Living with an eating disorder is incredibly difficult. People often think about eating disorders and anorexia as people who just obsess about their food and weight. But it runs so much deeper than this. Eating disorders effect every single part of a sufferers life. I have lived with anorexia for longer than I have lived without it. Over the years, I have developed certain eating disorder behaviours. They are habits of anorexia that I have got stuck in. And they are very annoying eating disorder behaviours.
The problem with anorexia, or any eating disorder, is that once behaviours and habits start, they are very difficult to change or stop. Some of these eating disorder behaviours and habits aren’t necessarily things that people who don’t have eating disorders will be aware of. Yes, there are the more common and well known habits such as calorie counting and weighing out food. But there are also the more less talked about, annoying eating disorder behaviours that actually are often the more difficult to live with and try to change.
So here is my blog about my top 5 annoying eating disorder behaviours. These are the less talked about behaviours. And my experience is with anorexia and so my annoying eating disorder behaviours are associated with this. Please do note that these are my own personal top 5 annoying eating disorder behaviours. Not everyone with an eating disorder experiences these. They are personal to me. I would love to hear if you have experienced any annoying eating disorder behaviours, or if you can relate to any of mine. Please do leave a comment and let me know.
1. Saving food & calories for later
Saving food for later is my number one annoying eating disorder behaviour. It is an eating disorder behaviour that I have found so incredibly difficult to tackle. When I first started in anorexia recovery, I was very regimental in when I had to eat my meals and snacks. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks all had to be at the exact same time every day. If my meal was late by even 10 minutes, it would send me into turmoil. But as I have progressed through anorexia recovery, this eating disorder habit has changed. However, it remains equally as annoying.
Over recent years, I have developed the eating disorder habit of wanting to save as much food as possible until the evening. This wasn’t for restriction purposes as I’d be eating the exact same amount of food regardless of the time I ate it. I just wanted to have it all as late in the day as possible. A few years ago I was at the point where I wasn’t eating during the day and would instead eat ALL of my required food in the evening.
I’ve tried to tackle this annoying eating disorder behaviour many times. I have made some progress, but it is still not great. Breakfast can sometimes be at midday, although this is better than not at all! I currently eat my lunch at 5.30pm and I know this is not lunch time! The thought of eating my lunch earlier just floods me with thoughts that I can’t do it. I question whether I actually do want to have it earlier, because I believe I like having it when I do.
But then I realise that it isn’t that I don’t want to do it. I would love to eat lunch at a more normal time. But I feel I can’t deal with the feelings that I would experience if I did. Therefore, this makes me want to do not do it. This has been, and still is, such a big issue for me that actually writing this blog now, I think it is a topic that needs it’s own blog.
So for now, I will leave this number one eating disorder behaviour here and I will definitely do a full blog on it in the next month.
2. How long to eat food for
Now this is linked to my number one annoying eating disorder behaviour. By saying how long to eat food for, I don’t mean that I have a behaviour that says I want to eat for x minutes. Often in eating disorder units you will see that many patient’s eat incredibly slowly. There are different reasons why some may do this and can include wanting to savour the food, not wanting to look greedy, because they are really struggling, and many, many more reasons.
This isn’t my issue, although it did used to be when I was in the depths of anorexia. My issue with timings and how long food takes is around wanting to finish my food at a certain time in the day. I wouldn’t mind whether it took me 1 minute or 1 hour, but I would want to finish at the particular time that I have set in my head as a rule. And it is bloody annoying!
It means that often when I am eating my dinner, I will sit and not eat for 20 minutes, just so that I finish at the time I want to. Or, more correctly, that anorexia wants me to. This annoying eating disorder behaviour is linked to my number one and wanting to save food for later for the following reason. If I were to finish my dinner at say, an hour earlier than I ‘wanted’, it would mean that I would have an extra hour to wait before I next consumed food. I worry I would be bored, hungry and unable to fill the extra hour doing something else.
I know this is very disordered. It is very much an anorexic behaviour. I have tried to challenge this and I have made some progress with it. If I am going out for dinner or if I am with friends, I eat normally and this annoying eating behaviour disappears. I don’t give it a thought. But in the humdrum routine of daily life, it is still there. And it annoys me greatly. I think the fact that it is linked to wanting to save food for later makes it really hard to challenge. But I keep trying.
A few years ago, exercise would have been my number one annoying eating disorder behaviour. As part of having anorexia, I have had an exercise obsession. Growing up I was an athlete, so sport and exercise is kind of in my blood. But with anorexia it became incredibly obsessive. Exercise was simply a means to burn calories and regulate my weight.
When I was last discharged in 2011, my exercise routine consisted of 50 minutes of walking per day. Come hell or high water, I HAD to do this. Every, single, day. I’d walk in snow, gales, rain, if I was feeling ill. No matter what, I always did my 50 minutes of walking. And I absolutely hated it. I actually wrote a blog about it a few years ago which you can read here: (https://www.bexquinlan.com/2017/06/old-habits-die-hard.html)
It was such an all-consuming eating disorder behaviour which became so apparent to me several years ago. Me and my family were due to go on holiday. Our flight was around 6.30am, which meant we had to be at the airport for 4.30am. Therefore, we were due to set off from home at around 3.30am. Because I couldn’t deal with the stress of having to do all my 50 minute walk once we arrived on holiday, I got up at 3am and went for a walk. This meant I didn’t have to do it all when I got there. This helped relieve my anxiety. But it also made me realise how out of control I was with my exercise. It made me realise how much I was being slave driven by anorexia.
