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!