Pleasure or Relief in Eating Disorder Experience?


 QuestionEating disorder interview questions teach me about what can be in the minds of people who don't have eating disorders and wonder about them.

This afternoon I did a practice interview in preparation for my video shoot tomorrow. It's designed to help get the word out about the release of my book, Healing Your Hungry Heart in August.

Naturally a question came up about my personal experience with bulimia and how I had my first binge and purge episode when I was thirteen years old. The intervier surprised me with her next question.  She asked, Why did you continue to binge and throw up after that first time?  It must have given you a lot of pleasure.

Pleasure? I was startled by the word, yet I understood that, for someone naive in the ways of living with an eating disorder, pleasure was a reasonable assumption.

When I first binged and threw up I didn't feel pleasure. I felt relief and joy that I had found a way to nevigate my life.  I didn't have to feel overwhelmed by impossible demands. I could live up to the expectations of my parents, in public, and bury my growing anxieties under a mountain of food that I could vomit in secret.

  • Pleasure? No. Relief that my desperation could get channeled into the binge/purge? Yes.
  • Pleasure at the result? No. Relief when I was groggy and in a twilight state of consciousness following an episode?  Yes.

Most of the time I speak with people who have or had an eating disorder or with colleagues who work with people who have or had an eating disorder.  Many of my colleagues are in some form of recovery themselves.

Now, as my book takes me into new experiences I see that I will be speaking to people who don't know about eating disorders. Their lack of knowledge I can meet with information. Their natural assumptions, reasonable and inaccurate, are teachers for me. I need to learn how to address these assumptions and learn.

What about you? 

  • Is pleasure a word that applies to any aspect of your eating disorder episodes?
  • Do you know the difference between pleasure and relief? 
  • What do you remember of the the first time you began your eating disorder?










0 # After reading this, I sat this afternoonshh 2011-05-24 14:06

After reading this, I sat this afternoon and pieced together everything I can recollect & figure out about my ED and when/how it started...

I'm probably not your typical person with an ED, as the roots of mine truly do lie in food & eating behaviours, I think the subconscious realisation that I could use food to numb my emotions was a natural progression that came later....takes quite a lot of explaining, will try to summarise.

Initially I think it started as a baby/toddler with my mum's fear of choking & the the way in which she restricted my diet as a result, but there were other things too, she used food as a means of bribery and emotional blackmail, and I ate to please her, to try to get her to love me.

By 6 or 7 yrs old I was pretty overweight and she started putting me on crash diets and restricting what I ate in quite a big way. I went along with this to try to gain her acceptance and to get her to love me, but whenever I wasn't on one of her diets, I had little choice than to return to the overeating if I wanted her approval, I was bad/naughty/ungrateful if I didn't eat what she gave me.

And that's how it all began - I've never known what it is to eat a normal range or normal volume of food, it was always restricting or eating to excess to get my mother's approval, and ultimately to try to get her to love me.

It wasn't just food, she controlled every area of my life either by violence or emotional blackmail...and somewhere along the line, I guess I subconsciously figured out the association with overeating and numbing of emotions.

I have so many issues and hang-ups as a result of her controlling ways, that I needed to be numb just to cope on a day-to-day basis...but then there's the knock on effect of self-hatred because the eating to numb everything makes me fat, undesirable,unhealthy,a bad role model to my kids, with the effect of crushing any self-esteem I might've had, restricting me physically due to my size, and ultimately me knowing that I'm eating myself to death, and potentially leaving my girls without a mother...which in turn needs numbing even more.

And people think I eat for pleasure??? I eat, or should say, I did eat, just to get through each day - it wasn't a life, it was an existence. (It's made me cry to write this tonight)

0 # Relief-- absolutely. Relief that I couldlori 2011-05-25 06:16
Relief-- absolutely. Relief that I could at least control one thing in my life. There is no pleasure in any aspect of disordered eating except when I can fit into a size zero. But even that pleasure is tainted because I can hear my mother's voice telling me I'm too thin.
0 # Brava Shh and Lori,You are both gettpinkjoanna 2011-05-25 09:21

Brava Shh and Lori, You are both getting closer to the authenticity of your experience. You are moving across barriers you've used your eating disorder to support. Now you are getting near your very real personal challenges. When you get close to the reality of your personal challenges it means that you DIDN'T use your eating disorder to block. You are stronger and more healthy than you were even minutes ago. Two issues occur to me when reading your posts.

