Children eat up life. They run towards things. They eat them up. Young children aren't typically afraid of saying it like it is. It's the way they talk to each other. It's the way they interact with themselves. They act out what they've learn from their environment with their toys. My daughter will mimic activities I have done with her with her dolls. Almost everything is an experience to be had- even when she says no to something, she's got something else lined up to do instead. While she can lose her voice and be shy in her asking sometimes, she tends to tackle life without restriction.
How interesting that the words used to describe her behavior will describe our interaction with food. We have an insatiable appetite or will choose to restrict our food intake. How significant is it that restricting our food intake is the same as restricting our 'selves'. Those childlike insatiable appetite 'selves' that are hungry for life- love, friends, compassion, empathy. Restricting our 'selves' keeps us from being hungry for life. We show the symptoms by restricting food- a basic human need just as necessary as love, friends, compassion, and empathy.
A client relatively new to recovery came in expressing fear over the process of re-feeding, where all she finds herself doing is thinking about food. She described this insatiable appetite. I was quick to point out that anorexia is also a life of thinking about food all the time, in a much different way. The quest to live in absence of food creates a relationship that is constantly about food- the avoidance of. It can be a romantic relationship of yearning and longing. As the re-feeding begins and continues it isn't uncommon to constantly think about food. Removing the idea of restriction returns the mind to ideas of discovering wants aside from food.
The depths of the eating disorder shrink down one's world piece by piece until the relationship with it is all that matters. Friends drift away. Social engagements drift away. Hobbies drift away. Life essentially drifts away. When the eating disorder is asked to leave through no longer agreeing to restrict life through the restriction of food it opens up that insatiable appetite. It isn't for food, but for life. For friends. For social engagements. For hobbies. For the self and it's opinions, wants, loves, joys, and pains. It's the insatiable appetite seen only through food that is scary. It's critical to see that the eating disorder teaches us to avoid feelings entirely through communicating strictly through rules around food. Crucial to healing is replacing the communication about food with communication about our feelings.
The insatiable appetite my client described could be traced through her day to numerous interactions with loneliness, but feelings are so far away from how she has learned to communicate with herself that she had no idea the interactions of her day had caused her any pain. They had only caused an insatiable appetite that wouldn't go away and all day she wanted more. She needed more connection, more care, more compassion, more interest, more love. It's the depth of how big the fear of appetite is that can keep someone from recovering. Appetite isn't always about food. It's about learning to live. It's about turning the light back on in the soul and responding to it's needs for emotional nourishment. It's there that recovery can be found.