Eating disorder food rules. I have developed a lot of anorexia food rules over the years. Some I have challenged and broken. Some I have found quite easy to break whereas some have been very difficult. But there is one particular anorexia food rule that I REALLY struggle to break. I have tried on many occasions to challenge this anorexia food rule but have never managed it. I’ve never cracked it no matter how much or how many times I try. The food rule? Saving food and calories for later.
So I did a blog recently about my top 5 annoying eating disorder behaviours and my most annoying eating disorder behaviour was saving food and calories for later. You can read the blog post here:
When I was writing that blog, I realised there was way too much to write about saving food and calories for later. I realised the topic needed it’s own blog post. So this is it.
My issues at the moment involve eating breakfast and lunch as late as possible. My breakfast is often around midday, and my lunch is at 5.30pm. I know these are not normal times to eat these meals. As much as I try to eat these earlier (and believe me I have tried) I just don’t seem to be able to. My thought process is this: If I eat my lunch at a typical lunch time such as 2pm, it then means that I have to wait until dinner time to eat again. And that feels like a very long time to wait. Whereas if I eat my lunch at 5.30pm, I have it to look forward to during the day, and I don’t have to wait too long until I have my dinner.
I know this is illogical. Why is waiting for my lunch until 5.30pm any different from eating lunch at 2pm and waiting for my dinner? Logically, it isn’t different. But in my head, it is. Very different. And my head is polarised. As much a part of me wishes desperately that I could eat my meals at normal times, the other part of me enjoys having them when I do and wants to continue. It is so incredibly frustrating. I wish I was just able to do it and not have it bother me. It actually drives me insane. But this is where I am currently at.
So many times I have gone to bed telling myself that tomorrow, I must try and eat at more normal times. But then tomorrow comes and I can’t do it. And I also think that I don’t want to. I don’t want my lunch at 2pm and for that food to be gone so early on in the day. But that is because anorexia still makes me follow a relatively “controlled” diet. Not to the point where I lose weight or anything like that, but to the point that I can’t eat completely freely. If I did eat completely freely, it wouldn’t matter if I ate my lunch at 2pm because if I wanted a snack or something before dinner, I would be allowed to have it. But my anorexia food rules would not allow that.
As I mention in that previous blog, my anorexia food rules have changed a lot over the years. I was discharged from my last admission in 2011 and stuck religiously to my meal plan. The food that I ate and the timings of them had to be exact. Breakfast, lunch and dinner all had their precise times, as did my snacks. My afternoon snack was always at 4pm. I would sit with my dad and have it. If my dad was late home by just 10 minutes, it meant I couldn’t have my snack. It would be too close to dinner, which was at 6.30pm, and I just couldn’t cope with the stress and anxiety of not eating at my correct time.
But when I went back to university to finish my degree, I had to become more flexible. I had to fit my anorexia food rules around studying and lectures. Whilst it was a positive that I was able to become more flexible with my eating, it did lead to different food rules. This is where I started to develop the habit of saving food for later. Breakfast and dinner stayed the same, but lunch slipped later. And my afternoon snack combined into my evening snack. I would go to the library to study after my lectures and then head to where I was staying overnight at about 3.30pm. I would then have my lunch at 4pm while watching Deal or No Deal. And this became my new anorexia food rule: Lunch at 4pm and no more afternoon snack, but a bigger evening snack instead.
When I graduated in 2015 and started working full time, my anorexia food rule of saving food for later deteriorated further. I would eat breakfast before I went to work, but then not eat again until my dinner. I was working as a cook and it was always very busy, and rare to get a break. So practically it was just difficult to eat at work. This wasn’t a restriction of calories or a trying to lose weight behaviour, because I always made up the calories later in the day, with my evening snack.
This habit then became my norm – only eating a small breakfast and having the rest of my daily intake of food for dinner and evening snack. And I liked it. I liked getting to the end of the day knowing that I had lots of food to look forward to. I worked as a cook for two and a half years and this habit had become very ingrained. But I didn’t mind because I loved my big evening snack which contained virtually 90% of my prescribed daily calories.
I left my job as a cook in September 2017 to go back to university and do a Masters. Again, my anorexia food rule of saving food for later became even worse. I stopped eating completely during the day and ate all of my daily intake for my dinner and evening snack. Again, this wasn’t for restriction purposes or to try and lose weight. My evening snack just became bigger to accommodate the calories I’d stopped eating for breakfast (and lunch). And again, I liked having a big evening snack to look forward to. This habit continued for the year that I completed my Masters.
Since October 2018, I have tried many, many times to tackle this saving food for later habit. I have tried and failed, and tried again, repetitively. Because when I finished university at the end of 2018, although I liked having my food in the evening, I knew it wasn’t healthy or good for me. I had fainted several times due to low blood sugar, so I knew I had to try and eat a bit more during the day. I introduced breakfast and lunch, and had a smaller evening snack. This was incredibly difficult and I did miss the amount of food I used to be able to eat with my evening snack. Throughout 2019, I would find myself slipping back to old habits of saving food for later. But then I would try again to eat more during the day.
Now, in 2020 and 2021, as explained at the beginning, I do eat breakfast and lunch. And my evening snack is more of what you might consider “normal,” not the masses of food it used to be. It did take a while to get used to it. But get used to it I did. For a while I did miss my old, large evening snack, but that did pass. And now I am so glad that I get to eat food during the day. But lunch at 5.30pm is far from ideal. That die hard habit of saving food for later is still very much there, and very much active.
I have to take hope that eating breakfast and lunch, albeit very late, is better than not eating breakfast and lunch at all. And not eating a huge evening snack is much better for my digestion. But I still have a long way to go. Saving food for later is one of my most annoying anorexia food rules and habits. I’ve not yet broken this habit. But I will not stop trying.
If you have had similar (or different) experiences I would love for you to leave a comment – not feeling alone in your struggles is always helpful.