“Coping At Christmas” A Practical Workbook For Eating Disorder Recovery

Designed to help those struggling with disordered relationships with food explore triggers and understand how automatic patterns of anxious, or negative, thinking can maintain disordered relationships with food, especially across periods of high stress.

Coping At Christmas

copingatchristmasworkbook

Designed to help those struggling with disordered relationships with food explore triggers and understand how automatic patterns of anxious, or negative, thinking can maintain disordered relationships with food, especially across periods of high stress.

Combining experience with theory this book is packed full of useful advice, practical exercises and my “top tips” to help empower you to challenge your eating disorder, build self-awareness and understanding into your recovery.

GET YOUR COPY NOW 

Aims:

  • Identify your seasonal struggles and be assisted in planning around the festive season
  • Address anxiety before, during and after meal times through planning and communication
  • Understand how patterns of thinking and self-beliefs can maintain disordered eating: What may trigger these thoughts and how to challenge them
  • Build motivation into your recovery: Useful prompts to help you start exploring your “why” in recovery and setting goals for the New Year

This book has been reviewed and approved by the Eating Disorder specialist at The University of Surrey. 

GUILDFORD EVENT: Coping At Christmas

I am passionate about empowering people through their recovery and believe community based interventions are crucial for supporting the Mental Health burden faced by the NHS. Together we can provide an environment that fosters proactive approach to recovery and empowers those who are suffering.

Are you suffering from disordered eating?
Maybe you have past experience with emotional under or over eating? Or a diagnosed clinical disorder such as Anorexia or Bulimia nervosa
Maybe you’re supporting a loved one through their recovery
Anxious about the Christmas season approaching? 

It is no surprise that Christmas and New Years bring a load of seasonal struggles to those suffering with an eating disorder

With the heightened focus on foody events, drinks out, meeting relatives you’ve not seen in years, and then the mass of confusing chaos that is “diet Jan”
Recovery can be more of a battle field compared to other months of the year.  

I am here to tell you that Christmas is such a fantastic time of year and those festive fears have no right to dictate your enjoyment of the season.

They can be overcome, planned around and communicated in ways that enable you to “Cope At Christmas”  without taking steps back in your recovery. 

 

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FIND OUT MORE HERE 
REGISTER YOUR ATTENDANCE HERE 


About Josceline-Joy christmassyonsie

Josceline is a Graduate Psychologist, media representative for Beat, the U

K’s leading eating disorder charity, public speaker, eating disorders recovery mentor and mental health campaigner.

After her own recovery from battling anorexia nervosa she was inspired to start her website, with the sole aim to raise awareness about mental health and help empower people to take the front seat in their recoveries.

Josceline was published by the British Psychological Society in their student journal, Psych-Talk, on the neuropathology of eating disorders and has twice been a guest speaker on the BBC’s popular news show Victoria Derbyshire discussing barriers to accessing mental health treatments. She has also had articles published on the Daily Mail, Real People Magazine and The Surrey Advertiser.

Currently Josceline is involved in public speaking and workshops, in schools and at Surrey University, as well as working with individuals on a one-to-one basis as a recovery mentor.


 

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Exercise and regular movement does an abundance of good for your mental and physical health. It can help decrease anxiety and depression, build confidence and aid the development of positive body image. But when addressing the role exercise has in the recovery from an eating disorders it’s a tricky one.

Exercise is unlikely to benefit health when it’s fuelled by fear and stress rather than fun. For eating disorder sufferers this is largely the case. Exercise can become a maintaining factor in the illness, a way to punish your body for food you’ve eaten, or “earn” the right to eat.

Unfortunately this has now become a “socially acceptable” form of self-harm, promoted on social media and fuelled by many other “fat-phobic’’ messages in society.


So, Should You Exercise in Recovery?

There is not real ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer per say. Recovery is hugely individual, what triggers one person may not influence another.
There are times when exercise is dangerous on the body, like at very low body weights and when you have not eaten enough. Risk of injury, fainting, even fatalities are all common to those over-exercising with eating disorders.

When I was ill I exercised to fulfil my eating disorders demands.
I didn’t enjoy what I did, it was ritualistic, obsessive, and I often found myself in the gym purely based on the demands of my eating disorder; lethargic and under-nourished.

So when I was in recovery, I stopped exercising altogether, for about a year, and then gradually added it in (with some slip ups) as I got physically and mentally stronger
I wont sugar coat it, it caused a mass amounts of anxiety and fear to begin with.
But I was determined that I would build balance into my lifestyle and enjoyment into my movement.
Taking time off was not going to be forever, just for now, just to challenge the feeling of spontaneously combusting if I didn’t ritualistically work out.

It is through trial and error that we learn to balance our bodies needs in recovery.
We have to test out and challenge our anxious thoughts, and see just what happens when we do what the eating disorder tells us not do to do.

Exercising should NEVER come from a place fuelled by fear, obligation or anxiety.
Rather it should be for fun, from a place of self-compassion and desire to see what your body is capable of.
This can take a while to achieve if you’ve been stuck in this cycle of destructive exercise for a while.
Rest assured you can break free, and I whole heartedly believe with the right support you will.


Read my  TOP 5 TIPS FOR BALANCING EXERCISE IN RECOVERY

and more articles like this over on: www.joscelinejoy.com

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“Fat” Is Not A Feeling

 

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From the billion pound diet industries, to racism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia our world tells us not to love our bodies, even as far as to be ashamed of the skin we’re in.

Too often people refer to “feeling fat” as if “fat” is an adjective, the same as feeling ‘happy’, ’tired’, ‘restless’ or ‘joyful’.

Warped by the diet-ridden, fat phobic world we have become, this noun, “fat”, we have learnt to associated with feelings of self-dissatisfaction, shame, guilt, and discomfort.
A word used to reflect not feeling good enough.
Good enough to ourselves.
Good enough in the eyes of society.
Good enough in comparison to our friends, families or those we admire on social media.


A study investigating the content and frequency of fat shaming, body dissatisfaction and internalisation of the “thin ideal” amongst college students (predominately female) found that 90% engaged in conversational fat shaming of their own bodies, despite only 9% of them being clinically overweight and this was (unsurprisingly) associated with higher dissatisfaction and internalisation of the westernised “thin ideal”. 

