Weight Is Just A Number

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No one likes stepping on the scales to be faced with the horrible reality that they probably ate too many slices of cake last week. The chances are you’ve had your suspicions about those extra couple of pounds for a while but have been in a firm state of denial with yourself. Finally, you pluck up the courage to see for certain and can deny it no longer – the numbers don’t lie after all. While to most, a little weight gain is a minor confidence blip, an inconvenience, for me it’s a minefield. No matter what size I am, I spend my life both dreading it and trying to avoid it, in equal measure.

So when I started to return to health after an illness that saw me shrink to just under 8 stone, the joy and relief of recovery was tainted by the fact that I would inevitably gain weight. I knew it was something that needed to happen – I was the thinnest I’ve ever been, even when in the throws of an eating disorder, I just wasn’t prepared for how horrific it would be when it started to become physically noticeable.

I didn’t notice for a while, I was too busy thinking about what I was going to eat next, high on the excitement of being able to enjoy food again and while I was aware that the food I was shovelling into me wasn’t particularly good for me, I was powerless to my appetite. White bread, smothered with Lurpak became the staple of my diet, I would go to bed dreaming about McDonald’s double cheeseburgers and my boyfriend watched in awe as I devoured sticky toffee puddings every weekend at dinner. Concerned by these new eating habits, I broached the subject with my dietician and of course, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation. My body was starving. I should point out that by this point I had been ill for a considerable amount of time, struggling to eat barely anything most days and what I did manage to eat, my body wasn’t absorbing any nutrients from. It turns out the human body is a pretty intelligent organism and it knows what it needs. I was craving these calorific foods, high in fat and carbohydrates, because my body was severely lacking the nutrients that they provide. The dietician reassured me that once my health and weight began to return to normal these cravings would stop and my diet would stabilise and she was right. Now that my body is nourished again, the bizarre cravings have stopped and I’m back to eating the balanced diet I had before, I’m back to myself again.

What isn’t quite as simple however, is accepting myself. As much as I know that gaining weight is a good thing, I can’t help but be disgusted every time I look in the mirror. When I step on the scales and the dial inches up a few more notches, my heart sinks a little bit more. Each time I’m offered a well-meaning compliment along the lines of,  “You’ve gained weight,” I die a little bit inside.

My arms – the only part of me I have ever considered as slim enough – now appear twice the size they used to be, my collarbone is no longer protruding and the gap between my thighs is getting smaller by the day. While all of these are positive signs, physical indicators of good health, I hate each and every one of them and I also hate the fact that I hate them. I’m happy my body is healthy again, yet I can’t accept it in its healthy form.

The worst part is not knowing if what I’m seeing in the mirror is as it really is or if my mind is lying to me, distorting my view with it’s dysmorphic tendencies. I might feel bigger than I’ve ever been, but the scales say I’m no heavier than I was before I fell ill – a healthy weight – and the numbers never lie, right?

I may be healthy physically, but mentally there’s still some work to be done. I need to listen to my body and to trust it, if I’m craving that slice of cake it’s not because I’m fat and greedy as the voice in my head would have me believe, it’s because my body needs sugar. I need to train my mind to work with my body rather than against it so that the dinner table is no longer a battlefield. I need to learn to love my body and to look after it, because it is healthy and for that I am grateful. For me gaining weight is the first hurdle, but the real recovery begins after.

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7 Ways to Make Sure Your Easter Isn’t Ruined by Your Eating Disorder

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If were being honest, for most of us Easter is about one thing, chocolate. It is for this reason, that after Christmas, Easter comes in a close second as the most difficult time of year for people with an eating disorder. For some, Easter means overindulging on chocolate eggs and hot cross buns, or sitting down to catch up with family over a traditional holiday meal, for those with eating disorders, Easter often means guilt, anxiety and fear. There is no avoiding the fact that holidays are stressful – I mean, they do involve family and food, at the same time –  but there are some ways to take control and make sure your Easter isn’t ruined by your eating disorder.

