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What I Remind Myself When I Feel Like 'Food Is Failure'

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

For a long time, food tasted like failure. And that failure is an emotion so powerful it’s almost tangible — I could reach out and touch it. I constantly told myself “food tastes like failure and failure is a feeling.”

But that’s a lie.

Failure is not a feeling, it’s a perception. Eating food is not failure. My reaction was a learned response to what for most people is a healthy and essential part of life. Like walking and talking and breathing. People eat food. Those who don’t, die. Some eat healthy and some don’t, but eating in and of itself is not failure. This is a lie I was accidentally taught and have since ingrained into my heart and soul.

This lie has turned failure into a feeling. But those feelings are more accurately categorized as shame and anger and being overwhelmed. Which according to the feelings wheel, translates to sad, mad and scared. I live my life sad, mad and scared. Or in clinical terms – anxious and depressed.

There is a second lie deeply rooted into my soul. I believe feelings are facts. So when I feel like a failure, when I’m ashamed and angry at myself and overwhelmed with the sense of inevitability of my own stupidity, I believe these are facts. Not only do I feel stupid, I believe I am stupid. Not only do I feel fat, I believe I am fat. When I eat, I sometimes feel these things like facts.

And this is another lie.

They are feelings. That is true. But they aren’t necessarily facts. They can be challenged. The very loud voice inside me – the voice that says I’m not good enough and I’m going to fail – needs to be silenced. It is telling me lies and the lies will destroy me if I don’t fight them.

This week I’m reminding myself eating isn’t failure. I may not be able to remind myself of this all day long, but I’m getting there at breakfast. I’m learning to eat breakfast and not feel like a failure. To not feel ashamed and angry and overwhelmed. The voice of reason is strongest in the mornings, when the day is fresh and full of hope. And from this baby step, I hope to slowly learn failure is not a feeling and feelings aren’t facts.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via LanaBrest.

Originally published: April 7, 2017
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