This feeling now drives the chronic dieters, those who return to their “Monday morning diets” of restricted eating, eliminating food groups and over exercising, as this is now a socially justified form of self-care.

Not just only for women, but for many males I come across too.

So I want to remind you, in those moments when you sit there and think “I feel fat” remind yourself that “fatness” is not a feeling. But feeling fat means you’re feeling some other dissatisfaction, and that finding out what that is will be revolutionary to your overall well-being, and self-respect.

In those moments when we decide to sit and listen to our bodies sometimes we don’t always like what we feel back.
Pinnacle to recovery is learning to sit with, and work through, these uncomfortable feelings, without self-destructive thoughts and behaviours.

Remember, you have one body, and that body may be different in its abilities to others, treated differently in the past, have undergone illness or injury.  But what your body does and how it does it, demands your care, your respect and your constant unconditional love.
Feeding it.
Clothing it.
Moving it, and using it in the ways that build you up instead of breaking you down mentally as well as physically.

It’s a true act of self-care instead of a repetitive cycle of self-harm.

It by no means waking up every day and feeling amazing, but it’s accepting that it’s okay to feel shit about other stuff and not project this as a label onto yourself.

It’s a choice to respect your whole self, and in doing so respecting the diversity of bodies, minds and abilities that surround you.

Lastly, I want to encourage you to challenge the label of “feeling fat” because to those who are actually overweight, who may even face size discrimination, this terminology is damaging, adding to the daily fat-phobic stigmatisation that diet-culture fuels, reinforcing the warped thin idealisations that need to be challenged and changed

Its okay not to be okay
But it’s not okay to remain so.


Related:
Diet Culture Is Damaging Our Health: Problems and Solutions
Break Free from Comparative Behaviour and Negative Self-Talk [4 Challenges]
The Instagram Trap: #Fitspo or #GuiltTrip?

 

A Seasonal “Sod Off” to Disordered Eating [Top Tips]

This post will be particularly useful for those who:

Experience a heightened level of anxiety around food and eating.

Are inclined to compensate or punish themselves for food eaten.

Those currently having treatment for, or in recovery for, disordered eating.

Those who find themselves stuck in diet mentality, when eating causes negative self- judgement.

For those caring for another with disordered eating.

It’s now November [what the ..?! How’d that happen…] and in my family that’s a cue for premature Christmas songs and getting busy in the kitchen making lots of Christmas goodies! 

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Christmas has always been my favourite time of year, and let’s face it what’s Christmas without the amazing array of food. 

The warm comforting smells sum up Winter, and spark nostalgic memories; Christmas evenings filled with games, music and laughter.  

This hasn’t always been the case for me though.
The years spent battling anorexia turned Christmas joys into Christmas fears.
Christmases spent anxious in tears.
Christmases on meal plans, worried and concerned about every spoonful to come, every meal out, and dreading every party.

For those suffering with an eating disorder Christmas can be a serious time for struggles and set backs.

Coming into my fifth year of recovery it is lovely to be able to once again embrace the season’s festivities.  
Over the years I have learnt to hold a more realistic and educated perspective by continuously, and immediately, challenging faulty thoughts, behaviours and communicating anxieties.

This is my wish for all of you this season.


So, without further ado, let’s kick start the festive period with a seasonal “sod off” to your eating disorder.

Here are my Top Tips for Surviving Christmas Time

(ft. mistletoe, and glass upon glassful of wine…)

1.  Don’t restrict/skip meals.  

Compensating and restricting your eating in the weeks leading up to Christmas parties, meals out is more likely to increase anxiety as it puts your body under huge amounts of stress.
Restrictive eating has been found to be associated with overeating later on in the day, that may spark binges for those susceptible. 

Keep to a routine, and if you’re nervous about an upcoming event or meal out simply find out what will be on offer beforehand and pick a couple of options  you think you’ll be able to manage, that way you can feel more chilled in advance and focus on the social side of season!
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2. Movement should be optional and not obligatory.

You do not have to “work for” or “work off” your food.
You deserve to eat food and enjoy yourself just like everyone else, regardless of what you have or have not done.

This is where diet-culture often wins us over, because in the next few weeks we will be inundated with advert after advert for workout DVDs, all this rubbish about detoxes, cleanses, and loads more dieting messages reminding us to hit the gym hard before we have any festive foods.
Remind yourself that these are marketing gimmicks; existing to make sales, and caring about their profits and not your health.

Instead of believing you have to run yourself into the ground, be gentle, do things you enjoy; go on wintery walks, do gentle stretching like yoga.  

                 Move because you want to move, and in the ways you love to move.

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3. Be Aware of Faulty Thinking Traps:

Christmas can be a playground for eating disorders, freely swinging guilt and shame around so that you end up perpetually swung into the control of your eating disorder. Thoughts and feelings can feel extreme, self-punishing, all encompassing.
But remind yourself they are lies.
What you eat is not to be internalised as a reflection of who you are as a person; you are not bad, nor are you guilty, or greedy, or shameful for nourishing your body. 


Write down these faulty thoughts on note cards along with some counteractive comebacks,
 have them handy so you can remind yourself that actually everything is ok.

The more you challenge the thoughts and behaviours the more you see that things aren’t really all that scary and the festive fun begins to slowly creep back in!
Thought challenging and putting a realistic perspective on a situation [I have written a blog about common thinking errors and ways to challenge them in a blog that you can read here]

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4. Use it as a time to challenge and change!

Instead of allowing the season to hold you back, use it as a chance to push you forward! 

I have often dealt with people who say it’s easier to avoid certain situations, or eating certain foods, so as not to evoke negative and uncomfortable thoughts/feelings. 
But this doesn’t help you challenge your irrational food fears, and by remaining captive to your eating disorder you are preventing little steps forward in your recovery.

Make a little list of foods you tend to avoid or feel anxious about, and then work them into your meals and snacks.  Have a trusted friend that can support you trying these foods out and help you handle anxiety around this.

You may wish to journal how you felt before, during, and after eating them
I promise you will survive to see that nothing bad happens.
The more you practice this task the more you break down barriers and increase the variety of foods into your diet. 

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5. Try Something New!

