“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?

 

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

Preventing Relapses at Uni [Top Tips]

I felt this was an important subject to chat about because University can be a stressful times, and trigger an array of unhealthy behaviours and mental health problems if not managed.

So  if you have read a bit about my own journey you may be aware that my first Uni experience wasn’t all peachy, and in 2011 I ended up relapsing and dropping out of my first degree up in lovely Leeds!

Recently I have completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at The University of Surrey (highly recommend, excuse the cheeky plug) so I decided a post on How not to relapse whilst at Uni” would be very relevant.

I felt this was an important subject to chat about because University can be a stressful times, and trigger an array of unhealthy behaviours and mental health problems if not managed. For those about to start University who may be more vulnerable to relapses with disordered eating, anxiety or depression, understanding how you can manage relapses and stress is integral to being able to fully immerse yourself in your Uni experience regardless of the inevitable work pressures.

I will add a little disclaimer here that whilst these things have helped my experience at Uni they may not be what is right for you. I was also in a very different mental/physical place starting this degree than I was in my first Uni experience. So I had given myself time to build a solid foundation from which I had built my confidence up in my ability to manage my anorexia. Therefore I would really consider if this is you to not rush into a degree but if you need time out, take it! Do you. You got time….believe me!

Anywho.. without further ado here are my 6 top tips for relapse prevention at Uni: 

  1. Know some possible triggers prior to starting. This may involve some detective work. So sit and make a brief list of possible triggers – stress/break ups/isolation/illness – that may be a personal ‘risk’ for you relapsing.
  2. Find out what resources the University offers and pin these to each possible trigger. It is not a weakness to go and ask for help or support, it actually shows a huge amount of independence and responsibility for your health and wellbeing – and a healthy you means a happier, more social and fun you! So make yourself known at your wellbeing centre, or use the ‘stress management’ workshops that they provide if/when you need them. If a trigger is isolation for you then make sure you are getting involved in a club or society that can offer you stress release, friendships and social support.
  3. DO NOT neglect your social life. Be involved in your Uni – join a sport club, or society, take up a new hobby. Just anything that gives you the ability to disconnect from your work, and yourself and reconnect with others and unwind. There will never be another time in your life [probably] where you are faced with SO many opportunities and so cheaply; chances to travel, fundraise, play for a sports club, learn new languages. So whilst grades are all well and good remember that these extra things also add to your character, your identity, build life long friendships and add to the CV.
  4. Eat well. This is VITAL for anyone going to Uni with previous disordered eating. I don’t care if inflation has made food shopping ridiculous I will find a way to make sure I am eating well, fuelling my body with food that keeps it healthy and active […including chocolate, baking ingredients and the odd bottle of Gin…]. Just because work is full on and days can be long does not mean you skip meals. Your friends may – but maybe they didn’t have a previous history of eating disorder! You can shop wisely – there are always cheaper brands and student cook books with healthy recipes! And if all else fails there’s ready meals and Deliveroo. So no excuses.
  5. Plan your time. Time management helps de-stress you, puts you in control, and means you will feel prepared for exams/assignments. You can factor in social events, sports, gym etc… Even plan your meals in advance so you’re ahead of the game if this helps you.
  6. Family time. Ok, so I come from Guildford and studied in Guildford so it made this a tad easier […I moved out ok]. But for me, my family are my absolute rocks. And if I felt stressed/anxious and in need of a little pick me, or god forbid it  some good ol’ dad jokes to kick my arse into gear, I’d pick up the phone, or go home for a few nights. Now I am aware that not everyone has an amazing relationship with their family, and in this case search out the friends on your course, your lecturers who can provide some pastoral care and a good kick in the right direction.  Once again I’m blessed that mine have been above and beyond incredible throughout Uni.

In summary the main gist is a) Do NOT sit back but be proactive, b) Plan and manage your time, and c) use all the social support, clubs, societies, wellbeing services you need!!  We all have different thresholds for stress tolerance so just be aware of yours and the impact it’s having on all levels of your health and wellbeing. You want to be able to have the best time at University so make sure you take control in a healthy way that puts your needs first. It’s not selfish; it’s sensible.

