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.
Often we find it hard to stop.
We are great at offering self-care and wellbeing advice to others but risk burnout and stress, ourselves.
Sounds silly but for many of us just ‘chilling out’ can be really hard.
It’s something I hate doing, and so I realised it is a challenge I needed to face.
In this post I share my top tips for how to switch off without feeling bad about it!
Go slip on those snuggly PJs, grab a cuppa biscuit, and enjoy todays post.
The alarm goes 6:30am and from then on I am constantly doing, and constantly thinking. My mind is a buzz of productivity and creativity, and my body a buzz of activity; bustling around, numerous jobs, activities, studies and commutes.
At the end of my day I love nothing more than to feel I have achieved. You know what it’s like to have that deep satisfaction of ticking all the boxes on the ‘to do’ list; so great. Only then am I allowed to snuggle up on the couch to watch an episode of Bake Off or Blue Planet. However, more often than not ten minutes in and I end up once again with my laptop out, work head on, feeling “guilty” for taking time off.
Sounds silly, but for many of us just ‘chilling out’ can be really hard.
It’s something I hate doing so I realised it as a challenge I needed to face, and I know I’m not the only one!
What happens after a while? Burnout. The stress headaches begin. The anxiety creeps in. Sleeping becomes disrupted. Guilt and Perfectionism? …lets not even open that can of worms. I feel rubbish, achey, and begin picking up every illness under the sun.
Basically, my body is telling me “whoa slow down and chill”, but my mind is telling me “you ought to be doing something productive”.
Can You Empathise?
Often we find it hard to stop. Many of us are often great at offering self-care advice to others, then ignore the signs of burnout and stress in our own lives. Recently I decided enough was enough. I needed to listen to my body, to take care of myself and relax.
The idea from going from always “doing” to learning how to just “be” made me kinda nervous, I felt bad, and at first I found it hard. But as the weekend unravelled, the effects on both my body and mind were unsurprisingly awesome.
Top Tips To Swicthing Off
Split your “to-do” list into “ought to do” and “want to do”: This was actually a tip from my old man, who told me to re-structure my to-do list into things I “want” to do and “ought” to do.The want to do list is what you find important, what you feel you’re missing out on that you want to do more off, these things will motivate you, bring a smile to your face and give you peace of mind.
Be honest with yourself and you’ll be surprised when you listen to your body and hear what its telling you it wants to do…it may not want to go to the gym today ya’ know.
Don’t be afraid to take time off! Not books. No emails. No researching. These will get done but are placed int he ought to do column for when feeling more refreshed. You’ll find coming back more relaxed and rested you’ll have more motivation and energy, so productivity in the long term is greater!!
Go Exploring: Autumn is my favourite season, but I felt I was missing out on all the fantastic smells, colours and walks that I love at this time of year! I spent a weekend exploring some of my favourite countryside getaways. This cleared my mind and eased the tension headaches. My body appreciated the gentle movement, and I was able to spend time with close friends and feel, for once, a little more relaxed.
Don’t be so hard on yourself! If you begin to feel guilty about taking time off for you challenge those thoughts and remind yourself that you are hard-working and deserve some down time. Often this is because we are perfectionists and believe we need to constantly be bettering ourselves and making advances in work, relationships, studies..
Try talking to yourself like you were your best mate. Hopefully you’d never tell them to continuously push themselves into overworking without recuperation, so why put these harsh expectations on yourself?
Get earlier nights: Sleep is SO important. Your body heals faster when you sleep, and cortisol levels (the stress hormone) decrease allowing your body to deeply relax.
If you find it hard to sleep then try going into bed a bit earlier, have a relaxing bedtime routine with limited use of blue light from TV and electronics. Things I love are a good book, scented candles and having a hot water bottle so I can get seriously snuggly. If you can’t sleep after 40mins I’d have a break from bed; get up, make a herbal tea, stretch, and then go back and try again.
Wine is Always a Good Idea… Whilst I will not advocate downing bottle upon bottle of wine, and vast quantities of chocolate, a nice glass of red I find soothes the soul, and relaxes my mind…and what’s wine without the cheeseboard or chocolate ‘ey?
There’s even been recent research (published by Nature) suggesting that a glass (or two…) of red wine may lower perceived stress and increase longevity.
[How great is research like that?! I’ll happily be a volunteer.Winning] Whatever your choice of tipple, be it a hot choccie, or gentle camomile and honey, make space for that little something calming and comforting.