There is so much more to Christmas than food!
Get festive with crafts, movies, winter walks, visiting German Markets, seeing the lights, games. These and many more are all great distractions away from negative thinking and ruminating thoughts.
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6. Make Self-Care A Priority

Give yourself space and time to calm your thoughts and feelings; breathing exercises or having something soothing (I used aromatherapy candles and music) can help if you are susceptible to panic attacks or extreme anxiety.
This will also help aid digestion, and may help reduce any pain, discomfort or bloating caused by tension and stress around food often confused as GI dysfunctions such as IBS or coeliac – no self diagnosis please.

Relax

6. Take One Day At A Time. 

For many the social occasions are more than just the day itself and many have extended Christmas and New Years plans. This amount of socialising and foody events may feel very overwhelming when you think about it all at once, so don’t get ahead of yourself.
It may be helpful to take time to sit and plan, with a clinician or any trusted other, ways to manage the upcoming season so that your health remains stable.

Knowing where you will be for events, looking at menus in advance, or having some pre-made snacks are all ways you can make sure you feel comfortable socialising this season.

Remember that the season is more than just food, so what else can you get up too with friend and family?!

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7. Ditch The Diet and Body Talk:

I used to dread coming back from my treatment at Christmas just because it meant hearing the words “you’re looking so much better” repeatedly said to me.
*Cringe* 

Now, to many this may seem bizzare,  because surely that’s a lovely compliment to hear?!
And true, it is….now!
But, when ill with an eating disorder, such comments are likely interpreted as “looking bigger/fatter”.

This it then associated with many other hugely complex underlying  beliefs and labels:  being bad/unworthy/unloveable/not deserving treatment/care…feeling out of control.
A complex can of worms you just didn’t wanna open… 

It’s worth telling friends, family members in advance not to comment on your appearance, and abstain from topics of conversation regarding body image and food talk.
None of this talk on “good or bad foods”, or “such and such will go straight to my hips…”…tell them to leave that diet-trash talk out of the picture for their sake as well as yours.
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Personal reflection; it definitely helped me to challenge this warped interpretation by remembering they hadn’t seen me since I went into hospital, really they were just thrilled to see me back at home for Christmas, and actually what they were referring to was my bubblier, brighter side that was shining through now I was becoming “me” again.
When I was more motivated in recovery I would challenge these thoughts and ask myself why was I interpreting comments in this way, and why I felt the need to look “ill” – what was this function playing for me? what was I actually trying to vocalise through restrictive eating and self-starvation?
Deep stuff I know…but just points to ponder.

8. Communication is Key:

Believe it or not but people do care about you.
Talk to whoever’s cooking for you, and be honest about how you’re feeling to your friends and family, the more they understand how you’re coping with things the more they can support you at meals and in states of high anxiety.
Whether it’s going for a coffee with a mate, or having a hug from your parents, if you need it, ask for it. 

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You Got This!

Christmas is a hard time for those with eating disorders, so don’t be hard on yourself, and don’t expect every day to go perfectly.
Take small steps to challenge your thinking and your eating.

Remember:

It’s only one month. You will survive to see that nothing bad has happened!!!

You do not need to work for, or work off, what you eat. 

Your eating disorder has no authority to restrict or rule your life 

 Above all else, remember that you deserve to enjoy Christmas, just like everyone else.


Dear parents and carers…
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Remember to not neglect your own needs. For more info please check out the blog written by guest writer on my site, and one strong mummy, Janet Richards, sharing her top tips.


JossJPS-20
@Josceline_Joy

If you liked this post please don’t forget to leave a comment, follow the blog and my social media tags! 

Diet Culture Is Damaging Our Health: Problems and Solutions

Bulking, Cutting, Clean Eating, Cheat Days…
This post is dishes up the dirt on Diet Culture and the destructive subtexts hidden in the language used around food and exercise, that makes disordered eating seem socially acceptable, encourages yo-yo dieting and ultimately leads to an unhealthy relationship with food and body image.

No labels or diets should ever make you feel inferior or bad about being in your own skin, nor should any diet mean you are not allowed to enjoy the foods and drinks you love.

No labels or associations should ever make you feel inferior or bad about being in your own skin, nor should any diet mean you are not allowed to enjoy the foods and drinks you love…if diet culture hasn’t lead you to forget what these truly are

Whilst this post may seem like a bit of a rant, it comes from a place of genuine worry and concern about the obsessive diet-culture, and aesthetically driven, society we are creating, not just for ourselves, but for the younger generations growing up.

Only recently I was having a chat with a friend about the baking I had done on one of my days off. His response made my blood boil;
“You on the winter bulk then?” 😡
To which I replied.. 

“No. I’m just on this thing called life”
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Diet-culture terminology seems to be never ending, and ever growing, and it is SO WRONG. It is certainly not helped of course by the increased access to images, articles and youtube videos (if I see another “what I eat in a day” post I swear I’ll loose my mind….!!) and more. All of this fuels the myths, rules and associations regarding the “right” types and quantities of food we should (or rather, should not..) eat, not to mention the excessive exercise we should be doing…constantly.

The labels and associations we attach to what we think we believe to be “good” or “bad” foods is destructive to our physical and mental states, and together influences the disordered relationship with food and body image by reinforcing some very damaging messages in its sub-text.

  • Clean-eating
    Cue the undeserved feelings of guilt because you’ve eaten another slice of birthday cake, or a pizza that wasn’t made out of cauliflower
    Foods that aren’t seen as “clean” are then “bad” or “off limits” this has lead to an increase in orthorexia: The obsession with eating “pure foods”…whatever that means?! Problem being, there is no agreeable definition on what determines a food being “clean”, most foods you buy are to some extent processed and manufactured somewhere, somehow, so does that mean these are all “unclean” or “bad” for you? Those words in themselves should never be used in association with your food,  they cause so much judgement and guilt when you then project them onto a reflection of yourself and your body

  • “Cheat Days”
    ...where to begin. There is so much wrong with this. Not only does it reinforce the binge-restrict, yo-yo dieting, that has time and time again been proven to end in more weight gain in the long term, but in reality these “cheat” days you probably eat normally, but because diet culture has become so normalised we have created a day dedicated to normalising our diet. Or, alternatively for many, a day you choose to eat all the foods you’ve limited from your diet to remain sane and curb cravings, so you binge/overeat, and then justify it with the weekly restriction and over exercising. Does this sound healthy to you…?

