What does an eating disorder look like?


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I spent a long time pretending that I was perfectly OK. I was just one of those women who wanted to be lean, fit and healthy. Eating disorders — anorexia and bulimia especially — were things that happened to teenage girls with low self esteem. As a middle aged, educated, happily married career woman, it was impossible for me to succumb to this disease.

I was wrong. About more than my eating disorder it turns out, but that’s a story for another day. Today I want to show you what being in a bad place with food and exercise looks like.

  • weighing all food (including egg whites, lettuce and diet cordial) and adjusting portions to be exactly the right amount (that extra gram of pumpkin had to go back in the container)
  • having food scales at home and in my handbag in case I eat out and don’t know the weight of the food
  • recording everything in an online calorie counter including the calories in diet soda and fish oil tablets
  • feeling anxious and upset if I didn’t have internet access to check my calorie totals
  • pre-determining what to eat for the day and then printing it out and ticking it off so there was no deviation
  • taking all my food with me all the time in multiple Tupperware containers
  • not allowing anyone a taste of my food because it is measured perfectly and I needed every bit of it
  • scraping every last morsel out of the container or licking it clean
  • restricting fruit and vegetables based on their carbohydrate content
  • restricting food based on its sodium content
  • scheduling activities around eating sessions – couldn’t go to an event if it prevented me from eating on time
  • eating was the main highlight of my day
  • never eating the same food as my partner/friends
  • the success of my day was measured by the food I ate – good day = ate according to the diet; bad day = ate something I hadn’t planned
  • food/cooking/meals was all I thought about and talked about
  • never being full – either eating and still being hungry or bingeing beyond the point of fullness
  • taking large amounts of expensive supplements ranging from vitamins to fatburners to creatine
  • eating large quantities of ‘calorie free’ food like green vegetables, miracle noodles, psyllium/bran
  • exercising until a precise number of calories had been burned
  • exercising when I was sick, sore or instead of sleeping
  • wearing my heart rate monitor when I went for a walk longer than 10 minutes
  • constant physical muscle pain (DOMS) and joint pain making every day activity difficult
  • spending all weekend in my gym clothes and sneakers because I never went out anywhere other than the gym and the supermarket
  • chronic constipation and gas
  • avoiding social situations where food was present
  • constantly scouring the internet for the latest diet and latest training method
  • calling myself a ‘fat pig’ in my head
  • having 3 different clothing, bra and underwear sizes that I regularly wore – competing, off season, fat clothes
  • weighing myself multiple times a day – when I first got up, after going to the bathroom, when I got home from work, before I went to bed
  • throwing food in the bin so that I wouldn’t eat it and then taking it out later
  • asking my partner to hide food so I couldn’t find it
  • eating until I was so stuffed I couldn’t sleep, I had night sweats and my face, fingers and ankles became severely swollen
  • always vowing to start afresh each morning, each Monday, each first day of the month
  • going to bed early because the only thing I had to look forward to was a lower number on the scales the following morning and breakfast
  • crying because of a number on the scale or not being able to fit into my clothes
  • avoiding being with my partner because he would want to eat food I couldn’t have in front of me
  • not being able to leave the house because I needed to be near the toilet when the laxatives and diuretics kicked in
  • using colonics as a weight loss strategy
  • looking at pictures of steriod using figure girls on stage and feeling inadequate for not looking like them

If you do any of the things above and you think it’s acceptable then you’re kidding yourself. These behaviours are not healthy. It is not a life well lived.

The first step in recovery is acknowledging you have a problem. Please stop lying to yourself. There is a better way.

→ what did it take for you to realise that things had got out of control? what was your breaking point?

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→ Disorder

About KatieP

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing

29 thoughts on “What does an eating disorder look like?

  1. Sadly Katie, there are still so many (some we know, others we don’t) that are living some of your points. Either they aren’t aware or deny these destructive behaviours thinking this is what it takes. But as you and I both know it most certainly doesn’t take any of these things to live a wonderful life in a comfortable body you love.

    You know my story, my breaking point but for anyone else who may read your comments. My wake up call or breaking point was when I questioned how many sleeping tablets it would take to kill myself. It was then I knew I had to get better.

  2. I remember dropping blueberries one by one into a cup on the kitchen scales to make sure I got EXACTLY 50 grams.
    My recovery point was when I decided to STOP BINGEING, which entailed stopping dieting, even if I got fat. I just knew that binge eating was killing me, or would kill me, either through depression or from a physical problem (my cholesterol was sky high, all my joints ached, I was a freaking mess).
    The first day, I wanted to binge, but didn’t. Instead I started feeling what that ‘I want to binge’ feeling really was. It was some pretty ugly stuff, mostly around the theme of “I really hate myself”. That first day I realised that any weight I had on my was actually the LEAST of my problems, only a distraction from the worse problems that lurked in my psyche.
    That was 2007 (it was actually 7/07/2007 that I stopped bingeing). Now I’m all good 😀 – just in case anyone may have concluded that I’m a nut job.

  3. Oh, worth a mention. In 2004 I went to Amsterdam, we saw a live sex show, it was… unique. My ‘travel’ journal for that day? All about how I was concerned about eating carbs with breakfast and didn’t know if I’d be able to avoid chips. Nothing about Amsterdam except that I felt fat and wanted to eat stuff I couldn’t and wished I had brought my scales with me from England. Gaaaaaah!

