Ramadan: Still in the grips of anorexia

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Every year when Ramadan comes around, I open up about my experience with an eating disorder. It can be such a tricky time for those of us struggling with an eating disorder. For the past seven years, I’ve been strictly told not to fast by medical professionals who were treating me for my eating disorder in hospital. In the past, I had to be monitored extra closely in case my weight dramatically dropped due to fasting secretly.

This year is different. This is the first year that I am not in treatment for my anorexia in seven years, so I feel anxious because now I have a choice. I hate having a choice because I’m more likely to choose the unhealthy one. I’m not being watched anymore and I’m not being threatened with inpatient if I lose weight, so this is the perfect opportunity. I am in no way recovered. In fact, I’d say the thoughts have been creeping back in, especially recently.

A year into my recovery without treatment has been tough. Every day is still hard, and there have been both massive relapses AND recovery wins in the past 12 months and I truly believe this is how it will be for the rest of my life. I don’t think I will ever be fully recovered.

Ramadan brings out a lot of negative emotions and triggers for me. But this year, having a choice to fast or not to fast and still seeing Ramadan as a chance to lose weight and to become sicker is not helping and confirms, yet again, that I am not in a good state of mind to fast safely. I don’t see it as a religious thing. So if I fast, I will be doing it for the wrong reasons.

Rationally, of course I know that I must not fast if I am still in that eating disordered mindset. I know that health and my recovery comes first. But anorexia is so powerful that even if I say I will not take part, I will most definitely act on behaviours because everywhere I go, there will be someone fasting, someone talking about how much they’re “starving” and restricting will be inevitable. Plus, there will be triggering food everywhere and everyone will be talking about food.

I have made the choice, however, to not take part. People close to me have been expressing their concerns about me fasting. I’d be lying if I said I don’t engage in behaviours anymore so fasting in the month of Ramadan can absolutely land me back in hospital.

I’m in a good place career-wise. I’ve got a new job that I love, but I’m worried if I’ll be able to hold it down if I go down that path again. Anorexia makes me not believe in myself. Every day now, it tells me that I don’t deserve this job, that I don’t deserve to be successful. It makes me question if I’m capable of holding down a full time job without getting sicker. It makes me anxious about disappointing my colleagues and managers. It’s been keeping me awake at night worrying about how anorexia, especially in Ramadan, might impact my mental health this year.

In the past, it was anorexia that made me become this successful. It was anorexia’s perfectionism that made me work hard (without food) graduate and get my dream job. People tell me it wasn’t anorexia, but they don’t know how strong anorexia can be. It was this illness that demanded I prove to people that I can do things. The less food I ate, the more weight I lost, the more successful I became…and it worked.

I cannot keep letting anorexia take credit for everything I’ve achieved. I cannot let it take over me anymore. People tell me that I can do things, that I am capable without this illness. Maybe they’re right?

Ramadan is a spiritual month. It’s about health and helping others and about being kind to oneself. I cannot fast because I am sick, but what I CAN do is help others and take care of myself. I can be thankful to God that I am here in this world. I am alive and I am living.

Ramadan shouldn’t be just about controlling yourself from eating food. It should be about taking care of yourself whatever way possible and if fasting isn’t right for your mental and physical health at the moment, it’s okay not to take part.

For others like myself who cannot fast in the month of Ramadan due to an eating disorder or mental illness, why not turn it around and work on your recovery? This year, I’ve come to realise that putting your own health is more important than religion, career or opportunities. Look after yourself first. Make yourself a priority. That is what I will try to do.

This was originally posted on Beat‘s website.

Reflecting on 2016

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As 2016 is coming to an end, I thought I would reflect on the past year. Let’s be honest, this year hasn’t been one of the best for many people. For me, it has been up and down. There were a lot of bad times but there were also a lot of good and memorable times in both my professional and personal life.

Taking work for example, I’ve had the pleasure of working on some of the biggest news stories that will go down in history. 2016 has definitely been a historic year for politics. Britain voting to leave the European Union had split the whole of the United Kingdom and it was a truly fascinating campaign. One word following the Brexit vote was ‘unpredictable’. Things suddenly started happening and changing. David Cameron resigning as Prime Minister after Brexit vote, then the Conserative leadership election was cut short after Andrea Leadsom quit the race, which made Theresa May the Prime Minister. Another Labour leadership election won by Jeremy Corbyn. It was so exciting yet so emotional. Following that was the victory of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. The “impossible” kept turning into possible. It was such a fascinating year of politics and one that is unforgettable.

