Ask the LifeQuake Doctor – Oct 2016
Dear Dr. Toni:
I have been a recovering alcoholic for ten years, although food has never been one of my drugs of choice. I eat healthy foods and I began meditating about a year ago. In the past few months I have lost my appetite and am finding myself eating the bare minimum at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I am definitely losing weight, but I am not depressed or anxious. Some of my friends in the program think I’ve become anorexic because I am not concerned about this weight loss.
However, their concern is making me wonder if I am anorexic. I have gotten very deep in this meditation practice and have been experiencing huge energy rushes moving through my body. It feels quite joyous—ecstatic really. A part of me wonders if I’m losing my mind that I don’t feel worried about the loss of appetite. I have a friend who gets this magazine and I was reading your column and thought I would reach out as I cannot afford therapy right now.
So, what do you think, doc? Am I anorexic and in denial?
– One of Your Fans
I would not in all good conscience clinically diagnose you without more information. Having said that, here is what I can say. You indicate that you haven’t had an eating disorder before, so there is no predisposition toward anorexia.
It is unclear when eating disorders first originated. Literature on this subject seems to mainly speak of “holy anorexics,” religious ascetics who starved themselves. There is a long history in Christianity of saints denying themselves food as a way of getting closer to God. The denial of food was in response to the Catholic categorization of gluttony as one of the seven deadly sins—sins which were to be avoided as they led ultimately to eternity in Hell. Women entering religious orders were known to starve themselves, punishing themselves for their bodily desires or previous sins that they felt should be atoned for to allow purification of the spirit. This religious belief meant that they sometimes starved themselves to death as part of excessive bodily denial.
I don’t know how much food you are consuming, if any, from your letter, but I will tell you that fasting can produce euphoria. I would urge you to see a physician and get a blood chemistry panel to make sure you are not undernourished. I will also say that there is a distinct process that can occur in some people when they become deeply immersed in certain meditation practices that produces a loss in appetite.
I gave a workshop in 1987 at the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Conference on this subject entitled “From the Shadow into the Light: A New Category of Eating Disorder.” Thirty therapists participated. What I discussed there and what may be happening to you is that if you are not purposefully starving yourself or denying food as some offering to God, then what may be happening is that you are in a spiritual transition and your body is physicalizing this focus away from the traditional desires such as food toward a oneness with your spirit. These “energy rushes” you speak of could be the activation of the kundalini, a life force in the etheric body that is dormant in most people at the base of the spine. Meditation and breath work can activate it.
Making sure you eat enough protein, complex carbohydrates, and vegetables is critical. There is data in the antiaging literature suggesting that being slightly underweight prolongs life. You didn’t indicate here how much weight you have lost. Again, I am covering several possibilities here.
In summary I would say to get doctor supervision for your current diet and run a blood chemistry panel to make sure you are healthy. If all checks out, pay attention to your dreams. Ask before sleeping to be shown a dream to help you understand the process you are in. It could be mystical and given you are in recovery, it could also be another form of addiction to the high of not eating much. Also, once you are deep in meditation every day, ask what foods you should be eating that day and be guided by that.
If you are genuinely feeling more connected to your inner self, it is that voice, not the ego that will guide your food choices.