A girl with too many thoughts...

Friday, 8 July 2016

My Experience with Disordered Eating

I don't like to say I have an eating disorder, because I don't really believe that I do (even though I have been diagnosed with one and am currently getting support for it). To me, I am not what somebody would class as someone who has an 'eating disorder' as such. Personally, I don't recognise myself in that category - but I have gone through months of calorie restricting which led me to become considerably underweight (maybe I am just in denial, I don't know). However, for now, I'm just going to refer to it as 'disordered eating'.

Something which I feel is not always fully recognised, is the link between OCD and disordered eating. Many of the thought processes of both conditions are actually very similar. A need for control, carrying out routines or rituals, obsessing over something, avoiding certain things that cause an increase in anxiety - these are just some examples of the similarities I personally recognise.

Over the last few years, food has been a big focus for me in terms of my OCD. A lot of my obsessions and compulsions revolved around preparing food, limiting my diet and being afraid of specific foods. Even though, to begin with, this focus on food was nothing to do with weight loss or restricting my calorie intake, I can't deny that food was (and still is to an extent) always something on my mind.

During CBT to treat my OCD, this focus on food seemed to shift more and more towards a desire to lose weight and count calories - perhaps as an attempt to gain back the sense of control I felt I was losing because I wasn't carrying out as many compulsions anymore. It wasn't something that was picked up on straight away, because of course abnormal behaviours around food was nothing new for me. People didn't instantly recognise it as an attempt to control my food intake and lose weight, rather they assumed it was a continuation of my OCD.

Another major thing that attracted me to losing weight was low self-esteem. Getting thinner made me feel good about myself. It gave me a sense of achievement when I felt worthless or like a failure compared to everyone around me. I'm only starting to realise now how wrong this was. Losing weight really didn't make me feel better - all it did was make me physically unwell, mentally unwell, had adverse affects on my mood and made all of my other mental health conditions a lot harder to deal with (losing weight is never going to make you feel good about yourself, instead you must address the underlying self-esteem issues that make you feel the need to do it in the first place).

Recently, I have regained control over disordered eating and am eating a full and healthy diet again. I can't even begin to express how much better I feel for it, both physically and mentally. Actually being able to go out and be involved in things is far better than watching the number on the scale drop. Having the energy to live your life is always going to beat feeling too unwell to even walk, getting out of breath going up the stairs, being cold all of the time and feeling seriously down mentally. This is something I continue to remind myself of whenever I get the urge to start restricting my food intake again.

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