When we were young, we ate what we liked. If food tasted good, we ate it. Who cared if it was high-calorie or low-calorie? Food had no moral value. Now, even people without eating disorders say, “I’m being good. I’m not going to have a cookie.” Does eating a treat make someone a bad person? In our culture we describe some foods as being “guilty pleasures,” “sinfully delicious,” or “junk food.” Why can’t food just be a part of life, like sleeping? I’ve never heard someone say, “I’m being good. I’m not going to take a nap.” No. If someone’s tired, they sleep. I wish all of us could treat food like this.
All of this sounds really hypocritical. I study the calories of everything I eat. There has to be the right ratio of proteins and sugars for a food to even feel remotely safe. When I break my “food rules,” immense guilt washes over me. It feels as if I’ve done something terribly wrong, and that I should be punished Panic sets in. Thoughts flood through my mind. “I could have eaten this instead of that. I’m such a moron. You have to cut back next meal. Someone else could have eaten that you greedy pig.” I know these thoughts are illogical and dangerous, but they feel involuntary and automatic. It’s a living nightmare.
Don’t underestimate the power of guilt. Feelings of guilt can cause anyone to be an insomniac. It destroys self-esteem. To atone for the guilt of eating, some sufferers exercise compulsively, purge, restrict, and/or take laxatives. Unfortunately, these measures might alleviate some of the shame, but the deeper feelings of self-disgust are still there.
To make matters even worse, not-eating feels great! Hunger has a numbing effect. The anxiety of everyday life is dulled by the emptiness inside. In a world full of uncertainties, food is measurable. For perfectionists like myself, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of controlling our diets. Ironically, the efforts of “perfecting ” our diets are slowly killing us.