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  • Writer's pictureLeah

Eating After Trauma: It's not as simple as you'd think!

Trauma has a way of planting a seed of shame into our core belief systems that often surfaces as self-hate and body image struggles. Mending the severed relationship with our bodies after trauma is a tedious, daunting and painful process. With 86% of women in America experiencing trauma, only about 5% will seek treatment. If we do not get the help we need soon enough, the aftermath of trauma can seep into virtually every aspect of our life, including the one thing that we can't avoid doing: eating.

Eating might seem like a simple task. To a trauma survivor, it might be one of the most disorienting and confusing things to navigate. The shock of the trauma, the post-traumatic aftermath & health disruption can cause major changes in the mind & body. Biochemistry, mood, influence of diet culture and routine play a huge role in our relationship with food. The combination of these factors contributes to an overall loss of self and can cause our food relationship to spiral out of control OR be something that we seek to control too much.

The sad part is that many trauma survivors will never get help, in fact... most trauma survivors who do get help with disordered patterns of eating are those diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, but there is an entire world of those struggling with their relationship with food that go unnoticed.

In our diet culture society, being thin is glamorized and being overweight is associated with gluttony & shame. These distorted and absolutely ignorant stigmas create unspoken rules of what society will & won't recognize. These rules place those struggling with food restriction in the spotlight and shove those struggling with binge eating, emotional eating & Bulimia into the dark further marginalizing a population that needs help.

Society then places the onus on the individual struggling with the disordered patterns of eating, just like society places the onus on victims of sexual assault to prevent attack or prove it's legitimacy.

Our relationship with food in America is so messed up that is has collectively created a hostile environment for anyone battling trauma or eating disorders. This environment creates community trauma and further adds to an individuals layers of pre-existing trauma & shame.

We have to eat to live. Many trauma survivors report feeling like an empty shell. They feel disconnected with their bodies and their biochemistry has been altered to the point of having hunger hormones disrupted. Add in anxiety or shame and food becomes a source of chaos or control.

These hunger hormones, Leptin & Grehlin, send signals to the brain that we need to eat... or that we are satiated and therefore don't need food. We develop coping mechanisms surrounding food. Food becomes our armor. We eat to feel safe or we restrict to feel safe. It isn't an obvious choice that is being made, it's often a deeply planted seed of shame that has taken root and manifests itself in the reflection we see in the mirror or in food. Before we know it, our relationship with food and self is totally skewed and it's hard to find a path back.

Getting familiar with different eating disorders may help you identify if you need help or if you have warning signs of a developing issue. Please reach out to a professional if these sound familiar.

Anorexia Nervosa An eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low weight, intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body image.

Bulimia Nervosa Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by binge eating followed by purging.

Binge Eating Disorder Frequent episodes of excessive food consumption in a short tie, accompanied by a loss of control and feelings of shame and guilt.

ARFID- Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder An eating disorder characterized by highly selective eating, inconsistent eating patterns or both. The eating disturbance rarely coincides with body image concerns and does not occur as a result of a medical condition. In some cases it is extremely picky eating.

Orthorexia Nervosa Orthorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that involves an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Focus is placed on quality of food rather than quantity. Rigid diets are common.

OSFED/ EDNOS Other Specified Feeding Disorder OR Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified is a diagnosis received when an individual meets many but not all the criteria for anorexia or bulimia.

Diabulemia A condition in which individuals with Type 1 Diabetes may exhibit signs similar to Anorexia, Bulimia and other eating disorders, often from the manipulation of insulin, in an effort to manipulate weight.

Disordered patterns of eating can easily spiral so if you have any present, it's best to reach out to a professional.

If you have an Eating Disorder we recommend seeking help immediately through a Therapist. If you have survived trauma and feel your relationship with food could use improvement, I would ask you to think about these questions.

  1. Do you feel your relationship with your food and body needs improvement because you feel ashamed of your body? Because society tells you that you need to fit a certain mold?

  2. Do you feel shame about your body because of comments that have been made or experiences you have had?

  3. Do you feel disconnected from your body?

  4. Do you have implicit food rules? Forbidden foods? Safe foods? Foods that you label as "good" or "bad"?

  5. Do you binge?

  6. Do you emotionally eat?

  7. Do you restrict food ?

  8. Does stress impact your ability to have a healthy food relationship?

  9. Are you a chronic dieter or yo-yo dieter?

  10. Do you feel out of control with food?

  11. Do you feel guilt for eating certain foods?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you would be a perfect candidate for our Empowered RX mentorship. We may also recommend therapy services in addition!

At Empowered RX we help women who have endured trauma to stabilize health habits while discovering both inner and outer strength. Our body image portion of the course focuses on empowering women to see their body through a different lens. Food is something we simply cannot or should not avoid! If we have a strained body image or poor relationship food we will feel struck in a constant state of anxiety. It doesn't have to be like this!

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