  • Winter Bulk/Summer Cut
    …A winter bulk, or sometimes referred to as”off season”,  when you allow yourself to eat more foods that have been off limit during the summer period, because you care less about looking lean. These foods are categorised then as foods that will make you gain weight, and are off limits or “bad” for cutting, when you restrict the diet and over exercise to get lean for summer.Again, constant yo-yo dieting, and justifying what you eat and when you eat based on aesthetic goals. Bulking foods are seen as high calorie and to be avoided otherwise, and so associated with weight gain, however many of these include foods that are also very nutritious, such as nut butters, avocados, rye breads.Many may programme these foods around workouts as pre/post workout meals, which I do understand if you are an athlete, training for an event or following a particular programme that may have a performance, or medically advised weight loss/gain, outcome. But for the majority who are not performance based athletes, this can be damaging and stressful, creating the association with exercise equating to being able to eat certain foods or not.If you want porridge in the morning but don’t want to work out that is fine! If you want to eat a meal with less protein in it after you workout, or have a pizza in the evening (not made with cauliflower..) this does not have to be a post-workout meal, you can just eat for the sake of enjoying food, socialising, and keep fit for the same reasons too! No rights or wrongs, no good or bad.

  • Elimination diets, and classing everything high protein and low carb as “healthier”
     no medical justification to cut out gluten and/or dairy are the common ones that spring to mind. Are you sure you understand the function of gluten in food?
    Protein does not magically make it a healthier option, and carbs don’t make you fat. Consistently eating in a calorie surplus, carbs or no carbs, will lead to excess weight being stored.
    Like most things, it’s individual preference, but if you are eliminating foods based on false education and rumour then maybe you should begin asking questions and properly educating yourself by reading research and literature that is not just one-sided, or scare mongering, but factual and relevant.
    Listen to your body and begin to get real about why you feel the need to restrict or eliminate food groups.
    It is worth pointing out that saying “oh but I bloat after eating x,y,z…” bloating is normal. Everyone bloats and gets gassy from time to time, another normal (ok, pretty disgusting) human function, it may not be coeliac disease or IBS so always go to the Dr instead of self-diagnosing.  

These are just a few, there are many other labels, rules and restriction-based diets you’ve probably come across (cleanes/detoxes…all that crap) that create beliefs about what is right and wrong to eat.

Let’s get one thing straight, there is no right or wrong, no good or bad, no guilt, shame, or weakness, for feeding your body the food it wants and needs; this includes cake and pizza as well as kale and quinoa.

Following strict rules and restrictions as a way to control food intake, weight or shape is becoming the social norm. Not only this, but for those with a clinically diagnosed eating disorder it makes it a socially justifiable way to hide their disorder behind these labels.
You do not have to work for the food you eat; your body deserves food regardless of the exercise you have or have not done.  


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Pseudo-Dieting: The Diet-Mentality Trap

Overtime the more you adhere to these rules the more reinforced and habitual they become, to the point that even when you think you’re not following these beliefs they are still their dictating your choices; this is known as pseudo-dieting

What is “Pseudo-Dieting”? Written about in Elyse Reich book “Intuitive Eating” , pseudo-dieting refers to the diet beliefs that we still hold on too, and that dictate your food choices, even when you don’t actively realise you’re dieting.
It’s when what you say doesn’t add up to what you do. So you may believe you are not actively engrained in diet culture, but you actually are still allowing it to control you.

So this could be stuff like:

  • You only eat carbs on days you gym/are active
  • Still using calorie apps to count macros … can’t eat when hungry because an app that estimated your daily needs tells you so?! 
  • Compensating for food eaten (e.g restricting, over exercising, laxatives)
  • Restricting food groups
  • Eating only “safe” foods
  • Following certain beliefs such as “carbs make you fat after 6pm” …news flash, your body doesn’t have some magic switch. It doesn’t know. It only knows that it’s hungry and needs nourishing. 

Problems with this are: 

❌  You to forget how to respond to normal physiological hunger, and cravings become a challenge you need to resist This prevents you listening to your body, what it needs, and what it wants. 
Not honouring your hunger increases your chances of overeating later on in the evening, or at the weekends when your restriction and denial of food you want catches up with you; known as the “what the hell effect” – yes, those weekend binges are actually a well researched psychological phenomena, a normal physiological reaction to any diet that is restrictive or avoidant of certain foods or food groups.

❌  This then creates the experience of guilt when certain foods are eaten outside of these boundaries and beliefs.
Stress and anxiety around food, or from eating certain foods, can cause bloating. Many people suddenly suffering from IBS and other gut related problems may just be a result of your body readjusting to your inconsistent feeding and stress about food messing with your usual digestion.regret

❌  Feeling bad and guilty about foods leads to body dissatisfaction, self blame and yo-yo dieting. Emotional eating as a result of this, or using food to increase your self-worth is disordered. There is an increase in disordered eating such as orthorexia, exercise-bulimia, or binge-purge anorexia as a result of many trying to control their emotions using food. 

❌  It creates a viscous cycle;  avoid/restrict, intense cravings and then over-eating causing you to further go back to restriction and avoidance. This reinforces your initial belief that you can’t control yourself around these foods. In hindsight if you just learnt to nourish your body properly you’d find you don’t always want to eat chocolate and when you do you don’t eat the whole bar because your body knows it will have it again sometime, that it’s not off limits. 


So What’s The Solution?

Avoidance and restriction are commonly ways to gain control, avoid negative feelings associated with eating certain foods (promoted by diet culture) negative beliefs about your body. The fear of weight gain? Feeling out of control? Fear of over-eating?

What really needs to be addressed is the real reason behind the diet beliefs and behaviour.

It’s not simple.
These messages are everywhere. We are bombarded by diet culture wherever we look, sucked in by every penny the £2billion diet industry throws at us

Becoming more aware of the labels and associations we use around diet and body image is a step in the right direction to disconnecting from diet culture, and re-learning how to nourish your body,  be healthy and embrace the skin you’re in!  

It takes you practicing self-awareness and reflection: 

  • Where these beliefs come from?
  • What function are they holding (control? self-esteem)?
  • What associations/beliefs are you still holding onto?
  • What foods don’t you allow yourself, that if you’re honest with yourself, you avoid?
  • Are there foods that you instantly feel guilty for when you eat?
  • Do you compensate for eating certain foods? (exercise more, use laxatives, restrict the next day…)
  • Are there foods you can only eat if you’ve exercised or tracked your calories/macros?

