If you are struggling with an eating disorder a behaviour you may use is restricting your food intake. A lot of people won’t know the damages you could do to yourself by using this very dangerous behaviour of restricting. In this blog post I will be talking more in depth about the effects that starvation has on the body and hopefully it can encourage people to realise that they should seek help to recover from their eating disorder. I would just like to add that I am not a medical professional, everything I will discuss is from my own experiences.
Lets start by saying that although you will probably lose weight using this behaviour it is not a sustainable way to lose weight as it is extremely dangerous (as you will read later on in this post) but it also means that you are likely to gain the weight back as you end up slowing your metabolism down as your body goes into starvation mode and will hold onto the calories that you intake as it won’t know when it will be next fed.
Behaviours linked to starvation
Increased hunger- An obvious one. If you don’t eat, you will be hungry
Hoarding food- If you are in a restricting cycle you will probably hoard food, so that when you do eat, you have the foods you like available
Increased pre-occupation with food- A big one. For me personally when I was restricting myself I couldn’t concentrate in class because I was busy thinking about food, I even watched youtube videos of other people eating which is something that seems to be quite common from what I have been told by other people who have also struggled with eating disorders.
Planning meals- This comes hand in hand with the above point. If you aren’t allowing yourself to eat, you will likely sit and plan out meals ready for when your restricting period is over.
Sleeping more- If you aren’t getting the nutrients you need your body can’t cope as well as it should do. You will become drained more easily and feel more sleepy. I also used to sleep a lot when my restricting was bad because it meant that my mind was turned off from the overthinking of food.
Withdrawal/ Isolation- If a person is starving themselves they probably won’t want to be around people. A reason for this could be that they don’t want anyone to become aware of what they are doing to themselves so they will avoid social situations
Strained relationships- When a person is starving themselves, they are likely to have a lot of emotional changes and one of these would be irritability and because of this the person suffering may not seem themselves and will likely start pushing people away resulting in strained relationships.
Reduced sexual interest- When people starve themselves it is extremely likely that they have a low opinion of themselves and their bodies and because of this they more than likely won’t want somebody else to see the body that they are unhappy with. Something else to recognise is that when you are starving there is also a hormonal change (testosterone and oestrogen levels decrease) which can reduce your sexual interest.
Depression- If you are not eating/under eating your mood is going to change. Nutrients in food effect the brain and when you take that away it takes things off balance and therefore effects your mental health.
Anxiety- Starving can lead to anxiety as the person can become very nervous especially surrounding food and socialising. It is common to experience eating disorders, anxiety and depression at the same time as each of the mental health issues can heighten the others symptoms.
Irritability- The brain depends on glucose and when you are starving this becomes low and can cause irritability. This is something I dealt with, when I wasn’t allowing myself to eat, the smallest things could make me angry and this would make me take things out on people closest to me.
Apathy- People that are starving can start to lack feeling. They can become disinterested in things/people and situations as they isolate themselves and become preoccupied by food.
From my experience people don’t seem to be as aware of the physical changes that can be caused by eating disorders so below I am going to list them, I am going to do a more in depth blog post on the physical changes soon so keep an eye out for that. I experienced all of these things and never linked it to my eating disorder till I started getting treatment.
-Reduced tolerance to cold temperatures
-Tingling sensations in the feet
As you can see from the list above weight loss is not the only side effect of an eating disorder. There are many risks involved and I haven’t even talked about the extremely serious things you are put at risk of when starving as I will be doing that in another blog post. Before I had treatment for my eating disorder I was dealing with most of these side effects and never actually linked them to being caused by my eating disorder as I had never looked into it properly. I hope that this post can help you recognise some of the dangers of starvation and that it can maybe help you seek recovery.
I will be writing a post on the side effects of binging and purging later on in the week.
If you are reading this and struggling with an eating disorder in secret please, please tell somebody. Make an appointment to see your doctor. You are strong and so worthy of recovery.