To understand more about how your child is using food, it helps to know a bit about what the results are that it gives. Food works in three different ways to change how the body and mind feels. Knowing which your child is using will give you an idea of what areas you need to help them with.
Focus – While the child is eating, nothing else can get through. Being consumed by eating and focusing on nothing else is like shutting their eyes and mind to the world to get the respite they need. Children who need the focus of food often eat large amounts in one sitting which can turn into binge eating. They are using the food to give them the feeling of security, shut out from the world, safe in their eating.
Digestion – Digestion is not only a physical process but a state gained by those who use food to remove emotion. Digestion, particularly of large amounts of food, creates tiredness. The energy in the body leaves the limbs and brain and gets to work digesting the food instead. This leaves the mind tired and unable to work well, the perfect state for someone wanting to stop bad thoughts or missing feelings. Children who use tiredness like this are craving acceptance, relief from confusion and some peace from the questions in their mind.
Numbness – Children who are eating constantly, who always seem to have food in their hand need the process of eating to provide a constant numbness to what they are experiencing. Eating this way is making them feel a little better all day long, just enough to stop them noticing the lack they may be feeling. These children are usually wanting to feel more loved and so the continuous delivery of food steadily provides this feeling.
I hope this gives you some appreciation of the complexities of what food can do for someone seeking to feel better. Although food is relief, it is never a nice place to be. Those moments of respite that food provides are brief compared to the other hours of the day feeling all the negative emotion and lack. Eating may be about reducing emotional pain but that doesn’t mean there is any pleasure in it. It’s is simply a mechanism for coping. Even if you struggle to understand this aspect of your child don’t question it, recognise it for the cry for help it is.