Don’t Take Life So Seriously:
The most important self-care tip! We live in a culture of work-a-holics. But seriously chill, there is time! You don’t have to have everything sorted out, or be productive every second of every day. Do stuff just because it’s fun, silly, stupid or new! Spend time making memories with friends, do the things you love, with the people you love in the places you love. You’ll find doing things that make you smile and laugh more take your focus off the stressors and give a healthy perspective on life.
Myself and Frank the Pink Flamingo
Just hanging around
I hope this post has helped you think about the things you feel you really “want” versus “ought” to do, and how to incorporate some real rest and relaxation time into your busy-body weeks!
If you have any other tips and tricks post them in the comments below!
Remember: Rest and relaxation is integral to our mental health and wellbeing. So In the long term will make us more productive and happier.
Be sure to check out my other blogs and click follow for weekly posts!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!
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.
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 toleave that diet-trash talk out of the picture for their sake as well as yours.
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.
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.
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.
If you liked this post please don’t forget to leave a comment, follow the blog and my social media tags!
“Without ambition we would have no progress, no inventions, no innovation and no change“
Ambition is the focus of this post, because it sums up how I’ve got to where I am now; my degree, setting up this site, being published, running fundraising events, being involved in many local, and national campaigns.
Alarm bells go off whenever I meet someone who has no ambitions in life. You have this one amazing world to explore, this life that you can build and do so much with, and yet they have no dream, no challenge, no passion they want to chase.
Maybe you don’t know what it is you want to do yet, and you’re stuck with this conflict of knowing you’re not happy where you are now but you can’t pin point where you want to be?
The thing is, without ambition we have no growth. No change. We remain stuck believing we can amount to no more, maybe that we don’t deserve better, or held back by fear and apprehension that we will fail.
So we just don’t try at all.
Whatever your situation; if you’ve hit a plateau in your life, be it health, work or relationship related, this post aims to outline some key points to help you make changes and reflect on where it is you actually want to be when you look forward to your future.
What is Ambition?
“Ambition; the desire and determination to achieve a goal”
Ambition is the fuel we need for action.
It’s that’s craving you get to achieve something that feels a bit bigger, a bit riskier. The yearning for more.
The desire to achieve a bit more, to try something new, and something unknown.
Without ambition we lack direction.
Our ambitions change as we grow. They contain smaller stepping stones along the way to building the bigger picture. Therefore we can look at ambition as being this disjointed journey, a chain reaction of events, that aid you moving forward.
Personal Reflection: In 2012 I self-discharged from an adult inpatient ward in London. I was scared and fearful of change. I didn’t know where I was headed, and having already dropped out of one university degree I was doubting my ability to bounce back and amount to anything. I had all these dreams and goals (I even made a motivational scrap book of them, but that’s another post…).
I was stuck in a cycle of frustration, held back by fear, preventing me making any moves forward.
I have always wanted to achieve a lot. Live an extraordinary life. Meet people, travel places and build a bright future for myself.
Having a thirst for life and a vision in mind, was the ammunition that fuelled my recovery, because when all my anorexia wanted was for me to vanish, I was craving a wild existence.
This meant change needed to happen: facing my dreaded fear of changing and breaking the routine safe cycles I had found to cope.
Creating Your Goals
“Ambition is the desire to make the most of your potential, to achieve something special, which would make a profound difference to your life, and the life of others”
Whether your goal is to run a 10km for charity next year, write your first book, go for that job promotion, begin a new treatment programme, up-sticks and move to a new country, change is inevitable.
Our dreams and visions, however big or small, often seem out of reach, and we can lack knowledge of what we want and need in order to get us there.
Begin by looking at what you’ve got now. Make a list of what you’re happiest with; the people, places, routines, hobbies, are you a morning person? do you love reading? do you love learning? Things that sum up being you and give you that “buzz” of excitement; these are the things that will drive you forward.
Then make a list of what is unsettling you: Be specific with your lists so you pin-point the exact things that are causing you conflict, the barriers that are in your way, things that need to be changed in order for you to reach your goals.
Whatdo you need? Do you need to do a course, or gain a qualification, maybe you just need to sit down with someone who has experience in that area. Resources may be external or internal, so don’t neglect your wider social and personal networks.
Who do you need? Are there people who will support you with your goal, who have ideas or expertise?
Creating your goal: Bringing it all together Building your ambition is a creative process, through which you’ll begin to realise your potential to manage and achieve more.
Once you’ve taken the time to look at the here and now and suss out the parts you want to build on, the things that really spark that buzz of passion into you, and those which don’t, begin to get creative with visualisation (write it down, mind-map, draw it out, scrap book it…whatever!).
