This is another post I should have written a long time ago. I am aware that I use “anorexia” almost exclusively in this blog, but the reason for that is that I try to keep it to my personal experience and anorexia (with a very hefty side of exercise compulsion) is my experience. And, lazyiness and habit. I’m too lazy to type all the different names of restrictive eating disorders so I just tend to use the term anorexia as in my head this covers it all. This is my bad. Hopefully this post will help those of you with an “this advice doesn’t apply to me” complex a little.
Whenever I say anorexia in this blog what I mean is “restrictive eating disorder” and that can include: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder (yes, restriction is often present), atypical anorexia, anorexia athletica, ARFID. Basically anything that involves manipulating your bodyweight via food intake restriction or compensatory behaviours — things that serve the same end as restriction for many of us — that “end” being to try and avoid weight gain, right?
When I say “compensatory behavious” I mean anything that attempts to negate energy intake or waste energy. I mean exercise, lower-level movement, insulin manipulation (diabulimia), laxative use, chewing and spitting … whatever. This are all behaviours and actions that serve to negate food intake. It’s all the same thing.
If you are restricting food, you are restricting food. If you are purging, or compensating for eating by exercise or any other means, you are restricting the amount of energy that your body has access to. You are suppressing your intake in a attempt to suppress your bodyweight. I don’t care what size body you are in either. If you are doing any of these things, you are restricting. One of the primary sticking points for people with eating disorders that I come across is their perception that unless they are clinically underweight they cannot be restricting food. You can.
- You can be restricting food at any weight.
- You can have an eating disorder at any weight.
- You can have a restrictive eating disorder at any weight.
- Restriction is suppression of bodyweight via manipulation of available energy.
- Purging is a manipulation of energy.
- Exercise is a manipulation of energy.
- You can be suppressing your bodyweight via manipulation of energy at any weight.
- You can be suppressing your bodyweight at any weight.
- Suppression of your bodyweight is restriction.
Whatever the specifics of restriction that are individual to you, your path to recovery will involve the same concept — you have to stop the “behaviours” of restriction. In doing so, yes, you have to stop suppressing your bodyweight. When you do this, you gradually will achieve nutritional rehabilitation (that’s when your body is allowed to be how it believes it needs to be in order to function optimally without you sabotaging that with restriction) and neural rewiring (that’s when you alter the neural pathways and habitual elements of your restrictive behaviours in your brain).
The work of eliminating restriction is intense and scary and wonderful. Don’t hesitate to start it.