Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015: Opening Up

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This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week (Feb 23rd – Sun 1st Mar) and a very important week to raise more awareness. I want to write about something that I have been recently doing and which has been helping me a lot. Opening up to people about my illness.

It is a sensitive thing to talk about with people. People are ashamed of it. However, the power of talking about it is quite amazing and it is something I have not realised until recently.

Telling someone that you struggle with food can be embarrassing but, if they are a decent person, they will listen and won’t judge. For me, telling someone is a relief. It means, I don’t have to feel all alone in this. It also means the person you tell can support you through this.

A lot of people with eating disorders feel like they need ‘permission’ to eat, which is exactly how I feel. When some reassures me that it is okay and nothing bad is going to happen if I eat that particular meal, then I feel encouraged and try. Recovery is a long process but with the encouragement and support of others, I have realised it can be such a weight off your shoulder.

So if you are struggling with anorexia, bulimia or even binge eating disorder, try and open up to just one person about this and see how you feel. Honestly, it can change your mindset quite dramatically, regarding food and guilt.

You are all stronger than your eating disorder. Keep fighting.

For more help and advice, go to Beat. 

Reasons To Recover From Your Eating Disorder

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When you have an eating disorder, it is very easy to forget about the good things that being well can give you. I always seem to forget about it because I get so consumed by the voice of the disorder, so I think it is time to remind myself and others why to get better. These are some of my reasons why you should recover from your eating disorder.

  • To have more energy
  • To smile and actually mean it
  • To be able to eat whatever you truly want, enjoy it and most of all keep it in and not feel guilty
  • Your hair will not fall out (and we all know how awful that is when it happens)
  • To  not feel cold all the time
  • To be able to enjoy being with family and friends
  • To become more social
  • To wake up in the morning and not feel disappointed  about it – to actually feel excited for the day ahead
  • You do not have to spend most of your day stuck in a hospital
  • To be able to concentrate in school, college or university more and thus get better grades
  • To be able to get a job and have the energy to work and earn your own money
  • To  be able to take driving lessons and finally drive (which is a big reason for me)
  • Calories, fat and the scale will not rule your life anymore
  • To feel more free as opposed to feeling like you are in prison with your eating disorder
  • To allow yourself to be happy, get married and start a family
  • To be able to open up to people and distract yourself in a healthy way rather than destructive ways when you are stressed or upset
  • To  be able to go clothes shopping without worrying about sizes
  • To be able to trust people

Ramadan and Eating Disorders

The blessed month of Ramadan is upon us once again and for those of us with eating disorders, it can be somewhat of a triggering and a stressful time. If you are in recovery or in treatment and are still physically unable to fast due to health concerns, then you should not be fasting, which is the case for me this year. You need to be able to fast with a healthy body and a healthy mind. There is no point if you do not have those two important things.

In Islam, you are excused from fasting during this month because you are sick and instead, you give Fidya (charity) which is paying for someone else such as the poor to be fed. However, the eating disorder could be so strong that you could be faced with a dilemma leaving you to choose between God and your eating disorder.

It does not help that Ramadan is still all about food. Food seems to be everywhere. Iftar preparations fills the whole day and everyone talks about what they are going to eat for Iftar. It can really mess with a disordered persons mind.

An eating disorder is a mental illness that the individual cannot control without the right help and it can certainly be worsened by fasting. The point of Ramadan is to bring someone closer to God, however if you have an eating disorder, it could get stronger during Ramadan and it turns into a battle in your head.

During this time, you need to be focused on what is good for you. Distraction techniques is a useful tool to prevent any destructive behaviours during this time. I find that writing down all my feelings helps. Praying should also be a massive thing during this month. Your recovery is the most important thing. Have an intention in your head to be healthy for next year’s Ramadan so you can fast for the real purpose.

You could be unsure about recovery and still in the grips of your eating disorder and if that is you then be sure to reach out for help as soon as possible. Alternatively, talk to a religious leader. Without health, nothing is possible.

This article was published on the UK’s eating disorder charity Beat website. – http://www.b-eat.co.uk/get-help/online-community/beat-blog/ramadan-and-eating-disorders/

Should Mental Health Lessons Be Taught In Schools?

There are calls for young people to be taught about mental health in schools as part of the national curriculum after a study revealed today that one in three children in Britain have contemplated suicide by the age of 16.

The reason for this is a lack of education surrounding mental health as many young people go without help and therefore struggle to cope. There are issues in schools that young people face everyday such as bullying and schools often do not take into consideration the result of bullying and how severely it can effect a person, espcially when they at an age where they are trying to find their own identify. They could resort to self harm, eating disorders and have low self-esteem.

There could be a shy and quiet pupil in a classroom and perhaps they are naturally shy but it could be more to it than that. That person could be depressed and suicidal because he or she is being bullied and does not know where or who to turn to. If that person was taught about mental health in school, then they could at least know that they could have a problem and know where to go for help.

There is still a stigma attached to having a mental health problem and people are still quite weary of even talking about it.

Having been through my school years but not once was I ever taught about depression or anxiety disorders or even eating disorders. I do believe if I was taught about those issues, maybe I could have handled them well and perhaps know what to do and feel less alone.

Early intervention is key to any illness and a mental disorder is something like cancer. If it is not treated early, then it will grow and grow and keep on growing until it eventually gets worse.

I strongly believe lessons on mental health will benefit young people in a positive way. However, mental illness is not a choice so having lessons on mental health will not prevent them developing a problem but they will get to understand it and break the stigma attached to it. They will talk about it and know who to go to for help if they unfortunately develop one. Schools need to start preparing students for real life and real problems because frankly that is where the problem lies – there is lack of education out there.

