I hope all of you are doing ok. If you follow my instagram (really, how else are you here?) you might have seen how I returned from University last week. I am already in a much better place then I was, after 7 days of lots and lots of food, rest, and family support.
I have received quite a few messages asking “what caused your slip up?” and I think this might be useful to discuss. It will also help me gather my thoughts together. Please bare in mind that I am writing from my own experience, understanding and interpretation of the illness from all of the literature I have read and trust.
What causes a relapse?
In short, there is no singular conclusive ’cause’ of a relapse. For me, there was no moment of “Oh shit! I hate this new wonderful life I have began to reconstruct! Lets go back to hell!”
I, as well as many other professionals leaders in the field, believe relapses happen when you reenter an energy deficit. I once did a blog post called “The Cause” which explains the term energy deficit slightly more.
As you guys who follow my Instagram know, I went on a holiday in the Swiss alps with my parents at the end of summer. I think it was pretty energy zapping. I think this, combined with not paying attention to my nutrition so closely over the summer, is when things started initially going downhill, although I coped at the time, my energy levels were diminished.
Then, came returning to Uni. Something which makes even the most chilled people stressed. I am a warrior, but also a HELLA BIG worrier. I worry a lot. I worried about missing my family, about buying course books, about having to go out partying until 4am when my sleep had been pretty shoddy. I even worried about whether I’d need a bus pass. The first week of also uni involves meeting new people, meeting old friends, joining societies, buying books… and of course preparing meals for myself.
Then, when I told my friends that I wasn’t sleeping well and didn’t fancy going out clubbing, they seemed a bit disgruntled. This really hurt me, as I expected them to understand. To fill my days with something, I threw myself into loads of different societies to avoid getting bored or lonely. My course has quite low contact hours and a lot solitary reading is expected, so I wanted to find something fun that I could do to productively procrastinate & fill my spare time with. From wind sailing (absolute fucking disaster ending in hypothermia, btw) to newspaper writing- I gave it a go.
AND, here was my mistake: as all of this was going on, I wasn’t nourishing myself adequately. I didn’t increase what I was eating to counteract the vast amount of energy being expended. As you can see, there was lots going on with not enough coming in. It was like an energy vacuum. Henry the Hoover, but a more savage version.
Obviously, not everyone goes to uni or goes on holiday with energy-sucking kids. But the one thing we all have in common in life? We all go through periods of high stress or periods of time when vast amount of energy are sucked out of you. This could be a family bereavement, an activity holiday, an argument with a friend, a change of job, as well as many other things. Or, indeed, a combination of lots of little stresses.
So how will I aim to avoid a relapse next time?
For the rest of my life (or for a very long time), I will have to be mindful and aware that the anorexia gene may be triggered if I slip into a deficit once again. Periods of stress or increases of activity use energy. In those times, I must increase my intake. It is not my fault that I have the genetic predisposition for anorexia, but it is within my control to stay out of a deficit.
For the rest of my life, I will have to be mindful and aware that the gene may be re-activated if I become lazy with my snacks, or if something is stressing my out. This is where I do have control, and so do you.
I simply cannot afford to get into a deficit, so whenever a stressful situation arises, I must eat significantly more. Probably, the signs that I was gradually slipping back were there, I just didn’t notice or pay enough attention to them. When I look back, before returning to Uni, my mood was low and I was becoming slightly more anxious and rigid around food again. By the 2nd week of uni, I was spiralling downwards. That was no coincidence.
So, in the future, periods of stress MUST equal increasing my intake. Like it or not. I will always have to maintain a high intake, but it will be absolutely essential to eat MORE THAN MORE THAN ENOUGH (thank you Jan for that one 🙂 !!) during energy sucking times.
I hope that helped and cleared things up. Remember, you might have to fight a battle more than once to win the war. If you feel yourself going backwards, my answer: FOOD FOOD FOOD. Get on top of your nutrition. Eat more than more than enough 🙂
Always Keep fighting,
One thought on “#60: The energy vacuum & relapse”
I attend to a course on weekends and I tend to skip my snacks, sometimes I couldn’t find time, sometimes I just don’t eat because nobody eats. When not eating for long hours and the continuous stress get mixed with the extra hectic exam week I completely fell of the track. It’s really unbelievable how easy the thoughts come back, I started to think to lose “a little” weight so I can start all over again. Being stressed out doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t eat. I came home and helped my mom to make cookies, right time is now!