  • Talk to someone close to you and that you trust, about your concerns. It’s easy to get trapped in your own head, getting an outside perspective can make a huge difference. A problem shared and all that.
  • Plan ahead. If you know you’re going to be seeing family and friends who haven’t seen you for a while, be prepared for any questions that might come and think of your responses in advance. This way you don’t feel unprepared or put on the spot.
  • Be Mindful. Practice some Mindful Eating techniques throughout the day to help you stay in control. For example: eat small or moderate amounts every few hours, before eating ask yourself, am I hungry? Am I thirsty? What type of food or drink do I want? Eat slowly and think about the taste, texture, smell and sound of the food. Check in with your hunger signals every few minutes. Stop eating just before you feel full, and wait at least 20 minutes before eating again if you are still hungry.
  • Relax. Whatever your plans are over the weekend, make sure you allow some time for yourself. Take time out to do something you enjoy, and something that doesn’t revolve around food. Go for a walk, listen to music, read a book – it is supposed to be a holiday after all.
  • Remember that holidays were made for overeating. People will eat too much chocolate and then they will talk about eating too much chocolate. Remind yourself that these comments are not aimed at you.
  • Remember also, that all eyes aren’t on you. Although it feels like it everyone is watching you, judging how much – or how little – you are eating, this is not the case. Most people are actually too preoccupied with their own food – humans are pretty self-involved, especially at meal times.
  • Enjoy the fact that it is totally acceptable to eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and at various intervals in between if you so desire. Guilt is inevitable, but keep it under control by being aware of how you feel, you know better than anyone what your limits are. Easter or not, it’s your body and your mind, you decide what they can cope with.

Happy Easter!

Are Shop Mannequins Glamourising Eating Disorders?

Fashion

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It’s not the first time a fashion retailer has sparked controversy, and it certainly won’t be the last. Karen Millen is the latest high street brand to hit the headlines for using, what can only be described as, dangerous mannequins to display one of its new season dresses. If you haven’t already seen the photo which swept across Twitter last week, the mannequin – which is reportedly an industry standard size 10 – quite clearly shows protruding collar bones and very visible ribs. Much like the model who wears the dress on the Karen Millen website, funnily enough.

Of course the image has sparked outrage from many Twitter users, including mental health campaigner Laur Evans, who was first to spot the mannequin in the West Quay store in Southampton and brought it to the unforgivable attention of social media.
However on the flip side, I have seen some responses from people questioning why this is even an issue. Having visible collar bones is not uncommon if you’re a slim size 10, and besides, doesn’t everyone knows that mannequins aren’t a realistic representation of women?

There are two things that bother me about instances such as this when they crop up on our Twitter feeds every too often. Firstly, is the fact that shop mannequins do not normally have bones on show – if they did we wouldn’t be shocked when confronted with it – but lets not even go there. This mannequin would have to be specially made, meaning the company has made a conscious decision to portray this. I can only speculate on the reasons behind this, does it make the dress look more appealing? Does it encourage more people to buy it?
I can’t answer these questions for sure, but say both answers are yes, it is ignorant and irresponsible that a respected brand would resort to these measures in the marketing of a dress, particularly given the much increased awareness of eating disorders triggered by the fashion industry.

Which leads me nicely on to my second point. The mannequin is extremely triggering. Collarbones and ribs are a core theme of the “thinspiration” sites that plague the internet and ruin lives, yet here it is so blatantly and unashamedly on display in a high street store. It is also not just in terms of eating disorders that this mannequin is damaging, it is aesthetics such as this which fuel the negative body image that dominates our culture. Sure, we may know deep down that mannequins aren’t what real women are supposed to look like but imagery like this affects people and ends in many women feeling insecure and inferior.

As a brand who describe themselves as ‘for the confident, uncompromising woman of today,’ Karen Millen really do have some explaining to do.
This mannequin is not about celebrating different body shapes, it is simply using bones to sell clothes.