 

Mulan
“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most beautiful flower of all” – Mulan [1998]

Dirty Secrets Behind Clean Eating

Having just watched Grace Victory’s “Dirty Secrets Behind Clean Eating” I felt compelled to write a post about this topic. The programme raised some important points about the dangers of who we trust within the health and fitness industry, and she did so in a lighthearted, informative way.

It’s an industry saturated with bloggers, Vloggers and Instagram snappers, all happy to promote their lifestyle plans promised to ‘transform’ your health, and bring you body confidence, even cure disease.

If you find yourself captivated by pretty pictures and persuasive captions, you’ll be disheartened to know many of these are not scientifically supported health claims, or being delivered by qualified nutritionist, dieticians or fitness professionals.

In fact, if you google nutritionist qualification you can come across many online courses for around £50 giving you that “title” and the persona of importance.

But our diets are important. Health is important. Food has the ability to manipulate mood, cure and cause diseases.

The NHS has a whole list of popular “fashionable” diets (sorry … “lifestyle choices”) people are embarking on. From Paleo, 5:2, Dukan, to the controversial Alkaline diet
The list is endless.
Each with their own arguments for why they are the best thing since sliced bread… along with their reasons for not eating sliced bread.

The concept of living a healthy, balanced lifestyle, has never been made more difficult for us to grasp. We have become the generation of dieters. 

But before we splash our cash on something so serious as our health, are we really questioning what advice we’re taking? and who it’s coming from?
Or are we throwing our pennies down a dirty drain to detrimental mental health?

 


Clean Eating and the Diet Industry Explored

organic

The weight loss market alone is estimated to reach £220billion by 2017.

The pockets of those industries bursting whilst the only thing getting thinner is your wallet. Have you seen the price of chia seeds?!

The concept behind clean eating sounds logical and healthy:

“Rather than revolving around the idea of ingesting more or less of specific things (for instance, fewer calories or more protein), the idea is more about being mindful of the food’s pathway between its origin and your plate. At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.”

Eating a diet which is rich and varied in whole foods; fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, meat and fish. Is of course, good. These foods will undoubtedly be packed with more vitamins and nutrients than processed foods, however, processed foods have their place and if you believe you eat 100% unprocessed, well I’m afraid you probably don’t. Hidden processing is everywhere, so does that mean you are now “unclean”. And if so, why is that so bad? What is going to happen to you?

Labelling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’ actually is dangerous to us psychologically as well as physically. It is the reason why many are creating unhealthy obsessions with food and weight, and using diet to avoid feelings of guilt or fear around eating and weight gain.

This now has a clinically recognised eating disorder known as  orthorexia.

 


The Power of Social Influence

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Increase in social media usage positively correlates with eating and body dysmorphic disorders and low-self esteem.

“You are 3 times more likely to suffer a severe mental health problem if you are a frequent user of social media” – University of Pittsburg 

We need a reality check

So, is your super green, low carb, high protein, no gluten, dairy free, sugar free, macro monitoring, carb crunching, vegan, diet, really, really, you being honest with yourself?

My front line experience has left me like a sniffer dog able to smell an eating disorder (ED) from a mile away.

As soon as I click onto Instagram my radar is constantly pinging from post-to-post in the sea of seemingly “confident” and “grounded” fitness inspirations, displaying textbook typical ED behaviours:

  • Avoiding foods because they labeled/associate them as bad, or cause guilty feelings after being eaten.
  • Controls and rules, surrounding a diet which they don’t have any medical purpose for applying.
  • Dependence on keeping weight or body fat % low
  • Counting macros, with no medical or occupational reason for needing to.

That’s not to say all social media accounts are negative, but we do have to be wise about the information we’re exposing ourselves too and what we’re believing to be reliable advice over what will feed a disordered relationship with your food and body.


