To my US friends, “pork pies” is rhyming slang for “lies.”
(Pork pies are also these delicious little meat filled shortcrust pastry pies, which incidentally I refused to eat when I had Anorexia. Sod’s law that now I am recovered and would like to eat pork pies I live in Colorado — where there is no rhyming slang and there are certainly no pork pies.)
Mum: “Did you eat breakfast?”
Me: “Yes, I had two pieces of toast with marmite and a boiled egg,” I would lie. I hadn’t eaten a thing. I didn’t prepare the lie, It just came naturally. I didn’t even feel bad about it. After saying it I might panic and wonder if there had been any eggs in the house. If we were out of eggs she’d know I couldn’t have eaten eggs. Bread was a safe bet, there was always bread.
She’d raise an eyebrow, look suspicious, so I’d follow it up with, “Check the bloody bread bin and your’ll see there is some bread gone if you don’t believe me.”
She wouldn’t check. I knew she wouldn’t check with me standing there because she wouldn’t want me to know that she thought I was lying. After she was gone I would go to the bread bin, take out a couple of slices of bread, and feed them to the dog or crumble them in my hands and scatter them in the back garden. You know, to give my lie some credibility. My huge aversion to food waste was always squashed by my even larger aversion to being made to eat.
I felt not an ounce of guilt for lying. I honestly didn’t feel it was even lying. Why not? Because things that allow for eating less and moving more feel morally right when you have Anorexia. Anorexia sits above other moral code and can have the effect of trumping other moral rights and wrongs. That’s why someone who is not a liar can tell lies if those lies benefit Anorexia. If those lies enable eating less and moving more they didn’t feel wrong in my head like lying to my sister about wearing her new top would have.
When we are threatened, our morals get fuzzy
Anorexia made my core truths and values fuzzy to say the least. I am someone who values honesty, yet, I lied a lot when doing so protected my ability to eat less and move more. That’s because my brain valued minimal feeding behaviour and maximum movement. My brain believed that I needed to feed as little as possible and move as much as possible in order to survive. Survival instincts that are most relevant in any given situation override less pressing morals and values. That is why people who are not killers will kill in self defense. That is why people who are starving will steal. You get the picture. When we are desperate, threatened, our morals get fuzzy. We do what we need to do in order to survive. Anorexia believed I need to not eat in order to survive. Lying to my mother was collateral damage.
I believe Anorexia is a response to threat. The threat of perceived famine. The response to famine is to feed little and move a lot — to migrate. Therefore, when faced with more food, we act as we would if we were threatened. Feeding and not moving feels like danger to an AN brain, therefore, lying in order to get yourself out of danger doesn’t feel wrong. At least not as wrong as eating would feel!
I only ever lied about food and exercise, by the way. Consequently, I would tell my mother a bare-faced fib about a piece of toast but was unable to tell a little white lie about anything non-eating disorder related.
Remission removes the need to lie
Once your body is out of energy deficit, the Anorexia response to energy deficit — to migrate — is turned off. Once the urge to feed less and move more is turned off, you no longer have to protect it. You no longer have to always be moving and not eating. There is simply no reason to lie about food and exercise any more. If you are hungry you will eat. If you are tired you will rest. It becomes nobody else’s business because you can manage your own nutrition and rest.
Basically: there is no reason to lie because when it is evident that you are no longer going to starve yourself to death people leave you the fuck alone and stop bugging you about what you have eaten all the time.
There, if the one thing that is going to motivate you to recover is the knowledge that once you are recovered nobody will be on your case about food all the time, so be it. Recovery is well worth it if only for the reason that the first question my mother asks me now is “How is the cat?” rather than “Have you eaten enough?” My husband doesn’t have to ask me to eat more because he knows I will do that all of my own accord in the same way that I breathe air unassisted. Who would have thought!
If I want to have secrets now I’ll have to go have an affair or something. I have no interest or cause whatsoever to lie about what I have eaten or not eaten. Getting out of energy deficit solves the problem of having to lie about food.
How to manage eating disorder lies
1. Don’t blame the people who are trying to get you to eat more and rest more. They are doing that because they care.
2. Do not take it personally. You are not a bad person if you have lied about food. You are a person with Anorexia and your brain is reacting from a place of threat. But, at the same time … (see #3)
3. You are accountable to you. You have to be compassionate for yourself and also not allow yourself to lie. If someone asks you what you have eaten tell the truth. If they tell you that you have not eaten enough they are correct. Your resistance to being told to eat more is indicative that you need to eat more.