5 Reasons Never to Date the Guy Who Wrote this Post…

Opinion

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http://www.returnofkings.com/21313/5-reasons-to-date-a-girl-with-an-eating-disorder

The post above was brought to my attention on Facebook a few weeks ago, yes you did read that correctly, this is a blog stating the reasons why men should date a girl with an eating disorder.

I know, and I sincerely hope I’m right in thinking that most people would look at this post and realise that the author of this is a just a complete moron. Still, I felt that I couldn’t let this post go without drawing attention to how ridiculous and ignorant it is. It is worrying to say the least, that there might be men who actually think like this and see a woman with an eating disorder as something to take advantage of. Of course as always, what this ignorance boils down to is a lack of knowledge and understanding, but whoever wrote this may wish to think again before publicly mocking such a serious illness.

1.Her obsession over her body will improve her overall looks

Unless pale skin, dark eyes, hair loss, blistered knuckles, acid-stained teeth and downy hair growing on the skin are among your must-haves when it comes to women, an eating disorder will absolutely not improve her looks, whether it be Anorexia or Binge Eating Disorder. In fact, the opposite could not be more true. Eating Disorders are more often that not, not actually about the way the sufferer looks, it stems from something phycological and the eating disorder is a way of coping.

2. She costs less money

For many sufferers, the idea of even stepping foot in a restaurant is almost unthinkable, never mind a dinner-date. While you may be lapping up her leftovers, she will most likely be in turmoil, wishing she was anywhere but in a restaurant with you.

3. She’s fragile and vulnerable

If as a man, you need a girl to be fragile and vulnerable before you can date her, I think that says more about you than it does her. Only men who are fragile and weak themselves tend to go for women who are too insecure to stand up to them. They are easy targets.

4. Probably has money of her own

Aside from all of these statements being massive generalisations, this one is perhaps the most ridiculous as it is simply incorrect. I don’t know where the author got the idea from that only rich girls develop eating disorders but even if this was the case, that money will most likely be spent on slimming pills, laxatives, junk-food binges, you get the idea.

5. She’s better in bed

Maybe sleeping with a girl who lacks the confidence to tell you what she really wants, makes some men feel macho in the bedroom. As a woman, I cannot expect to fully understand what men want in bed, but using someone’s “pent-up insecurities, neuroses and daddy-issues” for your own sexual gain? Pretty disgusting if you ask me.

“a girl with a mild-to-moderate eating disorder—that hasn’t excessively marred her appearance—is today’s best-buy in the West’s rapidly plummeting dating market”

So as long as the eating disorder doesn’t progress into anything to serious, and it doesn’t damage a woman’s appearance in any way, you have yourself the perfect woman?

Is this a joke?

This post is a fantastic representation of everything that is wrong with society. As well as the shocking stereotypes, it shows the ignorance and inaccuracy that surrounds issues concerning eating disorders and mental health. Not only this but it is also a sterling example of blatant sexism, bringing to our attention that there is men out there who view women like this, and we are far from equal in their eyes.

The perfect woman? Quite frankly I wish any man who thinks like this the best of luck in gaining the respect of any woman at all.

The Big Fat Lie

News

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“Big Fat Lie” is an incredibly accurate way to describe an eating disorder, which is exactly why, I imagine, Nicole Scherzinger has chosen this as the title for her new album in which she addresses her own struggles with an eating disorder.

Nicole has been open about discussing her struggles with eating disorders since 2012 when she first spoke out about her battle with Bulimia on VH1’s Behind The Music, but recently she spoke to Digital Spy about overcoming the disease and how her fight has helped make her the success she is today.

“[That fight] is a big part of who I am and what has gotten me here. And what has gotten me to this place of strength.”

Nicole has done what unfortunately so few sufferers find the strength to do, and has found a form of therapy in talking and singing about her struggles.

“I realised that, even though it was a hard subject for me to talk about, when I did I was able to help other people and inspire other people.”

