Fasting and eating disorders. Two sides of the same coin?
Not necessarily. Often fasting is criticised for being a form of disordered eating. However this is only true when the intention to fast comes from a place of deprivation.
In this article I want to talk to you about the demon that is disordered eating. It is essential that you comprehend the care that is required when it comes to fasting, if you are prone to this kind of behaviour.
I have experience with eating disorders and have gone through many relentless cycles of restricting my food and then bingeing. This is a horrible place to be in, physically and mentally.
I truly do believe that fasting can be a wondrous healing tool. I just think if you have danced with the eating disorder devil, you should proceed with caution.
Disordered eating usually involves some form of restriction in order to achieve a certain weight goal. It entails behaviours that range from mild to wild. From calorie restriction to purging food, both of which wreak havoc on the body and the mind.
When someone suffers from an eating disorder, there is usually a lack of self love. Often the individual is not content in their own skin. There is a lot of ego involved and there is often an unrealistic self (and societal) imposed expectations of how one should look.
Fasting when done from a place of love, is usually aimed towards healing.
Sometimes it is done for weight loss purposes, which can be a healthy strategy when navigated consciously and maturely. When someone embodies self love they are less likely to triggered into disordered eating. The risk is much greater for someone who is unsettled in themselves.
Fasting from Love VS Fasting from Restriction
Regardless of the motive behind fasting, weight loss is often a side effect (usually a pleasant one).
When a person experiences an eating disorder, there is a layer of trauma that needs to be unravelled. If this trauma is unresolved and dormant, fasting can bring it raging to the surface.
Fasting can become an addictive means of losing weight quickly or a way to ‘get back on track’ after periods of indulgence.
The problem in using fasting in this way lies in the word ‘restriction’ itself.
When you fast from a place of love, the mind doesn’t necessarily see the process as a form of restriction. When the original motive is one of healing and self love, there is less chance of you running into problems. Bingeing and bulimia, both of which are acts self loathing, are just two of types of behaviours that can manifest.
When a fast transforms into an act of cruel self deprivation and becomes negative in nature, you will suffer.
When the mind feels as though it is being restricted, you can almost guarantee your periods of restriction will be followed up with periods of bingeing. Followed up by another period of fasting to ‘fix’ or ‘undo’ the ‘damage’. Then in due course comes another binge and so on.
This repetitive, relentless cycle can get stuck on repeat and it confuses the hell out of your physical body.
The irony of dramatic and sudden weight loss, lies in the fact that it is actually a counterproductive means of losing weight. Your body will cling to fat in order to protect you and your hormones (which are ESSENTIAL to health) can end up in the gutter.
The mental and emotional levels of your being can also become very unbalanced. As is the nature of restriction, you become obsessed with those foods you ‘can’t have’. You go to bed thinking of food and it is the first thing that creeps into your consciousness upon waking. You will avoid social situations in order to keep temptation at bay or if you do over indulge, you will make up for it by not eating at all the next day.
Play games like this and you run the risk of losing all sense of balance and become mentally consumed by what you can and cannot eat.
How to Fast Consciously
The word consciously says it all. You must always fast with awareness.
Be conscious of your original motives and make sure your fast doesn’t transform into a game of self deprivation. Notice the nature of your thoughts.
Is the mind running stories of self love, nourishment and healing, or ones of restriction, guilt and shame?
If you can be aware of this, you can pull back when necessary. If you do see there is a need to pull back, focus more on a balanced diet and eat an abundance of healthy foods as opposed to trying to navigate a full blown fast. You can still achieve amazing results by eating a more transitional diet of fruits and plants.
Break the Cycle
If you do find yourself stuck in a restriction mindset, hit the restriction hard by giving yourself a week where you eat as much as you want of whatever you want.
That might seem daunting if you have the calorie fear, BUT notice that the mind stops obsessing when you allow it to have what it wants. Maybe the first day you WILL eat 20 cookies, but the next day, maybe it will be 10. Then it will be 5 and so on. Maybe one day you won’t have any. Trust this process.
I have used it many times before. Mentally saying ‘YES’ invites a calmness into the mind.
It is when we say ‘no’ over and again, that when we do indulge the mind says ‘better eat enough for 75 men now as it’s a one time deal’… but it’s never a one time deal is it. If the mind knows, its ok, I can have some more later, or tomorrow, or next time, it is less likely going to panic and let gluttony run the show.
Take Home Message
Fasting and eating disorders are two distinct paths. However sometimes these paths can become unclear and lead you into the same dark part of town.
Fasting from a place of love can provide the body and the mind with a well needed rest. Stay conscious and aware of your motives and the kind of stories that are coming up in the mind. Know when it is time to pull back and end a fast and choose love by nourishing yourself with an abundance of healthy foods.
Try to see food more often as fuel as opposed to guilty indulgence.
YES, it is great to indulge from time to time. However, the more you use food to energise your being and find other ways to feel pleasure / stimulated / connected, the more mentally balanced you will come in regards to your meals.
Restricting yourself and then feeling guilt and shame when you do eat, these are all self imposed layers of suffering and can be mentally crippling.
Love yourself enough to only fast with pure intent.
Connect with me if you are stuck and let’s navigate your way out of eating disorder hell together and continue to read up on how to practice fasting safely.