Sunday, 14 April 2013

Side Effects of Anorexia

I haven't really written about the effects of Anorexia, and to begin doing so is a little bit like looking at a sheer cliff face, wondering how on earth it can be scaled.
However, partly in an attempt to promote understanding and awareness of the effects of this illness, and partly as an exercise to remind myself of the horrors that lie just a few degrees beneath the point where I now stand, I am going to attempt to climb the scarp.

Let's make a start at the base of this mountain.

When you first start losing weight, your body feels great and your mind may even feel sharper, clearer. You may go so far as to feel on top of the world because you have some sense of control or achievement. 
The problems begin as soon as your BMI drops too low. For those who don't know, your BMI is your Body Mass Index which is a measure of body shape used by the medics. Although it is not an exact science, it provides a guide to a healthy body weight based on the ratio of your weight to height. This is regarded as being anywhere between 18.5 (though some argue 20) and 25. 

The effects of being underweight are fairly well documented and a quick Google search will inform you of the main risks. However, I'm going to write about the things I won't miss about being at a stupidly low weight.

I'll start with this. (Always a good place to start, if you're lucky enough to have it!) 
It's an odd thing with extreme weight loss; sort of a 'ya win some, ya lose some' scenario.
Every time I washed my hair, I'd have to be really careful of it's devilish attempts to block the plughole, because it would just come out in big, tangled clumps. I molted like a cat in springtime.
The hair I did have lacked life. It became dull, brittle and dry, resisting the conditioners that I sometimes used.
When I sank to a much lower weight, the reverse happened. I stopped molting and began to develop soft, fine, downy hair on my face, my arms and my legs. This is known as 'lanugo' and is your body's desperate attempt to keep warm.Clever really.

Which brings me nicely to something else I won't miss. COLD.
Unless you're one for subjecting yourself to ice baths or Arctic wanderings, I think it would be difficult to imagine just how cold an anorexic can be. I recall putting on layers of thermal socks, leg warmers, tights, anything to warm my freezing feet. Nothing worked. My hands were chapped and peeling, my core, constantly numb with cold. And I'm not even talking about winter.

Speaking of my hands and feet, it almost hurts to remember the ELECTRIC SHOCK SENSATIONS I got as I expended energy. I would feel electric pulses throughout my body, culminating in bizarre sensations in my fingers, cheeks and feet.
I know now that this was due to severe electrolyte imbalance, which occurs when you don't have sufficient nutrition. Binging and purging is also one of the causes, as is excessive exercise. All of these of course, also put undue strain on the heart.

I won't go into the mortality rates.
In fact, I feel emotionally exhausted. I'll continue in another post. 


  1. Hi Love - oh my, scary,serious, fatal stuff. So, ya! Buff up!! :-) Or, beef up!! Or thicken up, or whatever u feel ok to call it, do it to save you life! To have a better life, to enjoy your life, to live more fully...k?
    Love you

  2. There are so many horrible side effects to eating disorders
    I can really relate to feeling cold
    I live in Ireland so it's already freezing but having next to no body fat makes it nigh impossible to get warm
    The cold gets in to my bones

    My hair also falls out
    I haven't had a period in years
    I've developed lanugo
    I get severely constipated
    I get dizzy when I stand up
    The list in endless
    It's not fun
    It's not pretty
    It's degrading
    It's uncomfortable
    It's what I live every single day

    Take care x

  3. Gail- Yes. All good reasons.
    Hope you are doing okay. xx

    Ruby - Your post makes me think I need to finish writing about the side effects... I understand and know all those horrible things you mention. And you're right, the list is almost endless... hence it feels overwhelming to write.
    I'm so sorry that you experience the horrors of this illness.
    What people like you and I have to do, is write down the things that we DON'T want... like these side effects, and read them before each meal.
    We are ILL but we CAN recover. It takes more than we've got, but that's why we do recovery step by step and hour by hour... Perhaps we have what it takes to recover for ONE HOUR at a time. Not looking ahead... just being in the moment.
    I pray you find the strength.
    We don't have to live like this every single day. Diagnosis is not a death warrant.

    Keep going. Life IS out there (or so Fat Face claim - Irony not lost!)


  4. Just keep trying . . . . .