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People Don’t Understand How I Can ‘Forget’ This Basic Need

Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

For the past seven months or so, I’ve been slowly losing weight without putting in any effort.

“What?! I’m so jealous.”

Don’t be. It kind of sucks. I found the perfect pair of jeans and now it looks like I’m wearing a soiled diaper when I wear them. (Don’t try to picture that.)

The ups and downs of my bipolar disorder have caused my desire for one of life’s basic needs to completely dissipate. On a typical day, I have zero desire to eat and usually have to force myself to at least grab a MacroBar on the way out the door to get an iced latte. In my mind, everything involving food and food prep is a process — deciding what to make, going to the grocery store, making the meal; it’s all become a chore that doesn’t quite make it on my daily to-do list. The worst part is feeling better in my old clothes yet physically and mentally feeling like a slug. It never fails, though; I hear these questions or exclamations constantly. I usually shrug and fake smile. But in reality, I’m thinking…

“How can you forget to eat?! I could never forget to eat!”

That’s great, and I can honestly say I’m jealous. My brain is a swirling tornado of rapid-fire thoughts and feelings all the time, and it doesn’t signal hunger as it should.

“That’s all you’re eating?!”

Listen. When I do get a raging appetite, I’m going to eat whatever the hell that may be, whether it’s a side of fries or a bowl of cereal.

“What are you doing to lose weight?”

Funny you ask. During manic episodes, I’m too busy to eat. During depressive episodes, I’m too… well… depressed to eat. I don’t recommend it as a diet plan.

Going out to a restaurant and scrounging the menu items is always a blast.

Earlier this year, I decided to move toward a vegan lifestyle, because I thought to experiment with new foods and recipes would inspire me to get back in the kitchen (or at least eat more). Let me tell you; it made it so much more difficult. In my mind, I had made this legally binding contract to myself that I was #vegan4life, and if I slipped up I was not only letting myself down, I was letting down the animals I was trying to save as well. The guilt weighed heavily on me to the point where I was only eating things I could throw on a plate or fork in less than a couple of minutes: a spoonful of peanut butter, an apple, a piece of bread, tortilla chips, coffee (duh). I was crying over making daily meal decisions (especially dinner). Breakfast was always a MacroBar and coffee, I always bypassed lunch and dinner was the part I dreaded. I felt like I didn’t have the mental energy to map out a dinner plan in my head. Even when my husband would suggest a three or four-ingredient meal, I felt my energy drain just thinking of cutting an onion. My husband asking, “what do you want to eat?” would spark an incredible amount of stress and anxiety, because the truth is I want to eat everything I lay eyes on, but I don’t have the appetite. Isn’t that a weird feeling?

I struggled with being a strict vegan for a few months — I even declined doughnuts at work! — but my husband, ironically a fitness and nutrition coach, helped me see it’s OK to try something and then change your mind if it’s not the right fit. I was making it more difficult on myself to find foods that appealed to me by cutting out a lot of options. I still try to choose a vegan-friendly option if it’s available, but I try not to make myself feel guilty anymore when I decide to eat something that looks or tastes good for once.

OK, so I’m still working on it…

Mighties: When your illness, disease or disability depletes your appetite and/or desire to eat, how do you overcome that and get the desire back once again?

Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash