TW: This post contains discussion of unhealthy eating/coping habits.
You may have heard of stress eating, but have you heard of stress not eating? It’s no secret that stress can affect our appetite. It initiates a flight or fight response that can make us crave sugary and fatty foods, or it can slow down our digestive system all together.
But for me, and perhaps because I have BPD, high stress can lead to me not eating enough. It’s not that I’m not hungry; in fact, I’m usually starving. But I can’t seem to catch up with the calorie deficit unless I buckle down and really choose to use skills.
What’s interesting is to think about why I do this beyond a flight or fight response. There isn’t just one simple reason. In fact, I’ve come up with seven different reasons that get all jumbled together and rotate as the primary reason.
1. I lack energy to make food when I’m struggling.
2. I am indecisive and have a hard time choosing.
3. I enjoy feeling hungry in a weird way of having control.
4. I use it to numb my thoughts. It’s hard to think straight when you’re hungry.
5. I do it to self-sabotage. Classic BPD.
6. I want others to notice my pain.
And according to this article maybe…
7. I hijack ghrelin production to boost mood.
Stress not eating can be a vicious cycle because often being hungry actually makes us more anxious and generally emotionally dysregulated. For that exact reason, a very important skill in DBT is the PLEASE skill. It’s an acronym to help you remember to take care of yourself physically to take care of yourself emotionally. The acronym is a stretch, but it stands for: treat PhysicaL illness, balance Eating, avoid mood-Altering drugs, balance Sleep, and get Exercise. For me, the most important one seems to be balance eating because it takes the most conscious effort.
These past few weeks with preparing to move and start a new job were incredibly stressful. There were definitely times I stress not ate as a poor coping skill. But awareness is often the first step to changing a behavior. Moving forward I was able to more consciously remind myself to be skillful and eat three meals a day plus some snacks, even when stressed. Reason #1000 why I love DBT.