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. 

New Year’s Resolutions?

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The reason why we often fall of the wagon with our New Year’s Resolutions is because they are rather big goals, which in the long term, sounds like a good achievable plan, but in the short term, it is really unachievable and you are setting yourself up for failure, We often fail to recognise this.

Every year, I always hear people’s New Year’s Resolutions is to ‘lose weight’ or to ‘give up smoking’ but what are you doing to achieve that goal in the short-term? Giving something up cold turkey or trying to lose 25lbs straight away is not the way to go and frankly you are setting yourself up for failure. January is the month people are very motivated and determined to get back on track after the festive period. However, come February, people often give up on that goal altogether because they are very big long-term goals. This is why people do not stick to their resolutions. 

I think a new year is a good time to think about improving yourself in the best way possible so I am all for resolutions. However, they need to be achievable in the short term.

What I would do to achieve that goal, is to set yourself small weekly goals. So, if you want to go to the gym more this year and you never usually go to the gym, go once a week. Start from there. Do that for a couple of weeks until you feel like you can extend it. Then go twice a week, then three times a week and so on.

If you want to give up smoking, instead of stopping altogether, cut down on how many times you smoke in a day and then gradually, cut down a bit more and then smoke once a day or every other day. This will be easier for you in the long-term to totally give it up. 

This goes to any other goals you want to achieve. Start slowly, set yourself weekly goals and go from there. If you do it like this and are serious about the goal, you will tend to stick to your resolutions all year, instead of giving up in February. 

Happy New Year! 

 

Waiting Times In Eating Disorder Treatment

I wrote a post about this a few months ago but as a media volunteer for Beat, I took part in their waiting times survey about my experiences and today it has been revealed that a large amount of people have waited for treatment for more than six months. The charity are now calling  on the government to do more to help people with eating disorders.

Susan Ringwood, the chief executive of Beat says “Eating disorders are fatal in up to 20% of cases. That’s the highest death rate of any mental illness. We know that when people have to wait a long time for treatment, their illness can get worse. In the most serious cases, people’s lives can be lost. We were shocked to find that 26% of the people we spoke to had waited more than six months. We want clear waiting times to be set, so people can know when their treatment is going to start.”

Waiting lists for any treatment does really get to me because it is as if they want the sufferer to get more ill. I understand why there are waiting lists but for eating disorder treatment, it can be even more difficult for the sufferer and their family and for some, the waiting list is around 8 months to a year and by then, the sufferer may get severely ill.

After being discharged from one unit, I had to wait a year to get assessed for another one and I was not getting any better whilst waiting. In fact, I got severely worse to the point where I just wanted to die and could not even function anymore. Even drinking water seemed like a scary concept. When you do eventually get help after waiting for a long time, you just feel like you are past help, which explains why it is so hard to get better. The longer you leave a patient waiting, the harder it is to get better. All the sufferer wants is help whether they admit it or not.

Care minister Norman Lamb says this has to be a “very urgent priority”. He says “In mental health, we don’t even know how long people are waiting, That’s why this survey is of great value, because it demonstrates the seriousness of the problem. I want to get to a point where, by 2015, we introduce access standards, so that people know how long they should be expected to wait as a maximum” but he admits that he does not know whether he will achieve that yet but will try.

Another thing I would like to point out is that eating disorders are mental illnesses but some specialist units focus merely on monitoring the weight, behaviours and the intake and of course that is the main issue that does need to be dealt with first but some units, not all, do not provide proper psychological help straight away. They just give you a few antidepressants and that is it. I feel like if I get my head sorted out first, then perhaps I would do better in terms of recovery. But, of course they put you on a waiting list and more waiting lists and more waiting lists. I do not understand how I can get better if proper therapy is not put in place. Eating means nothing if you are not mentally better.

I think treatment should be offered at the first sign of an eating disorder. As soon as a patient shows signs of an eating disorder, they should put in place a therapist, a dietitian, a psychiatrist, a nurse – everything they will need in order for the patient to get better. When you have eating disorder, all you need is the right support and sometimes I feel like I am not getting that which does hinder my chances of recovery.

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!

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.”

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/

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.