For me, this quote completely sums up the fact of the matter. It is incredibly painful for someone to talk about what they’ve been through, whether they are in the public eye or not, but it is those who do, and those who recognise how important it is to do so, who can inspire change. I completely applaud Nicole for writing music so openly about her eating disorder, when celebrities come forward about their own issues, it gives me almost a feeling of unity. It doesn’t matter how “famous” someone may be, the pain they have felt is as real as yours or mine. The influence which celebrities have on society means that when they speak out they not only raise awareness but also offer reassurance to sufferers in the knowledge that they can identify with the same battles. I am thankful to Nicole for recognising this and being brave enough to speak out. I’ll be giving Big Fat Lie a listen when it comes out on the 20th October.

“Are you really going to eat that?”

Food, News, Opinion

“Are you really going to eat that?”

“A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips”

“Haven’t you got a dress to fit into?”

These are just a few comments which, if aimed at me just as I was about to tuck into my sandwich at lunch, would make me feel sick to my stomach. As someone who hates eating in front of strangers at the best of times, I struggle with any comments made towards my food, even the most seemingly harmless. “Are you really going to eat that?” My most abhorred question, fills me with shame and beckons the answer, “No, I won’t be eating it now, because you’ve made me feel incredibly self-conscious and insecure.”

When a woman sent a tweet last week to the Everyday Sexism Twitter page outlining her experience where a stranger told her not to buy chips in the supermarket because she was “too beautiful to eat them,” it commenced a cascade of replies from other women with similar experiences. It seems that total strangers (usually men in this instance) making negative comments on what women eat is an every day occurrence.

These are a few of my personal favourites:

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Of course this is everyday sexism at its finest, women’s bodies being viewed as public property, fair game for any man to comment on as he pleases. Obviously, before any morsel crosses a women’s lips she must first think about how this will effect her figure and therefore how attractive she is to the male population, because the only reason she would want to look good is for men, right?

Helena Christensen was recently photographed by the Daily Mail for eating a sandwich at lunch, the headline “Not a Model Meal.” The paper then went on to make comments such as “…better be careful with her eating habits in the future…she could end up losing those 35-24-35 that have made her the toast of men everywhere.” Are these people for real? She ate a sandwich.

As well as the obvious issues of sexism displayed in these women’s encounters, there’s the factors of self-esteem and body image, judgements like these can hurt more than a woman’s pride. I know from personal experience – and I’m sure even the most self-assured woman would agree – just how unsettling it can be to hear the words “Should you really be eating that?” or the alike, uttered just as you pick up your fork. It can instantly damage a woman’s confidence, fill her with shame and in some cases, can trigger eating disorders. It may seem extreme, but to someone who is recovering or even recovered from an eating disorder, one negative comment can spark up those overwhelming voices which she has battled so hard to keep at bay.

The message here is quite simple – mind your own business. Women do eat meals. Eating a sandwich for lunch is not “gorging” or “feasting,” it is normal. Men who wish to comment on what women eat really ought to keep their opinions to themselves.

New Statistics, Still No Closer to the Truth

Food, News

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As concerning as it is, it always restores a little faith in me to see eating disorders being talked about and addressed nationally in the press, as I fear coverage of these issues is getting dangerously thin on the ground. This is until I read further and discover just a bunch of more empty figures and lack of solution. Perhaps this is why, after reading such news reports, I find myself charged with conflicting emotions and opinions, but all eventually pointing to the same thing, despair.

The fact that the number of eating disorder hospital admissions has increased by 8 per cent, for me, can be seen in a number of different ways. The thing that automatically springs to mind is that this is a negative, although unsurprising outcome, but on reading into it I came to the conclusion that this is actually, a pointless statistic.

For one thing, those 2,560 admissions do not take into account those who are treated as out-patients, as the majority are, and even more importantly, the many people who suffer from eating disorders and do not seek help or receive treatment at all. For me, the truth and the real seriousness of the problem lies with the unknown numbers and this is where our attention should be focused.

