There is a lot of discussion about eating disorders and who has one and who is suspected of having one. It is a malicious pastime and I am no better than the next reader of gossip magazines. My latest victim is my cat – more on his condition later.

I will not attempt to define anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa at this point. But I will discuss “restrained eating” which is another eating disorder where deception rules.

It is fairly easy to detect a devotee of restrained eating. It will be the cadaverous person at your lunch table who sighs heavily at the prospect of eating lunch and then ostentatiously unpacks a thin slice of melon, a tub of some off-white product that has been curdled by enzymes and a couple of those bread-substitute biscuit things.

Yes, these people DO eat. They will even eat in front of you. And they will talk a lot about food. But they will only eat enough kilojoules to stave off starvation.

Now, as I constantly tell my children, the body is just like a motor vehicle. If you don’t put fuel in it, it won’t go. If you put the wrong type of fuel in it, it will breakdown. And if you only put a tiny bit of fuel in it, then don’t expect it to take you very far.

I witnessed one devotee – an older, frail and rather genteel lady – at a wedding breakfast recently. She gasped at the size of the meal being distributed and advised the bewildered young waiter that she and her equally frail, elderly mother would require only half portions of the meal. Her downtrodden mother made one weak bid to get a full portion but without success.

I felt for mother as she watched the free world devour their generous portions of three different roast meats and generous servings of baked vegies and gravy. But, like all of us in the first world, I didn’t let my outrage at seeing third world deprivation interfere with my appetite.

So what has this to do with my cat? Well, he is an Oriental with one of those lean muscular bodies that never fattens and he has an intimidating manner. Until recently he was constantly hungry, meowing incessantly and weaving in and out of my legs whenever I entered the kitchen. I am sure that if he could speak English, he would have reared up on his hind legs and poked me menacingly with his pussy paws demanding: “I want food, preferably raw kangaroo meat, and I want it NOW!”

I was worried and confused. I felt inadequate in my role as primary caregiver. I would put food in his dish and he would gulp it down and then look me in the eye and ask for more.

It was a terrifying flashback to those ‘new-born baby’ days. They don’t come with a user’s manual either.

I began to wonder if I was the problem. Primary caregivers do that. Was I like that genteel lady? Was I bullying my cat into living the life of a restrained eater?

I decided to carry out an experiment. First, I gave him a dose of worming paste to eliminate a plausible alternative cause. Then after a day or two I piled food, in Mt. Everest proportions, into his dish, shoved his bossy little nose into it and locked him up in solitary confinement.

It is here that my experiment begins to lose validity. There is also a possibility that I may have violated a couple of ethical principles regarding research with animal subjects.

I decided that there were two likely outcomes. He would either stop eating or he would explode. If he exploded then he was suffering from some bio-eco-psycho-socio-somethingo-logical eating disorder. If he stopped eating and walked away leaving food in the dish then my primary care-giving role was, indeed at fault. HE STOPPED EATING!! I am currently taking a long hard look at my own eating patterns.

Michelle ©



Clifton, Australia

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