Top-tips to filter your news feeds:

social-media-tree

So, when you’re next faced with making the decision about what to spend your time and energy reading and believing, ask yourself these questions:

1. What’s there message?

Is it one of positivity and balance, or does it create faulty associations (good/bad foods) alongside other disordered and unhealthy habits.

2. Are they qualified?

What makes them worth listening to? Are they qualified to give this advice? Make sure the sources you are trusting are credible, and do not be afraid to be critical and do your own research. Note. Having a large social media following does not qualify you to give lifestyle advice. 

3. Are they all talk no walk?

Ever heard of the saying “Do what I say, not what I do”

It’s easy writing a motivational quote alongside a well shot snap, but remember it is a business, and they may be more concerned about their growing pay cheques and sponsors than the implications they’re having on your health.

Approximately  1/3 of wellbeing bloggers seek help for disordered eating themselves, so bare in mind, you may be accepting advice from those still in need of help themselves.

Alongside this, Robert O’Young, who promoted the Alkaline diet as a cure for cancer, was arrested for his false claims and practicing medicine without a license to do so. But yet thousands of people buy into this.
Be willing to research about who it is you’re following.

4. Are they realistic?

Being a student living off a whole-foods, organic, no preservatives…all that jazz, diet, is not realistic (or necessary). Neither is exercising every day when you work a 9-5 job or have a family to provide for.  Do the accounts you’re aspiring to realistically  fit the lifestyle you can achieve and afford, to meet your health and wellbeing goals.

5. Is it positively challenging you?

Is it challenging your approach to yourself, your body and helping you to grow?

Or are you left feeling inadequate, bombarded by rules and demotivated by comparisons?

If it’s the latter, this is not good for your mental health.
Click Unfollow.


Final Thoughts

For me, and many of you other social media savvies, we need to be self-aware.

If you have a social media platform you post to regularly, ask yourself;

  • What is my message?
  • What image am I creating, is this a positive one or could it be damaging? 
  • How does this reflect my goals and values?

Remember, ultimately our worth is not based on our bodies, and not labelled by our diets. So look out for the haters, and spend time following the accounts that inspire and challenge you to be your best, live your best and love to your best.

Dory
“Trust. It’s what friends do.” – Dory [2003]

How to support your child with an eating disorder: Top Tips from one tough Mum!

Living with a child with an eating disorder is tiring, challenging and often very isolating.
I know my own parent’s compromised their social contact and lost out on experiences with friends due the emotional fatigue and time restraints the illness caused them.

It is very important to remember the wellbeing of the wider family and carers is just as crucial as supporting the sufferer.

For optimal recovery the support system around them needs to be at it’s strongest – you are their fortress – but your needs should not be discounted, and for you to be a solid rock for them you need to have your needs met as well.

I first met Janet Richards approximately seven years ago; sadly it was under unfortunate circumstances since it was her daughter, Emma, now one of my dearest friends and fellow recovery troopers, who also received inpatient treatment at the same psychiatric hospital as me.

Since supporting her daughter through anorexia, Janet Richards, Emma’s strong-minded and determined mother, now works alongside Winchester CAMHs (child and adult mental health services), setting up a parent ‘buddying’ system through the ACE programme they have already running there.

Below she shares her an insight to her story and 12 “top-tips” for parents, friends and carers, who are living with the commotion and confusion that having an eating disorder can cause.


image1Hello, this picture of my daughter and me was taken whilst away in Gran Canaria earlier this year. Six years ago, I couldn’t even dream of a holiday as Emma was receiving in-patient treatment psychiatric unit for anorexia nervosa. This was where we met the lovely Joss and that friendship between the girls has continued.

The two years were horrendous, but we got through it and now she is an amazing young woman studying for a degree in mental health nursing. During the desperate dark days early on, I attended a support group who had invited a mum and her daughter recovering from anorexia. It gave me so much hope that I hung onto their story – it was a light at the end of the very dark tunnel. Since then I have tried to give support as an ‘expert parent’ to other parents now in similar situations either through ED support groups or individually. But I am one person, and so through the ACE programme that Wnchester CAMHS is running I am developing a ‘buddying’ programme to encourage other parents and young people to become buddies to help support those in need.

