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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Lott

"If I start eating I won't stop" and other worries

fat unicorn eating cake

I know that one of the things that used to worry me when I had anorexia was the fierceness of my hunger. My hunger could be absent physically until I started eating something. And then I wouldn’t want to stop. Of course, the mental hunger was there pretty much all of the time. But I was used to that and so it didn’t really register with me (until the end when I started to respond to it). The presence of physical hunger, and the intensity of it if I did start to eat something that I usually restricted, would scare me. Hence, I would rather not start eating at all, and not kick the hornets nest.

Take chocolate cake for example. I could go to a birthday party and watch everyone else eat cake and not even feel hungry for it physically (mentally I would be) unless I had a bite. If I ate some, I would want to eat the whole thing. Which, if you think about it, would have been entirely appropriate. I was in malnutrition, after all.

But in my anorexia-brain, wanting to eat a whole cake didn’t feel appropriate at all. It just felt scary as shit. Scary, because it wasn’t “normal.” My hunger was not normal. Case to point: everyone else in the world would be happy with one slice, two maximum, and then there was me. Me, wanting to eat infinite slices of cake. Me, wanting the whole bloody thing, and more. Me, a bottomless-pit-cake-eating machine.

So, rather than have one slice and be tourtured with thoughts of wanting to eat more, I would opt for none at all. That solved that problem. Except it didn’t. Not at all. In fact, the only thing ultimately that solved the problem I had (malnutrition) was to allow myself to eat the whole cake. And more. To allow my under-nourished body to eat and eat and eat. That was what was appropriate when I was in malnutrition. That is what eventually solved the problem.

Imagine my poor, malnourished, confused brain thinks I am in a famine. I am underweight and don’t get enough food, so famine is the only logical explanation as far as my brain is concerned. If we are in a famine, what is the point in wasting energy on hunger cues? Nah. So your body doesn’t bother. Until … until, you start to eat something. Then your brain is like “FOOD IS HERE AND I WANT IT ALL! Which is, again, entirely appropriate if you are underweight, have been restricting, are in energy deficit, or malnutrition, or any or all of these things.

But then your anorexia brain is all like “See. Binge eater. BINGE EATER. Can’t be trusted around food. Can’t have nice things. Can’t be trusted not to eat too much. Don’t have any at all.”

Which is total bollocks. If you are in malnutrition, of course your poor body wants all the food.

Listen, malnutrition is abnormal. That is why your appetite is abnormal. Eating a lot of food — an abnormally high amount of food — is how mammals get out of malnutrition. Your desire to eat the whole kitchen is totally to be expected.

Another thing I would worry about a lot (because anorexia turns you into a worry wart) would be:

But what about when I am no longer underweight? When will my body know not to want to eat everything all the time?

Talk about teaching Grandma to suck eggs!

Ahem … your body knows what it is doing. You don’t need to micromanage it.

Your body knows it is underweight. Therefore, it is trying to get you to do the sensible thing and eat a lot of food. That is, it would be doing that if you would get out of its way and stop restricting. When your body is no longer underweight, it will no longer feel the need to make you eat the whole house. Your body’s only objective is HEALTH. And it knows what it is doing.

My desire to eat a whole cake disintegrated as I nutritionally rehabilitated. I can’t even imagine doing that now. But I did. I know I did, plenty of times, when I was in recovery.

Your body has got this. Now, get out of its way.

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