Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Sweets and ED brain changes

There seems to be a tendancy for many ED patients to avoid sweets or desserts. In fact, this is usually the first thing that patients 'cut out' from their diet when they begin to restrict. From one perspective, this makes sense: people can easily hide ED as simply eating heathier by not eating too many desserts. But, this is where things get a bit more interesting: if someone is dieting or cutting down on their desserts, they crave them. And when they want one, they can eat one without any guilt or massive anxiety. However, when a patient with ED is refeeding and is about to eat a dessert, they become anxious, angry, frustrated, and sometimes rebellious. Why the difference? Why is eating desserts or something sweet so hard for patients with ED? (NOTE: this does not apply to all patients; I am stating this out of my own personal experience as well as based on many others).

A study found that patients with ED have altered brain responses to eating desserts. (http://www.dsm.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=1695221&RelatedWidgetArticles=true). Basically, the part of the brain (usually the insula) that becomes 'happy' or excited when we normally eat desserts does not function properly in ED. Instead of finding that eating something sweet makes us happy, our brains interpret this as being dangerous, frustrating, and unrewarding. As a result, our brains send messages that say 'desserts are not good. They are bad. Avoid them because they make you feel terrible. Do not eat desserts'. Can you see why eating sweet things would be so difficult for someone with ED? Their brain is constantly sending signals to AVOID this!

Is there a cure? Maybe. For me, eating anything used to be so hard - but desserts were extra hard. My brain was telling me 'NO!', and I was also scared of eating and gaining weight. At first, I did not eat many sweets. I remember in my first week of recovery, my 'snacks' were always fruits, nutrition bars, etc. Now, that isn't wrong - it is good to have a varity of things each day. What was wrong was that I ended up feeling so full after eating enough fruits to get my calorie intake, and I still kind of craved desserts. I wanted to try a brownie for so long, but my brain was saying NO. Eventaully, one day, I got tired of this constant battle. I told myself that I was going to sit myself down and eat a small brownie as an experiment. JUST ONE. And if I hated it, I would never have to have one again. If I liked it, maybe I could try other things too. So I did. I got a brownie for a snaak. And I liked it. NOTE: some people have tendancy to binge. If this is you (be honest) then doing this with a therapist or medical team may help you avoid the urge to binge on sweet foods.

It's all about exposure. If our brains are telling us that we should not eat sweets, it is going to be so hard to do so. But if you try it once, nothing bad will happen. Try it and see if you like it or not. I did. And now, I can safely say that I eat desserts all the time - in moderation, of course. Do I always feel great about it? No. Many times, I still feel fat and lazy for eating sweet things. Sometimes, ED shouts at me for being so stupid and eating something sugary. But this is all part of my recovery experience It needs to happen - I need to test this out and see what the worst is that can happen. My brain may be going through some series of imbalances, but that does not mean that I do not have control over sone of my decisions. I could not take this step at first in recovery - it took me a long time to get to this place. But it happened slowly, with time and patience and a lot of determination. So, while ED may alter the brain so that sweets are no longer pleasurable or 'safe', there is a way to get around it. Try it out and see what happens. And stay strong and hopeful that things do get eaiser as you work on them.


  1. I challenged my ED by starting eating lots of sweets .I made my ED angry at me but I won the battle and now I am eating what I want. I trash all ED thoughts and I can tell now my thoughts are rational and every thing in moderation.

    Recovered ED survivor

  2. I think my brain(my insula ) has recovered from the control of ED and now sending the right message as I started to enjoy my food including Donets and chocolate and above all my birthday cake.


  3. As a therapist when I help clients to change any behaviour I am using motivational interview and start with little small task at a time and then proceed.
    I remind them first time they start riding a bike ,how many time they fell and stumbled before mastering it.

    Kelly W

  4. I trust being patient and continue to preserve and eventually the brain will regain the whole function including enjoying eating sweets.
    Marina has been challenging ED and she did shake ED to his core.
    I wish every body will do the same.


  5. I will not mention my name here but I recovered from ED and I agree with Marina, things will get better over time, just never give up to the negative thoughts.
    ED fight you through brain and thoughts and you can challenge all ED thoughts with a rational educated and wise thoughts.

  6. Recovery is a reality.
    Once you are sick ,you loose the enjoyment but our brain and body are miraculously able to completely regain the full function and ability after treatment(unless too late).
    I know many fellows had ED and they recovered and now eat and play and enjoy life normally.


  7. Hi,

    This has helped me understand why I find it hard, My body screams no to sweet and anything high callory most of the time, then cannot stop craving it at others. I much prefer the fasts as the sweets are restricted which helps me keep control. The feasts are much more difficult, especially the 3 weeks in the year where fasting is prohibited.

    I am seeing my therapist tomorrow and my priest on Friday, but it still helps to know a bit more on the biological why behind some of the issues. Though I have been helped by my Spiritual Father changing the rules on fasting for me so that it dose not aggravate my problems, not that it was easy to accept I needed this grace, or accepting the obedience I was given on not fasting strictly.

