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anorexia/restriction, running, and how to stop the insanity

Blog Forums Eating Disorders anorexia/restriction, running, and how to stop the insanity

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  • #12419
    mighty m

    Some great insights and conversation here. Ashley & j-lo are two of my faves. Just commenting so I can read anything new in my email.


    Definitely Might-M. I feel like I should go ahead and request my invoice from j-lo now.

    I am still really struggling to just let go with the food and I am definitely still doing ‘obligatory’ walking. I am sure my dog would be happy with 30 minutes and I’d set the goal of a 30-45 minute max with minimal hills with my dietitian but I’ve exceeded that most days-closer to an hour plus and definitely not avoiding the hills. I’m having lots of minutes in which I decide I am ready to run again. I’ve managed to talk myself down from that ledge several times but I really, really do miss it and I did take a solid month off. Ashely, your words are reassuring-I am calmed to hear I won’t have a total loss of fitness. I am wondering if I’m ready to add back in some easy runs here and there again. But I’m also wondering if I need to just cut the crap and do nothing for a while.

    I have a feeling my dietitian will weigh me this week (I don’t have a scale-hooray! for that) and will see an increase and will give me a green light to do some more activity and stop the food increases. That is just usually how it goes-someone sees the weight going up and a few more foods going in and assumes I’m all better, 10 years of chronic, severe anorexia is cured, and you don’t want to turn into a binge eater or get fat so now maybe you can start cutting back again….you know how that is…so hard to tease out what is best when often even the ‘professionals’ seem to be stuck in the diet mentality. I’m not sure my current RD has this mindset but based on all the previous treatment I’ve received I pretty much just assume the worst at this point.

    One other thing: you know, isolation is part of anorexia but I had gotten to where I was actually wanting to go out and be social and stuff on weekends. But for the past few weeks, with less exercise and forcing myself to eat a bit more I just haven’t wanted to see anyone. I just don’t want to be bothered. They just annoy me. Does this sound normal and if so does it ever go away? My desire to socialize while I was still running crazily and restricting heavily was probably not healthy because I was playing a role-not being myself-but still, it does feel discouraging that I’ve lost that desire yet again.


    @tennosea – The part about not wanting to be particularly social does sound normal to me. You are changing. Your old ways don’t work for you any longer. You’re discovering yourself, your values, and your truths. That means a lot of things are falling away and things long-hidden within you are starting to shine forth. So much like a caterpillar forms a cocoon, I believe it is normal under these circumstances to seek retreat. However, in my own experience, I have to say that it is probably not a forgone conclusion that you will emerge from this complete renewed. You have a great opportunity, but what you do with it is up to you. You still have choices to make as to what you do with this retreat. And it sounds like you’re struggling with that.

    For me it finally comes down to this: what do I really value and really want in life? Do I want what I’ve been experiencing? If so, then it is sensible to keep doing the same things. But for me, I ceased to want those patterns that had turned into painful ruts – more like enormous canyons. And the river that may have once carved out those canyons had long-since dried up. My life had become barren, bleak, and lonely, and I was very, very thirsty (not to mention hungry.) So when I took an honest look I knew that I didn’t want that any more. The trouble was that I didn’t know how to do something different, and that was why I stayed stuck for so long. I was terrified of change because those canyons, no matter how painful, were all I thought I knew or could manage. But finally I chose to stick to my logic – I knew that there was no life there in my old habits. And so I knew that no matter how scary, no matter how uncomfortable, no matter what, I had to do something different. And the easiest way to do something different was to stop doing what I had been doing because what I was doing was what was keeping me stuck. I knew I had to stop restricting. I had to stop overexercising. I had to stop analyzing and overanalyzing and fixating and obsessing over trivial things. For me, I became aware that those things would never work to create happiness. They were a trap. It was terrifying, but I stopped. Sometimes I mis-stepped. Sometimes I obsessed or restricted. But as soon as I noticed I was doing it, I resolved to stop once again.

