What does childhood trauma have to do with eating? Everything!! When we don’t have our basic needs met in childhood, food becomes a powerful tool and ally for survival. If we aren’t physically or emotionally safe in childhood, food often becomes one of the only things we can control or use to escape. When food needs aren’t met due to a lack of financial resources or if parents’ have their own food issues and become over-controlling of what, when and how their children eat. This also leads to a lack of safety.
What fires together, wires together. This means that food and safety becomes wired together in our brain. Food becomes intertwined with safety every time we eat when feeling unsafe. As a result, even in adulthood many of us use food to restore a sense of safety when we are triggered. To disconnect the coupling between food and safety, the underlying trauma must be addressed. I love these books because they help uncover some of the unresolved issues that may be keeping you from achieving a healthy relationship with food.
Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker
This is my new favorite book! I haven’t been this excited about a book in quite a while. Complex PTSD may be a new term for you, but it means that you have experienced prolonged and repeated traumas. If you experienced childhood abuse of any kind, parents who were physically or emotionally absent, or repeated experiences where you had no control and no ability to escape, you likely have Complex PTSD. In this book, Pete explains what CPTSD looks like and how you can manage emotional flashbacks.
Running on Empty by Jonice Webb
I love this book because, in Jonice’s words, some of the deepest wounds aren’t about what happened, but what didn’t happen in childhood. I can’t tell you how many clients have told me they had a “great” or “perfect” childhood only to find out later that they didn’t ever feel valued or understood by their parents. Their childhood may have outwardly looked “perfect”, but it was empty. There was no emotional connection or safety within the family. This book is triggering and validating all at the same time. Her follow up book Running on Empty No More addresses how to engage in your present day relationships with your partner, parents and children when you have experienced childhood emotional neglect.
Healing Your Attachment Wounds by Diane Poole Heller
This is an audio recording available through Audible and Sounds True Audio. In this recording, Diane Poole Heller explains attachment disruptions and how how trauma impacts us when it isn’t fully processed. She leads you through a series of amazing meditation like exercises to help build healthy attachment.
Healing Trauma by Peter Levine
Peter Levine has many great books and you can’t really go wrong with any of them. Peter Levine developed a trauma therapy model called Somatic Experiencing. The premise of SE looks at trauma as trapped energy that hasn’t been properly processed. The trapped energy that ke.eps you stuck in the fight, flight and freeze response that trauma creates. SE helps release the energy
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, MD
This book provides an excellent introduction to interventions for trauma outside of medication and talk therapy. Dr. van der Kolk also helps readers understand how trauma shows up in the body even decades after the experience.
This is just a sampling of the books I commonly recommend to clients. There are hundreds of resources available. Some books will speak to you more than others. If you find that you stay activated a reading these materials or you are getting stuck in uncomfortable emotions/behaviors, seek out a professional to help guide you through the healing process.