My first steps in anorexia recovery

A couple of things happened this week that have really shifted my mindset.

I am losing my hair. It has been falling out more than it used to for a while now, but I was sort of in denial about it. I sat up in the bath and there was a row of hair where my head had been resting against the end of the bath. It was alarming. This is as a direct consequence of anorexia and malnutrition.

The other thing is something someone said in group last week and they touched on it again this week after I’d had the chance to mull it over for a while. Having the gap between it being stated and reiterated made me more receptive to it.

They said that when they were referred for eating disorder treatment, they started eating proactively by themselves, as a way of maintaining control but in a positive way. These words have been echoing round in my head.

I have been feeling so desperate for someone to help me and I think it’s really disempowering. I know I do need outside help with it but maybe I can channel my fears of treatment and my fears of control being taken away from me into gaining control over my eating again and being proactive in taking a few first steps to eating and recovery.

I know my mindset has shifted because i used to look around and see thin people everywhere. Now I look around and see people who are my old size (uk 12-14) and I think they look happy and healthy with the energy to live their lives and I crave that. I think they look fine, they look good because they are healthy.

I’m still scared I will start eating and not be able to stop and I’ll become obese. Since I’m currently a UK size 6 this danger is a way off yet.

It is the fear of being out of control though. When I eat after being hungry/I eat a meal (normal size to me, probably small by regular standards) I feel full. When I feel full I feel panicky and overwhelmed and I want to react to the panicky overwhelmed feeling by eating more, I guess to numb the anxious feelings.

Why does feeling full make me feel panicky? I’m scared I will keep eating and not be able to stop, but that is because the feeling full leads to anxiety which leads to wanting to numb the anxiety with food. What is the original source of post eating/fullness anxiety? Is it guilt? Do I feel guilty and like I don’t deserve to eat? Do I feel like eating any amount of food is a failure and a sign of weakness in me? Because it’s not. Did I just so rarely feel full as a child that the full feeling is still unfamiliar and overwhelming to me? Is it just the association now with past episodes of bingeing after meals especially in the evenings and the fear that will happen again?

I need to learn to ride out these feelings and recognise the feeling of fullness as satisfaction (no further action required) and to wait because sometimes craving further food is residual hunger from before when I ate and it takes a while for your body to process the calories and stop telling you you are hungry.

I started attempting to eat last night. I feel like it was a binge but actually it was not excessive, just an understandable amount given that I have been starving myself for so long.

Today I am going to try to eat more normally, in a meal pattern with healthy snacks. When I feel full I need a plan:

1. It is okay to feel full. It means you have given your body what it needs and you will be happier and healthier as a result and more able to achieve the things you want in life.

2. After eating, know that the panicky feeling starts to subside after 60-90 minutes, so
Reassure self as above
Don’t reach for something else to eat, use distraction if necessary
Could have a cup of coffee or herbal tea as a post meal ritual? Would this soothe some of the anxious feelings
Try not to focus on when the next meal or snack is. I want to stop agonising and over planning food as it has taken over all of my thoughts and is exhausting.

3. Notice feelings of fullness and try to coach myself that these are feelings of satisfaction/not needing anything further and that it is OK to have eaten. Try to notice feelings of hunger and to distinguish between being ‘mouth hungry’ which is usually an emotional/bored craving for food and ‘body hungry’ which is a genuine hunger and a signal from my body to eat. Maybe okay to stick to a more rigid food plan/routine until I am better at recognising the differences/tolerating full feelings, to avoid binges and subsequent guilt ridden relapses into starvation. If I’m mouth hungry for a particular food maybe have a vague plan to eat it another time, remind myself it’s not off the menu forever, but I have the whole rest of my life of meals to eat, I’m not going to be starving myself any more, so I don’t need to eat like a starving person!


5 thoughts on “My first steps in anorexia recovery

  1. I understand this thing about eating disorders, as I’m a sufferer, myself. I’m always dehydrated and malnourished. I had a feeding tube for 9 months to save my life. I hate to eat because it will make me fat and it makes me physically ill, anything I put into my stomach causes abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, etc. damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I know my body isn’t getting the proper nutrition and I don’t know what to do about it. My doctors tell me there’s nothing they can do, other than put the feeding tube back in, if necessary. I sure don’t want the feeding tube, as it hurt like hell the entire 9 months I had it and was always infected, which meant I had to be on antibiotics all the time, which we know isn’t a good thing.
    I just wish I could look in the mirror and see what everyone else claims they see. I’m only a size 6 in American sizes, In my head I know size 6 isn’t big, but that’s not what I see when I look in the mirror. I’ve been this way since the age of 5. That is really sad to be 5 and think you’re fat when you’re not. I am in therapy, extensive outpatient therapy for several reasons. Take care and I wish you the best on your journey, No one can understand us. You can not know what it’s like just by reading a book or listening to someone talking about it. You have to actually experience it to get it. Good luck. I wish you the best.

