The process of recovering from an eating disorder can be long and ongoing. Even after recovery, there will likely be moments where it could be easy to let old thought processes creep back in. One of the great things about the recovery process though is that you begin to build up a toolkit of how to cope with these moments and one major for me, which I continue to practice probably every day is mindfulness. I’m not in any way saying that just by being mindful for 5 minutes a day this will lead to complete recovery but used alongside other treatment or therapies, I’ve found it really helpful.
My favourite definition of mindfulness is by Jon Kabat-Zinn -:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way. On purpose,
in the present moment, and
One of the main ways I described my eating disorder was like everything was in chaos. My whole life seemed chaotic. The irony of this is that it actually wasn’t because it was solely focused on the eating disorder. But my head was in a constant state of disarray.
So during times when my mind was a jumbled mess of stress, anxiety and negative thoughts, learning how to calm these down really helped (and still does). When you are in a mindful state, your mind and body reconnect, it brings you back to the ‘now’ and can help to stop those urges to starve, binge and/or purge. Put in simple terms, it helps set my mind straight and get back on track if I’m having a shaky moment!
Eating disorders stem from what’s going on psychologically in the mind. When it’s a mass of chaos and irrational thinking (which escalates even more from starvation or bingeing), it sends the wrong signals to the body causing it stress out even more and likely go into self-destruct mode. So we need to calm those thoughts down to increase self-awareness and create a sense of peace, if only for a short amount of time.
It sounds like it’s going to be complicated and require effort (or even a bit kooky, which could put you off!) but that’s really not the case. Mindfulness can be done in many simple ways. These include taking some time out for 5 minutes to sit quietly and focus. Or you can be mindful when you’re doing something routine that doesn’t require brain power like showering or brushing your teeth. Step it up a bit and you can give meditation a go.
Mindfulness in recovery gives me chance to come back to what I’m aiming for, visualize myself completely free of my eating disorder and shift those sometimes panicky and unreal thoughts to make sure I don’t go back to old mindsets and bad habits.
Today is Wise Up Wednesday... let's do this!
Wisdom is a weird old thing; much deeper than knowledge and much more powerful than expertise marked by a degree certificate. Wisdom requires emotional attachment and first-hand experience; to share wisdom, a person has to have walked the walk and talked the talk (apologies for the horrible cliché, but it's true, so deal with it).
Unfortunately, when it comes to Eating Disorders, this is quite a shame – the people who know these horrible illnesses inside out are the ones who have suffered at the hands of them. The only people who completely and utterly understand what it feels like to wake up every day and have every mood and moment dictated by what they weigh or how much they eat are those who have been through it themselves.
The positive side of this is what I'm finally experiencing now and the truth is that I don't ever regret having an Eating Disorder. Sure, I felt ashamed of my behaviours and my web of lies that I span so convincingly to cover up as best I could the tell-tale signs that I was fighting a losing battle. I hated seeing the worried looks permanently worn by my family every time I pushed my food away or slipped away to the toilet after eating and I wish that I had been able to give myself a kick up the bum every time I got 'stuck' on my route to recovery. But you know what? I'm so glad that I now have the understanding that I do, and the determination to use that wisdom. It seems to mean so much more to those who are suffering to hear from those who have been where they are now. That’s exactly why I’m not regretful; not for a second, when I look back over the years I struggled with my Eating Disorders.
If I can help even just one person to see that their future can hold something better than the endless cycle of eating disordered thoughts and behaviours, then I’m happy. Eating Disorders offer so much promise, so much hope, comfort and safety… but really, beneath all that and further down the line the only things they bring are destruction, devastation and (and I’m sorry it’s not another ‘d’) BOREDOM. Calorie counting is boring, weighing out food is boring, binge-shopping is boring, and obsessing over every single morsel of food is boring. Allow yourself to admit it. It doesn’t have to be that way. There is always something else.
This seems all very self-indulgent. I honestly don’t want to come across as being ‘preachy’; I hated that when I was ill. In hospital, they’d invite recovered people in to come and talk to us about how amazing life is now – woo for them. I was cynical, never in a million years believing that I could live or even establish some form of identity without clinging to my eating disorder; it was part of me and made me who I was. You might feel like that now. I may not be able to get this message through to you. But all I can say is that I was that person who refused to see, who failed to believe and who continued to starve and binge and purge. It’s your choice. It’s your life. It’s your future. Go get it.
