The physical effects of anorexia

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When the body is starved of nutrients it seeks to conserve what reserves of energy it has in order to protect vital tissues. This is why as you continue to restrict your eating the amount of weight you lose will lessen over time. Basically the boy adapts to “famine conditions”, seeking ways to burn calories at a slower rate and so to preserve your health. As your metabolism rate slows, as does your growth rate. In pre-pubescent women, for example, with anorexia puberty is delayed.

The state of starvation causes feelings of fatigue and weakness as your body seeks to make you reduce physical activity and therefore conserve energy. In many cases, however, the psychological urge to increase activity and thus speed up weight loss will over-ride these physical feelings. As you seek to lose more and more weight your body is actually pitching against you: hence that feeling common in anorexia of being at war with your body. Ultimately is starvation continues the regulatory mechanisms of the body will be over-ridden. Epileptic fits are not uncommon amongst people with anorexia, usually occurring in the context of  disrupted internal environment.

The skin

The skin may become dry and crusted due to starvation. Also a fine layer of hair, called lanugo, may grow all over the body a bit like the “fuzz” on the skin of a peach. The skin may also develop an orange tinge, particularly on the pales of hands and soles of feet, this is caused by high levels of carotene in the blood due to the liver becoming unable to break it down.

Myopathy (muscle wasting and weakness)

When in a state of starvation the body turns to reserves within itself for energy, this included metabolising muscle. In extreme cases this includes heart muscle! This muscle wastage results in a drawn and haggard appearance.

The less muscle you have the slower you will burn calories. Also, as the muscles are not getting all the nutrients they need they work even less well than would be predicted from wastage alone. Signs of severe myopathy include difficultly climbing stairs, a flat footed method of walking an even an inability to stand from a squatting position without help.

Lower back pain

This can be caused due to bone thinning (osteoporosis) or, more usually, by the spinal column not having enough muscle support.

The brain

In advanced stages of starvation, shrinkage of the brain may occur.

The heart

In cases of severe starvation, the heart weakens and its efficiency at pumping blood is greatly reduced. Blood pressure becomes lower, which results in dizziness and fainting. In extreme cases cardiomyopathy can develop: this is characterised by the failure of the heart muscle to function efficiently, and can result in chest pains and palpitations.

The kidneys

These can be effected by the low blood pressure, making them less efficient and causing slow damage. Also dehydration and low levels of potassium can cause serious damage.

The immune system

This is greatly impaired by starvation.

The reproductive system

Starvation impairs fertility by causing the uterus and ovaries to shrink. Amenorrhea (cessation of menstruation) is an inevitable consequence.


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Why is it that we always get the “controversial” disorders? Lol

6 years ago I was anorexic, I “recovered” but still had the diagnosis of “EDNOS”, my doctor said it was Orothexia, but as this isn’t a “real” disorder EDNOS was the official diagnosis. During this period though my focus shifted, it was no longer and weight, calories, size, etc… Now it was about trying to be clear, pure, and uncontaminated. At first I just avoided E-numbers, then preservatives, then additives… over time the list got longer and longer… if we ever went out to eat or ate at someone else’s house so I didn’t know 100% what was inside the food then I had to “cleanse” myself… this would involve either purging or binge drinking pints upon pints of water and if I was not able to do either of these then I would need to “bleed out the contamination” later on that night by “blood letting”

Sometimes it would happen at home too… I never knew if I could or couldn’t eat something until I’d tried it… and the list of what I couldn’t eat seemed to be getting bigger and bigger…

By the end I was avoiding so much that I was barely eating, it had gotten to the point where my food intake wasn’t much more than it had been during my anorexic period, at one point it go down to my living off apples, oranges and vitamin supliments…. As well as this my purging and water binging had begun to mess up my electrolyte balance.

16 months ago I ended up admitted to hospital for a suspected heart attack!!! It ended up that I was having multiple tachycardic episodes… after several tests it ended up that my heart muscle had being damaged from the electrolyte issues… even now my heart has not recovered, apparently if my old diet had continued for much longer I would have died…

Though to be honest my eating still isn’t great, the list of things I avoid is still high and I still cannot eat anything pre-packaged, anything from a take-away, anything cooked by anyone other than myself, andthing where I cannot source all the ingredients, etc… but at least I’m no longer risking death

Slip-ups are part of ED recovery

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Hi, I’m Rachel (hense the green lol – we all colour coded ourselves here

Anyway, I wanted to take part, to help. We have been thinking a lot on eating disorders recsntly, in part as Sarah is struggling with ED thoughts at the moment which is effecting all of us in a negative light what it comes to food.

We had a slight ED slip-up last week, but these ARE part of recovery, and I wish to explain why this is and how it’s all a case of  HOW you think or percieve it.

Instead of thinking about it as, “There goes all my hard work, screw it then, might as well eat and purge forever now!” think about it as what it was – A bump on the road to recovery.I mean noone said that the path to recovery was easy nor smooth

The all-or-nothing thinking of eating disorders can sabotage us in recovery, because it tells us that one slip-up immediately means we have failed. In reality, recovery is a process – a marathon and not a sprint.

So, you ate well for a week? So… 7 days, 3 meals a day. That means that you had 21 opportunities to fail, right? 21 chances to eat, then puke. …But you? You succeeded 20 of those times. 20 outta 21 ain’t bad.

In fact: *does math on calculator*… You’ve scored 95.3% on recovery!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That is nowhere near bad, nowhere near failing, nowhere near ground zero. Just get up where you fell down. No need to backtrack.


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