So when I am asked about the advice I would give to parents with youngsters struggling with Eating Disorders, I try and make it as simple as possible. So I’ve come up with a list of things that I wish someone had told me when my daughter was going through her dreadful journey.

And don’t you just love the benefit of hindsight!!! Here goes:

  1. Don’t waste energy on blaming yourself, anyone or anything else – you’ll need all your energy to preserve your sanity!
  2. Maintain positive intent – in order words you have absolute conviction that they will recover.
  3. Realise you can’t make them better – the only one that can is them!
  4. Ensure that you have a core of resilience & strength, which means taking care of yourself by taking time out to do ‘nice’ stuff for you.
  5. The medical professionals know the theory but are very unlikely to understand the suffering – they will probably lack  any practical experience with a loved one suffering, so try and find someone who has lived the nightmare & can give you support.
  6. You will be their absolute rock whatever they throw at you (& I do mean physically!) so don’t underestimate how important you are to them.
  7. Try and keep an environment that optimises their chance of recovery –In terms of action, you can try and ensure that they have an environment in which they can recover themselves. Examples being:
    1. Staying calm (as possible)
    2. Having a life yourself, which means going out for dinner with friends/partner – yes if it is at a mealtime!
    3. Don’t add stress by going on holiday together – if you need a break take one on your own or with just your partner
    4. Establish boundaries & stick to them even though they are very ill individuals
  8. Drink red wine – it can soften the pain & get you through the next meal!
  9. Don’t walk on egg shells: Walking on eggshells (or being afraid of saying the wrong things!) isn’t going to make them better so don’t get twisted up on thinking about how to say stuff – say it with love, compassion but positive intent!
  10. Recognise the excruciating fight going on in their brains – its exhausting for them.
  11. Recognise that your son/daughter is still there, but has been hijacked by an evil spirit. You will get odd glimpses of them & hang onto those sightings.
  12. Everyone’s journey is different but you are not alone….

For more information about supporting your child and yourself please look at the following links:

http://www.b-eat.co.uk/about-eating-disorders/worried-about-someone/support-for-you

http://www.youngminds.org.uk/for_parents/parents_guide

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/eatingdisorders/Pages/eating-disorders-advice-parents.aspx

 

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]

Depression Through the Eyes of…Dan Kelly

I was introduced to Dan through social media; a talented young man no doubt, whose passion for writing shines through his own WordPress site. Just like many other talented artists,  Dan too has unfortunately endured, and overcome, his own mental battles.

His account below is not only fantastically articulated, but bravely allows us all a glimpse into what was once his world, and what now is his future.


Depression through the eyes of Dan Kelly…

When were you first aware you were depressed? What triggered it?

Depression is a word that gets thrown around a little bit too much. Quite often we associate a bad day with being depressed – sometimes, we just have bad days, or weeks and months, and realising that comes with a paired requirement to recognise what’s going on in your life. What is making you trip and tumble?

Depression is a little more deep-rooted, and comes down to a question of existence; it’s debilitating, smothering and a shadow that threatens to throttle you in the bed you’re fixed to. For me, I started experiencing that feeling at college, and it came and went in the 8 years since. The more distanced from myself, my identity and who I wanted to be, the heavier and faster it came – that’s the best way I can describe it at this point in my life.

Many people say that you can’t overcome a mental health illness without dealing with the trigger, did you ever find out the trigger illness?

We’re all products of our biology, environment and how we perceive these through our psychology. There are endless things I could identify as a cause for how I felt, from relationships with family members and friends from school in my childhood to how I saw romantic partners as that ‘final part of me’, as if there was a void to fill with endless women. Some of these I have dismissed some make total sense, but what makes more sense than anything else in this world, and will make sense to both you and your readers, is sometimes we feel lost. We don’t know what to do, what’s expected, what the point of it all is, and sometimes a bad thing can happen that just makes all of that all the more prevalent. Maisie(a friend of Dan’s) passing away was a very bad thing to happen in my life which undoubtedly effected me, but what it did was bring to light that I didn’t know who I was as a person.

