Disordered Eating Without An Eating Disorder

I do not starve myself, but I sometimes eat less than one meal’s calories during the course of an entire day. I stop eating not because I hate my body (I love it, in fact) but because my anxiety disorder attacks my appetite. The minute stress hits me, my appetite runs and hides. Even before I parted ways with the baby’s family this week, the conflict between me and his grandmother was so stressful that I often had no appetite until I was done at 5:30 or 6:00. I don’t know how, but I managed to take care of an infant and even take the baby and my dog to the dog park without having eaten at all. But this last week in September was full of conflict; its events pushed all the wrong buttons.[hr]

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  1. Inter-personal conflict. On Monday, I had to say “no” to a woman unused to hearing the word. I stood my ground despite her attempts to bowl me over. I stared her dislike for me in the face. I am not used to being disliked, and my instinct is to bend over backwards to convince everybody that I am likable. Giving in would have felt wrong. Standing my ground guaranteed that this woman was not going to change her mind.
  2. Money changes. As I mentioned in my last post, I lost a job this week. Stressful for anyone.
  3. Schedule changes. I suck at transitions. I do best when I have a routine that sticks. Since I’m more of a freelancer than anything else, that’s just not my reality right now. Losing this job was a big schedule change and a sudden transition.


I schedule my meals and snacks around things that I have planned for my day because if I’m stressed, I tend to ignore the “I’m hungry!” signals from my body. On Tuesday and Thursday, the kids I’m with eat every couple of hours and it’s easy to make myself some healthy food to eat with them. This Wednesday, my first day not going to my second job, I had no schedule at all and don’t even remember what I ate. I don’t know if I ate anything real until dinner.

The biggest message my anxiety sends when I’m on the verge of an anxiety attack is that I need to take care of everything else before I take care of myself. I become convinced that if I can just do everything that everyone else might need, I can contain the demons. Before I know it, I’ve run out of energy because I haven’t eaten and don’t even have the energy to make myself something to eat.

Anxiety disorders have an element in common with eating disorders–an effort to exert control over life’s crazier emotions by exerting control over food, which comes up every single day and often goes unnoticed. I will also refuse to answer certain emails or answer the phone (sorry if your email or call went ignored!) but I can catch up on that. I can’t catch up on food. When things feel overwhelming, I sabotage myself by ignoring my body. I’m working on it, but what can I do when the idea of food just turns me off? Does anyone else forget or choose not to eat?


  1. Ellen said:

    It’s so funny that you mention anxiety and food. I also suffer from GAD, but my food responses are opposite. I EAT. I don’t just eat when I’m hungry or bored but constantly when I’m anxious. I eat and drink until I feel sick. Somehow having food or coffee of some kind (awesome for anxiety I know) gives me a false sense of security.

    In fact my default response to anxiety is to DO. I’ll do anything – work until 8pm, paint a room, organize something that looks fine already – as long as I’m doing. The crash from all the eating and doing feels just like the halo effect one gets from staying in bed all day.

    Anxiety is just hard.

    October 2, 2011
    • Anne-Marie said:

      You know, it can feel like doing something–making a decision. Abstaining. Saving money. It doesn’t look the same as one of your projects, that’s for sure! Yeah, it’s hard, no matter how it manifests.

      October 2, 2011

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