    And little by little, things got easier. And happier. And more enjoyable. That’s just me. Maybe it won’t work for you. Maybe you’re doomed to suffer obsessive thoughts that will wear you down and force you to comply with compulsions to restrict and exercise for the rest of your life. But somehow I doubt it. You’re obviously clear-headed enough to see that you’re doing things compulsively. You know rationally what things you are doing that keep you stuck. So you’re most of the way there.

    There’s a story that you may know, but it is relevant, and so I’ll share it in case: A man is travelling in a poor rural area of India. The people of the community he is visiting offer him a small hut to sleep in. He is exhausted, and so as soon as the sun starts to go down he retires to the hut. He climbs into bed and gets comfortable, readying himself for sleep. Just before he is about to close his eyes, he notices something in the corner of the room. He squints his eyes in the deep shadows of twilight, and…snake! There in the corner he sees an enormous coiled snake! He is terrified. In his travels he has heard many stories about the enormous snakes of the region, and he is paralyzed from fear. In his terror he doesn’t even think to call out for help. And he is too afraid to run out the door. So he remains there in bed, trembling, staring at the snake. All night long he remains like that, in sheer terror. He is exhausted, but unable to sleep out of fear. Finally, many hours later, the sun begins to rise. The man is still staring at the snake. And then, as the sun begins to clear the horizon he is overcome with laughter. His terrible snake was no snake at all! All along there had been a length of rope coiled in the corner of the room.

    What do you want for your life? Can you imagine a life that is meaningful, fulfilling, joyful, playful, and spontaneous? No obsessing. No compulsive running or walking or anything else compulsive. Knowing that you are valuable and special inherently no matter what you eat, what you look like, or what you do. Feeling good about your body. Feeling good in your body. Loving your body, and feeling your body as an extension of that love. Feeling safe to enjoy your life. Feeling safe to trust your instincts. Trusting yourself. Trusting others. Enjoying food. Enjoying nourishing your body with good food. Loving your body so much that you gladly rest. Loving your body so much that you move in the most appropriate and healthy ways in exactly the right amounts to feel good. Letting your thoughts happen without giving undue attention and importance to them.

    Hey, if your support team doesn’t support your goal of a full and complete recovery, then maybe you might consider a different support team. If you know that you need to eat unrestrictedly and you know that you need to lay off the exercise and you know that you need to gain more weight then that is what you need. If your support team isn’t on board with that, actively encouraging you to do so then they’re not helping you.

    A full recovery *is* possible. I cannot say for certain that you will experience a full recovery, but I do truly believe it is possible. I know it is possible for me because I experience it, and so I believe it is possible for others. For me there is no going back because life now is SO MUCH BETTER. I don’t have to work so hard to make myself special because I know that I am valuable just as I am no matter what. I feel good. I am stronger. I can laugh more easily now. I enjoy food more.

    Listen to your own true voice – that voice that you know is right, the one that speaks wisdom and love and compassion. Listen to the voice within you that you know you can trust to guide you well. Listen to the voice within you that tells you to love yourself and to value yourself for who you are. Listen to the voice within you that speaks with kindness, the voice that loves you unconditionally. That is the truth. Anything else is lies. You know the difference between the truth and the lies. Trust the truth and turn away from the lies.

    Please feel free to lean on us. If your support team isn’t supporting you then lean on us all the more. I, for one, support you in your journey to full recovery. I support you in realizing your intrinsic value.


    J-Lo, thank you again, for so eloquently describing my situation. You are right; my life is lived inside a landform that started as a rut but is now a massive canyon. And I follow the walls of the canyon because I cannot see any other path. I am afraid to stop crawling along my canyon but maybe if I just stand up I will realize I only need to step over the walls. See, I can do metaphor too. I love your story and no I have not heard it but it certainly reminds me of the work of Anita Johnson.

