Behaviors People With Eating Disorders Know All Too Well

Behaviors People With Eating Disorders Know All Too Well

"I pick my food because I'm recovering."

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Remove it from its paper wrapping, observe all corners and sides carefully, chose the best-looking part and allow yourself one unadulterated bite (just one). Open it, and scrutinize the insides, close it. tear off the best parts to save for later, open it, pick out your favorite toppings, eat only those. Re-wrap. Make it look like you've never committed a sin. Stash it in the back corner of the fridge, behind the bowls and the leftovers, hoping you'll forget about it and leave it be, knowing you won't be able to.

Repeat this tedious and exhausting process every half hour until it's all gone, or you get so fed up you toss it in the garbage and spray bleach on it.

For me, this is the process of eating a sandwich.

I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, binge-purge subtype, after suffering from it on and off for nearly six years. The paper handed to me and parents during our only group therapy session reads, "restricting...can be a way of controlling areas of life that feel out of their control...It can also be a way of expressing emotions that may feel too complex or frightening such as pain, stress or anxiety."

So why do I pick at my food?

The obvious sign of an eating disorder is weight loss, but beyond that you lose bone density, you can't regulate your body heat, your eyesight is shot, you become so hypoglycemic your fingers occasionally lose blood flow. Your potassium levels tank. Cardiac arrest is a serious concern (according to your nutritionist). But beyond that is what happens to the brain. Starvation's effects on the brain, and therefore behavior, is seldom understood or recognized. Even I find my picking embarrassing and deplorable but having a full meal to eat at once is unnerving and overwhelming. Neuroendocrine levels and fluid concentrations in the brain go haywire. Picking, for me, keeps up the necessary illusion that I didn't eat a whole meal. I'm innocent, although this tactic gets me through the day, it doesn't solve the underlying issue, I am uncomfortable with eating a meal and knowing it. It is an extremely hard habit to break, every eating table is a small conflict and an opportunity to make progress.

The point is, I pick my food because I'm recovering. Whether it's fidgeting, stuttering, picking at food or repeating things, most people have something and they're (probably) aware of it. They may be working on fixing it or having to learn to accept these behaviors. As a spectator, you may never know the struggles going on. Words and looks that judge or tease are horribly discouraging and can do a lot of harm.

One of the key parts to being a positive influence and a supportive person is learning not to judge. I won't judge you or bring out your nervous fidgets, just leave me to this piece of sandwich, it's the best part...

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