Ultimately, controlling food and weight is not the key to happiness.

You should never feel restricted by your diet, or need to use labels to justify your preferences.

Food should not be given the power to control how you feel toward yourself and your body, which is what diet terminology creates through its labels and subsequent associations.

You can be healthy, fit and happy at every size, and eating anything you want.
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If this post resonates with you in any way, or you are interested in reading more about how to break free from diet culture, rebuilding your relationship with food and your body I recommend following up some of these links below: 

Pixie Turner

aka Plant Based Pixie. Nutritionist and food blogger. Informative, and says it like it is posts. 
Laura Thomas PhD 
Registered nutritionist with a fantastic podcast
Evelyn Tribole: Intuitive Eating
Link to her book on Amazon, outlining the principles of intuitive eating: building healthy body image and making peace with food

Louise Jones
Nutrition student and writer, recommend her post on Intuitive Eating and Why Flexible Dieting is a Fad 
Megan Jayne Crabbe 
aka BodyPosiPanda  all centred around body positivity and non-diet approach

Beating Binge Eating [6 Tips]

Beat the Binge

Since 2013 binge eating disorder (BED) has been classified as a distinct eating disorder, as stated in the fifth edition of the DSM classification and diagnostic manual for clinical disorders.

Although many who are obese have BED not all people with a binging disorder are obese. Furthermore, binging is not simply ‘overeating’, which is something every normal human being engages in every now and again – think about Christmas,  parties, or the evenings you get back from a crappy day and turn to the tub of Ben and Jerries, only to realise half an hour later there’s none left; we’ve all been there!

That is not a binge.
That my friends is life.

You are not out of control, not abnormal, bad, disgusting, or any of the other horrifically degrading labels people use.


Norma eating and the difference between overeating, bulimia and binge eating disorder? 

Our eating behaviour is never just biologically determined. What, when and how we eat is shaped socially, by culture and dietary norms, by our health status, age and exercise habits which alters our internal physiology and metabolic needs. Stress and emotions also influence the experience of hunger and fullness. Negative emotions, such as stress and depression, have been found to both suppress and increase appetite.
Positive emotions have been found to lead to over eating, as food is used, and associated with social occasions, celebrations and reward.

Whereas normal hunger can be postponed and prolonged, emotional hunger is intense and immediate, and usually the cravings will centre around all the foods you’ve either been restricting from your diet, or that have high carb and sugar content. There is a neurobiological reason for this, as foods high in carbs and fats release higher levels of serotonin and dopamine which are the “happy”, pleasure hormones in the brain, and enhance feelings of comfort.
These are also responsible for motivation and reward learning, meaning that you will be more likely to repeat the behaviours again.

So whilst over or under eating in some situations is expected, and normal, prolonged periods of disordered eating (pervasive over months) which impact your quality of life, such as your ability to socialise, hold down relationships, work, and your physical and mental health, are hugely complex.

Binge eating disorder is not followed by purges.

Purging; 
compensatory behaviours used to relieve guilt from eating foods) are associated with bulimia and are also found in sub-types of anorexia.

These behaviours may include using laxatives, over exercising or vomiting. If engaged in for prolonged periods of time are dangerously detrimental to ones health. Breaking these cycles can be difficult and cause intense amounts of anxiety.

Patients with BED have described entering a trance-like state when they binge eat. Describe being “out of control” with an inability to stop eating, even when they’re in severe discomfort from fullness and bloating.
Eating episodes are rapid
The person may hide away and eat out of shame and embarrassment.
Different from bulimia, there is no purging behaviours used to compensate. However it is followed by distress and sadness around the binge episode.

If this is your situation at the moment then you must seek medical help from your GP and local mental health clinic.


What causes binge eating disorders?

Whilst some may turn to alcohol, drugs, sex or develop depression, as a response to difficult life events (past or present stress or trauma) many turn to food as a form of control, or escape.
Triggers that have been found common to those with BED include:

  • Body image problems
  • Excessive yo-yo dieting and prolonged periods of restriction
  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma

People with BED may use food to negatively punish their body, others use food to comfort, trying to fill a void and escape from their negative emotions. This leads to a really unhealthy relationship with food and ones own body to develop, and over time can increase the risk of obesity.


What my experience has taught me…

I understand that both ends of the spectrum can be devastatingly hard to deal with, and be a lonely experience to go through. However, now if I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I check in with myself and make sure I prevent under or over-eating that is emotionally driven.

Whilst my experience was not with BED, in my early teens I emotional over-ate. Often buying two or three lunches a day, and eating them as a way to calm myself in social situations, and then on the way home from school would happily demolish cakes and sweets from the local shop before tucking into packet, upon packet of crisps before my dinner, which I would regularly have seconds of, and dessert.

Later in life I developed anorexia.
As my journey unveiled itself the underling trauma surfaced, and this was where my use of food as punishment and comfort came from. Over the years it was dealt with, and now I have a very happy and healthy relationship with my food and body.

I would highly recommend therapy and clinical treatment with a local mental health service alongside any self-help or social support you choose to use. 


My Top 6 Tips For Getting On-Top of Emotional Binge-Eating:

  1. Watch what you buy:
    If you don’t have it in you are not going to binge on it!!
     Make a balanced shopping list that includes small treats, but not packets of foods you know you’re likely to centre your binges on. Try and avoid shopping when hungry, and make sure you eat well during the day, not restricting food groups, so you don’t get over hungry and binge in the evenings.
  2. Distract your mind:
    Distracting your mind, and finding other equally relaxing and pleasurable activities outside of food is important.
    Going for a walk, ringing a friend or journalling/writing are good exercises to do. Art has also been found to be a great distractor and therapeutic outlet for handling difficult emotions. Anything to keep your mind and hands busy.
  3.  Know your triggers:  Be it stress, break ups, loneliness, arguments…what are the repeated events that precede your binges.
    Write your triggers down; how the situation makes you feel, what behaviours happens, and an action plan to counter them.
    e.g argued with my boss, felt useless so binged, next time I will go for a walk to get some fresh air and think about the situation before talking with him the next day.
     