How did it (if at all) affect your friendships/familial relations/daily functioning?

When I was depressed, and following on from Maisie passing on, friendships were fine until I became restless. Connections with my family members were fine until I became irritable. Relationships were fine until I became curious about what was over the horizon on the greener grass.

How did you find the quality of the help provided to you by the health care services?

The service I used was ‘there’ – I’ll give it that much. I have a lot of NHS staff in my family on the more clinical side of the hospital, but the actual process of getting help with mental health support took months, and this is where they falter.

Who’s fault? Well, when there’s no money to call upon, you can only look to an inconsiderate government to blame – but that’s a discussion for elsewhere.

CBT is not a miracle cure, nor should it be prescribed to every single person. It douses fires, but doesn’t extinguish the crackling underneath. I also, however, think it’s worth noting that, ultimately, even with endless amounts of counselling, CBT and so on, it’s down to me. It’s down to us. It’s down to you. You are the only person who can take steps and be honest with yourself. Scary, right? Absolutely. But the view as you climb the summit only gets more and more stunning.

I couldn’t agree more, and it’s having this outward approach and motivation that can be so hard to keep through recovery.

Did you find, being male, prevented you seeking help or admitting that you had a mental health disorder? Or subject you to any greater discrimination or stigma?

Being male did initially stop me, yes. However, this is only down to my own misconception of what it is to be a man. My advice there is this: you’re a man, sure. I realise you’ve got something dangling down there, but you’re a human first and foremost. Focus on that – if you need help, just flipping take it. It’s there, so look for it and use it.

Stigma? None. Discrimination? None. Once you do it and talk to the right people, you’ll see that everyone that matters will kind of get it.

What were the factors that helped the most in your recovery?

It’s great to talk about mental health problems, because it’s part of a process that allows you to recognise what you need to work on – then it’s all down to you. Depending on myself more and more is an amazing feeling.

What were the things that weren’t so helpful and how did you overcome/avoid these (if any)?

The thing that didn’t help me was having conversations with people that weren’t taking me anywhere, and I had to learn that whilst speaking to people is good, not everyone is worth speaking to. Whether it’s parents, close friends or even your counsellor (and if the latter is true, ask for a new one), you need to make sure that you’re going away from conversations with something clear to work on, a positive step of some sort when you open your heart up.

How has your experience shaped who you are today? Has it changed how you view mental health issues?

Please don’t think I’ve made it. I’m not always happy, but you’ll get a far more solid base if you start to look for what you’re missing from life and focusing on that.

A solid base? Hippy shit, right? When you get it and it’s there, you’ll feel it and know it. I’ve gone straight for the cliché and started learning about Buddhism, Taoism to be precise, I started writing and designing again, and I feel great at the very least while writing this.

I started assessing my beliefs and knowledge (noticing the differences between the two) about questions such as; What happens when you die? What do I really want from a relationship? Do I really hate my job, or am I just approaching it wrong? And when I’ve answered them, being honest enough to look back and realise when my answers reflect what I think I should say rather than my true self. It takes time; it’ll come, and be kind to yourself.

And mental health? You should be training it as much as you do your squats (which should also be a lot, ladies and gents). The School of Life is a fantastic resource, and read read read – let your mind escape from time to time.


 Dan is a deep, creative and insightful thinker and writer and I have no doubt that he will continue to inspire many through his talents of design, writing and humour.

I truly believe that his last point relating to finding your ‘solid base’ is crucial to having a sound mind. Practicing self-love is a daily exercise, and requires mental and emotional effort. There are many resources you can find online, and through mental health services to help with this, and I personally think it’s integral to everyone self-esteem and confidence.

