Extreme problems with eating may lead people to seek out the services of registered dieticians, various health or wellness coaches, or physicians. Sometimes, however, people really struggle with food and would never consider seeing a behavior specialist, psychologist, or mental health professional. Here are some questions that might help you determine the actual function of eating behaviors- and might give you some food for thought as to what a psychologist could do:
Is your eating behavior is a way to prove a point, get back at, or communicate something to someone or yourself? Is it a way to self-validate, keep a secret, empower you, or to protect you in some way? Does it prevent or block others from getting too close or getting to know you?
Does your eating behavior have anything to do with preventing feeling? Does it have a numbing effect? Does it block, thwart, get rid of, or release strong, intense, or unwanted feelings?
Does eating large quantities of food soothe, take care of, provide, or fulfill psychological desires? Does it fulfill emptiness, loneliness, or aching? Do your eating habits have an immediate impact in reducing intense psychological distress or anxiety?
Do you have an inability to tolerate fullness, satisfaction, or contentment? Do you feel guilty if you feel “good”? Is feeling empty/full is equated with punishment or success?
Does digesting food have anything to do with digesting your emotion? If you have a tendency to get rid of food through self-induced vomiting or other compensatory mechanisms, what would it mean to you feel full, digest food, or keep what you’ve eaten?
If you were to be completely honest with your eating habits, what would you have to risk? What would be the cost/ benefit of sharing this with someone who wouldn’t judge or blame you?
Consulting with a behavior health specialist may enable you to determine how emotions and psychological needs play a role in eating habits. Eating behaviors can be extremely difficult to change- and if you ignore aspects of change that are related to psychological distress, the journey may be even more difficult.