Here is something I wrote around this time:
“I don’t think I eat too badly, not compared to some anorexics. I just make sure that my calorie intake is below my output. I don’t count calories, much. Instead, I constantly seek out as intense a sense of hunger as I can bear before medicating it with tiny snacklets. Then I eat heartily in the evening. That’s my reward and pay-off. Control of this predictable system, and the easy achievability of the goal, gives me the reassurance I crave in a threatening and unpredictable universe, I guess. The problem is that I’m intentionally mismanaging my eating routines, precisely to stimulate my hunger, my days are too frugal, and my dinner is too big – too stodgy. And because I have it so late, my fullness runs into my very early breakfasts, I think.
So I’m constantly chasing my hunger, questing it. When I don’t feel hungry, I check if it is growing. I feel carefully down inside myself, a fingertip search, hunting, yearning for those pangs, conjuring, drawing them up, hoping for the feeling that my stomach is clinging to my spine like a wet shirt, for the weakness you set yourself against in order to get anything done; the weakness that feels like a parachute harness with the canopy billowing behind you, pulling on you, threatening to fold up your legs. (Resisting, and overcoming, its drag is a substitute for hard work; it gives you a sense of achievement when you lack it.)
These sensations are unpredictable. Sometimes I’m faintingly hungry all day and this feels reassuring, but sometimes hunger abandons me without apparent reason, and its absence seems total and convincing. It’s odd. Feelings like hunger should be (literally) visceral, shouldn’t they? Direct and sincere, and real, in a way that more cognitive or affective sensations are not. Yet my declining weight would suggest that my lack of hunger isn’t accurate, that I can be fundamentally mislead by my own most primitive sensations.
So I fret. I feel alarmed and upset and cast around for ways to cultivate my hunger. Now that it’s summer, I walk around town “taking in the evening air” (which is full of music and threatening teenage shouts) or walk around and around the garden. Often, however, I simply don’t have enough time to pack in much more exercise, and, anyway, this seems a weak and indulgent way of combatting weight gain. To match exercise against food seems to be off-setting the indulgence of one compulsion against another. Surely abstinence from both would be a better demonstration of strength of character? I could lie in bed and waste away like a medieval saint, at no cost to anyone. It could even reduce my carbon footprint.
On The Listening Project (BBC Radio 4), two lifeboat men were talking about their work, life and friendship. I felt a sudden, envious need to be like them– without these neurotic, navel-gazing hang-ups: engaging with life, secure in the knowledge that I’m living a useful, varied, adventurous existence. The thought was so refreshingly unusual for me. I hope it signals a slow, subterranean, continental shift in my attitudes, which will, one day, have changed the whole landscape of my thinking (probably because of working with Phil, the therapist I see.) I hope this relapse is temporary and superficial.
Meanwhile, I’m further plagued by stomach aches, exhaustion and the tendency to pee myself, slightly. I smell like a goat.”