A Hot Bath: Unmet Needs (Dear Cookie Monster)

A Hot Bath: Unmet Needs

Dear All,

Thank you so much for sharing how you handled the stresses of life at your respective ages.

I (Ana, age 25) think we need another round of talking a bit more about that, so let’s do that if you guys are all OK with it.

But first, I kind of want to clarify what Fifteen (age 15) was talking about yesterday. As well as summarize the last week. As well as write my own letter. Maybe we should do a weekly summary / housekeeping letter at the end of each round and then give me a chance to write my letter the next day?

I’ll think about that. First, let me help make sense of what Fifteen was talking about yesterday. She brought up ED treatment perpetuating my ED and was going to write about using escapism to deal with life but didn’t get to it because she was so tired.

First: ED treatment perpetuating my ED

Treatment was geared towards treating anorexia, so certain things were not applicable to bulimia and binge eating.

Note: quotations are for subjective things. Those words mean different things for me at different ages, as well as for people in recovery. I also still have an eating disorder, so what I think those words mean could not necessarily be normal.

  1. All weight gain is good – it means I’m growing into my “natural” body
    • Weight gain while recovering from anorexia is not the same thing as putting on “excess” weight from bingeing
    • I don’t think my body’s current size is “natural” because it resulted from bingeing
    • I use this to justify the weight I’ve put on and the bingeing that put it there
  2. Wanting to eat less than what my body needs to sustain its “natural” size is bad
    • The only way I can remain at this size is if I binge on a regular basis and I think that amount is “excessive” (I often can’t breathe, move, or sleep after eating that much)
    • “Eating less” for me means not bingeing, which is not the same thing as “restricting” for someone with anorexia
  3. Wanting to lose weight is bad
    • I don’t consider this “excess” weight I’ve put on to be “natural”
    • I would like to return to my previous size (i.e. lose that weight) when I’m not bingeing and I don’t think that size is “underweight.”
    • This isn’t the same thing as someone with anorexia considering their body while “eating” to be “huge” and wanting to return to their previous size by “not eating.”
  4. There’s no such thing as bad food & wanting to “restrict” certain foods is bad
    • I agree with this, but I think I should eat more of some foods and less of other foods
    • I use this to justify eating lots of food that I deem “unhealthy,” in amounts that are “excessive” and “out of proportion” with the rest of the food I eat
  5. You should always eat when you’re “hungry”
    • I think this is true, but I think “hunger” for me often comes in the form of binge urges – which rarely correlates to “actual hunger”
    • I use this to justify acting on all binge urges, even though they are designed to meet unmet emotional needs rather than “nutritional needs,” and they don’t do a good job

I know this makes all of you antsy, especially because of that last one. You don’t want me to control you and deny you what you crave.

I believe all those things above and I think you do, too. But because you use food to meet your needs, you don’t want me to take away the tools that we use to justify bingeing.

Rest assured that I’m not going to stop your bingeing. I’ve realized that acting like a strict parent, not letting you eat when or what you want, and telling you that what you need is excessive just makes you want to rebel.

I don’t think your needs are excessive and I want to help you meet them.

The problem with bingeing to meet your needs, however, is that it doesn’t meet your needs. If you are lonely, you need people, not food. If you are scared, you need to face your fears, not binge. If you are sad, you need to cry, not stuff it down by eating.

This is tricky because we haven’t found alternative ways to meet our needs, or we know them but don’t want to do them.

Those alternative ways are like a hot steamy bath.

We dread that initial burn when we sink into the water, even though the experience when we get used to the temperature is incredible.

I need to get going (I’m going to hang out with a real person, even though I always binge afterwards because I’m stressed out), so maybe I’ll write another letter about escapism. Or, do you want to do that in your letter, Twenty-Three (age 23)? Someone mentioned that story you wrote and I think you could use escapism to transition into that.

I definitely want to make a weekly summary a regular thing. Even though I just went, maybe we can just insert that between my letter and Twenty-Three’s letter this time, and then plan to do it between Fifteen’s (the youngest) letter and my (the oldest) letter next time.

OK, then.

Until next time,


Ana (age 25)


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