I wish I could tell you in this video why you have an eating disorder or why your life seems to be consumed with eating. I wish I could tell you why an eating disorder started in the first place. I can’t do that, not in this video. What I do want to talk about is a particular factor that may contribute to your issues with eating and your body. Today I am talking about the issue of control.

The feeling that you lack control is a factor that is correlated with eating disorders. This does not mean cause, rather this means that individuals with eating disorders also reported feeling a loss of control. These two issues are related.

Feeling out of control can cause you to feel scared and worried. Nothing makes sense and you find it hard to predict other people or the future. We need expectations to help us make decisions and plan but when you find it hard to predict what will happen because your life and your world seem so out of control it is hard to make decisions because you have no idea what can happen. Life seems chaotic and confusing.

We need control so it is in your human interest to find a way to feel in control of your life. You realize you can control what you eat and what you do with your body. It may start harmlessly and just as a way to be healthy or lose a little bit of weight. What you find is that you feel in control when you eat, or when you do not eat. You feel in control of how many calories you consume or how many you burn in the gym.

It becomes a bit of a game and a challenge to yourself. You want to burn more. You want to eat more healthy. Eating and working out causes you to feel in control and empowered, as they should. Being healthy is empowering. But because your life feels so out of control in so many other areas and you feel so in control of your eating and working out you become consumed with your new lifestyle. You spend time away from eating and working out thinking about eating and working out. You anticipate your next meal, you plan the next workout. You feel empowered because you are learning about healthy foods and researching how to eat less and more healthy. You want to work out harder to obtain the weight or clothing size you envision in your mind.

You find order and routine with what you eat and the time you spend in the gym. Being healthy feels good and that shows in your body. This new order you have found gives you a sense of purpose of meaning. The problem becomes that you find anxiety and fear when you have to alter from your eating and work out plan. You fear that not eating the way you want or missing a workout will spiral you into chaos. When you cannot eat or work out the way you want you feel like a failure and a disappointment. Losing control is your biggest fear because you worry you will “go crazy” and not be able to pull yourself back together.

Soon you find your eating and working out are out of control. We lose control when we no longer feel empowered by something but we feel overpowered by something, In this case the number of calories or the foods that you eat control you. You tell yourself you cannot eat over a certain number of calories. If you do you are a failure. If you can just stick to eating certain foods for a little longer you will show you have self-discipline and this is something to be proud of. When you do not work out as hard you blame yourself for being too lazy and judge yourself very harshly. This is when exercise and diet have become disordered.

What started a way to be healthy and bring some order to your life now feels like a burden. When diet and exercise become too rigid your life gets out of balance, and a life out of balance will eventually cause disruption in other parts of your life. I work with clients and individuals to restore balance. I understand that order, routine, health, and exercise are important things in life. I understand this because these things are important to me. But we also need to live a life where we do not feel bad, icky, and out of control when we vary from our routine. My value is not tied to my ability to eat healthy and workout, and neither is yours. Finding balance helps you find your inner confidence, happiness, and peace. I would love to hear from you about what helps you find and restore balance. Please comment below.

* Dr. Stephanie Waitt, LPC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Sherman, Texas. Stephanie works with young and successful women to help restore balance and peace. She specializes in working with individuals with eating disorders, trauma, anxiety, and depression.