One of the blog posts in my archive that most consistently gets hits is 10 Real Reasons Not to Self Harm. I’ve had multiple people tell me that it was a useful post for them in some way, and I’ve found myself referencing it when I’m feeling really crappy and I need some reminders from my slightly more stable mind about why I shouldn’t self harm.
Lately I’ve been feeling some urges to restrict again, and so in the spirit of 10 Real Reasons, I want remind myself and others what actually sucks about giving in to eating disorder temptations and restricting your food intake.
1. This might seem super obvious but it’s really easy to forget when you’re in a serious restricting place. Food tastes good. Not only that, but it’s hugely comforting to eat a warm meal or to have something that reminds you of childhood or a good time in your life. You’re denying yourself something that’s super fucking awesome by not eating. I know you probably know that, but I just thought I’d mention it.
2. Most people who restrict heavily like to try to convince themselves that not eating doesn’t actually affect their energy, mood, or thought process. Let me just take a moment to call bullshit on that because physiologically there’s really no way for you to have a good level of energy and clear thoughts when you aren’t giving your body and brain enough calories to fuel them. When you eat food you can do more stuff. Stuff like creating great art or being with the people you love or fighting the patriarchy or whatever the hell it is that makes you happy.
3. Do you know how painful it is to sit on things when your ass is bony? It’s very painful. See also: hugs, leaning against things, sex, cuddling, and interacting in any way with the world. Don’t starve yourself. You need the extra cushioning. It makes the world less hurty.
4. You can lie to me and tell me that you’ll feel worse after you eat. And yes, it’s true you might feel guilty or anxious. But there’s this thing called biology and that means that when you don’t eat your mood tanks. Have you ever seen a cranky toddler? Have you ever tried giving that toddler food and seen them suddenly become perfectly fine? We are all the cranky toddler. Eat the food. Feel better.
5. Do you know what people do when they want to be together? They eat. Food is social. Food connects people. Food is how many people express care and affection. When you don’t eat food, you are cutting yourself off from other people, whether you intend it to be that way or not. That is one of the suckiest things about restriction, and it leaves you feeling pretty shitty.
6. Here are some scary facts: when I stopped restricting my ring size, shoe size, and boobs all increased slightly. Do you know what kind of malnutrition it takes to shrink your feet? The kind that will eventually kill you. Keep your feets and hands the sizes they were meant to be. Don’t starve yourself.
7. Restricting may seem like it’s ignoring food, but it usually comes with obsessive thoughts around food. Your life shouldn’t revolve around food. There are a thousand other things you could be doing with your life than thinking about food and worrying about food. Even if you’re avoiding food, you’re still using up a lot of emotional energy and willpower, as well as causing some serious decision fatigue that will mean you’ve got less reserves for every other thing you need to do in your life.
8. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Do you think women should be equal to men, or shouldn’t have to feel all sorts of unnecessary pressures to be beautiful? I’ve noticed that the more the people around me buy into the ideas that they need to eat less, they should be quieter or prettier or more conventional, the more I feel pressure to do so. Even if you think that you’re only impacting yourself by restricting, you’re sending a tacit message to all your friends and acquaintances that you think you should be living by the patriarchal laws that tell women to be skinnier, quieter, less, smaller. You’re taking up less space when the strongest thing for a feminist to do is stretch out and take up as much space as possible.
9. I want you to imagine that your best friend wasn’t eating on a regular basis. Would you ever tell them that this was a good plan? No? Why are you treating yourself worse than other people? It can be incredibly hard to accept that you deserve the same care that other people do or that you’re allowed to take care of yourself (we’re all supposed to just self-sacrifice constantly and hope someone else takes care of us right??) but if you think extreme restriction is bad for the people you love then you gotta accept it’s bad for you (and also start including yourself in people you love).
10. It’s so fucking boring. Jesus christ is restriction boring. It’s lonely, it’s exhausting, and you end up sitting around just staring at walls for most of your life (with some extra crying jags for funsies). Planning your life around NOT doing something is actually the stupidest thing ever. Imagine instead planning what you DO want to do. It’s so much more interesting! You actually do things! You leave your room! You engage with the world! It’s great. I don’t think I’ve ever felt less interested in the world than when I was restricting because my world was entirely sitting around fighting with myself about whether or not to eat. Bo-ring.