    • I’m so sorry you are enduring this painful journey also. Thanks for your comment and I wish you the very best for recovery x

      • Thank you. It’s been one long journey so far and being this way for so long, I’m not so sure I can get better from this. It’s nice to have support and people that truly understand how damn hard this really is. I wish you the best on your journey. Have a great weekend.

  2. Hi – I’ve been reading your blog on and off for some time but this is my first comment…

    Sorry if this is topically all over the place but I’ve always communicated like this.

    A brief mental background of me:

    My best friend who has since abandoned me two years ago believed I had borderline. I’ve seen an NHS psychiatrist who advised I don’t have borderline but actually mild autism. I can be blunt and cruel with and without realising. I think there is an element of infinite contridiction about me though.

    I’d always been chubby when I was young, and one day when I was listening to music at 13 on the downstairs computer, I looked down and saw my belly. I spontaneously decided to just get up and go for a run. This turned in to an ongoing hing until eventually one day I ate nothing more than a custard cream for breakfast (nothing else all day) and jogged for eight hours straight. My mum was concerned about my legs getting dangerously thin and I’d often get furious with my family, saying “well if you all want to be fat then that’s your problem”, provoked at the size of the portions prepared for me. I must’ve messed up my nervous system or something because my mum baked me some flapjack, and after eating a peice my legs began to run against my will! I ran out the front door and went for about a mile or two before stopping for a breather.

    I slowly began eating properly again, going from eight stone something to around twelve or thirteen now (6ft 2 male) after I swapped a fitness fad, insisting on cooking the meals every night so that I knew we weren’t going to all balloon in to fatties, for obsession with sleeping two to six hours a night. I’d always be trying to have less sleep than everybody else, less food, more dominating music, show more flesh, have more friends – I was greedy and had a superiority problem which is still residual in my present personality. Whenever I say something and I know it sounds very clever, I start getting a puffed up ego and have to intervene: look away in shame of how proud I was getting.

    I think in summary, the thing is not to let any one thing dominate your life, but always have something else to go to afterwards to weigh everything down in it’s proper place. As annoying as my job can be, it really cuts down the amount of time that I spend doing ‘bathroom malarkey’: washing hands, showering and all that jazz, so that I deliberately leave it until the morning to reduce the time (because I have work to get to – it removes the choice element of how long I take – you may find this useful).

    If you’ve got work to get done (that really interests you), you will find that not only do you require a good diet and burn it off, but that you will be so stuck in to what you’re doing, food will go out the window; you’ll forget to eat! – you’ll eat because you have to just so that you can focus clearly on your work again – and when you eat with a genuine hunger you’ll find what little you do eat more satisfying (and on that note, eat less calories of delicious food (I like crab, prawns and scotch eggs…) rather than masses of stodge (crisps, chips, chicken nuggets…)). Keep your protein up, as this will keep your brain repaired and wired firmly together.

    Don’t be like a sloth that eats less and does less; eat more and do more – burn it off, become stronger and achieve more. Learn when defensive measures are worse then what you’re trying to defend against (eg I don’t want to be rejected by my friends and left with no friends, so I’m never going to make any friends).

    Because of my stress-fueled handwashing OCD, I used to HATE using the toilet, so that I’d go sometimes 12 hours without going. Please don’t ever do anything like this as it’ll also stop you from concentrating, with all those toxins in your bloodstream – you’ll be ratty.

    If you ever get stressed with an OCD (also based on paranioia that you might’ve touched something dirty whenever you’re within a metre of it – usually caused by a room with spotlights and lots of shadows of the same object), just touch something like a low-traffic area of the floor or other mildly unclean thing as you’d view it and then touch your face and rub your hands all over – although it sounds insane at first, it’ll deflate the stress (I don’t know if you’ve ever had OCD, but you could probably adapt this principle, or at least give it a go, to reduce your own sources of stress).

    Plan things in the morning, then you won’t be worrying about them all night long which will deprive you of precious sleep (don’t go too long without sleep or you might be suprised how hard it is to fall asleep after two or three days! – it’s really scarey). Only worry about things in the minutes before they are due to happen. If you worry about distant events, they might not even happen. If you’re scared of somebody, talk to them – half of your fears that they’re a big nasty horrible ogre might well evapourate when you’re actually talking with them (maybe they’re not that bad after all).

    You’ll find that your perceptions and those of others are influenced massively by how much sleep they’ve had, how much recreation they’ve had and whether they’ve eaten and relieved themselves sufficiently (some people think you’re cutting them up in conversation, speaking very fast when actually it’s them being slow and dopey because it’s the morning).

    I’ll cut it there for now – I hope I helped you to any degree and didn’t offend you or trigger you – I know I faint if people talk about certain subjects (needles being one).

    • Hi there, I’m sorry to hear you’ve had some of the same issues. Perhaps I can use some of your advice – I definitely think it’s true that talking to a person I’m scared of and facing that fear can help. Just like doing the thing I most dread on my list of things to do first (‘eating the frog’).

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