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By Anne Showalter

I have been really struggling to eat for a couple of years now. I don’t feel hunger cues. Food doesn’t taste good, and often doesn’t feel good. I have been incredibly cruel to myself about my inability to push myself to fix my struggles with food. This is not the first time in my life this has happened. In fact for 30 years I’ve blamed and shamed myself for this struggle. To be fair it was not consistently a problem for me during this time, but it certainly is now.

A couple of years ago, I supported two very dear loved ones as they entered the final months of their life. It was an incredibly overwhelming and energy exhausting period that was devoid of hope. During that time I began to lose weight, shrinking to less than two-thirds of my former size. At this point I can feel the effects on my muscles, my physical and emotional strength and the burden on my mind as I work to eat regularly and enough.

Last spring, I became increasingly worried about my weight loss and the accompanying aches and pains. The deadly shock of a lethal cancer diagnosis had already hit my life and I was truly, and perhaps irrationally, scared.

I went to the doctor and he thoroughly scanned everything. When everything came back unremarkable, I was relieved. Thankfully, there was nothing malignant hiding in my body. Yet I was sick. The source of my illness had to be in the one thing the doctor could not scan with his diagnostic tools. The source of my illness was in the incredibly powerful, pernicious, and pervasive thoughts in my head. To “scan” my own head would need a different diagnostic tool – a total Reframe: not the kind of exploration that re-enforces the shame, the fear, or the pain, but a gentle, compassionate, consideration of what was going on. An exploration that re-examined all of my thoughts, habits and actions. To experience and consider my feelings, all of them.

What was my relationship with food? When did eating stop feeling good? Why was I never hungry? What was the context for this problem? What was the pattern?

The answers didn’t all come at once and they are certainly not done coming! Reframing is not a one step process! But the clarity is coming and so is the hope. I realized that this was not my first time struggling with food. In fact, I was replicating the pattern I began when I was in grade 9 and experienced the first major trauma of my life. A pattern that has replicated now five times: Two with close family trauma and very briefly with each of my pregnancies. All of these experiences brought overwhelming responsibility that ate at me far more than I could consume!

When I zoomed in even further on each of these episodes, I saw the thread that weaves through all of these sick periods: When I am significantly overwhelmed I don’t eat. Understanding this has brought relief. I now know this struggle has a cause. Now I can begin to recognize the patterns and move through and around all of the five practices of Self-Reg, calm my feelings of being overwhelmed, and truly heal.

You may also be interested in Dr. Shanker’s blog on The Self-Reg View of Obesity and Anne’s blog All Good Tears: When Crying is Co-Regulation.

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