    As it turns out, my RD appointment went quite differently than I’d expected. Firstly, because I’d lost a couple of pounds (despite my certainty that the last few weeks without running had absolutely resulted in a gain that I am sure I see in the fat in my arms and stomach.) Secondly, because as it turns out she is actually completely on board with total liberalization of the diet, but she fears that if I set my expectations too high at first (and commit to totally eating whatever, whenever) I might just end up too paralyzed to make any changes at all. Which is why she is working with me to make small changes in increments (but is totally open to a more drastic approach if and when I’m ready). Interestingly, our conversation focused largely on what you mention with respect to defining values and purpose in life. Truly I have no idea. What do I value? I don’t know at all. So I’ve created artificial values that I can chase after as a surrogate. I’m to work on this so that perhaps I have a more authentic sense of my goals. But I really do not know where to start. I have a job I only value as a means of a paycheck. I do not want children. I am not a religious person. I spent a few years for a while doing non-profit work with animals and thought THAT was what it was all about but at this point I am so burnt out on that emotionally that I feel no true desire to go back to it all (though I do occasionally feel obligated to).

    My food goals in the meantime were pretty much kept the same. She is focusing on getting my intake of artificial sweeteners down. I drink criminal amounts of diet coke so I am working on swapping out for less chemically-intensive options. That, at least, is going well. It was nice to get home from the the grocery store with bags weighed down by two-liter bottles. (And that shit’s expensive too!)

    • This reply was modified 10 years, 9 months ago by tennosea.

    @tennosea – Thank you so much for keeping us updated. I think about you every day, and I am grateful to hear how things are going for you.

    I am really happy to hear that your meeting with your RD seems to have gone well. And I’m also glad to hear that you’re happy with the changes you made this week.

    I know that when I had reached the end of the disordered eating road in my own life I was so run down, exhausted, and chronically stressed that I had no joie de vivre any longer. To tell the truth, I was depressed. Most people who haven’t experienced that kind of thing think that depression is just about feeling “down” or “bummed out.” But I was depressed in the sense that I honestly couldn’t feel joy. I looked into my future and saw nothing I could get excited about. I *wanted* to feel joy and excitement and to have passion for something, but I couldn’t. I think that starvation and chronic anxiety can do that to a person. And I believe it is a fairly common experience among those who have starved themselves for long periods of time.

    So, if you are having a hard time finding something to get excited about, something to really believe in – if you just find you cannot muster up the passion or the interest – then go easy on yourself. It’s probably just because you’re starved and stressed. The good news is that IT WILL CHANGE. Trust that it will change. Trust that you will discover joy and happiness and excitement and enjoyment and passion once again. And it will be even better than ever before. Because now you will really know it and savor every moment of it.

    It really sounds like you’re taking some important steps. I know that every step takes courage. The very fact that you are still alive and that you are even considering taking more steps in the direction of recovery means you are tremendously courageous. The fact that you post on this forum means you have courage. So you have it in you to succeed. Keep taking the steps. And keep building the trust so that you can dive in. We’ll be here to offer support and encouragement. And little by little and then more and more it will get better and better. Trust that your life can be meaningful and full of joy and passion.

    And remember that eating enough and letting go of the anxiety is the fast track to rediscovering that joy and passion.

    Keep us posted.


    J-Lo, I don’t know why you have been so kind as to take the time to share your insights with someone as stubborn and negative as me but I want you to know that you are making an impression. I keep reading and re-reading this thread and it is helping me, even if I haven’t really made much progress in terms of huge behavioral shifts. (Actually, speaking of behavioral shifts, how did you do it? I mean did you really just start acting completely differently one day? And if so did you plan it out the day or weeks before and then just start? Or did you work into it gradually?) Anyway I just wanted you to know how spot-on I think you are about it all, and that even if I don’t have much to say in response I really am absorbing it all. It is crazy, isn’t it, how we can connect with people this way, on an internet forum, without ever actually meeting. I will keep you posted though, as it helps me certainly more than it helps you, to just talk about it, or type about it, and to know that there are people out there who understand.


