Noticing the Connections Between Disordered Eating & Problematic Substance Use

This section describes how disordered eating practices and substance misuse can work together to keep a person ensnared. I am describing them as ‘tools of the other,’ as it is my understanding that when they are both present in someone’s life, they begin to work together in order to keep people trapped.The alliance between disordered eating practices and substance misuse can make it difficult for a person experiencing both to break free from them. When they begin to resist or take some steps away from one problem, the other one begins to tighten its grip.

Emma explains the ways that she sees these two problems co-existing in her life.

A: It's kinda cool this is how I've always imagined these two in my life though, is like here's a closet door. And here is one of the monsters creeping out like that. Here is me, like, in my bed and I'm safe underneath the covers, you know, and then there is one crawling up and pulling them off of me. It's not about overlapping, it's about this one already got it started and so this one can come in and take advantage of the fact that the ball is already rolling. They're buddies.

C: How do you explain the fact that they shared so many of the same tactics?

A: Well, I think they're both an addiction. They're both like so strong in your mind, like drugs like just push you to use them again and again. Promising you'll be happier when you use them and like this time it will be different. This time you won't do anything stupid. It will be just like the first time and same with like the eating disorder, I'll make you skinny, and then I'll make you happy. Everyone will love you.

Okay. If you were to describe it to or explain to someone the way that they both worked in your life, how would you describe how they kind of showed up together?

A: Like one brought on the other and it feels like they fed off each other.

Below Ava astutely makes connections between the images of what someone is trying to project or achieve through substance misuse or disordered eating practices as being similar. In this way, the problems have a common goal with which to attract people.

I would say they unconsciously lead you to one another whether you know it or not, its linked because it all has to do with some sort of image. The cigarette in hand. Its because you want to be part of that image. The alcohol, the martini, the joint or the line, its all about image. The eating disorder, the stars do it, the important people do it, you can do it too. It’s all about the image.

Ava describes her understanding of their shared tactics as follows.

A: They even have the same tactics it's all down to the same thing and comes from the same pain.

C: What are some of the same tactics that they share or the pain they take advantage of?

A: Doubting yourself, people and yourself telling you that you aren't good enough. That feeling of acceptance and acceptance from a community. And like what you're told, is right. It’s what you're supposed to do. Instead of what you’re really supposed to do, you know what I mean? Does that make sense?