Quality food is nourishment. But eating disorders aren’t about nourishment for your body. If you have an eating disorder you eat too much or too little or ou eat food that provide little or no physical sustenance. You know, and so much on the Internet repeats, that you eat or starve for emotional reasons, for soothing, for going numb. You eat or don’t eat in order to treat your body as if it were a thing whose shape and size you can control (or can't control). But what does using food this way actually mean? Why use food, which is supposed to sustain life, in a life-destructive manner?
Will you suppose with me? Suppose you need nourishment of a kind you don’t recognize. Suppose the right hemisphere of your brain, the source of intuitive awareness, emotional intelligence, creativity and emotional wisdom concerning self and others is neglected and ignored.
Suppose this half of your very existence is denied. Beyond this, suppose deep yearnings that come from this side of you are experienced as irrational, illogical, neurotic, childish, inefficient, and probably part of some anxiety problem.
Your eating disorder can be an attempt to squelch all that yearning by overwhelming your experience with bingeing, purging, starving, compulsive eating or other activities that go along with an eating disorder. If you do this you sbstitute physical nourishment for the nourishment you actually need because you don’t know how to honor yearnings coming from your right hemisphere. Granted, this is a lot of supposing. But what if you were "looking for love in all the wrong places?"
A Personal Experiment in Nourishing Yourself
I propose, that as an experiment, you give some nourishment to your right hemisphere. For starters, read some fairy tales. Go to the library or a bookstore and get the old unabridged as close to the original as possible versions. The Yellow Fairy Book is a nice place to start.
If you have one or more favorites from childhood, read them again with the adult mind you have now. Read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (the original version), by Lewis Carroll, The Moonintrolls by Trove Jansson, Peter Pan, by James Barry, The Little Lame Prince by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (watch out on this one.
The original is wonderful. The picture book and other new versions drain the story of its depth and significance). Give your right brain some nourishment, some attention, some images and stories to sustain and strengthen you. Read some poetry. Walk slowly through an art museum and place your eyes in front of some masterworks.
Even if you think you are not interested, give yourself this opportunity. Your left hemisphere may not be interested in art. However, your eyes have access to both side of your brain and the nourishment from the art will get in to your right. You might be surprised at your ability to be present in this world in a more expanded way when you give yourself the kind of nourishment you didn’t know you craved.
Pay attention to your dreams, especially when you are giving your right brain the nourishment and images to speak through your dreams in ways you may more readily understand. Keep a dream journal, and see what happens.
Eating Disorder Recovery
You may not know keys exist in your right hemisphere. They yearn to be used to open doors to your more full and complete life. If you nourish your right brain you have an opportunity to satisfy those yearnings you know so well. Moving into recovery from an eating disorder doesn't mean stopping the behaviors. It means learning to truly nourish yourself. It means shedding those eating disorder behaviors as the real, complete and self sustaining you emerges in the world. Do I believe fairy tales and art can cure eating disorders? Of course not. Do I believe that all of you is worth nourishing well and that real nourishment is needed so false nourishment can be dropped. Yes, I do.