How to stop the body from progressing in the 'migratory mode'?
As Dr. Guisinger put it, "You could be sitting at a banquet, but if you restrict calories your
hypothalamus figures you live with famine." When weight loss is experienced, and an unhealthy low
weight is maintained, the body of a person with AN will operate in the 'migratory mode' (exhibiting AN
symptoms of restricting food and sustaining hyperactivity). The danger of being in perpetual 'migratory
mode' is that the body will hit a point of starvation where it will start to cannibalize its own organs,
eventually leading to organ failure and death.
There is only one solution, GAIN WEIGHT - technically speaking, the amount of calories consumed (amount of food eaten) has to exceed the amount of calories spent (amount of calories the body used
to exercise, to keep warm, etc). Theoretically, if the person with AN decided to regain weight themselves, the first part of recovery would be done. Sadly this never the reality. In fact, there are
many Eating Disorder (ED) clinics that specialize on feeding people with AN. In ED clinics, prescribed
eating is mandatory and privileges are earned by meeting target weights. These places help families in
re-feeding their loved one with AN to a healthy weight. One can not underestimate the enormous challenges the simple goal of bringing the sufferer to a healthy weight poses, which include:
- strong personality traits of people with AN
- an unhealthy eating pattern that has become habitual
- effect of starvation
- genetically predisposed condition (see Scientific Explanation That Makes Sense)
- non-conducive cultural context (size zero idealization)
Once triggered, people with AN need help to reverse the trend. It takes unconditional love and believing in the person whilst tough love is needed. Examples of things I said to my daughter, "We all
know we need to exercise to stay healthy but exercise is not what you need right now, you need to
feed your body", "This is not you, you are a smart person who should not tolerate this non-sense of not
wanting to finish your plate", "I am here to help you through this and not allow you to starve yourself",
"You have to finish your plate", "I will be here (will eat together with you) until you are done, no
Learn to recognize the spiral of AN and strategies to overcome it (safeguard against relapse)
and a path to thrive again.
KNOWLEDGE is power. PERSPECTIVE matters.
In championing over AN, HOPE lies in having both the sensible knowledge and the right perspective.
In the beginning it is necessary to make people with AN to eat adequately. In the long run it will be up
to them to want to do that. Persons with AN need to realise their vulnerability to weight loss (whether it
is intentional or not) and its potential to lead to an out of control psychobiological spiral. Not only should persons with AN learn to recognize the onset pattern and strategies that work to reverse the
trend, they should also learn to listen to their trusted friends and families who can possibly notice the
oddities that should prompt them to help themselves. This must be done before the critical threshold
is reached whereupon they begin slipping down the out of control AN spiral.
Creating a healthy environment for the persons with AN is very helpful, especially during a bad episode
of AN down spiral. Family can have meals together, where the problem is being openly discussed and
the odd behaviors are painstakingly pointed out but not tolerated. Unhelpful topics of conversation echoing today's culture of thinness (the obsession of staying healthy by exercising to burn off fat, judging each other's physical appearance, putting the implicit pressure to look socially acceptable, in
another word, not looking fat,etc.) and should be minimized as well as put in proper context of what it
means to your loved one with AN.
Elephant in the Room Foundation (EitRF.org) want to directly empower the sufferers and their families
with sound knowledge and healthy perspective that can have an immediate effect in helping the persons with AN thrive again.
AN is a condition that should be realised and accepted by sufferers, family and friends, who should
also celebrate the high achieving personality traits that often come with people with AN. Thriving Again means to live fully, not be enslaved by AN but be empowered with the knowledge that it is a condition that can be handled with the right mindset and conviction to overcome it. A person with AN
need to understand his/her own tendencies and susceptibilities to avoid weight loss that may trigger
another spiral. They should come up with strategies to the condition to achieve life long success and