mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Subtle Signs Someone You Love May Have An Eating Disorder

Some eating disorder signs are obvious: dramatic weight loss, a refusal to eat, retreating to the bathroom for long periods after meals. But anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder also reveal themselves in more subtle ways.

We’d like them to be easy to diagnose, but eating disorders are often much more complicated than that. Any given person may suffer from more than one at a time, and one list of symptoms doesn’t necessarily equal the same verdict for everyone. It’s important to keep in mind that many of the signals are less obvious than we might think. Not everyone suffering is skin and bones, haggard, and clearly starving. Because there are so many stereotypes around mental illnesses that deal with food, people who wrestle with them will do everything they can to keep it under wraps.

Changes in mood and behaviour, increased isolation and avoidance of social events and gatherings

Changes in mood and behaviour become noticeable quite early on. In an attempt to keep the eating disorder secret, the person may become more isolated and easily irritated; especially when questioned. Anxiety and Depression are very common among those with eating disorders. The person may avoid interaction with friends, especially if gatherings involve food. Hunger can make a person irritable and tired, which drastically impacts the person’s overall mood.

Increase in exercise or exercising excessively

Over-the-top workout habits—sometimes referred to as “exercise anorexia”—can go hand in hand with disordered eating and appear to be on the rise. The person may not participate in social events but will be seen running, walking or exercising. A person with an eating disorder who did not exercise before may now start to increase physical activity. A person who did partake in exercise beforehand may spend hours exercising or talking about it. Does the person panic if they miss a day of exercise? And does he or she work out even when injured or sick? These are indicators that things are going too far.

Obsession with food, diet talk, food or weight documentaries or forums about weight

This sign in adults can be tricky to spot, because internet usage is usually private. However, the person may talk about food and diet, or be the opposite and want to avoid all talk about it. Weight loss documentaries or documentaries about food can become an obsession as the person with an eating disorder becomes fixated.  The person’s internet use will often involve forums or videos related to weight and food, so keep a watchful eye out.

Not consuming food around other people

Many people with eating disorders do not like eating around other people. The anticipation of eating with a bunch of friends can be extremely anxiety-provoking for someone dealing with anorexia, BED, or any other related illness. They may not want others to watch what they’re eating or think that they are being judged on what they are eating. Does the person go out for food with you and consume very little, or order food and take it back home with them?

Always cold

People with eating disorders, especially those who restrict intake, will often experience a lowered body temperature. Frequently complaining about being cold or wearing sweaters and other heavy clothing even in mild weather are common tip-offs in people with eating disorders. This is usually a result of malnutrition and the breakdown of fat in the body. Is the person cold whilst everyone is warm? Common signs in those with eating disorders are cold hands and blue nails, a blue discoloration to the nose (cyanosis) and pale skin.

Strange eating rituals

Compulsive behaviours similar to those seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can also appear with eating disorders. These so-called rituals can take the form of cutting food into tiny morsels, or arranging food in certain patterns. They are mainly associated with anorexia (which often occurs alongside OCD), but they are sometimes an early sign of binge eating disorder as well. The person may revert back to ‘child like’ cutlery and plates to organise food, and food may be sectioned off so that it is not touching. When eating disorders are starting, people will try to make it look like they are eating by cutting things up and shifting food around on the plate so as not to draw attention to how little they are eating.

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eating disorder · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Struggling with Eating Disorder Relapse

Recovering from an eating disorder is difficult. It takes a lot of time, dedication, energy, support and willpower. Choosing recovery is difficult and sometimes our eating disorder mind beats the rational mind.

Lately, my eating disorder mind has been constantly reappearing to try and beat my rational mind. Some days I ignore it and just eat whatever I want. On the days it takes overs, I’ll lie in bed and refuse to give in to the hunger.

I believe that recovery is managing an eating disorder and not fully living without it. I don’t think an eating disorder ever goes away. Either way, its important to notice the warning signs of a relapse and put support systems into place.

Some signs that might indicate relapse:

  • Your thoughts keep turning to food, dieting and weight.
  • You have been dishonest with your eating disorder treatment professionals or if you feel compelled to hide information or behaviours.
  • You worry that you are losing control and may overcompensate with perfectionism.
  • You feel as if you have no outlet for your stress.
  • You feel hopeless and wonder what you’re going to do with your life.
  • With diet and exercise, your primary goal is to look good rather than to be healthy.
  • You believe that you’ll never be happy unless you’re thin.
  • You see yourself as overweight or obese.
  • Friends or family indicate to you that your self-image is inaccurate.
  • You look in the mirror frequently and weigh yourself often.
  • You skip meals or find ways to purify yourself after eating.
  • You get irritable around the issue of food.
  • You feel an overwhelming sense of guilt or shame after eating.
  • You avoid events that involve food.
  • You isolate yourself or engage in increasingly secretive behaviours.
  • You hold contempt for people who are overweight or don’t eat well according to your standards.