    @tennosea – You asked me some (what seem like simple) questions. And I’m going to do my best to answer them. But like most things I do, this will probably turn out to be much longer than anyone would have hoped. In order to answer your questions I think I have to give you an idea of the scope of just how sick I was. Let me give you a (relatively) brief window into my life from several years ago. I’ve already described some of the disordered eating mentality, so I won’t go into much detail. But briefly, as you might expect, I was terrified and obsessed with food and purity and perfection. I had a long, long list of “bad” foods and a short list of “probably not bad” foods. But even the probably not bad foods could fall suspect. I would agonize over whether an apple or a carrot may have been altered in some way (intentionally or unintentionally) to make it “bad”. I even agonized over water. And things just kept getting more restrictive, even if previously “bad” foods became not so bad, the overall trend was toward more restriction.

    But more generally, I was terribly anxious and obsessive. As best I can tell it all started with my body image when I was a young adolescent – believing my body was not acceptable. That quickly transformed into disordered eating (i.e. starvation and overexercise and food and body obsession.) But in my late teens I started to notice weird quirky compulsions and increasingly disturbing obsessions that had nothing whatsoever to do with food. This continued slowly to increase over the next decade or so.

    By 2009 I was terrified of most food, most places, most scents, most people, most products, most chemicals, and most things. I was chronically stressed. And I was performing compulsive rituals such as hand-washing, counting, and checking, that occupied most of my day.

    That continued until the beginning of 2012. I made many attempts to make improvements and changes, to fight it, to argue with the craziness, to reason my way out of it, etc. And, in fact, I became so very sick that I could barely walk, but I would still use whatever energy I could muster in order to perform compulsive rituals even though I desperately wanted to stop. And by that time I had convinced myself (with lots of supporting evidence) that I truly couldn’t eat most things or much of anything any longer – that it just was too difficult and too unpleasant and too sickening. So I was in a bad state.

    So you can probably understand that I was pretty desperate. I was deeply depressed – joyless. And I saw nothing for me in the future. It just looked bleak. It was at that point, in deep despair, in hopelessness, that I had a moment of clarity: I had to do something different. I had to set aside all of my beliefs and all of my strategies and everything I thought I knew because all of that wasn’t working. And somehow, I came upon the idea of doing EFT – which is that crazy tapping thing.

    Well, the really crazy thing is that it helped. Or, at least, something started to shift. It was slow and hit or miss, though. I was tapping all day and all night. So it wasn’t for lack of effort. So I wanted to understand why it worked sometimes and what the mechanics of that are so that I could be more successful. That led me down a path of learning a tremendous amount about human neurology and psychology. I studied hypnosis and read medical studies and learned all sorts of alternative therapies and mainstream therapies and everything on every side and in between. And I got to a point where I had some techniques that worked for me very consistently. And I applied those techniques consistently. And that gave me the courage to start challenging all my fears. I knew that I had the insights and the practices to help me to let go of the anxiety and obsessions and to be able to experience a world much bigger and much more wonderful than the tiny, painful world of my old obsessive thoughts.

    It was a process, to be sure. But most of the process, for me, was gaining the knowledge and the understanding to be able to put it into practice. Once I started doing it, it was remarkably fast. My anxiety and obsessions diminished radically and quickly within a few days after I began eating according to MiniMaud guidelines and really letting go and discovering myself to be something far greater than my thoughts. That’s just me and my experience. I can’t say that will be true for anyone else. And, of course, it is still a process, in a sense, because there are lots of limiting thoughts and beliefs that come up every day. But the difference now is that I’m in the habit of not believing my thoughts. Plus, I’m much better nourished now. So now it is almost automatic to just let those things go and to welcome whatever experiences come. So my relationship with thought is completely different now. Whereas thought used to dominate me and terrorize me, now it is just something that comes and goes. And so my attention is free to notice all the other wonders of life.

