. Along with that, a lot of changes were entering my life: I was about to enter junior high, and I had insomnia. Then, I decided to become vegetarian and anorexic. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t a complete vegan at first. I was “98% vege”, meaning that I ate hotdogs/hamburgers/chicken nuggets/bacon/top ramen soup. In seventh grade, I became full-fledged vege, and continued to have problems. In eighth grade, I turned my life around, and was the food nazi: no food additives, no meat, healthy as you can be.

Then I started running in 9th grade, that brought problems of enough energy, so I just ate more. (Oh and I have ran ever since in xc and track up until senior year 2nd semester, now I am training for a marathon). 10th grade came, and I found out that cheese had rennet….so I stopped eating it. 11th grade came, and I learned about gelatin….stopped eating it. 12th grade 1st semester: (btw, I was slower this year), I have stopped eating yeast (they eat things unlike plants, they seem too much like an animal).

Now, I am scared to eat eggs (not because anyone told me anything which I DON’T WANT TO KNOW), or anything with them in it: bread, pasta, brownies….Right now I am reduced to potatoes/rice/beans and some fruits/veges. I want to eat yeast again, and I might want to eat the things with eggs in it (because I used to LOVE pasta and bread)….thing is, I can’t. I am not that caring of a person, I am just slightly autistic and I have sensory issues and images get burned easily in my mind…. What should I do? Oh, and is this more of a mind issue or food issue?

A: Thank you so much for reaching out for help The short answer is that your food issues aren’t really about food. From what you describe, 6th grade was somehow a turning point in your emotional life and you developed depression, insomnia and anorexia. I’m curious about what happened that year. Was there an event or situation that triggered your symptoms? Were there changes in your family or environment?

You mention that in 8th grade you “turned your life around,” and yet you continue to become even more strict about your diet. Controlling what you eat and the size of your body can be a way to gain a sense of control when other parts of life seem out of control. Focusing on food can be a way to manage intense emotions or a way to numb your emotions in general. I encourage you to get into therapy with an eating disorder specialist in addition to meeting with your doctor for a thorough physical evaluation. To find a therapist in your area click here.

Your food obsession is a sign that you have intense unresolved emotional pain that needs attention, and that you are likely suffering from an eating disorder. Please, seek help so you can heal from your food obsessions and learn healthier ways to cope with the difficulties that you’ve experienced in your life.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my column

Creative Commons License photo credit: punctuated

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