Starving, Binging and Purging: The Vicious Cycle

In eating disorders, we starve and restrict our food intake because it makes us feel ‘in control’ however, denying ourselves the foods we love makes us crave it even more, which can lead to binge eating.

A binge could be in one sitting, or even the whole day where you will continually eat and eat and eat throughout the hours. Then, you will feel absolutely disgusted with yourself and realise how you ‘ruined’ all your hard work that you put into starving. You sit there in excruciation and feel incredibly suicidal. You feel you cannot keep the food in any longer, so you purge – either you throw it all up, take laxatives, diuretics and diet pills or exercise heavily to feel empty again. To feel better and less guilty about the fact that you just ate food. A great amount of food. You then promise yourself it will be the last time you do it, but unfortunately, this counts as an addiction. It is a horrible, horrible cycle. You do not want to do it, but the guilt drives you to it.

In order to not binge, is to not starve in the first place, therefore you will not feel like you need to purge when you do eat. The reason why we feel like binging is because our body is so malnourished. It is so starved and it is craving food. Your body needs it. It is actually a sign telling you that you are unwell and that you need food.

But, how do you make yourself not want to starve? When you are in the grips of an eating disorder, your mind is so distorted and you feel ‘in control’ when you do starve but you are actually far from in control because the eating disorder is controlling you instead. Your mind is no longer the mind you once had. You can only get that logical mind back with intense treatment. You need to be re-educated about food and nutrition and learn how your body works.

You will need to get into a constructive eating plan, with the right amount of calories and eating at a set time. It may be hard at first but if you really want to get better and put effort into your meal plan then your body will get used to it. This destructive cycle is so hard to overcome and the more you do it, the worse you get and the harder it is to stop. Obviously, trying to stop is easier said than done, but I have seen many people who have conquered this and that in itself is inspiring.

Eating Disorder Recovery Is Not Just About Weight

For those who are recovering from eating disorders especially Anorexia, tend to think that weight is their main priority and what recovery is all about. You obsess about how many calories you should be eating, how much you should increase, what time your snack is etc… That is still  obsessing over your weight and to be honest, that is not recovery at all. You still have that eating disordered mindset. Sometimes, your treatment team do not make it any easier either because the focus is all on weight gain.

Recovery is a lot more than your body and food. Weighing yourself in recovery and thinking about how much you have eaten could trigger you and you could fall into the same cycle all over again.

However, as part of your treatment, they will have to weigh you. At the end of the day, that is their job. Seeing your weight yourself could trigger you again and thoughts of losing weight will come back to haunt you so this is where ‘blind weigh-ins’ come in. Blind weigh-ins is being weighed backwards so you do not get to see your weight which could then lower your anxiety and take the focus off of the number. If you are a person who is easily triggered by your weight, then it could be helpful to ask to be weighed backwards.

Think of recovery as a new life. It is about enjoying the little things. It is about going out and buying that amazing dress you saw. It is about watching your favourite TV show or movie and enjoying it. It is about going out with your friends, reading books and being with your family. It is about enjoying yourself and being good to yourself. It is about your dreams, your passions, your future.

Recovery is realising that there is so much more than the calories in your food or how much exercise you have done. It is so much more than what size you are. It is so much more than the number on the scale. You are not a size. You are not a number. You are a person who deserves happiness and a successful life.

It seems quite rich coming from me, however, even though I may still be struggling, there is still a glimmer of hope and excitement for me and that is down to my future goals and dreams.

Of course your body is a big part of recovery, however, use your body in a healthy non-destructive way. Do not use it to measure your self worth. Use recovery as an excuse to nourish your body. Pamper yourself. Get your hair and make-up done. Get a massage. Treat yourself. By doing that, you will be slapping your eating disorder in the face by saying ‘You are not going to ruin my life anymore!’

Making recovery just about your body and weight can send your thoughts back into that obsession of ‘thin’. You will not be recovering and instead you will be shattering all your hopes and dreams and by doing that, do double think about your future, because for me, my future is what is keeping me alive, quite literally.

Waiting Lists…

Waiting lists for treatment, for any disorder is a frustrating thing. We are dealing with a health problem here which could kill us and they put us on a waiting list, which can last for years, but for eating disorder treatment, it is even more dangerous.

An eating disorder is a dangerous illness and by being put on a waiting list, you are asking for death because you wait and wait and wait and by the time you are offered treatment, you are severely ill.

This angers me because ALL eating disorders, whatever the stage the sufferer is at, should be treated early, before it gets worse. It seems like the specialists want people to be emaciated and severely sick to get treated. It should not be like that all.

Anorexia is a very life threatening illness and to many sufferers, being on a waiting list is a recipe for disaster because to them it means they are not “anorexic enough” to get treated and which they turn into being “fat”.

Eating disorders are completely and utterly hard to detect, which is why, any sign of abnormal behaviour, I think should be treated as soon as possible, before it gets out of hand. There should not be a criteria about how you must be a certain BMI to be anorexic. Not at all.

Eating disorders should be treated just like any other health issue. It is absolutely serious and nothing is being done about it. People are dying with the illness more frequently than ever, which proves it all.

I think it is time for specialists, especially in the NHS to start taking eating disorders more seriously and actually start to feel empathic to people with eating disorders. It is about time Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt does something about waiting lists, especially in mental health services because at the moment, it is awful.

Some eating disorder sufferers may not be dying, however it is not just about physical health. Truth be told, the emotional pain inside is what is killing us the most and whether the person does not seem to be dying outside, I can guarantee you that the person is dying inside, which is why eating disorders need to be treated as soon as possible because it is a psychological problem. The physical problem is only the symptom of the illness so therefore, if it is not treated early, it gets worse.