Though the rise in admissions could be seen as a positive thing, the fact that more people are seeking help could mean that awareness of the seriousness of eating disorders and the treatment available has increased, this is only, in my opinion, a weak possibility. As much as I would hope this to be the case, the truth is much more likely to be sinister, simply more people are suffering.

However, aside from lacking veracity, this collection of data did uncover some very important points. It won’t shock anyone to hear that nine times as many females as males were admitted from 2012 -2013, the most common age of admission for girls was 15, age 13 for boys, but there were children aged five to nine, and even, distressingly, under fives admitted. (I found it particularly interesting – and a bit strange – that The BBC failed to put this last part in their report.) The age of admissions is a shocking statistic which anyone would hope will spur on some serious action to be taken, children under five suffering from these illnesses is something which I and most of society cannot and should not be able to comprehend.

Although the 2,560 people admitted may be the most severely ill, they are receiving the help they need, and this does not provide an accurate reflection of the problem. What about the rest of the story? What about those who are suffering in silence and living in denial? The truth is, eating disorders take many forms, in many people, of many different ages and the scale of this suffering can never be truly expressed in the form of a government statistic. It is real, it is boundless and it needs to be addressed.

Kesha – Showing the World She is a Warrior

Features, News

 

Kesha Sebert wallpaper

 

On Friday, singer Kesha became the latest celebrity to speak out about her eating disorder, when she checked into the Timberline Knolls Centre and gave this statement to the press:

“I’m a crusader for being yourself and loving yourself but I’ve found it hard to practice, I’ll be unavailable for the next 30 days, seeking treatment for my eating disorder … [and] to learn to love myself again. Exactly as I am.”

Being in the public eye, a celebrity always receives much more of a reaction from society when going public with an issue like this, which is why I have to admire Kesha’s bravery and that of the other celebrities who have spoken openly about their problems over the years.

However, going public is a gamble and there are both positive and negative repercussions when a celebrity admits to having an eating disorder. In some cases it can be a valuable and important message to others who may be suffering, particularly young girls who might idolise and look up to these celebrities, and I would like to think that it may encourage others to get help themselves.

However, unfortunately, the media has a tendency to focus on the negative aspects. I have already read a number of online articles scrutinising Kesha’s weight over the years and discussing her previous diet and exercise regimes. The other worry is the glamorisation of eating disorders, which often happens when they appear in the public eye associated with celebrities and supermodels. As much as society has started to move away from the idea that anorexia and bulimia are glamorous lifestyle choices, rather than serious diseases, there is still no doubt that young people and teenagers are susceptible to being influenced by the lifestyles of celebrities.

Although Kesha has done an extremely courageous and brave thing by getting the help she needs and doing it publicly, what her fans and the rest of the general public will never see or hear is the hardship she will face on her journey to recovery and for long afterwards. When celebrities do speak about their eating disorders the common occurrence is for them to emerge from rehab after a short time and as far as anyone is concerned, they are perfectly healthy again, all relationships with food restored. In reality of course this is not the case and Kesha among many others will still be battling her eating disorder behind closed doors for a long time to come.

These factors make me question just how positive celebrities speaking out actually can be, does it paint an unrealistic picture of an eating disorder? In 30 days time when Kesha makes her post-treatment statement to the press, some will know what is going on beneath the bravado, the challenges she has still to face and what recovery from an eating disorder is really like. I hope that her courage continues and that her influence will encourage others to take the same brave steps.

My Walk To Freedom, 2013

Features, Food, Opinion

As 2013 draws to a close, it wouldn’t be right not to finish the year with the obligatory reflective blog post.

For me, this year has been a significant one. I graduated from university, began a new relationship and began recovery from an eating disorder. As much as this year has perhaps been one of the most important and successful years of my life, it certainly hasn’t felt like that a lot of the time.

As proud of myself as I am that I finally sought help for my eating disorder, recovery isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t quick. Recovery is a lonely, confusing and scary place to be. Without the comfort blanket of the eating disorder for reliance, but still without a healthy attitude towards food, it is easy to relapse and even easier to beat yourself up when you do. That was my reasoning for setting up this blog. I wanted to reach out to others in recovery and talk about eating disorders.