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I’ve learnt a lot about myself this year. I do get upset and angry very easily and take everything personally and lash out. This is something I definitely want to work on in 2017. I need to learn to take criticism and know that I cannot always be perfect. I need to realise that not being perfect is okay. It hasn’t been a good year for my mental health. I am still in this period of ambivalence with my eating disorder. I want to get better but I don’t at the same time. That is ongoing and something to work on in 2017. Then again, I still have a job that I adore and have been holding it down pretty well, despite my mental health.

This year, only recently in November, I went on my first ever holiday. It was only to the Scottish Highlands – Loch Lomond, but this was a big deal because I hadn’t travelled in 12 years. So, going on a plane and staying away from home for a couple of days with friends was a challenge for me. It was a good challenge and a learning experience. In 2017, I hope to travel some more and who knows, hopefully I can be brave and go somewhere abroad. The only place I have been abroad, not in the UK, is Bangladesh and heck, I do not want to go there again. I don’t see it as a holiday. I would like to visit Australia and somewhere in the US, like New York. But, my kind of holidays are quiet places, peaceful and relaxing – I live in the city so it is nice to go somewhere with less people (that’s why I chose to go to the Scottish Highlands for my first trip!). I like places with nice scenery and big mountains and not that hot – I also love the countryside.

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Now this one might be controversial for someone in my condition, but I got back into training since the summer. I was on exercise ban by my treatment team (even now they’re still weary about me working out) but now I feel I have a much more “healthier” mindset to exercise – less focus on weight and more focus on getting stronger and a better mental health. They say exercise helps with depression and it certainly does. I joined Gymbox and I have to say, it has made working out so much more fun and sociable. In all honesty, it has changed my life. Gymbox isn’t just your average gym – it is literally like a club but everything fitness. You walk into the sound of big heavy beats and the atmosphere is so cool and fun. I go to a lot of different classes, mainly dance and HIIT classes, that consists of circuits. I also do spin class, pilates and some weights based classes too. I also adore boxing. My goal for 2017 is to keep working on that core and get it stronger so I can do planks for longer than 50 seconds and just have fun. The best thing about Gymbox is that it has helped a lot with my confidence too. In classes, you meet new people and make friends and you all have something in common – fitness. If you’re someone who hates the thought of the gym – join Gymbox. Trust me, you will not want to leave!

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I enjoyed doing a lot of photoshoots this year, stepping out of my comfort zone and being in front of the camera really did help my confidence. I also got signed to a modelling agency, which is so exciting, so hoping for more shoots in 2017. I was also very pleased to be featured in Cosmopolitan magazine, where I spoke openly about being a high functional women with an eating disorder. It was such a cool opportunity.

When I first decided to write this, I was quite disappointed that I didn’t have any big memorable happy moments but I guess I realised that I should be grateful for the little things that happened. Sometimes, actually wanting to live is hard for me, but here I am, I am still here. I haven’t let this illness taken me and I will still fight every single day in 2017 to survive. A lot of this year I battled with feeling lonely. It’s not the lonely where you think you have no friends, it’s an empty feeling inside. But, I am where I am and I can only improve it slowly. Life isn’t a rush and it isn’t a competition. There are things I haven’t been able to achieve this year, for example, my driving – I failed one test and haven’t had any since but my aim for 2017 is to pass it – but if I don’t, I shouldn’t be hard on myself. The only thing I can do is just enjoy the journey and not focus too much on the destination – and I suggest you guys do the same too.

Happy New Year!

xxx

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5-Minute Intense Workout

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A lot of people often say they do not have time for exercise, usually because of the thought of it taking a long time. Well, here is my secret. There is ALWAYS time for exercise. You only need 5 minutes of your day to get fit. It is possible to burn a lot of calories in 5 minutes.

Even if you do not have time to go and do an intense 1-hour cardio session in the gym, there is still no reason you why cannot rev up your metabolism and benefit from many beneficial aspects of a short workout. In fact, research has suggested that a short intense workout can boost your metabolism for the entire day more effectively than a workout that is long and slow.

Try this:

  • 25 jumping lunges – This works your lower and upper body and tones and strengthens the hamstrings, the quadriceps, the calves, the shins, the gluteus, the abdomen and the surrounding lower torso.
  • 20 crunches – Doing abdominal crunches targets your abdominal muscles. This exercise strengthens your core if you do it regularly improving your posture and overall fitness as well as giving you a flatter stomach.
  • 15 slow squats – Squats are the perfect exercise to shape your buttocks and legs and your overall body. They help with abdominals and lower back muscles. So if you want to be fit and lean, squats are the way to go!
  • 10 slow pushups – Pushups help build upper body muscles. It also helps in toning the biceps and triceps. Pushups also help strengthen the back, resulting in a good posture.
  • 10 cardio burpees  – Possibly one of the hardest and tiring exercises to do but burpees have a ridiculous amount of benefits. The burpee is the ultimate full-body exercise. It works your muscles in your chest, arms, thighs, hamstrings and abs. It is also one of the best exercises to burn fat.