    I saw my GP today who dose understand but as my symptoms are on the mild end there is not a huge amount she can do (that dose not include the thoughts which I am tackling with my therapist and priest). I am also considering a more monastic discipline in my life to help me with my eating and the thoughts, the Athonite troditions on therapeutic method of the church may be the way forward in helping me deal with things. Though I think it is particularly hard in the great feasts for those of us which binge issues.


  8. I am diabetic and I eat and enjoy 6 small meals variety of food including a cake ,toast, crackers ,all in moderation and I am healthy like a horse 77 years young.

    Sam Ibrahim

  9. Phoebe

    I can understand how hard for use to commit to church tradition of feast and fast while dealing with ED issues.
    Remember ED target the thoughts and can masquerades and wears different hats .
    Try to recognize any thoughts come to your head and discern and be aware between wise scientific facts from the lies of ED.

    God bless

    Marina you adeptly explained why ED victims do not feel the joy of eating good tasty foods as sweets


  10. Thanks for the explanation Marina.
    I do have times when I do not enjoy my sweet snacks but like Marina I still eat them to feel I am the one in control and it is my decision to eat and Ed can not impose any thoughts on me .
    Ed gone from my brain for ever and I wish all victims will do same as Marina,Nanaraj and many others.


  11. I wish Marina and all readers to enjoy the best of life including foods(of course in moderation.)
    I am following this blog for long time and I tell you ,helping me making all right and wise choice and so I feel more healthier and happier.


  12. Reasonable explanation to people response to foods .Thanks Marina


  13. Excellent post


  14. I am sure the insula will recover and all of us will enjoy our cake .


  15. I always feel eating my meals and snacks including sweets promote my brain function, sharpens my thinking and help my ability to grasp, retain and retrieve information.


  16. Insula lighten up to the joy of eating sweets is interesting.
    Many of us enjoy the sweets except when they feel under the weather.
    I wish all of reader feel well so that enjoy the foods and sweets.
    With my humble respect to Marina and her blog


  17. I like this post


  18. Marina
    You have been doing amazing job giving out all your experience and knowledge about Ed and how you maanged tough issues and this is helping many .

    I admire you so much.


  19. Thanks for the explaination Marina.When I was alcoholic I only taseted alcohol but foods including sweets did not feel tasty till my recovery and now I hate smell of alcohol and enjoy all foods and sweets


  20. My brain and my nose love to see,smell and eat all the sweets and I believe my insula is excited about this .


  21. I can’t seem to wear regular clothes (dresses, shorts, occasionally pants) except when I absolutely have to when I’m out- as soon as I go home I have to change into my baggy running shorts or basketball shorts and t-shirts stolen from my brother or dad. I cannot stand the way regular clothes press into my skin, reveal my arms, my fat. It repulses me and physically I just can’t bear the feeling.

    I was not this way before. Do you think this is ED or just…me?

    Amy <3

    1. Amy
      ED is hitting you hard.
      Please seek immediate help.
      ED target your thoughts and your self image and will not stop till you die.
      Please challenge those thoughts and have a plan of escape and liberation.


    2. I am very worry about you Amy and I pray for you and I hope you get help and spill ED thoughts out of your brain.
      ED thoughts can creep on your brain like snake .
      I experienced this with my daughter and Marina and her blog guided me to her complete recovery.

      JP(a thankful mother )

    3. I urge Amy to read this post and not to waste time .
      I am sure this blog can lead you to recovery.


    4. Amy
      This is ED
      Don't get tricked by ED again.
      Kick His butt and finish him off of your life for ever.
      I think this blog can help you stay healthy and maintain recovery.


    5. I know how this can be hard for you.
      I believe now you have all the knowledge to discern between ED thoughts that is misleading and your wise thoughts.
      Never yield to ED but fight him off all the way


  22. I agree with you,we need to challnge our self for our health.Even if at times we do not enjoy what we suppose to eat but our health is very imporatnt than any thing.
    Well written Marina


  23. I urge all ED victims and survivors to learn from Marina ,s experience and follow her tips.


  24. Every body smile while enjoying your snickers.

    Sandra D

  25. My Philosophy is kick the stress out and you will relax and enjoy every thing in life.
    Marina had posted tips on how to arrest stress ,please look at previous posts.


  26. I believe in body ability to recover and I suggest all ED survivor keep eating even if not able to taste now ,slowly will regain the whole function of the brain and taste buds and will enjoy.

    S K

  27. I admire your blog and admiring your knowledge in medicine in general and mental health in particular.


  28. Thank you Marina for this blog.
    I am for one try to visit it at least once weekly.


  29. I like this post as I do enjoy my food when my mood is good and I do not taste it when under stress.


  30. Wonderful summary on how our brain taste foods


  31. This post explain why I like to eat sweets .My insula working well!!!.


  32. I love the pictures and the post


  33. Slowly I am tasting and feeling good when I eat all foods including my cakes and brownie


  34. You and your blog really a GEM


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