Relapse is a natural part of the recovery process. In the event that you feel that you may be in a situation where you have fallen back to eating disorder behaviour, there are some things to remember:

  1. Seek professional help immediately.
  2. Relapse does not mean failure.
  3. You have been through this before and you can get through it again.
  4. Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to recover.
  5. Refer often to your values and strive to live by them.
  6. Work on self-approval, which is not dependent on weight.
  7. Accept your personal limitations.
  8. Create an environment of respect, optimism, trust and honesty with yourself and others.
  9. Know that “failure” neither dooms nor defines you. You are just a person who is willing to take on challenges.
  10. Practice, practice, practice!

Steps to Help Prevent Relapse:

  1. Seek help from a professional.
  2. Develop self acceptance through practising compassion toward self.
  3. Develop a positive and self nurturing internal dialogue.
  4. Get treatment for co-occurring disorders such as anxiety and depression.
  5. Practice mindfulness and living in the moment.
  6. Listen to and honour your feelings.
  7. Eat well and listen to your body’s hunger and fullness signs.
  8. Accept your genetic makeup and appreciate your body.
  9. Have a relapse prevention or correction plan.

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · Uncategorized

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2017

Today marks the first day of eating disorder awareness week 2017. This is such an important week for me as most people know and I will be sharing lots of information about eating disorders to try and raise as much awareness as possible.

Awareness is key to diagnosis and recovery. Because of a lack of awareness, my eating disorder went undetected for 14+ months until my life was at risk. People deserve to get the care and treatment they need in terms of their eating disorders from the moment they develop one.

Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour. A person with an eating disorder may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results to their health.

Eating disorders include a range of conditions that can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially. The most common eating disorders are:

  • anorexia nervosa – when a person tries to keep their weight as low as possible; for example, by starving themselves or exercising excessively
  • bulimia – when a person goes through periods of binge eating and is then deliberately sick or uses laxatives (medication to help empty the bowels) to try to control their weight
  • binge eating disorder (BED) – when a person feels compelled to overeat large amounts of food in a short space of time

Some people, particularly those who are young, may be diagnosed with an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). This means you have some, but not all, of the typical signs of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia.

I was diagnosed with Anorexia in 2014. Anorexia Nervosa is currently the most lethal psychiatric disorder, carrying a sixfold increased risk of death. Although Anorexia is by far the deadliest eating disorder, death rates are also higher than normal in people with bulimia and “eating disorder not otherwise specified” (EDNOS, a common diagnosis for people with a mixture of atypical anorexia and atypical bulimia). Suicide is also a particular risk as 1 in 5 Anorexia death are due to suicide. People diagnosed with Anorexia between the ages of 20 to 29 had a higher death rate (18-fold) with the age group 15-19 following close behind with a ten fold.

Spotting the signs of an eating disorder can be difficult. Remember – a person with an eating disorder does NOT have to appear thin or underweight.

Warning signs to look out for include:

  • missing meals
  • complaining of being fat, even though they have a normal weight or are underweight
  • repeatedly weighing themselves and looking at themselves in the mirror
  • Losing interest in social events, not attending classes or school, becoming withdrawn
  • making repeated claims that they’ve already eaten, or they’ll shortly be going out to eat somewhere else and avoiding eating at home
  • cooking big or complicated meals for other people, but eating little or none of the food themselves
  • only eating certain low-calorie foods in your presence, such as lettuce or celery
  • feeling uncomfortable or refusing to eat in public places, such as at a restaurant
  • the use of “pro-anorexia” websites
  • Use of dietary aids such as weight loss products, diuretics and laxatives
  • eating in secret or having days of ‘normal’ eating
  • Using the bathroom frequently after eating

Eating disorders cause a wide variety of complications, some of them life-threatening. The more severe or long lasting the eating disorder, the more likely you are to experience serious complications, such as:

  • Significant medical problems
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Problems with growth and development
  • Social and relationship problems
  • Substance use disorders
  • Work and school issues
  • Death

So, whose affected by eating disorders?

A 2015 report commissioned by Beat estimates more than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder. Eating disorders tend to be more common in certain age groups, but they can affect people of any age.

Around 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2,000 men will experience anorexia nervosa at some point. The condition usually develops around the age of 16 or 17.

Bulimia is around two to three times more common than anorexia nervosa, and 90% of people with the condition are female. It usually develops around the age of 18 or 19.

Binge eating affects males and females equally and usually appears later in life, between the ages of 30 and 40. As it’s difficult to precisely define binge eating, it’s not clear how widespread it is, but it’s estimated to affect around 5% of the adult population.