I hope you have found Dans account inspiring and insightful. Through sharing stories and reflecting on each others journeys I believe it will empower those to keep moving forward in their own recoveries.

Do get in touch if you have a journey you’d like to share!

Anorexia through her eyes…

This, very honest, account was given to me by a dear friend, who I had the pleasure of meeting (albeit through unfortunate circumstances) in 2009. Following our brief meeting a friendship blossomed.  Although our lives moved in different directions I tried to stand by the sidelines, aiming to be a constant supporter and encouragement through her ups and downs fighting her illness – and she did the same for me.

Everyone’s journey and experience of an eating disorder is different…This is her account of how her anorexia led to a very serious and shocking wake up call to the dangerous, destructive and deceiving power it was exuding in her life.

This is anorexia, through her eyes…

“I spent years living with the ‘safety’ that anorexia offered me; the rules and rituals that gave me control, the care from others and the drive I feared I would lack without it in my life. Yet at the same time I was living in danger.

On one occasion after an overly active day and too little fuel for my body to cope, I collapsed in the night causing a brain bleed and two broken bones in my arm.

Even when I was in A&E after my fall and saw numerous specialists and GPs, not once was it picked up on that my weight or diet might have been the cause of the problem. I remained oblivious to the danger I was in and consequently deteriorated over the months following my fall before receiving the help that I so desperately needed.

It is worrying that the Medical Profession in general does not seem to have a great deal of ability to detect the early warning signs of individuals who are at risk. The fact that no-one mentioned to me that my fall might have been linked to an Eating Disorder simply fed into my delusion that I didn’t have a problem, after all, the Doctors hadn’t said so. Although I may not have been in the frame of mind to accept that I was on a slippery slope towards full relapse at the time of my fall, I’d like to think that had a Doctor suggested this to me, I may have at least contemplated the idea.

Anorexia has a sly way of making you believe you are invincible, like nothing can stop you. Until something does and the reality comes crashing into your life; like a tsunami wave. Sometimes it takes a ‘crisis’ before you can allow yourself to consider that you are struggling: something to open your eyes to the trauma that your body is going through. But it shouldn’t have to. It has been shown that early detection is key to achieving full recovery, yet it seems that GPs generally are not equipped to do so. Charities, such as B-EAT, work hard to improve knowledge amongst the health service, but unfortunately there is still a long way to go. Early detection would enable costs to be cut to the health services and less admissions to lengthy inpatient and day patient services.

Admitting that you or someone you know may have an eating disorder and seeking help, particularly at the early stages is not a failure, in fact it is probably the, most courageous decision that can be made.  However, it is not easy to admit your struggles and even less so to face them head on. For me, it was a case of accepting that although it was not my fault I became unwell, it is my responsibility to fight the illness.

The fear of change was incredibly daunting, however, over time the fear of staying the same; trapped in the tight grasp of anorexia, actually became greater. Anorexia is the enemy. Over time, I started to believe that I actually had the power to overcome it. The anxiety I experienced when I chose to make a stand against my anorexic fears at first was agonising. Perseverance was key and although sitting with uncomfortable emotions is highly unpleasant, now, my anxiety levels are lower than ever. I have not had to fight alone, but I have had to fight with all my strength. It has been hard work, but it is proving to be worth it. 

Just over a year after my fall, I am pleased to report that I am now weight restored and can appreciate that the way I have been living for several years was extremely dangerous. I never want to go back to how things were and I am discovering that full recovery is not only possible, but also possibly the most empowering experience you can imagine.”

Now in full time employment and back riding her beautiful horses, she is another of my #ConquerED inspirations, and I have faith that she will keep going from strength to strength in all areas of her life.

It has been a pleasure to watch this young lady, and dear friend of mine, turn a corner and fight onwards. Step by step rebuilding, redefining and rediscovering herself as she continues on her recovery journey.

winnie-piglet
“If there ever comes a day we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever” – Winnie the Pooh

 


If this story, or any of the content on this website, has caused you to be concerned about yourself, a friend, family  or co-worker, please follow one of the links to one of the websites below…

B-eat

Mind

Anorexia and Bulimia Care (ABC)

 

 

BBC 2 Victoria Derbyshire Show: The BMI Debate

Since when did my BMI determine my right to treatment?