  4. I’m happy to say that I have never indulged in any of the above behaviours and am glad that you are now ED free. The muscle pain you were experiencing would have been probably more due to mineral and electrolyte imbalances rather than DOMS (ie how would you have the energy to train well).
    PS I lied – I have been known to lick the plate where pecan pie is concerned but that hardly qualifies me as having a mental illness.

    1. Never? Well aren’t you a fucking hero!
      Not everyone who has indulged in one, two or a few of these has an eating disorder. Katie is merely pointing out the whole of her eating disorder.

      And how the fuck would you even know what the muscle pain was about? You have no idea.

      *breathing* and stopping here. Sorry katie.

  5. My breaking point was when I FINALLY woke up to the fact that I was living Groundhog Day and my life was one big diet / binge cycle. In order for the binging to stop the dieting, regardless of it being ever so subtle, had to stop. June 10 this year so its early days but I’m happy with what I’ve achieved in this time 🙂

  6. When I finally realised that what I was doing was ruining my relationship with my husband, and taking the joy out of my life.

  7. Hero? No, just somebody that made a conscious decision very early on in life not to indulge in eating disordered behaviours. Just as it’s a conscious decision to stop dieting, it’s also a conscious decision not to indulge in any of the above. Two people in my immediate family have had EDs and as a carer/family member, there is a completely different perspective after a while. You go from having sympathy to thinking that the person is a self indulgent so and so.
    Google “electrolyte imbalance” – nine years of university studying physiology does entitle me to know maybe one or two things.
    I am disappointed by your comment but hardly surprised as you can’t seem to cope with others not sharing the same viewpoint. What ever happened to “everyone having a valid opinion?”

    1. It makes no difference to me why I had sore muscles — whether from not eating enough, not enough recovery, electrolyte imbalance from laxative abuse or because I used exercise as my purging method and wore down my body — in the end, being in any type of pain (injury included) is my body telling me that something is wrong.

      What I’m worried about is that you have said in both comments that you made a decision not to *indulge* in ED behaviours after referring to them as mental illnesses in your first comment.

      Surely people don’t *indulge* in any illness. ED is caused by combination of physical and psychological factors and I think it is damaging to pretend that those who suffer are somehow weak-willed or not educated enough to abstain.

      I also wonder if you are saying that you used to have sympathy for your suffering family members but now you think they are self-indulgent? Is it self-indulgent to have cancer? or depression?

      When you understand how your words could be seen as insensitive to those of us who have worked hard to recover and to live a better life, then Shelley’s comment is a valid reaction. If you are one of the people who has never struggled then pointing this out to others who have is not helpful. I don’t comment on your blog when I question your point of view because I’m no longer one of the people you write for. I think the same has happened here. We are on such different paths that our views are never going to match and neither of us is going to convince the other to change.

      Maybe the time has come to part ways especially if your comments are upsetting for the people that I write for?

  8. Fuck off Liz and go back to sleep! One day you may wake up and people will listen to you. Until then no one cares for your two cents worth. Dickheads are self evident!

  9. I could have ticked so many of those boxes. My issues generally stopped when I fell pregnant with my daughter in 2009. After years of being so headf*cked with the scales, calories and what I was eating I just let go and ate what I felt like, even if it was a Magnum every second night. Sure I put on 22kg with her BUT it all came off in the end (took 16 months!) with a sensible diet and a bit of exercise – not slogging it for hours in the gym. I still have those days where I feel like I should be back at my competition look or think about going back to counting calories, but life’s changed now – I’m a mum and my daughter’s happiness is more than what’s reflected on the scales.

  10. oooh, we got some heated reactions here.
    Katie, I think you are very brave to put these things up.
    Firstly, because writing it down for all to see shows how abnormal it all is. I have been diagnosed with the mild end of binge eating disorder, but the diagnosis was confronting.
    Secondly because it can help people recognise behaviour patterns.
    What you write resonates with me a lot. Big hugs.

  11. I’m not surprised things got a bit heated here, as I must admit to my mouth falling open when I read the comments by Liz. I guess it’s a bit like dropping in on a cancer support discussion to add “Hey guys, I’ll all healthy with no cancerous cells at all”. Baffling!?! Obviously that’s great Liz is ED free, but it’s maybe kinder to sit out of the discussion :-/

    1. Fuck off Duckfish 😉 This is a serious “thread” you know :).

      Erectile Dysfunction – LMAO. As if yours would ever get the chance ;).

      🙂 🙂 Happy Friday guys.

  12. All of these make more sense to me than I care to admit (to myself), except for the one about restricting foods because of sodium content. Sodium is a pretty issue in Canada – there are even commercials airing currently showing people how to check sodium levels when choosing foods. Is it not as much of an issue in Australia? Very curious! 🙂

    1. Monitoring sodium for health doesn’t seem to be a concern here. Only if you’ve got high blood pressure I think.

      In my case, I didn’t eat anything that had sodium/salt because it made me (perhaps just in my head) retain water which made me weigh more — not anything to do with being healthy.

      1. Ahhhh, gotcha! That makes sense! 🙂 It’s associated with high blood pressure here, too, but it’s something they’re really trying to raise awareness for. For example, the recommended daily allowance is (approx) 1,500mg: I’ve seen “healthy” recipes where one serving has a sodium count of 3,600mg! It’s rather scary. Of course, processed food is the issue – if we would eat more whole foods, it wouldn’t be such a problem.

        Thanks for clarifying that for me! I sometimes forget that not everywhere does it the same way I do! 😉


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