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What Eating a Slice of Toast Is Like in Anorexia Recovery

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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.

It took me an hour to eat my toast today. Not just today, but every day for the last two years and 57 days. It didn’t take me 60 minutes to spread a thick curl of golden butter onto the crispy toast as it melted between the crumbs. Nor was I busy getting every last bit of thick, chocolatey Nutella out of the jar. I wasn’t even waiting for the gloopy, sweet honey to pour onto my knife to spread it along every corner of my bread.

No, this was just one, simple piece of wholemeal toast (small, thin), with a barely-there glaze of low-fat margarine. While it only took my partner seven bites to make his toast disappear (despite it being smothered in the delicious buttery goodness I spoke of before), it took me over 20. Between each tiny nibble, my mind busied itself with negative thoughts, quickly translating into hurtful, self-talk:

“You’re so greedy, eating this when your stomach isn’t even rumbling yet.”

“You should’ve had the apple.”

“Why haven’t you taken the crusts off? So many empty calories you needn’t be eating.”

Not only did my partner manage to eat his toast (two pieces for him, as well as a mountain of cornflakes and a large, overripe banana) in the time it took me to eat one length of the crust on mine, he also made conversation while he chewed so casually — something I could not engage with because my mind was so busy with its own negative thoughts.

With any other addiction, it is recommended to abstain from the source which triggers the negative behavior. Unfortunately, for people struggling with issues around food, avoidance is not an option. In fact, avoidance is what can increase the death statistics and contribute to the fact that anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate amongst every mental health condition in adolescence.

While the majority of society can look forward to having a big slice of birthday cake, a Christmas dinner with family or some drinks on a night out with friends, to individuals with anorexia, these can often be enormous challenges in themselves. The mental willpower it requires to eat what most people consider as typical food staples can be exhausting, especially on particularly bad days. To do the opposite of what the rest of society is being told to do is also incredibly difficult for perfectionists who just want to follow the rules; avoid fat, don’t eat too much sugar, only have a certain amount of calories a day, exercise, etc.

To those recovering from an eating disorder such as anorexia: Know you are not alone. Trust your body and be kind to it. Give it necessary fuel, and by that, I mean feed it as much as it wants, needs and more. While you’re in a state of calorie deficit, there is never too much food. You are not greedy, you do deserve it and you have the power to overcome this and regain your life back. Use the strong willpower you once used to restrict your diet to now help you recover; rather than listen to the voice telling you not to eat that ice-cream, do the opposite and eat two ice-creams. Or even three. As many as your heart desires. No food is bad for you right now; only good. Great, in fact. The voice will soon get quieter, and the brightness of your life will soon shine brighter. You are in control of your future, and you can do this.

Getty Images photo via seb_ra

Originally published: September 16, 2019
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