Starvation 'feels' good...?

I realize that you are probably staring at this title, mouth wide open, wondering how on earth I could write such a thing. How can feeling pain in your stomach possibly be enjoyable? Just stay with me...I'll explain.

Endorphins are neurotransmitters - chemicals produced by thy hypothalamus and pituitary gland during exercise, excitement, pain, and more. They mimic opiates in that they have an analgesic effect. That is, they promote a feeling of 'goodness' or 'well-being'. When you go through a painful thing (ex. a cut), endorphins are released in order to prevent pain signals from being transmitted. So, you may feel a sense of 'power' that helps you get through the pain.

So, why am I telling you about endorphins? Well, studies on anorexia have actually discovered that endorphins are released when not enough calories are being consumed. The body does this because it wants to protect itself - if your body is starving, it does not want you to die. So, the body releases endorphins to make you feel 'powerful'. In fact, I experienced this myself. When I was not eating enough, I really did not feel that weak and tired. Actually, most of the time, I felt powerful, strong, and full of energy. The interesting thing is that this was my body's way of handling the stress of the lack of food.

When the anorexic begins to eat normally again, the high rush of endorphins decreases back to normal levels. Thus, victims of ED feel down, angry, dissatisfied, and sad. This is because the endorphin-high that used to be there is no longer present. This makes it harder for anorexics to continue in treatment and recovery - I mean, why would you want to stop feeling that rush of power and energy? (For more information, see http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/documentStore/m/e/d/med22d00/Smed22d00.pdf).

This happened to me as well. Once I began to eat again, I felt angry, frustrated, and...icky. My mood was terrible, even though I was eating. It all makes sense - the endorphin levels in body resumed back to normal when my body realized it was getting nourishment, so I no longer felt the 'high power' that the endorphin rush gave me.

However, as I trudge my way through recovery, I am noticing that I am feeling a lot better. To be honest, sometimes I feel more tired than my starvation days - but that is because now my body is busy at work, trying to fix everything that ED destroyed. But, my mood has definitely improved - I can smile and laugh a lot more than before! I also no longer wish to isolate myself, which is a great thing!

So, like almost everything else in recovery (and on this blog!), recovery sometimes feel worse before it gets better. The road to becoming healthy is filled with challenges, pains, struggles, and annoyances that make me want to give up. But every moment of happiness, every glimpse of freedom makes me realize that this is what I need to do. Yes, it is hard and it really makes me tired. But I know that in the long run, I will be VERY grateful that I chose life over ED.

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