I have a massive white board I destroy with marker pens, just scribbling any old (odd?) idea and goal down, planning the ins-and-outs of it so that the board is filled and I feel slightly overwhelmed, but stupidly excited about the end result.
Spend time visualising what you look like in a year or two’s time; where you want to be; what you want to be doing.
Be specific (or SMART) with it.
Where are you living?
What are you doing in your spare time?
What are your Hobbies/Interests?
Who’s included your friendship circles?
What work are you involved with? Voluntary/Personal/Paid/Self-employed?
Write out, or visualise, a day in the life of you then and compare it to now.
Your goals should make you feel slightly uncomfortable. But you will have smaller, easier stepping stones along the way to get to the end picture, but be risky, because it’s through pushing the boundaries that we begin to see our potential unfold.This builds our self-esteem, it ignites new passions and creativity and before you know it a chain reaction is set off. Remember it is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
Top 4 Tips To Sum Up
Once you embark on the mission, you realise that it’s not this steady journey, it becomes a 007 mission, filled with plot twists. Remember, it will require hard work and perseverance in the face of set backs.
1. Be Focused. Have a focused goal for what you want. Consider the steps you need to get to the end point. Know what you want it to look like – I used to use my big whiteboard and mind map loads of ideas and visions for projects, events, art projects, fundraising events etc…
2.Be ready to compromise.
Embrace change. If you’re working in a team you may have a focused idea but you need to accept that not everyone will have the same passion for the ideas and steps you see to get there. So be open minded.
3. Make it achievable. This may sound daft, and you’re probably thinking – Joss, this is common sense, why on earth would I have a goal I cannot achieve. Well…have you seen some of the XFactor auditions?!
Sometimes you need to find a compromise between fantasy and reality.
Make your goal realistically achievable by breaking it into smaller steps you need to take to make the goal a reality. e.g Going on the X Factor auditions but in two years time after doing singing lessons and getting feedback from open-mic nights.
An additional helping hand:
Put a time scale on it.
Pin-point the resources you need.
Who are the people around you that will support you towards your goals? Make sure you surround yourself with positive energy, and that you’re not bogged down with negativity and doubts? ..you may need to let some people go…
4. Make your ambitions BIG and personal to you:
When I say ‘life changing’ I bet you think I mean big, dramatic, heroic …well deciding to not to watch so much T.V but instead start writing that autobiographical book you’ve always wanted to do can be life changing – it involves a change to your lifestyle as it is now, and the personal aspect will give you that drive to continue with it as it grows. …who knows, maybe one day my dream of doing a half triathlon will happen...
A personal reflection to offer some insight; I never thought I could do aTough Mudder– I was ambitious and put myself out there for a new experience with one of my best mates by my side. The whole fundraising and training process changed me in ways I had never imagined. I learnt more about how to properly fuel my body, training became for strength and performance instead of compensating for calories. I was able to speak out about mental health for the charity I was fundraising for, and this sparked smaller goals along the way: larger fundraising targets, using the local press to raise awareness, speaking at events, and start this site…a bunch of stuff I just would have never attempted before. A chain reaction of achievements that ignited self belief.
Remember:We all build up our own walls, making excuses for why we can’t do something or change situations.
Three years ago my goals were vague, small and simplistic; held back by a lack of self belief and self confidence. Today my goals are bigger and bolder because I have learnt that the value in taking risks and making changes that rebuild my identity and leave me fulfilled daily.
I hope this post has given you some useful tools to help you realise that no goal is impossible, ambition is crucial to growth, and how to now be curious as to what you are capable at achieving.
In response to the #MeToo campaign, why it’s so important to take a stand and not be afraid to speak out about the suffering behind seemingly smiling eyes. I touch on my own experience and my hopes for this movement helping both the victims and perpetrators involved in such sex crimes.
A campaign that predated social media, set up in 2007 by Tarana Burke who up a non-profit organisation aiming to provide the resources and support for victims of sexual assault and harassment, and committed her time and energy to be with those who had experienced abuse.
Now, in response to the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein, the social media movement #MeToo has resurfaced.
Retweeted earlier this month by actress, and producer, Alyssa Milano, the responses to movement highlights how common these problems are, and just how many have suffered (or are suffering…) as a result of sexual misconduct.
The response; devastating and heartbreaking.
12 million posts in the first 24 hours – CBS News
All stories, from minor assaults, to full on abusive disclosures, are harrowing. Hard to read, but equally harder to experience.
#MeToo gives women everywhere an opportunity to speak up and break the social taboos that prefer to sweep such suffering under the carpet, when really the response has highlighted the phenomenal rate in which these misconducts are being experienced.
