Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Food and Mood

We have already discussed how patients with ED don't enjoy their food. They hate it. They will scream, shout, and do anything (really) to avoid food. Remember back when we mentioned dopamine and fullness and hunger cues? Well, that was related to hunger. But what about how we FEEL after we eat a MEAL? (Did you catch the rhyme I made there? Yes, I meant to do that!). Take a look at the picture for some information and a visual representation of the brain changes (some of them!) in anorexic patients.

Interestingly, research continues to show that patients with ED have a blunted response to food. Let me introduce you to the insula: a part of the brain that is associated with emotional responses to food. In a person without ED, food stimulates the insula and it 'lights up' on PET scans (this is like a scan of the brain that shows where there is activity, compared to where there is no activity). Even after a meal, the insula remains active because eating makes us feel good.

Guess what happens in ED? Yup! The insula is inactive. It either doesn't light up, or it isn't very active. Even after meals, studies show that the insula is still NOT active in patients with ED. We can use this to explain some symptoms or feelings in patients when they eat. First, patients hate eating. They find it to be stressful and not rewarding. Next, after they eat, they feel guilty, uncomfortable, and they want to scream or cry. This hypoactive insula seems to be causing some of these symptoms. (

Now what? Is there any hope for patients? This study actually found that some patients, even after recovery, did not have an active insula. First, however, consider that all patients are different. Maybe down the road, after more years in recovery. the insula will become active again. Or maybe it will not. In my personal experience, eating is...well, eating. I don't really think about it as being enjoyable, but I don't see it as being stressful anymore. It is something that I simply 'do', and then I move on. Sure, I do not get excited about eating like others do. Dessert does not make me happy like it does for others. But at the same time, I don't feel like screaming anymore after eating. Just to be clear of how far I have come, take a look at my blog sometime last year. I found this post:, where I spoke abut how I hate eating and that it is so stressful. After one year, I still don't feel hungry during meal times. BUT, I no longer feel stressed after eating. I have found ways to deal with these feelings.

So, does the insula ever get back to normal? My response is: does it really matter? I don't know what my insula is doing right now. Maybe it isn't active, and perhaps it doesn't plan on being active for the rest of my life. At this point, I don't really care. I am doing what I need to be doing to stay alive, healthy, and well. If my insula never feels evicted about eating, then fine. At least I am being strong enough to overcome that battle. at least I am eating and staying alive. Does this make recovery any easier? No. It makes it harder. But it also makes me stronger.


  1. This isa definte prove that ED affects brain function.
    I am so happy that We recovered for sake of our brains not only our body and feelings.
    Well searched post Marina


  2. Can doctors do something to activate the Insula so that will be easy for ED to enjoy eating and recover easier.??


  3. I remember during my treatment program ,I heard something similar but I could not really grasp what was said .
    Your explanation Marina is very scientific and rational as We all understand ED affects the brain .However I think and I remember I heard it correctly that once feeding restarted brain recover and no permanent brain effects remain. I am sure complete brain recovery will happen including the Insula albeit may take longer.
    Soon will eat and enjoy without fears and we will have our Insula lit by during MRI or PET imaging.


  4. I never understood how my brain works but I heard from my friends who had Ed or know someone with ED that when they recovered they regain back their love and taste to foods.
    Soon marina you will have the insonna light up again !!!


  5. I went back to your post on Friday Sept 14 last year and I read your kind reply to my comment .You said you are now new person and will not be under control of Ed any more and you will stay the course of recovery and you are full of hope.

    Now more than one year after We see you as exactly as you said .you Practice what you preach and I admire you for this as only few people practice what they preach.
    I pray for your insula to light up soon and God will listen.


  6. My dear
    You are so strong with or without the insula because God is with you.
    If God able to save your life ,I am sure He is able to activate the insula and light it up.
    I will pray for your insula as well as your physical ,emotional and spiritual well being.

    Sunday Priest

  7. I have a good news for you Marina and for all your readers.
    I am now and for the last few years I have been feeling happy ,looking for my meals, enjoying them and also craving certain foods(I am not pregnant though!! just kidding).
    I am not educated at all about ED or theories and I never hear about insula (but I heard about the brain and I know now my brain is functioning on a high scale and if you scan my brain, all will light up including the insula.

    Recovered ED victim for 6 years

  8. Lots of medical info,boy boy boy


  9. So anorexic can not detect taste of sweets,only after recovery !!right


  10. Too much medical for me to grasp but I pray for all insula to sense the food again for all ED victims.


  11. Hey Marina.
    As I told you before my body was a mess before I met you till the extent I did not see my self dying while others especially you(your advised me even without seeing me).
    I think at that time my brain had no insula at all.
    Now with being recovered I think I regained my whole brain including my insula.
    How do I know.
    I am eating well ,I am tasting my food and I am looking forward for my meal time and I feel happy eating and nourishing my body
    I think my insula is full of light now.


  12. As a medical student I can understand but I admit this new information to me as I studied brain anatomy and physiology and I 've never heard about the insula.
    I can assure you though if recovery happens ,you will regain the full function as nothing ever happened .Our brain can adapt to one insult and recover as this happens in addiction but repeated insult may leave scar.

    Excellent post Marina


  13. Sandra D is sure that with recovery brain including its insula will start full activity

  14. How much you know ??
    I have not come across someone has your knowledge.
    By the way I trust all ED will regain all their body organ full function upon recovery.
    I learned this while I was working at ED clinic .


  15. Marina
    Remember your kidney,liver,heart and lungs were all failing and completely recovered.
    I am sure your insula will ultimately completely recover and you see lots of lights if you take PET scan


  16. I agree with CJ that upon recovery you will regain all body functions including the insula even may take little bit longer time .


  17. When I was young I used to have lots of colds and I used lots of nose drops to help me breathe but it caused damage to my nose and led to a medical condition called atrophic rhinitis and now I have been living with it and I can not smell or taste foods, however I enjoy eating and get rewarded from eating so my peninsula is still active even I can taste foods.
    I am sure Marina you will get all what you lost because of ED.


  18. Marina
    As always I see the positives in your writings and I am impressed and grateful for that.
    You said "whether my insula recovered and regained the sense and taste of food and light up when eating or not, I WILL NOT STPO EATING as I realized the importance of good nutrition"
    I can see the determination and how you are setting your goals and setting an excellent example of how to take control of your own health.
    You are helping me to ward off my depression and I can tell you I am the happiest and your blog has improved my mood and calm down my anxiety.
    I give you the credit .


  19. What a difference one year can make from Sept 14 ,2012 to Oct 14 ,2013 a big change in how far you have gone
    Mostly commitment to your health and determination to get rid of ED
    Keep up the excellent job


  20. Let me agree with all what said especially what Clorado said.
    Marina you made a breakthrough in AN treatment and you were able to commit to yourself and empower yourself with education, setting goal and priorities to good health and you set a role model for others to follow.
    I can see how many people really command you for helping them and I am sure there are many other people who never leave any comment on the web.
    Marina you said it and I am sure you believe in it "healthy eating and refreshing sleep and physically active are key to our life and without having good health will not be to achieve any of what we are hoping for.

    Your are wonderful Marina
    This post also shows your commitment to continue your way of eating and recovery whether your insula light up or not!!
    What a commitment
    How mature you are.
    This means when you put your mind to it ,nothing will stop your wheels from rolling

    Kelly W

  21. I appreciate your commitment as well.


  22. Sorina wish you have good time and wish the insula to be active soon if not already

  23. Marina
    I will not forget last year messages and reply to me and your support to me while I was following your tips to help my daughter.You raised my self esteem and told me that my worries about my daughter was right.
    Now one year after all of us better thanks to you.

    Very Thankful Mother

  24. I like your consistency and commitment no matter what if insula light up or not.



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