Feeling guilty about eating is an adaptive mechanism in anorexics. Dr. Shan Guisinger's adaptedtofamine.com and upcoming eating disorder treatment manual explains more about the evolutionary reasons for this guilt.
This article is about how to ignore those guilty feelings. Here's a text conversation between me and a client about guilt:
Client: I mean I'm hungry, so I think it is huge mistake and eating disorder treatment to think that anorexics heat food. We are starving and I enjoy eating and the taste of food. But man the guilt after is awful. That I could've eaten less and felt fine. But I am a
could've eaten less and felt fine. But I am a pig and worthless. And weak.
Michelle: Being a comfortable anorexic = being uncomfortable, because being anorexic is actually really painful and distressing. Anorexia makes our bodies so weak and steals our brainpower
Right, anorexics are all starving for food. You enjoy eating very much but afterward it feels miserable
What you’ve done before - play games after eating, distract yourself - is all awesome. Helping distract you from the guilty feelings
The first few times it’s harder to ignore the guilt, but the more you keep ignoring the guilt, the more it’ll fade. It really will.
For me, once I realized the guilt was an evolutionary instinct that was NOT helping me, I could pretty much ignore the guilt completely.
You have plenty of food in your house. Your family wants you to eat. Everyone wants you to eat more. What should cause guilt, rationally, is you NOT eating.
When I realized everybody in my life wanted me to gain weight and eat more, that also helped me see my “guilt” for eating was wrong. And that in fact if I want to make people happy (which both of us do as natural people pleasers, I bet), I should gain weight.
The mental high one gets when restricting... I used to think it was a good feeling, that high. But now that I eat properly, I love more the feeling of being finally full and satisfied. Of NOT being ravenously hungry.
The client mentioned how she's hyper-conscientious and very intelligent. Then we discussed the financial impact of anorexia on our families.
Michelle: Luckily, because you’re very smart you know logically how to get out of this, and you can outsmart your anorexia. You know what feelings you have that are misleading you (the guilt, the mental high from not eating).
Client: Think of all of the money our parents spent on treatment as well. So there’s really no way around what I need to do today. I need to increase the X cal and there’s no question.
Michelle: Yes, medical expenses are so much! And above all by staying sick, I was causing my parents emotional turmoil. Mental unwellness. Stress. Stress is a huge burden and very hard on peoples’ health. I saw how by staying sick, I was making my parents sick
My parents would be so worried about me and of course get upset with me for not gaining weight. This wasn’t good for their own health, either. They would get so stressed out and argue a lot with each other and me. Anorexia affects not just the person who is anorexic, but also their whole support system
And the only way to resolve this is for the anorexic person to gain weight by eating more calories