Having an eating disorder is scary. Add pregnancy to that and the complexities are overwhelming.
I have worked with many women dealing with this very issue, being pregnant and battling an eating disorder. One of the biggest problems that arises is a woman’s fear and guilt of possibly hurting her unborn baby.This is a logical fear, but can also spiral out of control, creating a recipe for disaster.
So first,let’s just talk about eating disorders for a moment. Eating disorders are an addiction…an extremely complicated and unique one, but an addiction, nonetheless. With addiction comes extraordinary shame and remorse, “why did I do that again?”, “Why can’t I stop?”, “What’s wrong with me?” These are the very typical and desperate questions so many women beg to know. Because a woman with an eating disorder wants to stop but compulsively keeps restricting, binging or purging, she feels out of control and totally ashamed of her “lack of willpower” or “total failure”.
Now add in a baby. The emotional pain becomes astronomical because now she begs to know, “why can’t I stop for my baby?”. A whole new layer of shame and fear is added to the pile. Now she not only sees herself as a failure because she cannot stop the eating disorder, she may also start seeing herself as a failure as a mother, as a selfish monster. First things first, if this is you, I strongly encourage you to get help. This blog is meant to shine light on the problem and make it just a little easier to have compassion for you so that you can get the help you need, it is not meant to replace it.
Building A Foundation What kind of help should you get? First, with the women that come to me, there are two foundational tools we put in place immediately. One, a midwife or OBGYN that is aware of the eating disorder and...
Two, a nutritionist that she is willing to be open with (I know that nutritionists are the devil to most everyone with an eating disorder. But it is a must!)
These must be in place before we can do much work together because there are health concerns for both baby and mama that need to be addressed and monitored. We don’t want to dive into psychotherapy, which could trigger uncomfortable emotions and more eating disorder behaviors, without these foundational tools in place as safeguards. Next, we work on the stability of the foundation. We must focus on the active eating disorder behavior first. This means the concrete stuff like:
1. Following the food plan 2. Issues that come up with following it 3. Problem solving 4. Getting together a network of support. After getting all of this put together (the foundation) then we can use Yoga psychotherapy and coaching to move forward. The Next Stages in Brief Different eating disorders speak different “languages”. What I mean by that is, each type of eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating) communicates different emotional, psychological and spiritual problems. For example, anorexia I often refer to as the ultimate disappearing act. In other words, most women battling anorexia, in some way, want to disappear. They want to be so thin that no one will even be able to see them, essentially, a slow suicide. Another quite common theme in anorexia is feeling invalidated or unheard. Being sick brings around attention that a woman has been craving for all her life. There can be a fear of becoming well… after all, if you are healthy no one will pay attention anymore. My next blog post will be completely dedicated to the “language of eating disorders”
Why is it vital to understand the language you are speaking through your eating disorder? We must know this so that we can work on other ways to communicate your needs. If your eating disorder is screaming for love and attention, this is totally valid. Of course you want love and attention! This is a natural and basic human need, but we must find another way to communicate that need that does not require an eating disorder. Yoga Psychotherapy and Life Coaching. Obviously, I love Yoga and I believe in it as a powerful method of healing and growth. But this is not why I am a Yoga psychotherapist. Healing eating disorders is complex. An enormous part that must be addressed is your relationship with your body. Integrating body work into psychotherapy is becoming widely understood as beneficial…yet, how many psychotherapists actually do it?
I do not do Yoga psychotherapy simply because I love Yoga, I do it because it is a powerful and effective method of engaging the body in the psychological healing process. I believe this is essential to eating disorder treatment.
Sarah is a psychotherapist, Ayurvedic Nutritionist and Light Worker in Halifax, MA. Learn more about Sarah's powerful work based in the compassion of Yoga.
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