This blog is perhaps my greatest achievement of the year. Speaking openly and publicly about eating disorders, is something, which 12 months ago was completely unfathomable to me, yet somehow, at the end of 2013 here I am, writing this post. It may not reach many readers and it may not be a national phenomenon, but to me this blog in a success in its own right. I still have that overwhelming sense of sickness and fear every time I hover doubtfully over the ‘post’ button, and I still worry constantly about how others will react to what I’ve written, and if I’m being really honest, what they will think of me and how they will judge me. Simply the fact that I am writing this blog means that I have spoken out and tried to make a difference, even if I haven’t managed to reach out to anyone else – which I sincerely hope that I have – I have definitely reached out to myself.

I will leave 2013, still worrying about how many calories I ate yesterday, but feeling proud and lucky. Proud, because I have achieved something I never thought possible, and lucky because I have began to overcome something which too many people do not. I will also leave thinking of those who haven’t been as lucky as I have and those who are still suffering and I urge them to have the courage to seek help.

2013 was the year I realised that I hadn’t failed at anorexia and bulimia, I had beaten them.

 

SARAH

The Christmas Fear – Dealing with Overindulgence

Food

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It’s that time again, when the mulled wine is flowing, turkeys are being stuffed and mince pies are everywhere in sight. Christmas, it’s the most wonderful time of the year? Not if you are battling an eating disorder. If you are one of the many sufferers, you are most likely counting down to a time full of dread, guilt and self-hatred.

There are no words I could write that would magically rid these feelings, but here I have offered some (hopefully) helpful advice, on how to deal with overindulgence and disordered eating, this Christmas.

Keep Moving

It’s not always possible or realistic to exercise regularly at Christmas, but if you can, do it. Even if it’s just a stroll on Christmas Day, exercise will keep you feeling positive and healthy even when you’re surrounded by guilt-loaded foods. it will also help keep guilty feelings at bay and discourage binging.

Know Your Limits

Overeating is so easily done at this time of year, it’s cold, it’s a holiday and everyone else is doing it, but it’s important not to lose control of your eating. Know what you can manage and don’t try to push yourself too far at the risk of binging, but at the same time don’t shy away from the kitchen because it’s the easier option.

Don’t Over-Do the Drink

Drinking too much is almost a Christmas Day ritual, but it will only make you lose you inhibitions and therefore your control. Don’t be tempted (as I have been) to drink yourself numb on the run up to dinner to avoid dealing with those unhelpful thoughts and frustrations, it will only make things a great deal worse – trust me.

Recognise the Unhelpful

It’s difficult, but recognising the unhelpful thoughts is almost half the battle. Once you are aware, it is much easier to try and combat them and overcome the guilt pangs.

Distract Yourself

One positive about Christmas Day is that there are usually people around and it can be easier to find a distraction. If you feel urges coming on, try to distract yourself in some way, go for a walk, anything which will help to remove yourself from the situation and gain some perspective.

Stay Strong

Cheesy as it sounds, it’s important to remember how far you have come and the strength you have shown. Don’t let this one day take that your achievements away from you. It’s possible that you will feel out of control but remember that it is just that, one day.

Don’t Give In to the Guilt

This is much easier said than done, and it is unrealistic to not expect any guilt bogging you down, but don’t let it engulf you. After all, it is Christmas and it’s tradition to eat more than you would on a regular day. Providing you stay in control and fight the urge to binge, the guilt you’re feeling is unnecessary, it can be overcome and you can enjoy Christmas.

Seek Support

If you are someone who hasn’t started recovery, and is still suffering with an eating disorder on your own, maybe it’s the time to talk to someone. Coping with these thoughts and feelings can be a lot to deal with, particularly on holidays such as this, it can tend to make you feel even more alone and isolated, increasing the obsession. If, like many, you find yourself plagued with guilt, regret and hatred after Christmas, speak to someone and get help. Don’t spend too much time suffering in silence.