It was brought to my attention last week about the behaviours of eating disorder patients when they are in hospital. Having been out of hospital now for 5 and a half years, I had forgotten about all the anorexic habits and tricks I used to do in hospital in an attempt to get away with eating less.
I was discussing with an old friend how patients mess about with food in every way, shape and form. From putting food into their pockets when they think no one is watching to mashing and spreading food into wrappers and onto plates in an attempt to disguise it and therefore avoid eating it. I knew every trick in the book and in my first admission I was always at it. I was the naughty one at the table, always being told off for messing about with my food. But more often than not I was one step ahead of the staff. In a blink of an eye I could make food disappear.
|Me at a time when my anorexic eating habits were dominant
But it takes a lot of effort being sly like that. You have to always be on your guard, always watching, always thinking and deliberating what you can get away with. It’s very stressful. In my last admission at The Priory, when I started to eat again after 7 months of tube feeding, I tried to develop normal eating habits and stopped myself from these anorexic traits. And I have continued with these normal habits since discharge.
It wasn’t until talking about these behaviours least week that remembered how much I used to be like that, every meal time desperately trying to get away with whatever I could. And remembering what it used to be like-constantly messing around with food, I actually thought to myself ‘thank god I am not like that anymore.’ It surprises me that I actually feel this way, that I’m not beating myself up for not being ‘more anorexic’ and always doing ‘the anorexic thing.’ When I first started to break my sneaky anorexic food tricks it was very difficult and I did feel very guilty, thinking that I was letting anorexia down by not getting away with whatever I could. But now, I had forgotten that I even used to be like that and moreover, I had forgotten how tense and demanding it actually was.
|Me, now able to eat out normally with friends
I remembered all those feelings…when you get away with leaving 2 cornflakes in the bottom of the packet, you feel jubilant, triumphant, relieved that you haven’t had to eat everything. But now I just think ‘I can’t believe I used to be like that and really, what difference did 2 measly cornflakes make?’ It would not have had any influence on my weight whatsoever but in my mind it was incredibly important. Any calories not consumed was a huge deal. But every bit of mashed up or hidden food not eaten, whilst not making any significant difference to my weight, was a strong reinforcement of my anorexic mental state. Which is why these behaviours need to be stopped. Not so patients eat the correct amount of food to gain the necessary weight, but to stop the voice of anorexia winning and being strengthened. And I never thought I would say it but I am glad I am not like that anymore, not that entrenched with anorexia that I can’t even eat a cereal bar without messing it around.
But that is not to say I don’t still have issues and habits with food. By god I do. If I perceive my portion too large or if it is even only a few calories more than it is meant to be I panic and struggle to eat. But whereas before I was secretive and trying to conceal what I was doing, now when faced with a stressful meal or snack, I talk about it openly with my mum and we reason, negotiate and come to an agreement. I still have a long way to go but I hadn’t quite realised how far I had come. And actually, as much as a large part of me still wants to hold onto anorexia and wants to be thinner, I never want to go back to behaving like that. Life is a little bit easier and little bit more enjoyable without being completely and utterly dominated in every waking moment by anorexia’s poison. And if I have made this much progress so far, anyone can….and who knows how much more progress I (and others) could make?