There are a number of misinformed ideas about eating disorders. One of the main ones (in my opinion) is that if you don’t ‘look’ like you have one then you probably don’t. The other day I heard the comment “but she doesn’t look thin enough to have an eating disorder”. One of the most frustrating elements of an eating disorder is how people define it purely on physical appearance. The general assumption is that if you look ‘well’ or ‘healthy’ on the exterior, that you’re actually fine. In many circumstances, this actually couldn’t be further from the truth.
When I embarked into recovery for the first time and put on weight, though people couldn’t seem to stop saying how ‘well’ I looked, on the inside I was probably more consumed by my eating disorder than when I was obviously ill on the surface. I can’t speak from experience on bulimia or binge eating disorder but I imagine that those suffering probably experience the same frustration. This is sometimes why sufferers often go months or even years without confiding in anyone; because they don’t look' 'ill', they feel they are not worthy of help from their family, friends or doctor and suffer in silence; even questioning whether there is actually anything wrong with them or if it is just in their heads. The media doesn’t help – relentlessly (and often inaccurately) reporting stories of celebrities sporting ‘painfully thin frames’ and portraying the idea that anorexia and other eating disorders can only be identified by physical appearance.
And there is also the fact that in many cases, you won’t be taken seriously or can’t seek professional help on the NHS unless you are below a certain weight or BMI or meet a specific criteria. This is crazy because that is basically suggesting to the patient that they are not 'ill' enough to warrant getting help. The torment that exists on the inside is far worse than how it manifests itself on the outside and with all eating disorders it is what's going on in the mind that needs to be addressed first.
So if you are experiencing any kind of disordered thoughts towards food or body image then it is vital that you hold your hands up and tell someone. Do not think you have to be ‘painfully thin’ to have an eating disorder. Every single person is different and you don’t have to be neatly categorised into one box such as 'anorexic' or 'bulimic' to be a sufferer. Everyone who even thinks that they may have an eating disorder or is experiencing eating disordered thoughts should be heard, helped and supported. The sooner you tell someone, the sooner that the issue can begin be addressed.
So, yesterday was Earth Day (Happy Earth Day!), and although I didn’t get outside to celebrate our beautiful planet, I do normally spend a lot of time in close proximity to nature – through hiking, zip lining, camping, etc. I am a huge nature lover, and when I spend time outdoors, and experience the wonder of it all, I always get this feeling about how special it is to be a part of this world. One thing I know for sure is that we have the luxury of living in a gorgeous place here on Earth, and that everything on our planet has it’s own beauty to be discovered – including us, as humans!
I’m not going to get into the logistics of how the planet was formed – whether it was by a big bang, or evolution, or a creator – but you can’t deny that however this place came to be, something was done properly. There are a lot of things about the Earth that I find repulsive at first sight – namely, spiders – but honestly, I have absolutely no reason to think that. When I truly take the time to contemplate and appreciate their existence, such as the gracefulness of their movement and the mechanics involved in spinning a web, I can’t help but to be impressed!
What I’m trying to get at here is obvious, I hope. However this whole planet happened – it happened right. That means that you happened right as well. We all tend to have days where we wish mirrors were illegal so we didn’t have to catch ourselves in them, and we’d rather stay in bed, just like I have an overwhelming urge to smush a spider when I see one. But what I’m asking you to do this week is to seriously think about everything that went into your being. Not the negatives that are easily focused on, but the positive things that make you think “Wow! Seriously? My body can do that?” For example; the acid in your stomach is strong enough to dissolve some metals, but doesn’t dissolve itself! Anyone who’s learned about hormones and enzymes knows how incredible it is that the body just knows what to do, and anybody who has had to learn a complex pathway like glycolysis knows just how complex bodily functions can be!
Next time you go for a walk, please look around at all of the trees, and the variation that exists among them. There are trees so thin you could wrap a hand around them, trees so thick you couldn’t wrap both arms around them, trees as short as a small child, trees as tall as buildings, trees with green leaves, trees with red leaves, trees with fungal growths, trees with untouched bark, trees that have been pruned back, but continue to grow every single time they are snipped– do you see what I’m getting at here? It doesn’t matter what they look like on the outside, because the fundamental physiological purpose of the tree, to convert carbon dioxide back into oxygen so that we can breath it, will be achieved no matter what the tree looks like outside! (And that bit about the tree being pruned back and continuing to grow proudly, effectively and beautiful is an important metaphor as well!)
