I had the pleasure of writing an article for Natural Awakenings magazine this month. It focused on the power of self-love and acceptance, and how when this is disrupted in some way, eating disorders and negative self-talk can occur. The Annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is coming up at the end of February, and I thought that with the arrival of Valentine’s Day next week, it would be an apt time to write about love of ourselves. I wanted to share the article with you here so that the message can be spread as far as possible:
Loving Ourselves, Loving Our Bodies
When we feel stressed, depressed, or anxious, our bodies often bear the brunt of this emotional strain. Our lives get busy and complicated and our mental and physical health needs can be neglected as we try to balance the demands of life. We may forget that taking care of our bodies and our emotional selves is crucial to living an optimal and joyful life. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder can develop when complex feelings are internalized and food becomes a tool to try to regain a sense of control in life. These dangerous disorders can separate us from our body’s intuitive signals and they can develop into a vicious spiral of shame, guilt, and physical self-harm.
Look inside of yourself. What are you truly hungry for? If we try to fill an emotional void with food, our hunger only grows in intensity; while food may seem to be a way to soothe uncomfortable feelings, control can easily get away from us if the hunger is caused not by physical sensations but by body image struggles, low self-esteem, or traumatic experiences.
What are the warning signs of an eating disorder? Eating disorders develop out of a sense of feeling “not good enough” or that something is out of control in life. If a loved one begins having mood swings, expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies despite having a healthy body, gaining or losing a significant amount of weight in a short period of time, avoiding eating with others, or if you notice large quantities of food missing, these may be a few of the signs that an eating disorder has developed. If you have any concern that a loved one might be developing an eating disorder or if you have been struggling with one yourself, please contact a mental health professional with expertise in this area.
February is a month to show love and appreciation. Shower yourself with the same acceptance and admiration that you might give to a partner or family member. When we struggle with eating disorders and body image issues, we often see ourselves as different or separate than others. I encourage you to take care of yourself in ways that soothe your soul and listen to your intuition; give your body what it desires, and allow your emotional self to feel its true feelings without judgment. Once we can learn to accept ourselves for who we are, inside and out, we can deepen the connection between our bodies, our minds, and our spirits and live in harmony and peace.