  4. Eat well during the day:
    Don’t skip meals, or eliminate foods from your diet.
    This leads to a higher chance of overeating and if you’re trying hard to not eat a food you generally love, common ones are bread or chocolate,  then you are more likely going to crave a binge on these later in the day. So don’t skip meals, and include all food types so that your body is nutritionally satiated. Portion size is variable depending on your own needs for your height, weight and activity levels. Learn to intuitively eat;  listening to your bodies hunger signals and the foods it actually wants. The more you take care of your body the more it will take care of you.
  5. Most importantly, be kind to yourself!!
    Disordered eating does not manifest over night, and neither will it disappear over night. Be gentle on yourself, know there will be good days, and bad days – write down in a journal what went well, what didn’t work, and learn to know yourself inside out. Setting achievable goals to combat your behaviours is more sustainable than expecting perfection within a week.


WinniethePooh

Myth Busting Eating Disorders: 9 Truths You Need to Know

Since it’s ‘World Eating Disorders Action Day’ I wanted to write a a post debunking nine common myths about eating disorders, and just offer some personal reflections from my own journey. 

If you are currently struggling with an eating disorder, or any mental health illness, please be reassured from this post, and the other blogs on my site that they can be conquered.


Get the Facts right: 9 Eating Disorder Truths

Truth #1: Weight is a poor indicator of mental health. Many people with eating disorders look healthy, yet may be extremely ill. Although weight and BMI is used in the diagnostic criteria for eating disorders they are poor indicators of health, both mentally and physically [you can read more about this here].

Truth #2: Food and weight isn’t the main problem. This is the most misunderstood and hard to understand truth to get your head around. People often think anorexics don’t eat at all (wrong), or that all eating disorders are driven by wanting to be thin in order to look good. The truth is they are hugely complex, food and weight is the fear, it is the surfacing problem used to control deeper issues such as low-self esteem, depression, dampen down emotional distress, such as previous traumas. In some respects they are a method of self-harm. They also have ties with psychosis, anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder. Weight loss is the addiction and drive, food and weight is the fear and controlled to deal with these underlying issues.

Truth #3: Families are not to blame. Families and friends are the greatest allies in treatment and recovery for the patients’ and providers’. 

Truth #4: An eating disorder diagnosis is a health crisis, it disrupts personal, and family, functioning. They have major physical consequences associated with them that can continue to impact health even after recovery, making early intervention vital.

Truth #5: Eating disorders are not choices, but serious illnesses with many biological, social, psychological and environmental factors contributing to their onset, development and recovery prospects.

Truth #6: Anyone can develop an eating disorder. Eating disorders affect people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, body shapes and weights, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses. New statistics have found that one quarter of admissions for bulimia and anorexia are in fact males.

Truth #7: Eating disorders carry increased risks for suicide and medical complications even after recovery. In fact they have the highest mortality rate out of any psychological illness, with around 40% not surviving, and can impact on fertility, bone density and cardiovascular health.

Truth #8: Whilst genes and environment play important roles in the development of eating disorders, there is no one determining factor found responsible for their development, making them a hugely unique experience for each person as well as being complex disorders to treat.

Truth #9: Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. Early detection and intervention are important and have been found to have the best outcomes for future health. 


Personal reflections

1. Everyday is a journey.

Although I would say I am ‘recovered’ I am still unsure what this means. There are times when I am certainly fine, and other times where my anxiety and stress causes me to become more conscious about food and weight. I have noticed this is usually when I feel I lack direction or purpose. Therefore having goals and ambitions has been a huge factor keeping me well and most importantly keeping my eyes upwards and outwards.

2. Reaching Out.

I am thankful someone came and expressed their concerns back in 2008 (you know who you are!). Many people don’t know what to do or say to someone they may have concerns about regarding their eating, exercise or any imbalanced behaviours.

My best advice for this: keep a calm approach, be empathetic not aggressive, express concern lovingly, and realise that at the end of the day it’s up to them to admit to a problem and ask for help to change behaviours [click here for the blog on advice for parents by parent support worker, Janet Richard]

3. Negative people who bring you down – get rid of them.

I am such a believer in positivity and surrounding yourself with things (activities, people, places) that make you feel your best! This can be hard if negativity is coming from close family or partner relationships.

I am lucky to be blessed with very close and supportive family, where although at times there have been things they have not fully understood about my past disordered thinking/eating, they always took the time to try and understand and best support me in correcting these behaviours.

If you are in an abusive relationship with friends or family, try and separate yourself and build a life away from them – accept they may never fully “get it” and spend with those who do love you wholeheartedly for you, and that you have fun with!

4. There is no point comparing! 

With any body dysmorphia, low self esteem, eating disorder etc…comparing is automatic. But comparisons are toxic. Learn to love yourself (easily said). Our individual perceptions of what ‘perfect’ looks like will vary hugely, whether this is in your work, a partner, how you look etc.. We live in a world where we strive for perfection, but perfection doesn’t exist!

I am sick to death of seeing posts on social media like “do guys like curves or skinny girls”, “big boobs or big bum?” …you know what, learn to love how you’re made, and I don’t just mean your body I mean yourself. There is nothing more sexy and appealing than someone who is just happy in their own bubbly skin and rocking on with life.  This was hard for me as during my recovery gaining weight made me feel like hiding from the world. But through being able to get involved in charity events, volunteering, having a job and studying again I found I really didn’t need my eating disorder and found the young lady I was becoming far more beautiful than what I was before.

I recommend noting down your achievements, your quirks, your passions and look at these and be proud!

dumbo-timothy
“Don’t just fly, soar” – Dumbo [1941]

My Journey: From Surviving to Thriving

Who we are and what makes up the faceted features of our personalities is a complex combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Around different people we may act differently, and in those quiet moments of personal reflection sometimes you can end up wondering whether how you’re portraying yourself to others is actually what you want to be known for, or how you want to be remembered.

So in my first blog I want to introduce myself and take you on a (brief) journey that started back when I was 15 years old. When I first met ‘Ana’. A different kind of label, and identity that I carried around with me for 6 destructive years.

Ana promised me my wildest hopes and dreams, whilst in reality giving me a fix of the most addictive drug I’ve ever taken: starvation.

Now, don’t be deterred. This is actually a happy story…I can’t do serious without adding a smile.


