In a decade with an eating disorder I have learnt A LOT about the illness. I have been part of ED communities and involved in advocacy for eating disorders and mental health.
I have read extensively on the topic and have formed my own opinions from a collaboration of all of this.
When it comes to compulsive movement within an eating disorder, I do now believe that it is linked to the migratory ‘flee from famine’ animal response our brain and body use when they believe we are in an area of scarce food resources.
The brain believes we are in an area of poor food availability so rather than letting us stop to eat the food that is there, it sends messages to keep migrating and hunting.
Stopping briefly to re-fuel just enough might be permitted but never for too long or eat ‘too much’ as it is better to keep moving to find better supplies.
Therefore in this illness many of us are great at ‘hunting food’.
We walk for miles to seek food in shops and cafes (even if we don’t buy it). But we cannot stop long to eat it.
We sit to eat at permitted times in permitted amounts but then we have to be up and hunting once again.
Stopping too long, not moving creates feelings of guilt and panic… we pace and we stand so that we are ready to migrate as soon as we can.
Eating more in this environment is not wise as we cannot afford to stop for long – supplies will run out so the brain generates feelings of guilt, disgust, anxiety if we do try to eat more.
To overcome all of this we have to teach our brain that it is safe to stop hunting.
The only way we teach our brain it is safe to stop hunting, is to stop hunting!
We stop the compulsive walking to the supermarkets, we stop the constant need to be out buying, sourcing, hunting food.
We stop our bodies from pacing, standing, being constantly ready to flee.
We stop and relax and we eat!
We stop and let our brains rest and we stop and we eat so much food that the brain and body learn that the hunt need not continue.
Cold turkey the movement to show the brain that it’s ok to continue to do so and as you do (in my experience) the drive to move and hunt will slowly reduce and sitting and eating will get easier.