A few days ago, I met up with a friend who I have not seen for 15 years. It was a friend I have known since the tender age of zero after we stumbled across each other at an antenatal class our parents had been attending in the hopes of learning what the hell to do with the new humans they were about to produce and were expected to raise without any prior knowledge of how to do such a thing.
We may have only been newborns but our connection was instant, we bonded over Thomas the Tank Engine and have been friends ever since (although like I said, we haven’t seen each other for fifteen years because when you get to senior school and puberty a lot of nonsense gets thrown at you and there isn’t any time left to discuss the wonderful intricacies of your favourite blue tank engine…senior school is cruel.)
Recently however, after reconnecting over the 21st century miracle that is “social media”, we decided to meet up, and thus it was that I found myself sitting opposite my oldest friend in a coffee shop several days ago.
I think when you meet up with anyone, either new to you or as old a friend as your life itself, there is always a tendency to compare yourself to that other person in some way. Frustratingly, even though I know that appearance and weight are the least important of all things, my eating disorder automatically compares my body to those around me and without fail will always manage to convince me that I am an inferior disgrace who should go home and hang their head in shame. Like I said, I know weight doesn’t mean anything and I quite frankly don’t care what other people weigh. The number of pounds shown up on someone’s bathroom scales does not matter to me in the slightest, nor does it affect my opinion of them, yet for some reason when it comes to me specifically and my body, weight is of the highest significance and summarises my self worth as a person.
When I saw my friend standing there then, I felt really embarrassed and had it not been for the desperation to see her after such a long time, I probably would have run out of the coffee shop and would still be hiding in a bin somewhere.
Eloise Unicorn McGlitterface (I may have added the “Unicorn McGlitterface” myself just for fun…she really likes unicorns…and glitter…), looked fabulous, and I wished I could look like her.
Immediately my eating disorder was triggered and the thoughts telling me to lose weight struck up their familiar bellowing.
I didn’t want to be thinking about these things at all, as I left I wanted to be thinking about how lovely it had been to see my friend, but as I got in the car to go home, my head was screaming at me to lose weight, and here is where I get confused.
I know for a fact, that my friend Eloise Unicorn McGlitterface, on paper, is a healthy weight, and even though I don’t believe the “facts” my psychologists tell me about me being “underweight”, I understand them, sort of like someone understanding the theory behind someone’s religion without believing in that religion themselves. Logically then, according to doctors and science, most people would conclude that in order for me to look as fabulous as my friend, I would need to gain weight. On paper and if talking to anyone else, I would easily be able to agree with this argument yet somehow, when it comes to me, even though I cannot explain the science behind it myself, I am convinced that the only way for me to look like someone who weighs more than me…is that I need to lose weight. WHAT KIND OF LOGIC IS THAT.
When I tried to explain this to my mum I couldn’t. Naturally she thought that I sounded irrational and like a lunatic (she would have a point), yet despite my inability to explain the science behind my thoughts, I remain utterly convinced of their truth without really understanding them…
I even thought that if I tried to write this blog post and tried to explain my theory I would realise how ridiculous I sound, how my thoughts make no sense and therefore cannot be true, yet still here I sit, unable to explain how my body defies science and needs to lose weight to look like someone who weighs more than me, yet utterly convinced that this is the case.
There are a lot of things I believe that make no sense to other people when it comes to my eating disorder, but at least I can see the logic behind them. I know it doesn’t make rational sense that I cannot eat unless my hair is tied up in a very specific way at a very specific angle, but I understand where that belief/behaviour comes from and the rationale behind it according to previous experiences. I know it doesn’t make sense that I cannot eat with forks, knives or plates and am only able to use spoons and bowls, but again I understand the reason I feel this way. There is no science behind it, but it makes sense to me and I could explain it to people.
This however, I do not understand, yet like I said, this doesn’t make it any less compelling. I guess going back to the religious comparison, it is like being a devoutly religious person who can hear all the arguments against their beliefs but believes nonetheless and is convinced in their heart by pure faith. I don’t want to insinuate that my eating disorder is at all some kind of religious movement, it is a murdering mental illness that destroys lives, but I think this example goes to show that when you have an eating disorder your belief in your thoughts are held and driven mainly by a faith that you cannot explain the logic behind. In my experience at university studying theology and when talking to religious friends, if you ask them to explain “why” they hold their beliefs, any explanation will be secondary to the feeling they hold inside them. They can say “why” but when it comes down to it the thing that convinces them is a faith, an indescribable feeling that they have which means that they “know” what they believe to be true even though they can hear people arguing about why they might be wrong.