    As it turns out, I just published (on my blog) a video series that I recorded yesterday that details much of what I did to recover. The videos are about anxiety, obsessions, and compulsions generally – not specific to eating disorders. But for me, I recovered from the anxiety, obsessions, and compulsions as well as the eating disorder using the same approach. The only note that I’d add to make it more specific to restrictive eating is that I applied these same principles and practices when challenging myself to eat unrestrictedly, as in, I actually did the unrestricted eating, introducing foods from the “bad” list every day, and simultaneously addressed the anxiety and obsession with the same basic principles I talk about in the videos. In other words, I believe it only worked because I was really, truly eating AND doing the work to let go of the anxiety and see that there’s more to life than my limited, stressful thoughts. So, if you’re interested, you’re welcome to view the videos, which are at Let me know if any of that is helpful.

    And yes, it is crazy how we can “meet” and learn and support one another in this largely-anonymous fashion. And wonderful.


    J-Lo, It’s been a busy week and I wanted to sit down properly and reply, so here goes. I am making my way through your videos and your site and the information is tremendously helpful. I also just find your story so encouraging. This isn’t my first rodeo on an online eating disorder forum but somehow I think we have such a similar history and so I find myself actually believing that if you could do it, maybe I could do it too.

    I’ve been coasting through this week due to the fact that work and travel got kind of hectic and forced me to cancel some of my appointments; I gave myself subconscious permission to backslide because I didn’t have the support I needed to continue properly. I just fell right back into autopilot and started again with the running, and with cutting out a couple of things here and there, the isolating, the lying-by-omission (to myself and others). I cannot keep doing this. I feel like I am really waking up to the sick and horrific loop I’ve been replaying in my life for a decade now and I can no longer ignore it. Maybe the timing is right, too, because (1) I woke up feeling a bit sick, like maybe I’m coming down with a cold or something (and I never get sick) and (2) it is a terribly rainy dreary day. Normally one of these things alone would not stop me from running but the two together mean that if I were to go, I would have to admit to myself that I was being absolutely insane, and I would look the part too, all skeletal and soaked out there on the road. So my plans for a 10-miler are thwarted by circumstances beyond my control. Thankfully I am no longer welcome at any gym in town.

    On top of it all, I was to meet a friend for coffee this morning but she canceled due to the miserable weather. So I feel like I am being forced to sit here with myself today for a reason. I feel like it is time to just turn off my brain and start acting. And by acting, maybe I mean eating and, ironically, sleeping. My plan today is to hit the grocery store with a new agenda. I’ll let you know how it goes. But I am writing it down as a commitment to try something new. I have such a routine in the store that I’ve probably worn down a path in the vinyl floor the way my dog has developed a track along the fenceline. My receipts for each weekly trip over the past 4 months are probably nearly identical down to the order in which I scan them at the self-scanner. So I guess it’s time to develop some new neural pathways.

    • This reply was modified 10 years, 9 months ago by tennosea.

    @tennosea – Sorry for the delayed response. I intended to reply yesterday, but then the power went out here due to a storm.

    I am SO happy to hear about your positive changes. It sounds like you had a rough go of it, but something shifted in you. That awareness is the key. Your words are so clear.

    How did the grocery store outing go?

    The more you let yourself eat and enjoy, the easier it gets. I was reflecting on that yesterday as I was eating dinner. I realized that I felt relaxed and that I was really enjoying dinner, and that what I was eating would have been tremendously stressful several years ago. It really does get easier. And the easier and more enjoyable eating and all of life gets, the more energy is freed up for the experience of joy and excitement and drive and enthusiasm for life. Give yourself permission to be free.

