Food, my enemy!

Anorexia Nervosa

If anyone asks you: name an eating disorder. What is the first thing that comes to mind? Correct, probably anorexia. 

Like any other eating disorder, anorexia nervosa is a psychological illness that can have very severe consequences. Recapping and writing about here kind of makes me shiver as I have been through all this and it is scary to think back. If you want to hear how I made my way back to life, read ‘My Recovery Story’. 

Now, as many people know, anorexia is characterised by an immense fear of gaining weight, an unhealthy focus on food and a wrong perception of your own body image. And what happens if you are scared of gaining weight? You diet…excessively…you exercise a lot, you starve yourself, you are very likely to risk your life! 

What we see.

The most crucial aspect of anorexia is the distorted perception of your own body image. In reality, you are super skinny, too skinny…but you look in the mirror and you see something completely different (similar to body dysmorphia), just that this time it is all about seeing yourself fat and overweight. You pinch your skin of your hips, treating it as fat…struggling to even get hold of it but in your opinion, it is a massive junk of unwanted bodyfat.

Why do people become anorexic? Well, this is hard to tell and it can have different reasons: it might be the social pressure and the expectations of what body shape you should have; it could be genetic and you might have had a history in your family like in my case; or it is a psychological phenomenon – perfectionism, low self-esteem, certain personality traits. Changes in life circumstances, for example your parents are moving cities and you have to change school; work pressure or even pregnancy. And then there is…dieting. Yep, dieting can lead into an eating disorder…this is exactly how it started for me. 

How we fall.

Hard to believe? I’ll explain.

 

Imagine you went through a change. Maybe you just gave birth. Maybe you moved cities, you don’t know anyone, you are lonely and snacks on the couch become your best friend. Maybe you went through a really difficult time, a trauma. You gained weight, you feel uncomfortable in your own skin and you really want to do something about it. So you decide to start a diet. You might seek help from a nutritionist or you throw yourself into one of those thousands of diets on the world wide web. Now ideally, you start to see some results, the first kilos are coming off, you get compliments about your success and you feel great. You are following a strict meal plan, you don’t feel as hungry 

anymore in between meals as your body slowly gets used to regular meal times as well as smaller portions. And you think to yourself: ‘maybe I can lose even more even faster, if I eat less or less frequent’. And there we go…you start making your portions smaller, you skip a meal and in no time, you consume 500 calories a day. 

Makes sense? 

Of course, this is just an example and every person is different and you will hear everything about my own experience and how it went down for me. 

How do we tell someone is anorexic.

I mean, there are countless people out there that are skinny as but don’t necessarily have an eating disorder. 

Trust me: when you see someone anorexic, you will know! It is a different form a being skinny. You can see their bones sticking out, especially around the hips and the shoulders, the collar bone. They look pale, their face is shrunk in and malnourished, almost unproportioned. You can clearly see if someone is meant to be that thin or not. You instantly feel sad for that person. And this is exactly what they want: they want you to look at them, they want your attention, it is all about control. 

Control.

When you are anorexic, it is all about control. You might have lost control at some point in your life or you feel like you have never been in control. But now, being able to control food without anyone else being able to interfere, this is what drives you further and further into this dangerous illness. And the more your family or friends are trying to help, the deeper you pull yourself into this cycle, not letting go off your control. 

And while you think you have control, it is the food that has control over you! Your whole day evolves around food, constantly thinking about what to eat and when to eat…and although food is your enemy because it makes you fat, all you want is eat. So you plan your small and rare meals in the tiniest detail. And when it comes to the time of the day, you get irritable. You cut your food into as many pieces as you possibly can…I am talking cutting peas in half! Yeah, you read that correctly. You spend ages eating that tiny bit on your plate, it is almost like a ritual. You are tired, you struggle to concentrate, you isolate yourself from other people, and of course, you exercise a lot.

And as this is not enough for some, you might start taking laxatives, you eat ice cubes so you get stomach pain and have an excuse not to eat, or you start hurting yourself or worse. 

A lot to take in, isn’t it? 

And now considering how occupied your brain is with all those tasks throughout the day while starving yourself, you leave your body with to deal with all the possible consequences, some irreversible.

What happens?

    • you are constipated

    • your period stops (yes, I know, we all hate it but it can ultimately affect your fertility)

    • your hands and feet are constantly cold due to poor blood flow

    • your muscles…toodaloo

    • you are at risk of heart problems, kidney failure, low blood pressure, osteoporosis, dehydration

    • your skin is dry, your hair is thin, you get dizzy for no reason

    • and you start getting fur…fine hair on your face and your body, usually on your back and your upper arms…it protects you from the cold

Some of those physical symptoms reverse once you start getting better but others, you will struggle with for a long time, if not forever. 

Anorexia Athletica.

As the name says it, we are not talking about anorexia that affects athletes and all us passionate sporty people. The main characteristic is a high level of physical activity paired with a very low intake of calories. it won’t be a surprise when I tell you that anorexia athletica is most common in sports like gymnastics or figure skating. 

And even though symptoms might be very similar to anorexia nervosa, the focus on performance and exercising is a lot higher. And as we all know, eating in a deficit…and I am talking about a BIG deficit…does not only make us lose weight, it also takes away our energy, we feel fatigued and we can’t concentrate which consequently decreases our performance, we are more likely to injure ourselves and it will take a lot longer to recover. 

When it comes to recovery, unfortunately, the first step to get better is: admit to yourself that you have a problem. Admit to yourself, that you are too skinny, dangerously skinny. Admit to yourself, that you need help! And ultimately…admit to yourself, that you want to live! Nothing will change if you don’t give yourself a chance of life. After that, the people around you will have it a lot easier to guide you in the right direction and support you! 

Check out My Recovery Story if you want to read how I made my way back to life.