I’ve debated writing this post for months now. On one hand, I feel like it’ll be therapeutic for me and may help some people. On the other hand, I’m worried about the people coming here and telling me to love my body how it is, and that I’m somehow anti-body positivity.
So here’s the deal. I have absolutely zero interest in being told that I should just love my body how it is. That’s not helpful. I’m not here to whine, I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m just being blunt and honest about what living with an eating disorder is like for me personally. No, I cannot and absolutely will not talk for everyone with an eating disorder. These are my personal experiences. Other people’s will be wildly different. Such is the nature of things.
I have anorexia with strong food resistance threads, and body dysmorphia. I have suffered from malnutrition on and off for over a decade. There have been many times where it reached the point of amenorrhea. Left to my own devices during periods of stress I will quite merrily go days without eating. I have however maintained a healthy weight and attitude towards food for a number of years now. I’m still dealing with the malnutrition but these things take time. In short, I’m managing it. I’m doing ok.
I think that when people think of eating disorders, they picture incredibly underweight people living on celery and thin air. It’s complicated. Like every mental disorder, there’s a lot to it.
First of all there’s my love of food. I absolutely adore cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. I love wandering around new food places and exploring new food options. I just don’t like eating any of that food. My pleasure comes from other people enjoying the food I produce. Food to me, is fuel for my body. Sometimes, very rarely, there will be a dish that I actually really enjoy eating. Generally speaking though, no matter how amazing the chef, how much the food might be my favourite, it’s really just fuel.
Following on from that, I get stressed when we don’t have very food in the flat. This is part of the resistance threads I mentioned before. People with (I forget the proper name) food resistance and avoidance? They/we have easy/safe foods. They’re foods that I can pick up without much thought and pick at while I’m doing something else. That allows me to focus on other things and keep the stupid thoughts at bay. In my case salted roasted peanuts and scones are my usual easy foods. I can pick at them while writing or whatever. Cuppa soups are great too.
When we don’t have very much food in the flat, I have to think about what I’m going to eat. I have to plan out what food’s going into what meal. What’s going to be eaten at each chosen interval, that thinking isn’t good. That’s too close to looking at how much I’m eating and then the calorie counting creeps in.
On a vaguely related note, I hate feeling hungry. I know it’s completely illogical, but feeling hungry makes me feel fat. In my twisted thought process, it means that I’ve gained weight and my body’s demanding more calories to sustain it’s higher weight. Of course that’s absurd it just means I haven’t eaten enough yet, probably from doing a lot of exercise and not compensating for it.
I manage this BS through routine and control. Eating disorders come down to control.
My body dysmorphia means that I hate mirrors and photos of myself. So they’re a no go. No mirrors unless I need to do my make-up or something to go out. Then I can focus on the required facial features or whatever. Absolutely no photos of me. The last picture taken of me was on my honeymoon.
I have a rather strict routine when it comes to eating. I have breakfast within one hour of getting up. Sometimes I get side-tracked with work, but I do my best.
Four hours later I have a suitably sized snack. Eight hours after getting up I have lunch. Four hours after lunch I have another snack. Then a small dinner four hours after that.
If I’ve gotten behind on my food, usually due to high stress levels and doing lots of exercise, then I keep a bowl of peanuts next to me where I work. I can pick at the peanuts while working.
When I get stressed the food resistance kicks in very strongly. That means that I absolutely do not want to eat or deal with food at all. When it gets really bad I have to force feed myself and can’t go near the kitchen because I get so stressed and tense that it’s too much.
Making eating social helps me a lot because it takes the focus off the act of eating. I can talk and focus on that instead. The only potential issue is I won’t eat alone. So I need someone else at the table to be eating until I’ve finished. I’m getting much better about that, I can finish my meal after husband when it’s just us. I can’t do it out and about with friends yet though. It’s a process.
Oh and I cannot clear my plate. There must be something left on the plate, even a single fry will do.
Eating disorders are horrible. They can very quickly and easily consume people’s lives and buggar up their lives. I have to keep on top of my eating for work reasons as well as mental health reasons. If I don’t eat enough then I can’t concentrate, my mind’s fuzzy, my reactions are sluggish, and none of that is conducive to work.
So there you have it. This is what I live with. I’m aware it’s entirely illogical. I manage it though. I’m doing ok, but I am never going to love my body the way it is.