time to face up: the link between acne & eating disorders
Acne is not only a sign of a physical imbalance, it also indicates that on an emotional level we are not ready to face the world.
While it is not always the case that you will battle with acne when going through an eating disorder, it can indeed happen. Very simply put, when you are underweight, it causes an imbalance of hormones. Our bodies need a certain amount of body fat in order to produce and synthesize hormones.
When there is a drop in weight, the body has to prioritse how to use energy smartly. The body no longer has the luxury to produce certain hormones, which is why you will lose your period, have a decreased sex drive, struggle to sleep and feel moody. A lot of this is hormone-related. The body is conserving its energy for more vital functions in order to simply keep you alive: heart beating, blood flowing, lungs expanding, and getting you from A to B. Clear, acne-free skin is certainly not at the top of the body’s list of important things to sort out.
Think about it: When we are struggling with an eating disorder, we are at the very core ashamed of ourselves and fearful of vulnerability. Using food in maladaptive ways (whether it be restriction, bingeing or overeating), are ineffective and harmful strategies to try numb out, cover up and hide away.
And when acne shows up, it can indicate that we aren’t ready to face the world. Acne says, “Don’t look at me, for I am unworthy of your love. Don’t look at me, for when you look at me, it causes me to look at myself and that is painful. Please, don’t look at me.”
Acne literally makes us want to retreat, to not face the world or to socialise. When we go out in public, we experience embarrassment and shame, and we feel like everyone is disgusted by our appearance, further feeding the eating disorder and giving it more ammunition, keeping us in a feedback loop of shameful smallness.
The only way to clear acne is acceptance, despite whatever is going on, felt or experienced. This is of course, not what our eating disorder wants. Our eating disorder wants us to never feel satisfied, or at ease. It does this by fueling this continuous chase of perfection - a state that will never ever be attained. Ever.
So this means that radical acceptance is the only way forward. It also means eating nourishing foods that help heal the body and the mind. It means listening deeply to how we can feed our creativity and giving our inner child time to play. It means letting people in. It means opening up and then trusting that things will flow the way they are meant to. Acne is so much more than skin deep.
We are required to heal from the inside out.