Skip to Content

It Takes One to Know One

A few days ago I was packing my lunch and getting ready to leave for work; I was taking yogurt. What else can I eat (if I want to avoid excruciating stomach pain)? Cottage cheese, rice cakes, fruit leather, string cheese and applesauce. As I assemble my measly lunch I start to justify it to my mum, not that she was criticizing it or expecting anything different. I explain that cottage cheese on a rice cake epitomizes anorexic eating. She responds, wisely, by saying that no one would recognize this as an "anorexic" combination unless they too had experience with anorexia. The phrase that sticks in my mind is this: "You can always pick each other out in a crowd; you know the mannerisms." I didn't take offense to this comment in any way. Much to the contrary I appreciated her candidness.
Simultaneously I wondered: What are these mannerism that I both exhibit and almost subconsciously recognize? I know what the "symptoms" of anorexia are, but I never know what exactly catalyzes me to think "oh, she/he has an eating disorder too." (Note: The following observations have no scientific basis, they are simply my own record of oddball behaviors).
- Personally, I think we look around a lot while eating in the presence of others; it's as if a running inventory concerning who's eating what must be maintained.
- We never eat at a regular pace. Meals either vanish quickly; as if swallowing food whole will somehow spare you the "shame" of consumption; or they are they eaten surreptitiously and painfully slowly, drawing out each taste as if you may never be allowed to taste again.
- Conversations don't come naturally over food. With family and close friends I'm fine, but outside of these settings I either chat rapidly in an effort to distract people from the fact that I'm eating (I'm still uncomfortable to be seen eating, but it is getting easier with experience), or I'm at a complete and total loss for words (imagine, unable to ramble on).