VD

I was honoured to be invited onto the BBC 2 Victoria Derbyshire show to speak about a topic very close to my heart, and one which I am passionate about: Mental Health and access to treatment.

Recovery is a process that is long, and its journey cannot be completed alone. Treatment is an important step in anyones journey, whether that is recovering from depression, a broken leg or cancer.

Doctors, nurses, dieticians, psychiatrists…and many more, will all come into play.
Therapists and counsellors play a pinnacle role in helping recovery from many of the underlying psychological problems associated with eating disorders and mental health illness, and also help unite all members of the wider family together to optimise the recovery environment for the individual.
When recovery proves too hard, or the physical state of the individual poses serious risk to their health, and the wellbeing of the wider family, then inpatient treatments are also available….or not so it would seem.

With such fantastic services available the door to access them can be hard. Worse, can even promote deterioration rather than promote health.

On this episode of BBC 2 Vicotria Derbyshire show, I shared one of my experiences trying to access treatment as an adult (18+), and actually being denied help because my BMI was apparently not “low enough” although I was way below the average healthy weight, with difficulty breathing at night, and bed sores from protruding bones.


Eating Disorders are a mental health illness with physical symptoms, so when did BMI become an appropriate measure of my mental state and its manifesting behaviours?

As it stands, the very inaccurate form of measurement ‘Body Mass Index’ (BMI) is still used in the assessment criteria and access to treatments for many suffering with disordered eating.
Body Mass Index is a measure of standardised body weight that accounts for age, gender, height and weight. It is used to determine whether someone is healthy or unhealthy for their age and gender. However, it’s inaccuracies lie in the fact it has no reflection of where that weight is coming from (body fat/muscle mass), so many rugby players or bodybuilders are deemed ‘overweight’ by BMI although at peak physical fitness. This is important as it’s body fat that has the highest link with disease, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, and not weight per-say.


When can using weight in the treatment of disordered eating be useful?

To fully heal something you need to understand it. Focusing on the weight restoration is the quick fix solution outlined by the medical model of recovery. Just like if you break an arm you wear a cast, or you have the flu so you rest in bed with antibiotics. If you look malnourished then it’s common sense to just re-feed them yes?
It is understandable, logical and fixable.

In mental health treatment there is so much grey area for what works best and for who and how long. It incorporates medical systems, family, friends, the society and individual environments to maintain and optimise health outcomes.

Do not get me wrong re-feeding is an important part of recovery. Low weight and starvation causes imbalances in hormones and brain functioning; further impacting impacts mood, thinking, anxiety levels etc…
It is necessary to correct these in order for therapy to be successful, and in some cases beginning therapy at a low weight will just have no use, because the individual will not be able to process the sessions or be fully present in them. BMI is often used as a measure to when a patient can begin gentle exercise without putting pressures on the heart, and damaging bone density.


The issue of weight in eating disorders

There are many different eating disorders, and the list is growing now, thought to coincide with the increase in social media diet trends such as “clean-eating”, “paleo”, “keto”, and the Westernised obsession with thinness, often associated with success and the beauty ideal.

Food is used as a form of communication, celebration, punishment and many other non-physiological uses that surpass the need to refuel, nourish and help our bodies perform.

The behaviours engaged in by disordered eaters (weight loss, exercise obsession; restriction etc…) are form of communication to the world that something is not right. It realityofEDvaries person to person why the the control of food and weight has manifested.

It can be a way to communicate feelings of self-doubt, self punishment, anxiety. Or to suppress difficult emotions or trauma that have left the individual feeling out of control.

It can take courage and bravery to step forward and admit there is a problem. The control and restriction is a blanket of comfort. Many fear losing it as it’s their way of getting through each day, and managing difficult thoughts and emotions.