I don’t wholeheartedly believe my eating disordered thoughts because I am stupid and don’t understand science, somehow I believe them in spite of that understanding. This whole “to look like my healthy friend I need to lose more weight” thing is exactly like my obsession with green tea. I hate the stuff and over the years hundreds of people have told me that it makes no difference to your weight, I have read the studies and I know they are true and more scientific/rational than any thoughts I get from my eating disorder…yet somehow I am still convinced that if I don’t drink a certain number of millilitres of green tea I will gain several stone overnight. Consequently I drink that green nasty fluid that I am horrified is held in the same category as all other teas. WHERE IS THE LOGIC HERE EATING DISORDER? HMM?
I think what this really proves is the fact that eating disorders make no sense and that even if their thoughts don’t have a reason behind them, they are nevertheless believable. People with eating disorders aren’t stupid people who don’t understand how bodies work, they understand all of those things, often better than most, yet still the disordered thoughts are so strong and so compelling that they are convinced to follow them without being able to say why. Eating disorders have the power to make science sound ridiculous and nonsense sound like fact. I guess this example also proves the fact that eating disorders are flipping stupid and will always manage to convince you and tell you that you need to lose weight no matter what the facts of any situation.
Usually when I write blogs about eating disorders I do it to try and explain the reasoning behind
them to people who don’t understand, but clearly, sometimes life with an eating disorder is about not understanding a damn thing about your thoughts yourself and just basking in a frustrating confusion.
Take care everyone x
10 thoughts on “The Frustratingly Illogical Existence Of Life With An Eating Disorder”
I can totally relate. I feel like I have to eat at certain times and if I don’t I will gain weight. I argued with my therapist about it for a milion times and everytime it ended by me not being able to explain it, because it’s irrational, so I was always frustrated and angry (it was probably because I am so scared to let go of this habit and I was trying to make her understand this non-sense, so she wouldn’t make me change the eating times). You’re lucky that you went to see your friend :), Because of my eating times I just don’t go anywhere, unless I can eat there my food.
Anyways you shouldn’t listen to that voice telling you to lose weight. You had a good time with your friend and that was the real point of your meeting. Your friend is probably thinking now how nice it was to see you again. That should be YOUR memory of that day, too. The number on scale isn’t tattooed on your forehead and the people who see you on the street don’t know your weight and they don’t care. Like if you drink a liter of water, you will be heavier, but does it mean that you’ve gained? No, noone would even notice it.
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Thank you so much for that, it has put a far more positive spin on the situation! You are right, I saw my friend and I had a catch up and that is a nice memory. I feel exactly the same as you though when explaining things to my therapist! And when it comes to not going anywhere unless I can eat my food it is exactly the same! I am both thrilled and sad that we are so similar. Hugs xx
OMG, seriously, do you live in my brain? This can’t be a coincidence. It just can’t.
About two weeks ago I went to Algarve with my best friend Sara and, of course, we went to the beach and the pool every day. Of course I’ve seen her body before, but this time was different. Seeing her in a bikini every day and seeing how good she looks triggered me. She’s so beautiful and healthy yet I had the same thought as you. I KNOW it’s irrational but I can’t help it. This also happened to me when I was in Punta Cana. I saw tons of beautiful and healthy girls and my ED was screaming at me to lose weight (but you know I was a good girl).
ED’s logic can’t be explained and neither your connection with my me!
Love youu XX
Kisses from Portugal ❤
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Ahh that is so weird! Maybe we share a brain because that is freakishly similar! How annoying that we can understand both of our problems yet still struggle to solve them! Damn it! Love you loads, kisses from England ❤ xxx
Ugh, this just sounds awful. I’m sorry your ED does this to you. Please keep fighting it, as exhausting as it is, because you don’t deserve this mental torture.
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Thank you so much pal, I have been thinking of you a lot lately. Hope you are ok xx
I attempted to respond to your letter but then didn’t finish it and that was like 2 weeks ago and I’ll just have to start over, me thinks. I’m ok… just stressed, stressed, stressed and that’s leading to PAIN!
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Don’t let my letter add to stress and pain mind! I can be patient! x
I relate to this too. I guess a lot of people do, otherwise we would be able to call out our EDs for being illogical and dismiss the thoughts. EDs are sneaky and they like to manipulate us with all kinds of false reasoning which we truly believe. I have used the religion example when trying to explain this to others, as I feel it is a good comparison – there is no evidence for what you feel, but there is a deeply held, unshakable belief. As I’m sure you know, the only way out of this is to challenge the ED logic and see what happens when you don’t tie your hair up when you eat etc. But I know you’re having a hard time at the moment so now probably isn’t the best time to try it.
I think this is one of the reasons why mental illness is so scary – because we can’t be sure whether we should trust/believe our own thoughts. I think it is important to remind ourselves of the true facts, even if we aren’t able to fully believe them x
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It is so interesting and comforting to feel that I am not alone in this and that other people understand! I always worry that other people are scared of something because they believe it and then feel like an idiot because I know something is a lie but I believe it anyway! Thank you so much for all of your support lately xx ❤