Next time you don’t want to look in a mirror, think instead about everything you have to offer to the world that has no correlation to what’s visible on the outside. Your person, your soul, your positivity, your genius, your thoughts, your creativity, your music, your words, your wisdom… those are the “wow factors”. I promise you this: when you came into existence, you came exactly how you were meant to be – because you do have something to offer, just as you are. Trees are sort of a lifeline for us, in the way that they provide oxygen for us to breath – but don’t forget that the opposite is true, and that every breath you release provides carbon dioxide that the trees need. I know I sound incredibly “earth child”-ish here, but that is pretty majestic, and you are a part of it!
Let this sink in: you are worth an incredible amount (not only to the trees, but) to the rest of humankind. Every single day your actions contribute to the history books, and to the definition of humankind! That is absolutely significant. You are absolutely significant. Embrace that. Don’t forget it. And most of all, never ever let your physical appearance determine your self worth. We all have obstacles - physical and not. Our eating disorders/disordered eating patterns are one of those huge obstacles - but you were made with the power and ability to overcome those obstacles. This week, please focus on embracing and believing that.
I'll leave you with a line from one of my favorite poems:
“I will not fall in love with your bones and your skin. I will not fall in love with the places you have been. I will not fall in love with anything but the words that flutter from your extraordinary mind.” – Andre Jordan
(Today, I'm writing a blog that is solely about positivity. The material may not seem very deep, but believe me - the power of a compliment or a positive gesture is incredibly strong! Remember that as you read though!)
Robert Orden, an American magician once said, “A compliment is verbal sunshine”. I love this quote, because it’s so simple, and so true. Just think for a moment about the last sincere compliment you received – whether it was somebody telling you they liked your new haircut, or that you had a beautiful smile, or that your laugh was contagious – and focus on the feeling it gave you. Your heart lifts a little and warmth starts to travel up your fingers. But even more – you relax your shoulders and notice how tensed up you were before, and you catch yourself smiling for the rest of the day. Doesn’t that sound similar to the feeling that you get when you step outside and feel the gorgeous sunshine on your face?
This month, Body Gossip is encouraging people to participate in an “April Compliments Shower”. The idea is that you tell somebody – and this could be someone you know, or a total stranger – something positive about the way they look. You can do this face to face, or even via Twitter! Be sure to use the hashtag #complimentshower if you do!
I came across an interesting thought today – if you had to try and define beautiful, how would you define it? Really, when it comes to physical beauty, there’s no way to define beautiful. There are people of all different shapes, sizes, skin, hair and eye colors, heights, facial structure, nose and ear prominence, bum size, arm and leg length (you get my point here), that look nothing like each other, but are all considered beautiful. I am a firm believer that when you take the time to discover something you love about yourself, you carry yourself with more confidence – and confidence is the best beauty tool that there is. If you like your smile – make sure you share it with the world! If you love your hair, wear it in a way that makes you feel ready to go out and take the world by storm.
I’m telling you to do these things because we could all use a reaffirmation that beauty is not a score that’s based on how closely you meet the criteria of a certain look, or mold. Beauty is that look on a person’s face when you notice how absolutely unique and incredible their eye color is, or how thick and luscious their hair is, and you take the time to compliment them on it. It’s in the way that someone unapologetically holds their head as high as they can and shares with the world the things that they love about themselves – be it their laughter, their singing voice or their great fashion sense. And most importantly, it’s the act of taking a moment to share positive thoughts and affirmations. Your words have the power to put a smile on somebody’s face! Can you think of anything more beautiful than that?
So, this month, take the time to really notice the little things that make you decide, “wow, that person is beautiful”, and share that with them! If it’s something unconventional, so what? Share it anyways! They probably love it about themselves and have been waiting for somebody to notice. It takes 5 seconds to give a compliment, but be assured that the verbal sunshine you spread will continue to warm that person for a very long time!
P.S. I obviously can't see you through my computer screen, but I don't need to see you to know that something about you is absolutely, breathtakingly, beautiful. Take a minute to comment and tell me what that thing is! Personally, I like my smile! I feel most beautiful when I've got a real sincere smile on, or am laughing! How about you, readers? Don't be shy! :)
Today's blog entry I will be breaking the silence around eating disorders, more specifically my eating disorder. Beat's message is simple; don't suffer in silence, talk to somebody if you think you have a problem. However, hark the hypocrit sings, my eating disorder was something I could not even comprehend talking to somebody about. The thought of it purely terrified me. How on earth could I tell somebody?