Whilst weight loss is often achieved and maintained below the healthy level in anorexia, the diagnostic criteria varies hugely for various sub-types of anorexia, and is completely different for diagnosis of bulimia, binge eating disorder or orthorexia.
Each distinguishable by its behaviours and not the individuals weight.

They are all complex and multifaceted illness that cannot be constrained or measured by the weight or BMI of an individual.
Rather, a holistic approach needs to be given to the individual. Research points towards early intervention as giving the best prognosis, so it seems completely contradictory to leave it until he critical stages of physical and mental health to intervene.
A waste of money on the research if it’s not even going to be implemented in practice.

Your health should not, and is not, dependent on a number. Neither should your mental health be measured and confined to fit a stereotypical and superficial constraint.


When trying to rehabilitate someone who is so obsessed and controlled by numbers, that their whole world of self-worth revolves them, that they aren’t worthy of treatment simply reinforces everything they believe about themselves.
Whilst also demeaning the hard work it has taken for them to realise there is a problem that needs addressing.


  Why rejection based on weight be so damaging for eating disorders

Rejection from treatment increases self doubt, feelings of unworthiness, and can lead to more extreme dieting and restriction techniques. You have reinforced their anorexia saying they’re too “big”, and ignored their cry for help for the world of pain the eating disorder is causing.
Behaviours can reach a point where they are so reliant on them it is a compulsive obsession, and the longer the person is left the more risk they are in for further health complications, and at worst, death.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health illness and this is commonly due to suicide. 

Furthermore, abandonment by services when a “goal weight” has been reached has equally poor outcomes for the patient. The surface problem has been mended but you’ve left the inside still broken.  

For me, this just reflects a lack of training in the general practitioners and health care professionals in the area of mental health and treatment of eating disorders.


What’s it like to have anorexia and be a “normal weight”?

This is a picture of me in summer 2009, just after being discharged from my first inpatient unit where I’d received [very good] treatment [albeit not great therapy] Menorca'09 038for 8 months.
When I was discharged I was left without any help from CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) and although I look so happy and confident, on the inside I remember being so anxious, and had all the faulty thoughts of my anorexia whirling like a storm in my head that holiday.
I remember standing there hating every inch of my body in that photo. I was so unrestful, and unrelaxed on our lovely family holiday. I wanted to eat, to relax and enjoy myself but I just couldn’t hear my own thoughts in the whirlwind of my eating disorder.

The underlying psychological illness that remained was still destroying my life, and the lives of my family.

I was left vulnerable to relapse, with no understanding of how to cope and continue challenging my faulty thoughts and engrained coping mechanisms.
By the end of the summer I was back in another inpatient unit somewhere new. Somewhere far from home.

Having anorexia and having a normal body weight was hard work, and mentally tiring – no one realises you’re ill, no one thinks you need help, and you are more likely to be accused of attention seeking and not taken seriously.

It seemed so counterproductive for the NHS to spend SO much money on inpatient beds (we are talking 1000s of pounds) for them to touch on such a superficial part of recovery. The weight and food.


In Conclusion

The BMI debate continues…

Many are left denied treatment based on a number. But hopefully this post has opened your eyes to how unreliable that number is, and what a poor reflection it is of someones mental wellbeing.

Being denied access to treatment on the basis of BMI is a dangerous, and damaging, experience that can cause greater pain and suffering for all involved, as well as causing a greater expense to the NHS further down the line when more critical intervention is needed.

We need to deepen our understanding of mental health illnesses, and implement the research into medical practice that suggests early intervention has the best prognosis. This prevents individuals deteriorating to such as a critical stage, and can help save the health care system money in the long term.

BMI is a faulty key preventing many from opening the doors they need to health and freedom, and is an inaccurate portrayal of someones mental wellbeing.


I hope this has been insightful and thought provoking. Please do contact me or leave a comment if you have any more interest in this topic, or your own experiences to share. I am happy to say I am fully recovered and have been for many years now.
So have hope.

scales