Start With a Full Stomach, First

Judy Russ
Judy Russ
Nov 27, 2018 · 5 min read

Having an eating disorder is like evading a creepy stalker that can also shape shift into a trusted friend.

They would give you advice that sounded sensible — and why wouldn’t they? They’d want what’s best for you. That’s what they’d tell you- that’s what you’d believe.

Recovery has much to do with recognizing this persisting inner voice as ill advised.

This is constant work, as it evolves over time; developing immunity to previous coping mechanisms. It manifests itself into unrecognizable, but seemingly friendly forms.

And they’re tempting to believe.

Luckily, with practice, their plight becomes transparent. You start to feel immersed in a thick puddle of constant anxiety when this friend comes around. Their toxicity begins affecting your most solid relationships, and you take notice.

Most of all, you get really fucking hungry.

And hopefully, you’ll finally realize that you can’t move forward with this monster guiding you by the hand.

You have to eat.

Am I a Failure? Or Just Hungry?

My eating disorder, most recently, disguised itself as an integrated part of my fitness journey. It took me about six months to realize it.

I made the mistake of giving it the opportunity to flourish where it could be safe; surrounding myself with a community of people who made counting calories the norm, encouraging each others’ clean eating obsessions with an almost competitive fervor.

I was planning my meals down to their carb/protein/fat ratios, controlling calories, minimizing portions. These were all pretty normal behaviors for somebody beginning a fitness journey, so nobody (including myself) really took notice.

Oh, but also, I felt as thought I was spiraling into an uncontrollable hole of anxiety and misery.

It wasn’t super awesome.

Although it should’ve been obvious that I was literally just starving, I chalked this mental breakdown up to a crisis with my professional life. I had just entered the world of sales, and I wasn’t performing. I was single at 26 and panicking about it.

And God forbid, I didn’t know what I wanted to, like, do with my life.

When I finally realized that I had relapsed back into being disordered and entered recovery mode, I was able to take conscious note of why I felt as though I was circling out of control.

It was less about the eating disorder, and more about the side effects.

The Mood for Food

Is there anything more relatable than the instantaneous switch we make from enraged to content once we shove half a sandwich into our faces on our lunch break?

As a matter of fact — is there anything more pervasive and demanding in our daily lives than eating?

By now, you’ve probably heard of our second brain. And if you haven’t… it’s the weird and oddly obvious explanation to why we get “hangry” that we’ve all been waiting for.

Also known as the enteric nervous system, scientists have deemed our “second brain” as the complicated network of neurons that line our digestive system, which are largely responsible for the way our body reacts emotionally to food. [1]

Quite simply, these neurons have a mission to let us know just exactly how it’s goin’ in there — which foods are helping, which are hurting, when it’s time to refuel, and then communicate that to our first brain (the one in your head). [2]

So, when we’re seemingly moody, tired, or angry out of nowhere, it pays to check in with our second brain first. Are we actually hungry? Thirsty? Have we not eaten since breakfast? Was our last meal mostly carbs? Do we have the nutrients we need for our bodies to kick ass?

All of these things have the potential to influence just what level of crap we feel like (on a scale from nihilistically doomed to meh).

It makes sense, then, why I was losing my shit. I couldn’t get past the messages of pain and anger that my gut was sending to my brain. I wasn’t listening.

Stop, Drop, and EAT

Eating disorders are not simple, and no one recovery is the same. It can be physically excruciating for some of us to begin integrating balanced diets into our lives again, and most victims battle with the symptoms of disordered eating for the rest of their lives.

I feel that I’m lucky to have made this connection between my first brain and my second. The link between them has cultivated an indestructible coping mechanism for my eating disorder.

Here’s How:

Personal growth is my absolute top priority. This includes my professional life. At a certain point, I started learning that eating nutritious food boosted my creativity, productivity, and energy levels.

More importantly, I figured out that cheating myself of calories and sustenance led to an immediate and palpable decline in performance at work. I also no longer had the ability to competently accomplish personal projects.

For example, it was totally impossible to sit down and write for my blog when I felt hungry. I wrote poorly. My sentence structures were ridiculous. I described terrible experiences as “very bad” and inspiring ones as “nice”.

It can feel like somewhat of an inconvenience when my body holds my cognitive functions hostage until I eat breakfast.

But it’s totally reasonable what my body is asking of me:

“Disordered” Eating

You don’t need a diagnosed eating disorder in order to suffer the consequences of chronic hunger, or a poor diet.

Getting into the habit of delaying lunch or dinner until it’s convenient (rather than when your body is hungry) is enough to panic your second brain and have you operating at less-than-optimum potential.

Having coffee for breakfast instead of a meal (guilty) can convince you and your body that you’re not a morning person.

The truth is that most of us could likely afford to take a look at when, what, and how often we’re eating as a ground zero solution for our productivity, mental health, and success.

To operate at your fullest potential, start with a full stomach, first. Then find out what’s next (might I recommend — 8 hours of sleep?).

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-fallible-mind/201701/the-pit-in-your-stomach-is-actually-your-second-brain

[2] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain

— — — — — — — — — —

My name is Judy, and I’m a poet, copy/ghost writer, and content curator specializing in Fitness, Travel, Outdoor Adventures and Personal Development.

I write full time in coffee shops all over Philadelphia, or at home with my pitbull mix Riley dropping tennis balls in my lap.

You can follow my newly (chaotically) launched writing career on my instagram (@amongst_mountains) — or read more fun content on my website, Amongst Mountains.org.

Judy Russ

Written by

Judy Russ

Part time writer, Part time cook. Making it up as I go along. (Food, Personal Growth, Adventure & Travel)

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