There were many reasons why I couldn't talk to somebody, and when I did it took a lot of courage, just to have it thrown back in my face at times. I was suffering from Bulimia Nervosa. I was bingeing vast quantities of food in a short period of time which was then followed by purging, laxative abuse and occasionally excessive exercising. This was happening up to 10 times a day. Every living moment was dictated by it. After months of this I became an expert. I could do it without people even realising. I found numerous ways to hide my purging, nobody could find out about it. Why? Because I was disgusted with myself, I was racked with guilt at what I was doing. It felt like blasphemy. How could I be so greedy, so out of control, so revolting? Who could voluntarily make themselves sick? Everyone hates being sick.... And what about all of those poor kids in Africa who have no food, and there I am wasting it down a toilet bowl. Not to mention laxative abuse, it's just disgusting to even think about... So I hid it, I hid it from everyone. It was my own little secret. As it got worse and worse I realised that I did in fact have a problem, I recognised the symptoms, I had bulimia. The DSM-IV would be proud of me. But I still couldn't tell anyone, because yes, I knew I had an eating disorder, but I thought, perpetuated by the then media perception, that to have an eating disorder you must be emaciated. In my distorted and warped view of myself, I thought "I'm the largest heffalump going, certainly not thin, therefore I don't have an eating disorder"... So I continued to hide it, I continued to suffer in silence. It was not until my parents found out and confronted me that I was taken to see the Dr's. But even then I couldn't admit the extent to which my illness had control of me. I was still so disgusted with myself.
When I went on to develop Anorexia Nervosa, these same thoughts came into my mind; I am not thin enough to suffer from anorexia, therefore I don't need help... So yet again, I seemed to be suffering in silence. I became resistant to treatment as the anorexic voice was telling me that I wasn't ill enough as I wasn't "thin". Starting to sound like a vicious circle? This ended with a rather large bang when I started adult services, and I was rejected by the then local eating disorders service for weighing too much. Well, that was it for me. It perpetuated every anorexic thought in my head and led me to spiral damn near out of control.
However, 2 years down the line, without a single drop of ED services, I'm doing pretty damn fine thank you very much :) I've been able to realise that those same services that were supposed to help, in fact hindered a lot as well by putting so much emphasis on weight, BMI's and calories. My mind might not be anywhere near sorted yet, but physically, I'd like to say I'm doing pretty damn well.
I think back now and wonder, if there wasn't this media perception about 'eating disorder = thin', would I have sought help sooner? Would I have been more willing to accept treatment? Who knows... All I know is that this is one of the reasons why I co-founded Hungry for Change to make a difference in this world; to make sure that other people didn't have to suffer the way I did, and for there to be more awareness. Even if we can change one person's perspective it'll be worthwhile.
So there it is, this is me breaking the silence around eating disorders and my experiences.
Hope y'all have a great wednesday :) xxx
Yesterday was a big success for us. We took to Twitter with the aim to gain as many followers, re-tweets, tweets as possible. This has set us up for the exciting week ahead, so we can reach out to more and more people. An extra one hundred people followed us in A DAY, we had 560 views on our website, and all that could not have been done by our adamant tweets: Jolene Dillon, Sophie Liddament, Eva Brock and Lizzie McFarlane. Whilst we probably irritated a heck of a lot of people on Twitter, we got retweets from some very big names, which is very important in terms of spreading the word, considering they have a silly amount of followers!
As well as that, I will briefly go over what Sophie mentioned in last night's blog about me having a meeting with some people from my university. They are very supportive of student's running their own campaign, however they need to take into consideration that there are many National Awareness weeks each week, and so they cannot support us AS MUCH as they would like to for the week...considering they have student elections etc this week. However in two weeks time, I will be able to put up framed A2 posters in the SU, leaflets around the site, and speak to various people about potential funding. As well as this, the services at my university for eating disorders is very poor, and so today I will be talking to the welfare officer about the lack of services and what can be done. If all is well from there, I will then take to York University and do exactly the same!
Further to this, I will be storming my campus with a HD video camera on Friday, filming (probably) ill-informed students about eating disorders, and hopefully educating them a bit about them (unless they know a lot, and then I will let them get to their lectures on time).
You will see another blog this evening by Sophie. Have a great day, and get out there and raise awareness!
Well it's Day 1 of Eating Disorders Awareness Week and all social networking feeds seem to be going mad; spamming celebrities on twitter, starting trends, profile pictures relating to EDAW'12 and so much more, and I am so proud that Hungry for Change is part of this buzz!
In case you haven't noticed, although it's kind of hard not to if your on twitter, some of our lovely supporters have been spamming celebrities asking them to retweet about EDAW'12 as well as tagging @HFChange and #HFChange to try and get some awareness :) and in all honesty it's succeeded magnificently. We've had the likes of John Prescott, Marlee Martin, Dr Dawn Harper, Kate Thornton and more!!!! Big thanks to Jolene, Sophie L, Lizzie, Georgia, Eva, Caroline, Emma R and everyone else! We love you!