1. Control is different from honoring limits. Control comes from determination and will power. Honoring limits comes from respect, care, kindness and courage.

2. Now that you are honing in on the difference between pleasure and relief.  You know eating disorder actions give you relief, albeit temporary relief.

The question becomes, "What is pleasure to you - pure, guilt free, shame free pleasure?  Not relief but pleasure.

0 # Thanks Joanna Pleasure is being allowshh 2011-05-25 10:40
Thanks Joanna

Pleasure is being allowed to be myself :-)
0 # Ahhhh! Shh, you are approaching the golpinkjoanna 2011-05-25 11:41
Ahhhh! Shh, you are approaching the gold. Now, who has the power to allow you to be yourself? tick tock, tick tock. :-)
0 # I'm working on it...slowly getting thereshh 2011-05-25 13:15
I'm working on it...slowly getting there (I hope)!
0 # What you said really made me stop and thlori 2011-05-26 04:30
What you said really made me stop and think. One aspect of how I exercise control is to not allow myself any pleasure. I've interpreted pleasure as self indulgent and undeserved. Therefore it is one more thing to be controlled by determination and willpower. Then I guess I have learned to find a form of pleasure in my ability to be in control. But... Is that really pleasure? If not, what is it?
0 # Lori, keep asking your question as you mpinkjoanna 2011-05-26 08:42
Lori, keep asking your question as you move through your day. Pleasure may be sunshine on the back of your legs. Pleasure may be dancing light on leaves of a tree. Pleasure may be an animal greeting you with delight or calmly welcoming your presence. Pleasure might be opening a fresh clean newspaper or noticing something lovely in a shop window.

Maybe pleasure is a hand massage or a foot massage or standing under a running shower that's just the right temperature.

Please let us know what you discover that is pleasure for you. It's the little moments that can add up to a worthwhile day. :-)
0 # I know this is totally unrelated to yourPTC 2011-06-02 18:37
I know this is totally unrelated to your post, but you were in my dream the other night, Joanna. I was in the garage of your house and there was a tornado coming. I was freaking out because I couldn't find my cats. They were outside and I wanted to go out there and find them because I didn't want them to die in the tornado. I guess you were my neighbor or something, which is why I was at your house.
0 # Dear PTC, Thank you for letting me knpinkjoanna 2011-06-02 22:42
Dear PTC,

Thank you for letting me know. I'm glad you found safety in the storm and that I was somehow related to safety.

Cats think and move fast in emergencies. They are amazingly resilient and creative in rescuing themselves. Maybe that relates to your dream too.
Maybe, despite your fears you are more creative and resilient in your self care than you know.


0 # I was bringing my cats back to my parentPTC 2011-06-03 04:33
I was bringing my cats back to my parents house, which is always stressful for them and me because I know it stresses them out. I am going to be away from them for a while, which makes me sad, and i worry about them because one of them needs to get IV fluids once a week and I won't be able to take care of them. My parents will do their best but I'm so use to having them around that it's weird in my apartment now. I can't wait to go home and see them when I get back from my trips. They're going to hate the car ride back here.
0 # Yes, cats don't like disturbances in thepinkjoanna 2011-06-03 11:07
Yes, cats don't like disturbances in their routines.
I have two cats (brothers - Jack and Bodhi) and one terrier (Winston).

When I leave I have someone come in daily to tend to the needs of Jack and Bodhi. Winston either comes with me or goes to a dog sitter he loves.

I've never known or heard of a cat who likes riding in car!

But we do the best we can with what we have. Hopefully, as we develop, our best improves.
0 # Yes, mine are home, running around severPTC 2011-06-03 13:06
Yes, mine are home, running around several flights of stairs, as opposed to sitting in a studio apartment. I'm sure that makes them happy. My little Squish misses me. My mom said she pooped on the floor. Her brother adjusts well and could care less.

I'm off to TN for a five days, come back and then get in the car to drive to CA.
0 # Care for yourself well, PTC. Be mindfulpinkjoanna 2011-06-04 11:26
Care for yourself well, PTC. Be mindful on your journey. :-)

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