Geeks Vs Loneliness: how food gave me an anxiety attack

A few words from someone whose anxiety surrounding food has hugely impacted her life...

Hello and welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, our weekly spot on the site where we talk about things that may be affecting you, or people you know. No miracle cures are offered, just support, warmth, and a hand of friendship amidst the anonymity of the internet. This week, we’re proud to hand over to Sam Sweeney Saia, who has some thoughts on her struggles with food…

I had an anxiety attack over breakfast this morning. This isn’t anything new to me, but the severity was something I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I weighed myself and looked into a full-length mirror beforehand, and it all went to hell after. I ended up tossing everything in the bin except for my tea, and then felt guilty for those who would’ve given anything for the meal that I so ungratefully discarded.

I’ve had anxiety wrapped around food since childhood. I was diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (something that Chloe Catchpole wrote about for Geeks Vs Loneliness, here), which, loosely put, is a disorder in which I perceive myself as though I were looking into a funhouse mirror. I look distorted and deformed to myself, always heavier than I actually am, even if my clothes are becoming looser on me. The severity of my BDD increased after my mom passed away, and I no longer see ‘me’ when I look at myself. It’s as if there is a stranger in my reflection, or the ghost of my former self, and it’s at times terrifying & enraging. I had severe digestive issues growing up, and always felt better when I was ’empty’. This feeling became calming.

When I entered high school, and had quit therapy, I began purging. I’d feel anxious and would break down into tears after eating, and realised that forcing myself to throw up eased my anxiety attacks. I’d restrict for days, eating nothing more than a carrot or two, and maybe a piece of fruit. And sometimes that gnawing anxiety would still consume me. If I couldn’t purge, I would self-harm to ease the anxiety. I purged and restricted on-and-off for nearly 20 years, and I absolutely feel the effects of my actions on my health today.

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I have hypothyroidism, which makes losing weight extremely difficult for me. I do work out at the gym and see results from my routine, but I can only do so much before I start to feel light-headed or a migraine sets in, likely from poor nutrition. I hover around a certain weight that’s not terrible, but in my mind I could always be 10-15 pounds lighter. This has always been. I will never feel content.

My current relationship with food is a complicated one. I try to not use calorie counting apps because I tend to use them negatively… instead of aiming to eat at least 1000 calories per day, I feel like a failure if I go over 800. The app alerting me that this intake is unhealthy becomes a misguided comfort. But then I have some days where I pay my intake no mind and can enjoy something like a simple Pot Noodle, guilt and anxiety-free.

Just by looking at me, no one would know that I struggle daily with this. When I stand next to a dear friend, whom I view as stunningly beautiful, I swear that we have the same body size and shape. She is heavier than I am. She looks at me as though I am utterly insane and tries to understand, but I’m ecstatic that she doesn’t.

I’m the first person to say to someone that there are no set standards for health or beauty, that there is no one perfect body weight, but I’m the last person to actually listen to myself.

If you find yourself relating to any of this, please get help if it is available to you. You are not alone, and there is nothing wrong with you! Don’t end up like me. Don’t cry over a plate of egg whites and beans because you gained a pound.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

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