Feeding on eating disorder guilt

Tomorrow I must write down every single thing I eat and drink. Not just that, but also the time, place and how I feel about it. What’s more, all of it must be done as soon as possible after the eating and/or drinking event. To be frank, the whole thing is set to be a complete pain in the arse. All the same, I’ve got to do it. It’s the rules.

Next week I start my Last Ever Eating Disorder Treatment, in preparation for which I have to keep a food diary. My first treatment took place in 1987. Thus a whole quarter century later I’m still trying to rid myself of ideas that took hold when I was eleven years old. I can’t help thinking what a fucking idiot. How did I ever end up in such a position? I only started the sodding diet so I could end up perfect. Is that really so much to ask?

You wouldn’t think so, to look at the messages around us. Only today in Marks and Spencer I encountered the notion of “guilt-free snacking“. Way-hey! Actual snacks with “guilt-free” written on the packaging, on the basis that no single item contains more than 150 calories. Dear old Marks and Spencer! Not content with offering a reliable range of bras they wish to ease the human conscience! But alas, it is too complex. Not only do I have far more about which to feel guilty – I am a terrible mother, a selfish carer and a western parasite – but the “guilt-free” snacks are fucking tiny. I’d eat a whole multi-pack before making myself sick. So that’s not going to be very “guilt-free”, is it?

My latest guilty thing, though, isn’t to do with food itself. It’s to do with having an eating disorder at all. It’s to do with even getting the treatment. I think other people with eating disorders should get treatment, but for me it feels self-indulgent. I’m worried I haven’t endured sufficient past mental trauma to qualify as a sympathetic sufferer. I worry my own disorder is all rather frivolous. I worry that however much harm I cause myself, deep down it’s all because I’m a frivolous person with a pathetic inability to rise above crappy signage advertising “guilt-free” snacks and the like. What if, in essence, all this is happening because I’m a total knob? That was pretty much the assumption during my first course of treatment – what if the 1980s professionals were right?

This evening I have been considering tweeting my recovery, rather in the way that some people tweet their diet progress. It’d be a sort of anti-diet, a route back. I’m not going to do it, first because it’s too personal and too much pressure but second because it’d be really bloody boring, both for me and for any followers who hadn’t sodded off in sheer despair. It’ll be bad enough keeping the diary, let alone announcing to everyone “hey, I had a good/rubbish/challenging lunch today!” But it is, I think, a shame that the monotony of an eating disorder is rarely exposed. It always looks more interesting than it is. Moreover, I suspect people often underestimate the degree to which those with eating disorders already know how ridiculous and pointless the whole enterprise appears. The truly frightening thing is how little that knowledge helps.

Well, I have one hour left in which eating/drinking/bingeing/whatever it is I call it is “off the record”. I’m not even hungry but might as well head to the kitchen, if only to feed on more guilt.


3 thoughts on “Feeding on eating disorder guilt

  1. I know you know this, but it might be worth saying anyway. The belief of the person with an ED that they are not really “ill” or “thin” enough for treatment is a classic symptom of the illness. I see Eating Disorders as a vile misogynist abusive boyfriend who batters your psyche to the extent where everything is your fault. Good luck with the treatment, I really hope it works x

    1. Thank you! I will hopefully write a post later on what it’s like to be rid of it all (alas, starting my food diary on the same day as Celebrity Big Brother means that I currently have a Geordie voice in my head giving a running commentary of my progress…)

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