Repeat this circuit as many rounds as you can do in 5 minutes and then you are done!

All you need is a room with some space, a timer, your body and motivation. You can do this workout from your own bedroom! It is that easy and you will benefit from it in a substantial way if you do it everyday. It is a great way to tone up and makes you look great as well as feel great!

High-Protein Coffee Light Frappuccino Recipe

I do love  nice cold Frappuccino in a hot day when I am feeling brave because frappuccino’s for me are a fear food, especially if they are from Starbucks or any other coffee shop however, being the health and fitness freak that I am, I love making my own frappuccino at home by adding in less sugar, less fat and more protein. This is my recipe for a high-protein coffee light frappuccino.

Ingredients:

  • Two tablespoons of instant coffee (any brand)
  • Half cup of Ice cubes
  • 1 scoop of unflavoured protein powder (you can use flavoured, preferably chocolate to give it an extra taste)
  • Half cup of maple or agave syrup for sweetness
  • 1 cup of semi-skimmed or skimmed milk or alternatively soya/almond/rice milk etc… if you are vegan

Just simply put them all into a blender and blend for about 2 – 3 minutes. Pour it into a nice glass, pop a straw in and enjoy.

Optional: Personally, I would not add in whipped cream because of the calorie content but do go ahead and add it if you want and top it with either chocolate or caramel sauce.

This is so much better homemade than from Starbucks as it is so much cheaper. You probably have all the ingredients at home already so therefore, it is will not cost you anything. This frappuccino is a great pre or post-workout snack because of the protein content.

How To Make Time For Fitness

“I don’t have time” is often said when the word exercise is mentioned which is understandable. We all have a life and life sometimes can get in the way. School, college, university, kids, work etc… However, there is always time. The busiest people in the world MAKE time for fitness if they are serious about wanting to change and live a better life. These are some of my tips on how to make time for fitness.

Make Exercise Like An Appointment or Meeting

One of the main reasons why people often miss workouts is because they do not make it a priority. If you set yourself a time and place everyday as if you have an important meeting to go to, then you are less likely to forget about it. Write it into your daily planner or diary. This is such a useful way to get in a workout.

Wake Up Early

I know what you are thinking. A lot of people hate waking up early and they try to sleep as much as they can before their alarm sets off to get up for work. However, I find that working out early in the morning makes me feel rather satisfied and during the day, you do not have to worry about fitting in a workout because you have already done it. Also, if you do your workout early in the morning, you are more likely to eat more healthier during the day. Go to bed earlier and set your alarm half an hour before you usually wake up to get in a quick workout before you start your day.

Do Short Workouts

People often think a workout is a very rigorous cardio session at the gym for hours but it an simply be a short 20 minute activity of some bodyweight training in the comfort of your own home. A few squats, crunches and bicep curls can do wonders to your body. In fact, they are the exercises done to see the most change. Focus on toning and sculpting and becoming stronger rather than trying to lose weight. Fitness is not about losing weight. It is about becoming stronger, healthier and happier.

Get A Workout Partner

People often like working out alone, but if you workout with someone else, be it a friend, a partner etc… you would find that it would motivate you a bit more. Make it a social thing. Rather than meeting up for a coffee, meet up for a workout instead.

Keep Moving

Do some kind of activity at any chance you get. Walk to work instead of driving to work. If you usually commute to somewhere with public transport, get off before your stop and walk the rest. Whilst watching TV, do a few squats or bicep curls.

There is always time for fitness. You just need to think when and where you can schedule it into your day.

“If you really want to do something you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

My Ultimate 30-Minute Workout

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I believe your bodyweight is the best equipment to use to workout with. You do not need the gym to get results. Working out in your own home with just your own body (and maybe a dumbbell or two) could give you the best results if you do the right workouts.

I usually combine high intensity cardio with weight training when working out. This is great for body toning so therefore a great workout for women.

What you need:

  • Timer
  • 2lb – 4lb dumbbell
  • Your body

The workout:

  • Jog on the spot for 60 seconds – high knees
  • Do 20 jump squats
  • Jog on the spot for 60 seconds – high knees
  • Do 20 burpees
  • Jog on the spot for 60 seconds – high knees
  • Do 20 squat kicks
  • Jog on the spot for 60 seconds – high knees
  • Do 100 ‘Around the World’ Waist Whittlers (using a 2lb dumbbell)
  • Jog on the spot for 60 seconds – high knees
  • Do 30 squat punches
  • Jog on the spot for 60 seconds – high knees

Repeat this series once more and you are done. This workout will sculpt you and make you feel amazing if you do it correctly and put a lot of effort in.