Trigger Warning – please read with caution
Something not often mentioned is that different alters (or parts) have different experiences in the same body. It’s why doctors and medical professionals could have trouble diagnosing illnesses or interpreting lab tests. Or why nurses have trouble finding veins to take blood or give IVs. This can even explain why one person can be sick with the flu, but not exhibit any physical symptoms except through a blood test. Sometimes, it also changes physical appearance and healing rates.
For me, some of my alter personalities don’t have to eat. Other alter personalities (mostly my child parts) love eating meat, dairy, poultry, fish/seafood, and eggs (aka animal products) because they bring back good memories with family. Most of my adolescent and adult alter personalities (me included) prefer a nutrient-focused, vegetarian or vegan (whole foods, plant based) eating style. None of us really enjoy eating processed or fast food except for a treat once in a while; usually it tastes too salty, too sweet, or too much like chemicals.
The nutrient-focused, whole foods path works because plants are easy for our body to digest, bring a variety of pleasurable flavors & textures to meals, and are fun to cook. Eating animal products and even some processed foods
- When I eat meat and animal products, the vegetarian and vegan alters don’t get involved in digesting those meals.
- When I eat plant based meals, everyone except the alters who don’t eat help with digestion.
- My child parts and adolescent parts (up to mid-twenties probably) were anorexic and still struggle with triggers and the possibility of relapse.
- My adult parts struggle with weight fluctuations and finding a diet with a label that helps the system stay healthy, tastes good, and limits potential triggers and small lapses.
- We all struggle with making good food and hydration choices about 4-5 times a year when these triggers appear. Past experiences with shaming and lack of support make this more difficult than it has to be.
Right now, the challenge is maintaining an interest in eating and hydrating. I feel frustrated with my food options and hydration options. I do not feel hungry or thirsty or interested in eating. And by “I”, I mean everyone in my system. No one wants to cook or get delivery or visit a restaurant or purchase takeout.
The first internal conflict: is the choice to eat mostly plant-based, whole foods style
- rebellion against family
- the beginning of a relapse for anorexia
- A personal choice that makes everyone in the system happy?
The second internal conflict: is the choice to animal products
- A self-harm compulsion triggered by obsessive thoughts about having to eat according to family and cultural/societal rules
- A self-harm compulsion to hurt myself and make myself sick as punishment for feeling happy and getting healthier
- A personal choice that makes the minor discomfort manageable because it helps younger alter personalities feel grounded and connected to happier times?
Side note: I use hydrating because “drinking” can sometimes trigger negative feelings – something I hope to avoid for any guests who read this post – or be misinterpreted. Maybe it’s over-explaining, but that distinction is as much for my benefit as it is for the readers’ benefit.
The first week after my dental surgery, I ate 100% whole foods, plant based meals. With the exception of serious gas and constipation issues from the anesthesia and first few days of antibiotics, my digestion was fine. I am grateful for acupuncture and food medicine for that turnaround. What surprised me most was:
- how great I felt physically in spite of the pain
- how emotionally stable I felt in spite of the triggering experiences
- how rapidly my body healed with minimal pain killers with lots of rest & minimal activity
- how well I slept in spite of the pain and anxiety that came from flashbacks and food triggers
- the root of my food triggers centered around
- fear that this choice is based on PTSD food fears and anorexia nervosa relapse symptoms
- food and diet shaming
- lack of support from past medical and mental health professionals along with family members and friends
- all alter parts feeling frustrated by these conflicting internal thoughts and feelings
- fear that that each time I ate animal products was giving into self-harm compulsions because of obsessive internal thoughts
- we all justified eating those meals as experiments to help child alters understand and experience the negative reaction our body has to eating animal products
- helping our system make peace with the conflict by explaining that eating animal products is fine as long as we are willing to accept the consequences – gas, constipation, slow digestion, nausea/stomachaches, backaches, lethargy – for a limited time
- acknowledging that the frustration stems from wanting to cook and eat a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle 90% of the time
- acknowledging that nothing is being excluded – we can eat animal products & processed food any time as long as we are willing to feel physically ill for a little while afterwards
- Alcohol is not included here because it’s in a different category – none of us like the taste of alcohol, but we do enjoy drinking once in a while with close friends.
- Problem is: we metabolize alcohol fast like with most other drugs and get drunk really easily.
- So 1 alcoholic beverage drunk over an hour = a drunk me for about 2-3 hours. Then I’m fine except for the hangover headache. If I fall asleep within the 2-3 hours, I wake up hungover.
- Very perplexing and makes drinking hard to enjoy…
- Processed foods are something I happily live without most of the time because they do not satisfy my hunger anymore. When I do make an exception, it’s because of a craving for comfort food. And then we all can enjoy the treat.
I and everyone in my system feel conflicted still. It’s going to take a long time to sort out. This time around, though, I have a mental health and a medical professional supporting me in the transition. I also have many friends who support me as I try to stay healthy and make good coping strategy choices.
With knowledge comes power to make informed choices. With trust comes the benefit of a real support network that can/will/does lift me up when I fall, encourage me when I doubt myself, and kick my ass when needed. As for coping strategies, I’m not sure what to try or what will work. If I find anything that helps, I will share in a future post.
If any of you are struggling with food choices, food addiction, or an eating disorder, I encourage you to learn more about different kinds of nutrition and diets, explore eating styles, and ask lots of questions. Then (and I know this can be triggering) if you feel ready, listen to your body and how it feels before, during, and after you eat or hydrate. My body always finds a way to tell me if it likes or dislikes something; maybe yours will too.
Thanks for reading