Eating disorders: a guide for the uninitiated

Trigger warning: this post contains mentions of self harm, drug and alcohol use and eating disordered behaviour.

I do not encourage or endorse this behaviour, I have written about it to help people understand and to encourage those struggling to seek help.

Eating disordered thoughts

  • You are now 2 people, the one you portray to the outside world and the ticker tape inside your head that says you’re too fat, you’ve eaten too much, you don’t deserve this, no-one likes you anyway.
  • Regardless of job, age, gender, sexual orientation, your day revolves around what you can and can’t eat, when you can, how to eat it, if you even should.
  • Meals are not enjoyable, they are solitary, private. Carefully calculated to keep the fat from expanding, to keep the space small. Nothing is simple. An apple needs weighting, cutting, added to the tally in your head. Or not if that’s just too much food for today.
  • You hungry? No. Yes. I don’t know. I just can’t eat that or my thighs will expand to the size of a house, and my 5th chin will erupt, and my hips become the size of Jupiter, and my head explodes.
  • Social life shrinks to whatever doesn’t involve eating in front of people or places where you can laugh off eating a whole buffet by yourself.
  • Evenings are spent exercising until your vision blurs and you cannot walk without stumbling.
  • Or sitting in front of a film with a mountain of food, just eating and eating until it’s all gone.
  • Then waddling to the toilet and gagging and retching and heaving until its all out, all the bad and fat and horrible thoughts are over. For however long it lasts.
  • Spitting or throwing up blood is normal, part of the routine. Same goes for nosebleeds, popped blood vessels, a bruise across your forehead from passing out and bouncing off the toilet seat. The voice in your head counting in vs out. Trying to guess if you actually managed to succeed in getting it all out this time.
  • Sometimes you spend an hour heaving bile and water into the bowl because you ate a grape and that clearly can’t stay down.
  • On a good day you can then get on with laundry, or meet friends, or write, or whatever you actually planned to do. On a bad day you wander in a daze to the fridge, or cupboard, or shop to start all over again.
  • Sometimes you drink until you pass out, or smoke weed, or take every tablet you can just to feel something again. To escape the crushing pressure of your thoughts, gain some head space before the fog closes in again. The effect and longevity of these methods varies considerably. If you’re lucky the oblivion is permanent.
  • The mirror has taken a piece of you, you cannot help but look, to compare how you looked this morning, when you got home, before a binge, after throwing up. Sometimes if you’re lucky the spaces are where they should be,  the bones still there. Other days you watch your body shrink and grow before your eyes. Grabbing rolls and flab that you can so clearly see, even if your jeans hang off your hips. quote, sometimes you stare at a face that doesn't even belong to you
  • Dark circles under your eyes, dry skin, acne, thinning hair. Covered with painted nails, hair dye, foundation, pretty clothes. Because you have to dress this horrendous bag of bones and flesh that you drag around all day. People cannot see how gross you really are.
  • You can watch yourself draw, or roll a cigarette, or even talk to people from a whole different point of view. Like this is a film of someone else’s life and somehow you wondered onto the set and don’t really know how to get out again.quote. most nights you cannot sleep. for darkness waits in your dreams
  • Your head will not relent because there so much to do, books to read, the laundry you neglected earlier, sit ups, another run, meals to plan and prep and not eat. We rule the night, flitting with the shadows that curl in our chests.
  • If you sleep you will wake in the night, with stomach growling, intestines tied in knots from laxatives, heart pounding or barely there, or dancing to its own tune. Your hands may shake, muscles cramp, curling your hands into claws.
  • Sometimes the pain is etched into skin, with a knife, or razor blade, scratching, punching, cris-cross lines and patches of hate, writing the feelings you cannot name in scars.
  • This is life for far too many of us.
  • And I haven’t even scratched the is worth more than your eating disorder.

If you are suffering with any of the behaviours in this post please consider professional help. 

Your first point of contact should be your local GP or health care professional. In the meantime have a look at or the National Eating Disorders page for help and advice.

If you are struggling with substance abuse have a look at Talk to Frank for information, help and advice.

For alcohol abuse check out and for self harm help please visit this page on

“If you’re out there and need help, please seek it. Be proud of your valiant day-to-day struggle. There is no shame in needing support.” — Jared Padalecki


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