Do you know these days when Ana completely controls your thoughts? I mean, not just sometimes, not just for a couple of hours but the whole day?!
It can happen on a long Sunday when I have nothing special planned and get bored. Or at university, when I am sitting in a lecture that doesn’t really keep my attention. My thoughts zone out and all there are circulating around very soon is food, food, food. What I already ate during the day, when to eat next, what to eat, how much to eat, what I still got in the fridge for dinner and so on. It’s not abnormal to think about things like that as food is a natural part of every person’s life or at least it should be. So the thoughts are okay as long as they aren’t present in every single second. As long as there are still other topics in your life except meal planning and calorie counting.
I tend to get so mad at myself when I feel like I didn’t do anything productive the whole day. With Ana being so present, I can neither work effectively as I read a sentence over and over again without catching the sense. Nor can I get creative, as there is simply not enough space left in my head for my fantasy to flourish. I can’t properly concentrate on conversations and I don’t enjoy the little things anymore. The beautiful clouds. A child that is smiling at me. The inspiring lyrics of a song. Additionally, currently thinking about the next meal makes it even more difficult to eat if it really comes to mealtimes. What I could do now is to sink into self-pity and restrict or to refuse accepting that Ana locks me out of my own life! I choose the second option.
Here are some tips that I discovered would help me to cope and maybe some of them fit for you as well: Try firstly to direct your attention. Try to deepen yourself into something you normally enjoy, like drawing, writing, singing along, whatever. Turn the music on. Open the windows and breathe some fresh air or go for a walk. All these things won’t probably work immediately, but I often experienced that Anas voice in my head got at least a little more quiet after a while.
But what I personally consider as the best strategy is social contact! There’s nothing worse than being alone with Ana while you want to get rid of her. Other people can give you new inputs, new things to think about, new stories. So meet with a good friend for coffee. Call somebody, your mum or a classmate. Sometimes it can help to speak out on how Ana is freaking you out, sometimes it already helps to talk about anything as long as it is not food related.
If there’s currently nobody around, you can also try to consciously spoil yourself. That’s something that people with eating disorders think about as quite difficult as they don’t think they deserve it. Of course, it’s again just that little voice in your head that tells you that taking a bath is a waste of time or that you aren’t worth getting a massage. Prove that voice wrong. Do whatever you feel like. Sing along even if the neighbours could hear it. Put on a face mask. Buy yourself something (it doesn’t have to be something expensive, just a little symbolic treat). Something that you compliment your self on being strong and on continuing your fight for recovery even if it is a bad day and everything seems utterly exhausting.
The last strategy may sound silly, but worked for me many times: talk to Ana. Loudly. A conversation could for example go like that:
You: „Oh yes, Ana, come on, I can hear you, what do you have to say?“
Ana: „You not worth eating. You already ate so much today. You are excessive and greedy. You will get fat…“
You: „Aha, very interesting. Maybe you should think of some new topics though. I’m getting bored. Right now, I’ll just enjoy my meal and let you scream. Oh, and fuck you, by the way.“
Well, as I said, this might seem quite strange, but as long as it helps nearly everything is appropriate, I guess. I often had to laugh out loud when I heard my thought loudly because I recognized how worn out they were (like: „okay, I’m sitting here and my hands are shaking, because I’m about to eat a bread with butter instead of low-fat cream cheese“). So, that’s mainly it, I guess. Keep fighting out there!