Are Control Issues the Problem?

Control Issues_woman with gaming controlle

I talk a lot about the need to look past food and eating behaviors in order to understand disordered eating. After all, these are just symptoms of more significant problems and therefore should not be the treatment target. It is necessary to dig down to the root issues that display themselves in disordered eating or diagnosable eating disorders.

One root issue I often discuss, both in this blog and in the podcast, is a fear of others’ opinions and a desire to meet the expectations of a culture obsessed with narrowly-defined superficial standards of beauty. And while it is essential to expose and deal with this potential motive, it is far from the only one that drives a person toward disordered eating.

More than Wanting the Perfect Image

So, I want to take a break from this singular focus to bring out other powerful motivations that often lead people to disordered eating. These other underlying core issues are not any less relevant, consequential, or predominant in disordered eating than trying to fit into “the ideal” image is.

The underlying problem I want to discuss in this article may be one of the most destructive, common, and enslaving heart issues of all.

woman in mask looking out window

A Recent Rise in Disordered Eating

A report by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) revealed that an increase in calls to its organization occurred during the year and a half that the COVID-19 pandemic was peaking (from March 2020 to October 2021). And this increase was not slight. NEDA reported a 58% increase in such calls!

In a related article, Healthline reported that emergency room visits related to disordered eating problems doubled for adolescent females, while the CDC reported an increase in emergency room visits in both 2020 and 2021 for eating-related disorders.

What was given as the suspected cause of such a seemingly unrelated outcome of the pandemic? These sources mainly point to isolation as the number one catalyst. And there is certainly reason to look at that. However, as someone working in the disordered eating and biblical counseling fields, I strongly suggest one more potent culprit.

Theater Sign The World is Closed

Control Issues and Disordered Eating

One of the most common root issues in disordered eating is a deeply entrenched (and often hidden) desire to garner control over things in one’s internal and external life. It usually takes a while to tease out this desire and all its tentacles, which have wreaked havoc in many areas of one’s life. The need to have control can come out in many different symptoms and behaviors. For many, it reveals itself in disordered eating and eating behaviors, such as binge eating or chronic overeating. If you would like to get started out of these behaviors, get your free copy of my ebook, “Escape the Binge!” HERE.

Now, let me ask you…when in recent memory has there been such a situation that has stripped the feeling of control away from citizens globally? When has the general population of the United States felt less in control than during this pandemic in recent history? And for this long? Such a worldwide trial has left behind a wake of fear, insecurity, uncertainty, and unpredictability – and this is not to imply it has all ended.

woman in mask behind bars control issues

When You Have Control Issues

For those of us who have a real need to control our environment, whether or not we recognize this drive within ourselves, the pandemic has churned up all manner of lifestyle and relationship issues. When confronted with an inability to control their worlds and others, many people will and do turn to the one thing they believe they can control reliably – their eating.

I emphasize “believe” because as any enlightened disordered eater realizes, sooner or later the “controlled eating” takes control – and it becomes an outright Fuhrer. Over you. Over your time. Over your health. Over your thinking. Over your will.

young woman doused with water control issues

Control Issues Might Be the Culprit

For those working in the disordered eating healthcare and counseling space, it shouldn’t be surprising that a global pandemic that extorts control out of everyone’s hands could lead – and has led – to an increase in disordered eating and eating disorder cases.

Fears abound and uncertainty is the norm. For many, it feels as if the rug has been pulled out from underneath them. The daily news has pelted them with unrelenting negativity and conspiracies that they cannot seem to get a break from. Is it any wonder those with a fear of losing control of their environment or life are specifically struggling now?

Let me be clear. The pandemic was not the cause of disordered eating. The upheaval to our lives was not the cause. Isolation was not the cause. Even the lack of control felt worldwide was not the cause. These issues just effectively pressed on us to expose what was hidden in our hearts, what was most important to us, and what we profoundly feared losing. For people who need control and dread the loss of it, such a long-lasting worldwide upheaval to normal life may have led to a problematic outflow of our hidden soul issues.  

Control Issues Woman with Mask and hands on head

Do You Need Help for Eating and Control Issues?

Have you felt chaotic and like your life is out of control? If so, please get reliable help for your very real struggle. When you are troubled by food and eating issues, you need a licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. If you are a Christian, you truly need biblically-faithful help, such as from a biblical counselor. 

If you desire help in both areas, I am here for you!

I would love to help you work through your deep heart and underlying issues to work toward freedom in Christ and food freedom! You never need to figure this out on your own or walk this path alone.

To take your first step toward compassionate help, click on the button below to schedule your free online consultation!

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Cheryl Szarko


I love helping women overcome years of bondage to food, dieting, and weight loss obsession through solid nutrition science and careful biblical counseling

Cheryl Szarko

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