How Embodiment Heals in Binge Eating Recovery

When you struggle with emotional and binge eating, it is often a sign that you are disconnected from your body. Your body becomes a battle ground and you lack a sense of safety and trust in your own skin.  

Learning to embody yourself is a long journey, but will have a lasting impact on your ability to heal from emotional and binge eating. Embodiment is the intersection of body with the contents of who you are as a person.

·         Embodiment helps you experience the body from the inside out, rather than from your mind reflecting on the body.

·         Embodiment allows you to experience your body as a container for the expression of your whole Self.  

Object versus Subject

There are two ways to experience your body, as an object or as a subject. When you experience your body as an object, you view the body as individual parts that can be observed, grasped and manipulated. When you experience your body as a subject, you are able to perceive and exist through your body without reflecting on it. This felt sense of the body is embodiment.

When you relate to yourself as an object, you are self-objectifying. There are many experiences that may lead you to self-objectify: being valued for appearance rather than who you are as a person, bullying, media messages that keep you focused on perceived flaws, prejudice including sizeism/weightism, racism, sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination, weight stigma, and any experiences of boundary violations or trauma.

When you have been objectified, you learn that your value is less about who you are but more about what you offer as a thing. Jean Kilbourne says that, “Turning a person into a thing it the first step in justifying violence toward that person.” Likewise, turning yourself into a thing/object is the first step in justifying violence towards yourself. This violence comes in the form of harsh self-critical thoughts and punishing behaviors. Relating to yourself as an object creates vulnerability to shame.  

Shame in Emotional and Binge Eating Recovery

There are many places shame lurks when you have been using emotional and binge eating as a coping skill - shame you feel about your body, shame you feel about your emotional and binge eating behaviors, and shame-based beliefs that are buried inside of you. Although it takes courage, this shame is important to explore and unravel. Shame is a perpetuating factor to many unhealthy coping patterns. You feel shame so you binge, you feel ashamed that you binge and are vulnerable to another binge, and the cycle continues.

Remembering your value as the essence of who you are versus your physical appearance, and healing the shame that has been fueling the behaviors, you can retrain your brain to focus on neural pathways of self-compassion, creating the key to healing.   

Below are four embodiment skills that you can use to heal emotional and binge eating behavior patterns:

1.       Begin to develop a mindfulness practice around what is happening in your body. When you have a fat attack, or become consumed by negative judgments about your appearance, take a moment and observe yourself. Be curious about what is happening in the body and the sensations you are experiencing. Dr. Anita Johnston says FAT ATTACK = FEAR ATTACK. Be curious about what is creating vulnerability for this fear attack to occur. What are the emotions connected to these sensations? What unmet needs are these emotions alerting you to? When you develop an inner observer of the emotional roller coaster of the fat attack, your curiosity will allow you to explore the shame vulnerability, and what really needs attending to internally.

2.       Learn skills to track your nervous system arousal. Our thoughts and feelings are often responses to activity that is happening in the nervous system. Or, you might experience triggers and your nervous system goes into fight/flight/freeze states. You might become anxious and hyperaroused and may experience increased heart rate, muscle tension, rapid breath, digestive problems, racing thoughts, or emotional flooding. You might become depressed or hypoaroused and may experience slow cognition, numbness, confusion, self-loathing, helplessness, despair, shame, shallow breath, or glazed eyes. When you develop mindful awareness of your nervous system, you reclaim the interoceptive awareness of your experience. Interoceptive awareness, the body’s ability to sense itself from the inside, is helpful in experiencing yourself as a subject. Interoceptive awareness is damaged when you are locked in self-objectifying patterns. Developing this sense increases your embodiment.

3.       Learn skills to use your body and senses to bring your nervous system back into a calm, alert state. All of your senses can be engaged in specific ways to either bring you down from hyperarousal, bring you up from hypoarousal, or support you staying in the calm, alert place in between these two states. For example, if you are experiencing heightened arousal related to a trigger, you can use your breath to activate the calming part of your nervous system, use self-soothing touch to make contact with the anxiety, or use a scent that works with calming the nervous system. Learning how to use your senses to regulate your emotions supports emotional and binge eating recovery by connecting you to your body as a resource.

4.       Learn how you have used emotional and binge eating as strategies to regulate your nervous system. Develop mindful awareness of your triggers, what happens in your nervous system before the urges to binge, and begin to replace your somatic resources with the eating behaviors  

Embodiment leads to wholeness. Addressing obstacles to embodiment and reconnecting with your body as a place of safety and trust offers a powerful resource for any recovery and healing process. When you are free from self-objectification and self-criticism, you are able to delight in the beauty of who you are as a gift to yourself and to the world. What a discovery to learn this embodiment path to healing and wholeness has always been with you, patiently waiting for you to turn towards your body.

I am thrilled to be a guest facilitator for the Finding Freedom From Food: Binge and Emotional Eating Focus Week Skyterra Wellness January 13-20 2019.

You can find more information about this opportunity here: Finding Freedom From Food

Walk in beauty,

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Heidi AndersenComment