Christine was a preteen when she went on her first diet. At school, she was bubbly and outgoing, an honors student immersed in social causes. But at home, she would carefully ration her food.
By the time she was 14, she had developed bulimia. It was easier to hide the purging from her family than it was to explain why she wasn’t eating. In her darkest moments, she would scribble her anxieties into a blue-lined journal.
“When I eat food now I feel guilty,” she wrote in rounded, 14-year-old script. “I don’t like to eat in front of other people.”
As a college student, she stopped throwing up but kept overeating. Carbs were her crutch. “If I’m stressed, let me crawl inside a bag of Tostitos,” said White, who goes by her nickname, Cissy. She would shovel handfuls of cereal in her mouth, or boil and eat enormous amounts of pasta.
She didn’t fully understand what drove her binges, but she had one idea—an experience she referred to as “my hell” and “my secret” in later journals. Her stepfather abused her sexually and to her she stated “I knew that I didn’t like what was happening,” she said, “but I didn’t know what was appropriate.”
Researchers are increasingly finding that, in addition to leaving deep emotional scars, childhood sexual abuse often turns food into an obsession for its victims. Many, like Christine become prone to binge-eating. Others willfully put on weight to desexualize, in the hope that what happened to them as children will never happen again.
In her case, overeating did not lead to obesity—her weight only ever ranged from roughly 118 pounds to 175. But research shows that in general, childhood sexual abuse might be a key predictor of obesity and overweight in adulthood. More importantly, experts say, this disturbing connection suggests it’s fruitless to treat eating-disordered patients without investigating and addressing potential childhood trauma first.
One analysis of 57,000 women found that those who experienced physical or sexual abuse as children were twice as likely to be addicted to food. Experts say sexual abuse is one of the worst adverse experiences, and also one of the most likely to compound other life stressors.
Trauma that occurs during critical periods in the brain’s development can change its neurobiology, making it less responsive to rewards. This anhedonia—a deficit of positive emotions—more than doubles the likelihood that abused children will become clinically depressed adults. It also increases their risk of addiction. With their brains unable to produce a natural high, many adult victims of child abuse chase happiness in food. It’s this tendency, when combined with what many described as a desire to become less noticeable, that makes this group especially vulnerable to obesity.
We can learn to re program the mind and release the negative trapped emotions associated with trauma and abuse. The emotion Code Energy Healing Process is one way that is helping women reclaim the health and their lives. To learn more about this process, please visit http://lynnthier.com/emotion-code/
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