My name is Joss and I am a 25-year-old Psychology graduate from The University of Surrey. By nature I am extroverted and bubbly.  I enjoy helping others, and also have a love for music, dance and sport. Born and bred in Surrey, I enjoy going for long walks in the countryside, and winding up in a good ol’ English Pub – the ones with the sofas and fire places, accompanied with big fluffy dogs.

For 6 years of my life I was robbed of my freedom to be this person and do these things.

In fact I was the polar opposite. Introverted, gloomy, sullen and depressed. Words that I would never have put in the same sentence with myself in a million years.

“Hi, I’m Joss, and I have Anorexia Nervosa”


 

Subtle beginnings…

I can’t pinpoint the exact time anorexia entered my life. My urge to diet and lose weight started in December 2007, when I was 15. Before then I would’ve described myself as a ‘foodie’ girl – you’d find me by the buffet at a party, and my nicknames often were “pie girl” and “squishy”…you get the jist.

I was a curvy girl. I started puberty earlier then all my friends, but at my ‘largest’ I was a size 10/12, so not ‘big’ at all, in fact about average I’d say.

 

 

Like many, after Christmas that year mum and I decided we’d both lose half a stone just to ‘trim down’ and look good for summer.

I had my year 11 prom approaching  at the end of the year, and this ideal I wanted to reach, especially if I thought I had any chance of being approached as a potential date for.

For once I wanted to look and feel completely gorgeous and comfortable in my own skin; something up until then I had never truly experienced.

So the New Years resolution began.

Goodbye chocolate, crips and cheese; Hello exercise DVD and thinner thighs.

It started out fine, but cutting out food, and exercising obsessively became an addiction. One I craved. Clothes felt good when they became baggy. I felt in control, more worthy and as if this was my way of ‘perfecting’ myself.

Other things began to change, to be ‘perfected’ – handwriting, school grades, hair was dyed blonde and I stopped wearing my old tom-boyish style clothes.


By my 16th birthday in June I was thinner but still looked healthy. I should’ve stopped and maintained the weight loss, but I just didn’t know how, and by now my mind was filled with rules, ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’, rights and wrongs about my food and body.

I was no longer experiencing my own thoughts. A new “voice” had appeared.

It dictated rules, it piled on guilt, it drove obsessions and reduced my food.

Less.

and less.

and less.

Notebooks filled with calorie values and calculations.

I had no time for friends, family, making relationships.

I worked part time. I measured food. I slept.

And soon that little voice in my head turned on me….

“You may as well not eat. Disappear. No one wants you around”


Breaking the silence…

I am one of three, and my two older brothers, who were both at University at this time, both had major concerns about my weight loss and my new attitude towards food.

When they came home from University they noticed small details like my new fussiness about where we went if we ate out, and ordering low fat alternatives to reduce calories.

I suffered severe anxiety about eating out at restaurants or eating food that others had prepared for me because I hadn’t been in control of how it was made.

The weight plummeted lower and lower, the slippery slope turned into a landslide of weight loss. Although I felt weak and fatigued, I felt empowered and in control at the same time. Anorexia promised me I was safe, and that if got thinner I would be happier. The lifeless, dull and depressed reflection I saw in the mirror wasn’t me. But I didn’t want help, I wanted to be left alone.

It was my mum who demanded I saw the Doctor, by now the family’s concern had grown too great and I was eating minimal amounts a day, hiding food, lying about food I’d eaten and compulsively exercising.

My muscles had wasted away and bones were protruding.

When the Dr weighed me my eyes fixated on the small distance the arrow moved and although I recognised it was low my mind just said, “Disappointing really. Should’ve been lower. You’ve failed as always”. 

The numbers had no impact on me, it was just a game, how low could they get?


September 2008

In September 2008 I was removed from college and placed in a general hospital ward in Surrey for observation due to my pulse being too low.

On one of the days a nurse from the local outpatient eating disorders team came to visit me. With tears in her eyes she watched me lifelessly lay there. She told me how, if my anorexia continued to control me, I wouldn’t be alive much longer: my organs had shrunk and my heart and bones were weak.

Being at such a low weight really impacts your ability to process and respond to information, so I remember her telling me these horrendous facts and them having no effect on me what-so-ever. It was as if I had cotton wool stuffed in my ears and my brain was a bouncing the words back and forth without gathering meaning from them.

On a rational level I knew the seriousness of what she was saying, but mental health problems aren’t rational and however much I wanted it to shock me into eating, it wouldn’t, my anorexia just told me “she’s lying, don’t listen to her”.

“ Fear had the deepest impact on the whole family. I was told your heart could give out at any moment. The pressure on me to make sure you stayed alive was enormous, I even checked you were still breathing at night. I lost my daughter, I had to unpick everything I thought I knew and understood about my lovely daughter. Where was the popular, feisty, funny girl who loved to dance and party? She was now full of suspicion, contempt and anger. How does one enjoy life when the very life of a loved one is threatened, and they are physically wrenched out of your own home and your (seemingly inadequate) care? The sense of failure is great. It doesn’t matter if people say it’s not your fault – you feel a useless mother”.

Cathy Walden [2011]

I never intended to hurt the ones I love the most, and I am deeply sorry for the selfishness of my anorexia


Meal times from hell…

Many people have asked me “surely you were hungry?” and the answer is, no. With anorexia you are completely flooded by fear that you ‘feel full’. Hunger is suppressed to an unrecognisable level, and even if I were able to acknowledge it, eating wasn’t an option, the distress and mental torment I would endure after was not worth eating.

A typical mealtime during this period would be in complete silence, the banter and chatter of previous years vanished. I would sit crying over a small portion of food, my head held in my hands, sometimes I would try and run from the table and often I would refuse to eat at all and glance up to see my mum and dad’s worn out faces – there was nothing they could do but watch their daughter disappear before their eyes.

I’d curl up in a trembling ball on the floor begging them not to make me eat; I’d kick and scream because I was so afraid they’d make me eat.dscn1155.jpg

Endless bargains would be made, such as “you can see the fireworks tonight if you promise to eat your snack”.

I would agree, eat some of it, and either hide the rest in the wrapper and discard of it, or spit the chewed up bar into a tissue.

Any food eaten, well that’d be exercised straight off.

My brother remembered on one occasion when he came home from Uni, entering the dining room to see dad holding his head hung low and mum looking close to tears as I wouldn’t eat my meal because it hadn’t been weighed out precisely.

