I read the headline of an article that pretty much said, “How Can Someone Obsessed with Food Be Anorexic?” I am now recovering from my eating disorder, and I can tell you that I was and still am OBSESSED with food. When I got down to below 90 pounds, all I thought about was food and now that I have started recovering, all I think about is food.
Food is constantly on my mind. The first thoughts when I wake up are:
“What I am going to eat today?”
“How much am I going to let myself eat today?”
“When am I going to eat today?”
“Am I going to feel guilty about my food choices today?”
Even when I am focused on other things, I AM THINKING ABOUT FOOD. Food is the hamster in the wheel always spinning in the back of my mind. It is my obsession. This is very frustrating to me seeing that when I ate “normally,” I didn’t pay much attention to food (this is not to say I didn’t ever enjoy it). I mean, I just ate whenever I felt hungry, ate what I wanted, and wasn’t consumed by the crushing weight of guilt that comes over me when I eat something “bad.” If I’m not thinking about food, then I am most likely thinking about exercise and how I should do more than the yoga I do in the mornings, or maybe I should start running more, or should I start doing workout videos again. Maybe I should join some of my co-workers at the gym when they go, etc. I find it so difficult to trust my decisions nowadays when it comes to my food and exercise choices. Am I making this decision because I actually want to or am I making it because I am afraid I’ll feel guilty or because I am relapsing?
I really don’t want to relapse, but sometimes it just seems like the easiest option to get me to stop feeling this anxiety. When I was restricting, I at least felt like I had some control over my emotions and what I was doing. Now that I have started recovering, I feel like I am spiraling. Of course, I have had times in my past when I felt nervous or anxious, but nothing like the crippling anxiety I have felt since starting recovery. I honestly don’t remember feeling this level of anxiety when I was actually dealing with my eating disorder.
I would wake up at 5am on weekdays, would do a T-25 video, drink a glass of water, got to work and make sure to drink two cups of green tea when I got there, eat a lunch that would not exceed 250 calories at 11:45, went down to the gym at work and would walk on a treadmill for an hour, made sure I walked at least 10 flights of stairs and walk 12,500 steps before I left for the day, I would then get home, eat a dinner with a restricted number of calories and make sure to be done with eating by 8pm, get my lunch ready for the next day and start the process over again. My routine for the weekends differed some but not much. My therapist asked me once what happened when I didn’t follow these strict rules I placed on myself, and I didn’t have an answer. I can be stubborn and that trait only harmed me in this case because I was fully dedicated to my ways.
I knew that I would have felt guilty if I didn’t abide by my own strict guidelines. My OCD had taken over my life completely. It’s funny that I can trick myself into thinking that the time most consumed by my eating disorder was easier. I was so fearful without really realizing it. I knew I had a problem for a while but I just couldn’t let myself stop and I was afraid of what would happen if I did. During the worst part of my eating disorder, I wouldn’t go out to eat with anyone. I had to make food myself, fixated on using measuring cups and only eating what I thought was “good” food. I was slowly disintegrating, constantly agitated, scared of how I looked, and constantly paranoid about my food and exercise decisions (thinking I always needed to be doing more).
Recovering is hard, and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. I am now facing all my struggles head on, and I can feel the emotions weighing on me all the time. When I began recovery, I was so unsure and extremely anxious (and pretty much still am). It’s hard to describe how the anxiety takes over everything, how it feels like it’s eating me alive sometimes. I can’t think about anything other than the blinding panic, and I start feeling so overwhelmed and scared. That’s an emotion that has definitely stayed consistent. I AM SCARED.
Before, I was scared of never pushing myself enough or by the thought of failing my eating disorder-focused-mind. Now I’m scared that I can’t trust my instincts. I’m scared because I want to listen to my anorexia a lot of times. I’m scared that I will never feel normal around food again. I’m scared that I will always live with this guilt and fear. I’m scared to let my family down. I’m scared to let myself down. I’m scared that I will always be obsessed with food.
It’s so strange to deal with this. I first dealt with depression when I was 17. I wouldn’t usually consider myself an overly emotional person, but that’s what depression did to me. I would just become overwhelmed with sadness. I know a lot of people talk about how depression makes people feel numb to the world, but I had the exact opposite reaction. I would be fine one minute and then flooded with intense sadness the next. I remember one day I woke up on a Saturday and just laid in my bed crying for hours. I couldn’t stop. There were definite issues going on in my life that only encouraged my depression, but it was nothing like I had experienced before.
This time I feel different. I don’t feel the draining grief that I felt at 17. I now feel overwhelming anxiety and panic. I’ve never felt this kind of pure panic before, and it’s scary. I don’t know how to react to the things I’m feeling, and the physical changes I’m going through. What do I do when I have a panic attack at my desk in the middle of the day? What do I do when I don’t want to eat lunch because I’m scared that I’ll feel guilty later on because of it? How am I supposed to react when I’m so bloated and uncomfortable? What am I supposed to do about these body insecurities I now have? What am I supposed to do when I don’t know what to do and feel like I can’t trust myself?
The author of this blog post wishes to remain anonymous. If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder and needs help, you can call the NEDA confidential helpline at 1-800-931-2237. This helpline is available Monday-Thursday 9am-9pm ET and on Fridays 9am-5pm. Or, you can chat with a trained volunteer on Click-to-Chat. Text “NEDA” to 741741 for crisis situations. More resources are listed below:
Eating Disorders Anonymous: The Story of How We Recovered from Our Eating Disorders
Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too
The Anorexia Workbook: How to Accept Yourself, Heal Your Suffering, and Reclaim Your Life (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)