    Here’s an idea that may be helpful: for one month, let go of all the rules and commit to nourishing your body and eating unrestrictedly. One month is long enough that you can evaluate the new approach fairly, but it’s not so long as to feel threatening. I mean, if you want, after a month, you can go back to restricting. So it’s *only* a month. Think of it like a vacation. During this time your only goal is to relax and eat – as if you were at some Caribbean resort and spa. Try it out. See how it works. It’s like a trial run of a new lifestyle. Like a fitting room for a new dietary approach. And if you don’t like it, then no harm done. But if you like it, then you’ve got a good foundation to build upon.

    I am happy to hear that those videos are helpful for you. If you’re getting value from any of the exercises, keep doing them. And if you have any questions that I can help with, let me know. I’d be happy to help.

    I wish that I had something more to add to offer more encouragement and to help you know that it really will be so much better and so much easier and so much happier than you ever imagined – even though it might be challenging at times. But I feel like my words pale in comparison to the realizations that you are having. So all I can really say is to encourage you to keep listening to your heart (i.e. your body) and trusting your true wisdom.

    Keep letting us know how it is going. It is good to hear from you.


    Well, grocery outing 1 turned out well…and was followed by outing 2 the next day to re-stock, which got even bolder. And there have been pretty much daily outings since then. I’m definitely eating more and I can’t say it is totally unrestricted but it is definitely shockingly different. All I can say is something about this conversation has made an impression. I am hanging on to the idea that I don’t have to believe my crazy thoughts anymore, and I don’t have to live in a prison, either. I’m on the road this week for work and casually enjoyed a meal off a take-out menu during a working meeting yesterday, including chocolate chunk cookie. Today my flight was canceled AFTER we boarded; I deplaned and had to take a taxi to another airport in another state just to get a flight to my destination. Normally this type of thing would send me into total ED-driven neurosis but I just munched my way through it and rolled with it. It is so much easier in some ways. Yes there is the evil shadow lurking, the knowledge that at some point I’m going to be forced to confront the consequences of these new behaviors, and those consequences will be in the mirror, and possibly on a scale. And the consequences will be there eventually. I’m avoiding it all for the time being but at some point I’ll have to face it. But for now I’m just a bit relieved so I’ll cross that psychological bridge when I reach it I suppose. Maybe it wont be that bad.

    Anyhow, I just wanted to pop in for a quick update as my week is flying by and I cannot believe I’m five days into this. I am so grateful for this thread.

    • This reply was modified 10 years, 9 months ago by tennosea.

    @tennosea – I happened to read my email just minutes after you posted this, and I saw the email with your message. I was so happy to read this. I want to reply by saying YOU GO! That is so wonderful to hear. What an amazing shift. And yes, it just keeps getting easier.

    You mentioned the “evil shadow lurking.” At the risk of sounding pedantic, I’ll point out that the thing about shadows is that they disappear in the light. They have no substance themselves. Evil or not, I’m pretty sure that you don’t have to fear any shadow.

    You also mentioned fearing that eventually you’ll have to face the consequences of your actions (specifically that you’ll see results reflected back to you in the mirror and by the scale (which, by the way, you might just happen to see as positive.)) Well, it occurs to me that you already are being forced to confront the consequences of these new behaviors – consequences such as being able to enjoy your life and experience life without so much neurosis and rolling with the punches. Keep doing what you’re doing and sooner rather than later you’ll give up on waiting for the other shoe to drop because you’ll realize that whatever happens, life is better now. You have a new-found peace and resilience. And your life is filled with goodness and meaning. You have people in your life who love you and are so happy to know you – and you’ll be able and willing to truly receive that love and adoration because it will feel really good. It gets that good. Really. You’re already experiencing some of this. It gets better.

    Thank you so much for continuing to share your story with us. I love hearing how things are going for you. So keep it coming. And I know that your courage is offering inspiration to someone who needs it – maybe someone else reading this who is struggling. I really believe that the more we are willing to love ourselves, the more we touch upon others and open their hearts to self-love and self-acceptance.

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