Why Can the Loss of Control Cause Eating Disorders?

February 7, 2018 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

A loss of control can cause an eating disorder because these disorders aren't just about food. The root of this illness is a need for control. Learn more here.

Why can the loss of control cause an eating disorder? When you lose control in certain areas of your life, this can spiral into the "perfect storm" for an eating disorder to emerge. From unhealthy relationships to unstable environments to unforeseen circumstances, feeling out of control is a turbulent emotion that can provoke you to engage in frantic and reckless behaviors. In the effort to regain a sense of equilibrium, it's common to fixate on the one aspect of yourself which seems controllable—your body. But while this coping mechanism provides a fleeting distraction from all the chaos around you, the truth remains that as you plunge deeper into the eating disorder, you're not in control anymore—it's now controlling you.

The Important Link Between an Eating Disorder and Loss of Control

An eating disorder is not only characterized by the obsession with food, calories, weight and exercise. Those are outward symptoms of an inward desperation to feel in control of something measurable and tactile. The warped thought patterns will brainwash into you over time that you're not "attractive or skinny enough"—an issue, which the eating disorder coaxes, would be rectified if you just "trimmed off a few pounds." But the desire to be skinny is not an incentive on its own to take such drastic measures as food restriction, binging–purging or compulsive exercise.

A more primal and intrinsic urge is rooted at the core of these behaviors—the need establish security through an illusion of being in control. It's human nature to equate comfort or protection with the freedom to self-regulate. So when life becomes disordered and erratic, the impulse to micromanage is heightened. In this defensive and reactionary state, you might resort to dominating your body with an eating disorder to compensate for that loss of control. These factors create that perfect storm situation where an eating disorder can materialize and strengthen.

Accepting a Loss of Control Reduces the Eating Disorder's Power

The reality is there are few aspects of this human experience you're able to control. Time passes too quickly. Relationships change or fade. Careers take unexpected detours. People shake your foundation of trust. Conflict, pain and division are rampant in the world. You can't prevent these circumstances from seeming unmanageable, but you can determine how to respond when chaos feels imminent.

The eating disorder will persuade you that being consumed with your food intake, exercise routine or weight threshold can satiate this appetite for control. But ultimately, those behaviors will overpower you. Freedom manifests when you accept the loss of control as a nonnegotiable facet of being alive, then extend yourself permission to stop resisting the disturbance and narcotizing the discomfort. Life is an uncontrollable mess, but it's also an unforgettable ride. So don't be swept into the eating disorder's perfect storm—there is beauty in surrender and acceptance.

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2018, February 7). Why Can the Loss of Control Cause Eating Disorders?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 23 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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