Since 2009, when the weight-restoration phase of my recovery from anorexia was complete, but psychologically there was a lot left to do, I’ve written a blog about eating disorders—also called A Hunger Artist—for the US website Psychology Today. In the beginning, writing the blog was a personally therapeutic thing for me to do: it gave me a structure for thinking about all that was still changing so fast, and an excuse to clarify to myself what was going well and what was still painful or frightening. I barely even considered the fact that I might actually have readers.
Gradually, over more than a decade now, my blog’s readers have become central to what it means to me. They ask difficult questions, they suggest topics for new posts, they teach me how much our experiences of disordered eating have in common—and the ways in which they differ. The blog has become a forum for real learning, and I’m proud of that, for myself and for every reader who has contributed to the evolving project that it is.
The idea was always that the blog should find ways of bringing together the personal experience and the scientific evidence. Latterly, the personal experience is much less centre-stage than it used to be, though of course it still informs everything about how and what I choose to write. And I have much less sense, now, of a stark divide between ‘me’ and ‘science’: I have a richer appreciation of the relevance to mental health of other kinds of research we wouldn’t necessarily call scientific, and a much more fleshed-out appreciation of where ‘I’ fit into the wide swathe of people with experiences of disordered eating. I keep learning, and so I hope the blog keeps improving.
You can find a full list of my PT blog posts, split up into themed categories, here.
In early 2021, Psychology Today announced that they were going to remove the comments function from all of their blogs, and also delete all historical comment threads. On top of their increasingly strict enforcement of tiny word limits, this has been a spur to set up my own blog on this site. The idea for now is that for longer posts, where on PT I’d have to split them up into multiple sub-posts, I now publish teasers on PT and the full versions here. A coauthored series with my engineer partner James Anderson on the mathematics of optimization as a recovery framework was the first to get this treatment. You can find the new blog here.
Since 2015 (gosh books always take a long time!) I’ve been writing a book that was originally going to be firmly based on the blog, but which in that form kept defeating my attempts to write it, especially when I tried to add in more of a narrative thread but without making it a memoir (because I think most anorexia memoirs should probably never have been published). A couple of years ago I stumbled across a new idea for a structure, and it then started moving along a lot more quickly and enjoyably. In early 2020 I finally finished a draft I’m happy with, and then I realized I really ought to do some research to find out how readers respond to it, since it has come dangerously close to being a memoir, and my research so far suggests that people who seek out anorexia memoirs tend to feel a lot worse after they’ve read them. The experiment is now nearly ready to launch. Watch this space!