So what else is Hungry for Change doing except for spamming up your newsfeeds? Well Hannah spoke to her university today about working with Hungry for Change and raising awareness throughout EDAW. She's also planning on making a video by filming students asking what they know about eating disorders. AMAZING!!!
Everyone else has been ridiculously busy as well;
Beat (The UK's leading Eating Disorders Charity) theme for this EDAW'12 is 'breaking the silence' - encouraging those to speak about eating disorders - http://www.b-eat.co.uk/support-us/get-involved/edaw-2012/Find them on twitter at @beatED or hashtag them :)
Body Gossip are challenging people to acknowledge the eating disorder's you CAN'T see. Have a look at www.bodygossiping.tumblr.com
SRSH and it's various groups across the country are running a number of events including at Oxford, Southampton, the UEA and many more - http://studentrunselfhelp.weebly.com/awareness-week.htmlDiabetics with Eating Disorders have issued their first ever press release regarding ED-DMT1 (Diabulimia) and working so hard, and doing an amazing job in raising awareness - http://www.dwed.org.uk/News/2012/02/20/national-eating-disorders-awareness-week-press-release/Lastly, organised by the amazing Emilie Hall, there will be a 'Beat parade' on Saturday 25th February to celebrate the end of EDAW and raise awareness at the same time :) have a look at the facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/events/339803149384177/
Is anybody else doing anything? We'd love to hear about it so comment on here, tweet or facebook us and get the word out there! Let's the break the silence surrounding eating disorders.
On the eve of Eating Disorders Awareness Week I thought I would give the low-down on Channel 5.
Firstly, thanks to perseverance by Hannah by sending out masses of letters asking for people to give Hungry for Change some publicity it finally paid off; Channel 5 got back to us as said they'd love to have us on their show 'Live with Gabby' on Friday 17th! So Hannah asked around for people who would like to come on with us to talk about their experiences (and how amazing Hungry for Change are) and the amazing Emilie Hall said she would to talk about her experiences from having Orthorexia and obsessive exercising! We thought this was a brilliant opportunity as it could really highlight the change we're trying to make in the world - raising awareness for less known eating disorders that are commonly ignored and misunderstood.
So we all got up at silly o'clock and got to London for 10am where we had our hair and make-up done, ran through what we can and can't do on TV and met Kaye Adams and Jennifer Falconer! Needless to say we were so nervous the whole time!
We were then on at 11.20am and Hannah led the way by talking about Hungry for Change, why we wanted to set it up and the changes that need to make surrounding eating disorders, and why Hungry for Change is a unique campaign in what our aims and plans are. She also talked about our long term goal which is to fundraise to fund an individual through treatment when they have previously been rejected for treatment (See the Projects tab: NHS Treatment). I then talked about the changes we want to make, and briefly about my experiences, and then Emilie was so brave by talking about her experiences, how they affected her everyday life and why raising awareness is so important :)
Since then we have received nothing but positive feedback from everyone, the other people on the show, messages, tweets, emails, comments, and much more. I don't know for the others, but I have literally been smiling ear to ear since it's happened knowing that we have made a difference in people's perceptions!
Hopefully this will be the first of many opportunities to raise awareness and publicise Hungry for Change!
Hope you've all had a good weekend.
Just a little bit of an update of what is going on here at Hungry for Change and our thoughts on a few things.
As you can see, we have been busy editing our website, making all of our information up to date and informative as possible; however if there is anything that you think is incorrect or needs to be added then please do not hesitate to call us. We are adding information on 'Binge-eating Disorder', an eating disorder that is becoming more and more common yet is not widely recognised. We've also added a page on laxative abuse which is something many people feel strongly about - from my experiences I found more information about the dangers of laxative abuse through "pro-eating disorder sites" than I did through the NHS or anything reputable, so we hope this can be an information tool as well as letting you all know what is going on.
Also, you might have seen recently the programme about Kate Thornton and Anorexia. The programmed had 5 young ambassadors from Beat taking part, and they had a really big impact on the shape of the programme; educating the directors about what not to say, why not to mention calories etc. and everyone seems to be really pleased with the outcome. It proved to be, for the most part, a really informative and positive programme without being sensationalist :)
Lastly, it is the run up to Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2012 and we are really excited as a number of opportunities are coming our way which should hopefully give Hungry for Change the awareness and dedication it deserves, so watch this shape as I'm sure we will tell you more about it shortly!
Loads of lv