This post discusses eating disorders, behaviours, and calories. If you know that this kind of conversation can trigger you, please refrain from reading this post, and choose another one of my posts to read. I NEVER intend or want to trigger anyone, but rather to help. But I know this disclaimer is important as I remember a time that I was triggered by virtually anything to do with this topic. Please be advised.
I’ll just have one more bite.
This was so often the phrase I would tell myself when I was deep in the pits of binge eating disorder or bulimia.
It was usually brownies/cake/some kind of baked goods that would start that spiral. How do other people just have one and move on? was my age-old question. I would have one, and really try to enjoy it and savour it, but then the remaining baked goods in the baking tin would be all I could think about.
So I would take trips back to the baked good tray and grab nibble after nibble. But this wasn’t even the problem. It was the thoughts that followed.
Well, you’ve screwed up for the day. Might as well just keep screwing up. You can start over tomorrow.
So I would plan a binge. It was as if nothing could convince me not to. I would figure out what I was going to eat, and prepare to just go to town later.
But I would not eat very much until the binge, so I didn’t have to stress about it *too* much.
I struggled with binge eating disorder from the age of 12 to about 14, which slowly morphed into bulimia, and then a scary battle with anorexia.
Throughout my battles with these illnesses, I was only acutely aware that I was engaging in some behaviours that probably weren’t “normal”. But they also weren’t often talked about, even within eating disorder literature.
That is why I want to share some of these with you today: to de-glamorize the reality of eating disorders, to shed some light on the pervasive and consuming nature of them, and to help anyone else out there struggling to realize that they are not alone… but also that they can get help out of this way of living. I used to live in shame about these behaviours. I lived in shame for sooo long. But if sharing means that I can help just one person out of the darkness and into the light, I will absolutely share.
I know there are many, many more behaviours I could talk about, but today, I will be discussing 10 behaviours that I personally have struggled with that I believe to be some of the most under-discussed.
Eating out of trash cans – BED/Bulimia. Those brownies were sooo good… TOO good. You definitely can’t have another bite of those. You better just throw the rest out, before you eat them all right now like the fat pig you really are.
*Dump in the trash.*
Except… now they’re all you can think about. Now that you almost decided to screw up your whole day and start over tomorrow, why not just do it? You can still taste the brownie chocolatey goodness… they were so good. What’s a few more?
You head back to the trash can discreetly, making sure no one sees you. You sneak a brownie off the top… probably didn’t get anything from the trash on it. *Sounds like someone’s coming.* You’re a pro at this though. Quickly grab a paper towel, wad it up, and throw it in the trash… that’s why you had it open. Act normal.
Taking nibbles out of other people’s food – BED/Bulimia. My mom left some of her chocolate bar just out in the pantry. How could I resist eating it? Maybe just one bite… leads to eating the whole bar, and taking more for later. There was always so much shame in this, and yet the feeling of being completely out of control, too.
Making a full bowl of food and eating one bite of it – Anorexia. I don’t know if this is a typical behaviour in anorexia, but, especially in the beginning, this is what I would do. One of my most major “food rules” was never eating past the point of fullness. But anorexia literally tricked my stomach to make me feel like I was always full after one or two tiny bites. Still, I would make a full bowl of food to appear more “normal,” and I would of course play with the food for a while to appear as though I was eating. I remember making a fruit bowl with a few different fruits and an always-carefully measured 1/2 tsp of peanut butter and only eating a tiny dot of the peanut butter. This is the perfect segway to…
Drastically overestimating calories – Anorexia. The average person drastically UNDERestimates their caloric intake. But, when I was deep in anorexia, I would very drastically overestimate to ensure I was always eating less than xx calories. Take the fruit bowl for example. If the whole thing had 190 calories, but I only had about 1/5 of the bowl, I would still count 190 calories, *just to be safe.* At the end of the day, I would still end up with an extremely low number, but the reality of what I consumed was probably only a quarter of that very low number.
Staring at photos/video of food – All. A huge misconception about anorexia is that victims of it hate food. A huge misconception about bulimia and BED is that victims love food too much. Many times, this isn’t the case. There were many moments, certainly, in my struggle with anorexia that I felt repulsed by food (those times being whenever it was in front of me). But in between meals and working out, what did I spend my time doing, you ask? Lying in bed, watching Master Chef, or other cooking videos, or literally just staring at photos of all my “forbidden foods” – pizza and cupcakes and bread and burgers and fries and donuts, things I would never even go near. Why? At the time, I thought the reason I *needed* anorexia was because I liked food too much. I now know that the reason I would stare at these photos/videos of food was because I was starving. My brain was constantly thinking about food because it needed food to function.