Over the last couple of years I have really tried hard to tackle my exercise obsession. And I actually made good progress. It took a lot of hard work, and a very long time, but my obsession started to become less strong. Pre Covid, I had got my daily 50 minute walk down to 15 minutes, or half an hour if I was going with my mum (which previously had been 1 hour and 10 minutes). On days when I was busy, I could cope with not going for a walk. I finally felt like I was starting to become in control of my exercise.
Covid did throw a spanner in the works. With the government announcing lockdown and an allowance of one hour exercise per day, anorexia took this as – I MUST do one hour of walking per day. So my daily walk went back up to one hour. I have since been able to get it back down and am nearly back to my pre-covid walking routine.
Because of the progress I have made, exercise obsession is not my number one annoying eating disorder behaviour anymore. But it is still there, and it is still annoying. And it is a very difficult behaviour to challenge. Having to follow a strict, imposed exercise routine every day is exhausting. I am so glad I put the hard work in over the last few years to stop being so slave driven by anorexia. But as obsessive exercise has previously had such complete control over my life, it has to be one of my most annoying eating disorder behaviours.
4. Exercise ruining time with others
Linked to number 3 and exercise, is prioritising exercise over family and friends. As if it isn’t bad enough that you have to do a strict, obsessive amount of exercise, but it also causes you to miss out on time with family and friends. Or, if I do exercise with my family, it has often led to arguments because they aren’t walking how I need them to. So often when going for a walk with my mum, I have perceived her to not be walking fast enough. I get stressed, she gets angry, and we end up arguing. Going for a walk with your mum shouldn’t be such an ordeal. It should be an enjoyable activity. But because anorexia makes me stress that I’m not walking fast enough, or far enough, it ruins the whole thing.
For years I would only walk by myself because my family couldn’t conform to anorexia’s requirements. I have missed out on spending time with my family because anorexia convinced me that getting my walking done as I needed to was more important.
Like my exercise obsession, I have also made a lot of progress with this. Now, I rarely go for a walk by myself. I can go for a walk with my mum without measuring our speed or how far we have walked. Our walks together are much more relaxed. But there is still the occasion when I think my mum is walking to slowly and I get stressed. It shouldn’t matter what speed we are walking at. What should matter is the time that I am getting to spend with my mum. But anorexia is a b***h. It plagues you with anxiety for not following its rules. So although exercise doesn’t ruin my time with my family like it used, the years it has ruined in the past definitely makes it one of my most annoying eating disorder behaviours.
5. Brain to Behaviour Paralysis
I wasn’t sure what to call this one. It’s not really a specific eating disorder behaviour but it is still incredibly annoying. It kind of encompasses all of the behaviours listed above. Basically, this is what I mean by Brain to Behaviour Paralysis:
In my head, I know all the logic and rationality around anorexia. I know how dangerous it is, I know losing weight doesn’t get me anywhere, I know wanting to hold onto it is pointless, and I know it is life limiting. But can I act on this logic and understanding? Not always. I do to a fair extent because I am not relapsing or actively losing weight, and I try to resist engaging in anorexic behaviours as much as possible. But those anorexic behaviours and thoughts are still there, and I can’t always get myself to do what I know I should.
Take the above examples (numbers 1-4). I would love to be able to have my lunch at 2pm. I tell myself to have my lunch earlier and I want to be able to. But I can’t get my behaviour to follow my brain. The Brain to Behaviour Paralysis. It is an incredibly frustrating experience. It is like this with so many aspects of life and recovery. Your head knowing what it wants to be able to do, but not being able to match your behaviour to it. It is incredibly difficult to explain that feeling. It is like paralysis. You literally cannot get yourself to do what it needs to. And this is an incredibly annoying eating disorder behaviour.
But you can make progress with this, like with my exercise obsession. For so many years I was desperate to not walk as much as I did. I was desperate to not have to go out and walk in all weathers, or if I was busy. Absolutely desperate. But I couldn’t match my behaviour to my brain – paralysis. But I did reach the point where I was able to tackle this specific paralysis. By tackling it, that specific brain to behaviour paralysis with exercise is much less. Yes, it has taken a long time, but there is no time limit to recovery.
So although it is incredibly annoying, I (we) have to remember to be patient and take things at our own pace (whatever that pace may be). Because things can get better. But Brain to Behaviour Paralysis is a very real thing in my anorexia recovery.
So they are my top 5 annoying eating disorder behaviours – the eating disorder behaviours that are less spoken about. Please do leave a comment and let me know your annoying behaviours or if you can relate to any of mine. I think it always helps when you don’t feel alone in your struggles. And please do subscribe to my blog if you want to keep updated with my posts.