To those of us with eating disorder genetics, negative energy is like a drug to an addict.
I have just read a great article written by Dr. Cynthia Bulik abut how negative energy balance in people prone to anorexia nervosa is a, ‘dangerous biological trap’.
As she says, in most of the population, getting into negative energy balance (so eating less than they are burning) is unpleasant.
They get hungry, irritable, shaky, might feel more muddled and depressed.
For those of us with eating disorder genetics, the opposite is true and negative energy in the body has a calming and anxiolytic affect.
Contrary to popular belief(!), those of us with AN are kept trapped in this starved state, not because of the weight factor but because it is such a powerful drug to us.
Dr Bulik brilliantly describes the power of the lure of negative energy to those with an ED as both ‘seductive and destructive’.
Seductive because it makes us feel so good and destructive because it can kill us.
In order to recover from a restrictive eating disorder, we have to overcome the negative energy that is making us feel so good and go through the distressing & anxiety producing process that is eating, resting & getting to energy surplus every day.
This feels chaotic and wrong.
Once we are ‘recovered’ though, the key message from this science is that we can never afford to slip back into a negative energy state again, without the risk of relapse.
Dr Bulik warns that it is all too easy to fall back into the trap of negative energy in our recovered futures from a new exercise program, life becoming busier than usual, sickness or travelling across timezones.
Times of stress in the future are also going to be moments when extra vigilance will be needed to ensure that we are continuing to eat and rest adequately, as that lure of the calming effects of negative energy will be strong when life is feeling otherwise out of control.
To overcome negative energy, I am finding that we have to go through a process that I can only imagine is like going through the worse kind of withdrawal from a drug and just allowing a tiny bit of negative energy back in (as I found this week) is all too easy and then so much harder to stay on the recovery wagon!
I had come to the realisation this week of just how much I am going to have to consistently eat and rest, not just now in recovery, but for life, if I am never to let the lure of negative energy back.
I now see that after an eating disorder, preventative medicine will be needed regularly every single day for the rest of my life.
Just as a diabetic takes insulin to keep themselves stable, we must take regular and sufficient quantities of food to ensure that our body never burns more than we give it again…
And it does not matter where we are or who we are with – we must eat, even if others are not because our lives do depend on it.