#MeToo is integral for the future protection and safeguarding of young people in society. Since statistics show that around 1 in 10 young people will experienced sexual abuse or assault by their 18th Birthday, making child sexual abuse the most prevalent health care problem with devastating consequences to later physical, emotional and social development.
Feelings of blame. Isolation. Self-hate. Confusion. Problems with body-image Anxiety
Such experiences of sexual assault an abuse lead to many developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and disordered eating, that can turn into chronic and distressing mental health disorders.
Whilst victims should not be made to relive their experiences, it has given many the freedom, and voice, to stand with thousands of other women, without shame or disgrace, and shout out that any form of sexually oppressive behaviour is not acceptable, and demands change.
Whilst I will not let myself relive this episode of my life, I want to take this opportunity to stand with those women who have bravely spoken out. Formally acknowledging the wrong that was done to me I hope will encourage others not to keep their grief and suffering hidden behind smiling eyes as I once did
I can empathise with the feelings of confusion and self-doubt many have posted about, as for years I buried a series of persisting sexual assaults that desecrated 5 years of my childhood, and later robbed me of my teen years.
38% of children never report sexual abuse or assault. Many never say anything.
So why you ask didn’t I speak up?
I was certain the whole thing was my fault. Confused about it all.
I felt I was the burden on the family, the one with all the issues who it’d be better of without, so I just won’t say a thing… and being such a young age I did not have the capacity, or vocabulary, to fully understand or portray, the situation; not even to myself.
All I knew was that I felt unclean. Tainted. Unworthy of love and affection. I hated my body.
So I remained silenced, petrified that should my family ever find out they would think I was disgusting, or that they wouldn’t believe me, and maybe they would disown me.
I silenced it from everyone, and even tried to bury it forever through silencing myself through years of disordered eating, body image issues, low-self esteem, and one failed suicide attempt.
Many years later I sat in a therapy session in a Psychiatric Hospital where I was being treated for anorexia nervosa. It was there I finally allowed myself to look back and connect with this experience. Head in hands and uncontrollable floods of tears followed. I was crying for the four year old inside of me; looking back on her and finally welcoming her as part of me instead of locking her out with blame. I wanted nothing more than to hold and comfort her brokenness.
Although investigations and trials were carried out the case was closed due to old legislation, and a crafty solicitor on the defendant’s side.
I never got the closure I deserved, nor the acknowledgement from an apology I so longed for.
But now I see just how weak he really is. Weak for not having the balls to when the time came to it taking responsibility for the suffering he caused, not only to myself but also my family.
It makes me strong. Strong for breaking out of that suppressed state where I felt powerless, and deciding that his past actions will not dictate my present happiness or health!
I have now overcome my eating disorder, in fact most the time I love being in my own skin. Most importantly I finally look at myself with worth, respect and sheer joy for being where I am today. Every day is a blessing, and I intend to make everything I do in life a blessing to follow this.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, it is #MyHope that the #MeToo enables girls and women everywhere no longer live in fear, confusion, or with the notion that this behaviour is acceptable, neither are they deserving of it.
#MyHope is that they can be proud that they are survivors, and feel supported and united – whether they choose to publicly say anything, or privately follow the campaign with newfound hope in their hearts.
We all have a responsibility to take a stand, and raise awareness about these issues. To realise that we can’t allow people to grow up believing that sexual misconduct, harassment, assaults and abuse, are to be expected norms of treatment in any relationship.
I would also like to commend the men who have responded to such posts with #IHave and #HowIWillChange, as this is an equally brave movement, for sometimes the power of remorse, acknowledgement and a desire to change, is all that’s needed to amend the mess.
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 nota 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 shameand 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
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:
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.
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/writingare 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.
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.
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.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself!! Disordered eatingdoes 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.
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 problemsif 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 reallyquestioning 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
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
Hello, 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:
Don’t waste energy on blaming yourself, anyone or anything else – you’ll need all your energy to preserve your sanity!
Maintain positive intent – in order words you have absolute conviction that they will recover.
Realise you can’t make them better – the only one that can is them!
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.
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.
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.
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:
Staying calm (as possible)
Having a life yourself, which means going out for dinner with friends/partner – yes if it is at a mealtime!
Don’t add stress by going on holiday together – if you need a break take one on your own or with just your partner
Establish boundaries & stick to them even though they are very ill individuals
Drink red wine – it can soften the pain & get you through the next meal!
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!
Recognise the excruciating fight going on in their brains – its exhausting for them.
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.
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: