Episodes of starving

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Credit: Tsveti Popova

Bethany Woodhead
Views Editor

Content warning: this article contains references to eating disorders and body image

There’s a really unhealthy obsession which isn’t being talked about enough – the joy of not eating. Obviously, this is an aspect of many eating disorders, such as anorexia; however, many young people who have not been diagnosed with any form of eating disorder are admitting to feelings of elation when they stop themselves from eating.

Most of the students I have spoken to regarding this issue are reasonably happy with their body shape, or actively enjoy gorging themselves on all sorts of delicious goods on a day-to-day basis (I personally can eat like a pig and love to indulge in all kinds of mouth-watering cuisines). Nonetheless, I feel pure satisfaction when I am able to go for long periods of time without eating. Every pang of hunger pain or every mighty groan of my stomach sets off a celebration in my head to remind me that I haven’t consumed real food in a while.

I’m currently going through one of those streaks of poor health, as evidenced by the lettuce and the single fruit yoghurt sitting in my fridge. On a “good day” during one of these periods, I’ll often consume one yoghurt in the early afternoon and then later cut up some lettuce, squirt some vinegar on it (yes, I know that sounds utterly gross), and that is me done for the day. After a couple days of this, your appetite has shrunk so much that you’d be unable to stomach little more than this sorry excuse for a meal. I can see my bloated, chubby stomach reduce a little and I feel happier.

Even during the times when I happily gorge on takeaways and home-cooked meals, I still enjoy the odd day where my eating has significantly reduced.

It’s a terrible and very unhealthy obsession which is slipping past the watchful eye of families, friends and doctors because, in most cases, you cannot outwardly see major physical effects. It never seems to go as far as an extreme form of anorexia or bulimia, although it certainly could be categorised as an eating disorder. These episodes come in pockets and often are just minor blips between regular eating patterns. But just because you cannot see somebody’s bones, or you observe them able to pig out frequently, does not mean they’re not doing something destructive to themselves – even if only occasionally. These people are not getting the right vitamins, minerals, goodness or sustenance into their bodies, and it is clearly a sign of an unhealthy mindset.

Because of the fact you are able to eat, and you don’t physically look dishevelled, it often goes unnoticed, even by the people who are actually suffering it! In a world intoxicated with images of toned, slim and beautiful people on social media, it appears our subconscious minds have developed to release oxytocin when we starve ourselves. I understand the detrimental health implications of this habit, and I give strong, outward support for body positivity movements; however, sometimes you just cannot seem to help yourself falling into toxic habits – especially when you believe they are just one-off, little “phases” you occasionally go through. I am personally fairly happy with my body – a marked change from my disgust as a teenager. Sure, there are bits I’d like to change and that I am unhappy with, but nothing so drastic that it explains my weird habit. So this begs the question as to why does it occur at all?

This epidemic is more popular than you would think, and we need to open up a discussion as to how to tackle this issue. But with the NHS already under so much pressure, and unable to cope with the amount of people suffering from catastrophic issues and impacts, I cannot see a solution coming any time soon.