Joss was no more; instead a preoccupied, and unresponsive gaze took the place of her once enthusiastic glow.


 

The Hospital Diaries…No.1

Making little progress I was sent home and put on bed rest. The stress and upset my illness was causing my family, along with the continued decrease of my weight meant that by November 2008 I was admitted to a general psychiatric hospital in Winchester. Little did I know this would become my new home for the next 8 months.

I can still remember the terror I felt as we drove up to Winchester on the cold morning with a blanket wrapped around me, my heart pounding and my mind caught in a whirlwind of emotion.

Settling into the hospital regime took a while, and was very hard. I had to follow an eating programme along with other girls who had eating disorders. This was terrifying for me.

I had no control over my food or my weight. I had no studies to distract myself from. No friends and my family were far away.

There were consequences for not eating, not finishing in the allocated time frame. Furthermore, if you didn’t put on weight every week then more food was added to your diet plan.

Plates were scraped clean.

No food was wasted.

Every calorie counted.

When I reached BMI of 16 I was able to join in with the sporting activities and get a 20-minute gym programme which I was allowed to use twice a week. Of course this was monitored and depending on how the weight was progressing these luxuries would be given or taken away.

During this time I made friends with the others on the ward. There were fights and confrontations, but also support and encouragement for facing some fears. I was blessed with some of the best friends I could have asked for, and shared in the recovery journeys of many courageous girls who defeated their illnesses. This was valuable to me as my friends back home found it hard to see me so sad and ill. They distanced themselves not knowing what to do or say, and worried they’d make the situation worse.

At the end of the admission I had reached a healthy weight, but unfortunately I relapsed in the summer. This happened twice more ending up with me having to self-teach A levels from one hospital, and dropping out of University in order to go into another.


Set backs and struggles…

Although there is a false sense of safety and comfort in having an eating disorder I can honestly say I lived in a complete fear, never knowing what the next day would bring.

I spent many nights in floods of tears down the phone to my brother as he desperately tried to comfort me.

I’d ring my parents in begging them to come and take me home.

I wanted nothing more than to wake up and for the nightmare to be over.

Bad habits developed alongside…self-harm, vomiting and one suicide attempt.

Tube feeding.

Sedation.

Looking back now it just doesn’t seem real.


A little hope goes a million miles…

The last admission was in 2011. It was an adult ward and the most challenging of the three. My weight as at its lowest, and therefore my mind at its worst.

Weak. Stubborn.

I wouldn’t eat…so I was tubed.Back Camera

Everyday, slowly pumping calories into me. I would often try and go to the toilet and empty the bag of liquid feed down the loo. The short-term relief seemed more important even though I knew I was only prolonging my stay there in the long term. I was put on a strong anti-psychotic drug that made me constantly drowsy and knocked me out for most days. The ward was dull and there was nothing for inpatients to do, I felt very alone.

The distress of being tube fed was getting me down and I had appealed to my medical team to be taken off the feed, promising them I’d try and eat again. They weren’t buying it.

Each time my request it came back declined.

However, there was one young Dr on my team who after a meeting stayed and sat with me. He stared. Paused, and said,

“I don’t know what it is about you, but I see through your anorexia and I believe that you will do this. If I ask them to take it out, you must eat the exact calories you’re being tube fed and follow the meal plan. No matter how long it takes you to get through those meals. Understand”


Moving forward and facing fears…

The tube was removed.

My anxiety streamed back. But for the last few weeks of being tubed I’d spent endless hours making motivational scrap books and drawings of what I wanted my future to look like.

And now, for the first time in months I had the chance to put that into action. Above all I wanted to show that Dr (who was fairly attractive I’ll have you know…) that he hadn’t misplaced his trust. That I was courageous and strong and would start being productive in my recovery.

There in-front of me on the plate. A meal I hadn’t allowed myself in 5 years, sausages and mash. All the fears surfaced, heart pounded and blood curdled. The fork felt heavy and my head dizzy. I was so fatigued from the medication they’d given me, and my throat was still raw from where the tube had been.

That meal was the first of many I completed. I later discharged myself from the hospital and moved back home, where the next chapter of my life was about to begin.

That Christmas I was in a much better place, not recovered or healthy, but managing to eat more and keeping motivated. I wrote to that doctor thanking him for putting his trust in me and reassuring him that it was not misplaced as I was now well into my recovery.

I never heard back, nor do I know whether he received the letter. But it’s people like him who put their trust because they see the treasure that is buried.


Taking a new perspective…

During my recovery my mum wrote about the positives of our journey;

“I feel we have grown closer as a family and learnt to be more honest with each other. There is always room for improvement in this area, but just being able to express our anger/negative feelings in safety and more honest, constructive ways, is a major step forward.

It’s so lovely to chat to Joss now because I feel I am talking to Joss and not the anorexia – there is a big difference, and I can tell the difference now.

It’s wonderful to see Joss reconnect to her dancing, and her willingness to help others.

It’s great to hear Joss laughing with friends, and I mean really laughing and enjoying herself. You have gained some new friends who are great girls, and you have such a sense of fun, which is returning. To me these are signs of hope.”


The true meaning recovery… 

Since then I have achieved so much; I completed my A Levels, got a diploma, went on two retreats; worked with disabled children, and in a school. I had my first proper relationship, worked out in Romania, skydived for charity, and have now graduated from University with a BSc in Psychology.

Recovery wasn’t easy and it’s not a quick fix. I learnt more about myself in those 6 years than most learn in a life time.

There is a lot missing from this account. Many stories too dark, or too personal to share. Other parts you can find elsewhere in the charity, media and self-help blogs.

My recovery involved years of therapy, and even a court case, to deal with the hidden trauma behind the development of my anorexia, and to finally distinguish its flames.

The misconception is that eating disorders are solely about food and weight. They are not [find out more about common myths here]. Food is the symptom not the cause.

The beauty is that now  I get to share this with you from a place of health and happiness. I no longer need anorexia as my mask. I am once again the bubbly, happy, extroverted and ambitious young lady I always wanted to be, and was underneath.

Through the work I do now I aim to debunk the myths around mental health, decrease negative stigma and encourage people to look outwards with optimistic eyes in pursuit of their goals.

 “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” – Jeremiah 29: 11-13