Imagine you haven’t eaten since early morning, and it’s now late evening. You’ve been on the go all day, and you’re so hungry. You can’t stop thinking about the burger and fries you’re going to have for dinner. Sounds about right? Now imagine you haven’t eaten virtually anything for 6 months, not because of anorexia, but because food was scarce. You’d probably be really focused on food.
I’ve noticed since being at the worst in my disorder that, any time I’ve relapsed, as well as when I struggled with orthorexia after my first go at recovery, I would think about food all the time. Now, I can truly say that I don’t, unless I’m hungry! I used to be constantly hungry.
This was still, though, a symptom of BED and bulimia for me, too, and part of that is because there was still an element of restriction in both of these cases. In bulimia, it was physical, and in BED, it was mental.
Weighing yourself multiple times a day – All. Any chance I had to stand on the scale, I would do it. And in that moment, I would test the difference between clothes on/clothes off so I knew for the future. I would need, constantly, to know my weight. And in anorexia, I was obsessed with seeing that number go down.
Lying about what you eat – All. I never told a soul about my binges after they happened. BED is a very secretive disorder.
I would often tell friends that I “had a big breakfast” at school when they would see me eating nothing for lunch when I was in the depths of anorexia.
I would pretend to be “normal” when I had orthorexia and say, “Oh, I would love a donut, I’m just too full. I’ll take one for later” with no intention of ever eating it.
Body dysmorphia is VERY REAL – All. Not once in my battle with anorexia did I not feel fat. However now, looking back from a healthy weight, I see that I was very thin when I was in the midst of that battle. I would take lots of photos and videos of my body whenever I was feeling “fat”, and I’ve looked back at these before deleting them and literally cried seeing how thin and brittle I was. People had called me “skin and bone”, and I would always make some reason in my head why they had to be lying about that. Now, I see it. I was skin and bone.
Still today, when I see “fat” on my body and think I’m fat, I often will remind myself that I have always seen that… even 80 pounds less than I am now. The enemy is a liar.
Eating in your bedroom – All. A lot of my binges happened in my bedroom – I would store food under my bed. And, a few times in anorexia, I would grab something I wouldn’t usually eat, like a protein bar to get “protein” in, and chew/spit it, which of course I would do in secret.
Eating foods you don’t like – Binge. In the midst of a binge, it doesn’t even matter what the food tastes like. It’s just about eating to numb pain. The grossest food combinations I would still eat without even thinking about it.
Never sweating – Anorexia. When I had anorexia, I never sweat. Not even from a hard, 2-hour workout at the gym. Not from any cardio. I didn’t breathe heavily or sweat at all. That’s made gaining weight and actually sweating and getting winded from a good workout feel like a negative thing, and I still have to remind myself that that is normal.
Being really messy – All. I know I’m not alone in this, as I’ve heard from some other sufferers, but all of my eating disorders definitely made me less aware of mess. In BED, it’s just not what you think about; in anorexia, you have no energy to clean.
I shared these today because, if you identify with any one of them or any other ED behaviours, I NEED you to know there is freedom. There is freedom beyond measure or imagination. There is joy for every moment of bondage. You don’t have to live this way, as much as the enemy in your mind is convincing you it’s the only way.
“For the one who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:7). When we die to our selves, to our flesh, to this world, and receive Christ, we receive a new mind and become a new creation through His Spirit. This doesn’t mean we’re immune to the temptations and attacks of our enemy, the flesh, and this world – not even a little bit. It does however mean that we have everything we need to stand against our enemy – in Christ. Through Christ. and FOR Christ. He is the purpose, the provision, and the provider. Choose Him today. Choosing Him means life and freedom and purpose, and full equipment against these behaviours that you use to cope with the pain that is really going on. If this is you, I pray you would seek godly counsel, too.
And, if you haven’t struggled with an eating disorder but are here to better understand – Jesus died for your sins, He paid the price, and He has freedom beyond comprehension for you. Thank you for seeking to better understand the reality of eating disorders, and how much they are not things to be laughed at, not merely “diets,” not glamorous by any means.
Finally, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).