Be disorder aware this week and reach out to those you feel may be suffering with an Eating Disorder

[credit: NHS UK]

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

I was REALLY sick…

I was on instagram last night when I went onto my instagram profile. I decided to just stroll through my pictures and found some from 2014/2015. For those who know me, you’ll understand that during this time I was in the depths of my eating disorder. At the time, I didn’t really know this. I thought I was okay. I thought I was better than I’d ever been. How wrong I was though. June 2014 consisted of doctors appointments, hospital appointments, blood tests, scans, meetings with college, intervention from community mental health teams and social services. My weight was drastically dropping by each day. The calories kept getting lower and lower.

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Whilst going through those pictures last night; I had the realisation that I was actually really sick back then. How I had managed to feel so healthy I have no idea. How did I survive on no calories for a week? How did I manage to exercise every waking hour of the day?

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I knew that I was sick, I just don’t think I realised how sick I was. I thought I was getting healthy and stronger, not unhealthy and weaker. I remember getting every single illness going; my immune system was very weak. I was always cold yet I still took freezing showers. My muscles always ached and bruised but I would walk for hours on end.

All I wanted to do was sleep and food plagued every single thought.

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Anorexia is such a wretched disease.

It stops its victims even noticing theres something wrong. It refuses to let them see their true self or feel any sort of happiness.

Anorexia is strong, but Savannah is stronger.

autism · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Remembering the Recovered: Eating Disorders at Christmas

When you’ve had an eating disorder in the past and people are aware of that, you are no longer protected in that safety blanket of the unknown. People now have suspicions. They are more aware. They know you once suffered and are now tracking every move you make; every bite you consume. There’s no hiding it now. They know, and you can’t take that back. That’s the most scariest thing about recovery. The raw revealing of yourself. Your entire thoughts and battles on show for everyone to stare at. That’s what makes Christmas as a recovered so hard…

You can no longer pass off not eating the cake because you’re a little full or you’ve already ate. You can’t make up a believable excuse as to why you’re exercising none stop. It’s not to be healthy or to practice for a sports tryout. Refusing a meal is no longer simply overlooked; its scrutinised and studied.

But the thing is, when you’re ‘recovered’ people expect you to reintegrate into the normal family unit. It isn’t about food anymore. Now you’re recovered, you love food. People expect you to eat everything on the plate and ask for seconds. That fear of food you had – that’s gone now. They want to forget about the past and have a ‘normal Christmas’. You’re recovered now, so why wouldn’t you eat that extra slice of cake or have any fears of food at all. Your health and weight is no longer a concern and people expect you to fit into their shared experiences, including the overindulgence on Christmas Day without feeling guilty and the ability to eat food without deeming yourself bad.

But I want to tell you something…a person who has ‘recovered’ from an eating disorder may appear fine and healthy on the outside. They may eat without guilt or have a dessert after dinner. They may not exercise anymore and seem confident about their body, but the thing is – they’re likely not fully recovered. Eating disorders have a heavy hold on the sufferer. Recovered may mean better but it doesn’t mean the eating disorder has just completely disappeared off the face of the earth.

Eating disorders build up their own identity. There is no room for happiness in an eating disorder. It robs you of your joy and you become some automaton with no feelings. You can no longer tell the difference between who you are and who the eating disorder is. You’re not you anymore. You become a walking, talking eating disorder. The eating disorder invades your mind and every single part of your body. You think you can stop it at your will, but you can’t. You’re no longer in control; the eating disorder is.

Recovered does not mean that I now have a healthy and positive relationship with food.

So on Christmas day, please remember the recovered. Remember that an eating disorder used to be the only thing that they lived for. Remember that they struggled to look at food and eat it. Remember that exercise was their life. Remember that they struggled to eat during family gatherings and did not like social events that included food. Remember that their eating disorder was valid and so is their recovery…

Please remember that recovery is a long and treacherous journey and that relapses are a 100% acceptable.

Be forgiving. Be loving. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be open minded. Be patient.

Thank you,

the recovered.

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autism · grief · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

What Does an Eating Disorder Look Like?

Whilst at the Feel Happy Eating Fix, the big subject of the media came up. Ever since, I’ve been thinking about the role of the media on eating disorders. It is a large topic, one that can bring up a lot of opinion. Honestly, I do think that the media plays a big role on the development of eating disorders. When you watch TV, all you see is girls all the same size – all thin, all with the perfect flat stomach and sun-kissed tan…all incredibly beautiful. I have sat and watched TV for over an hour and have not seen one overweight or even normal weight person on the TV adverts. It makes me so incredibly sad. If children are growing up seeing incredibly thin and beautiful models all over TV, shops and the internet then of course they are going to want to be like them.

When it comes to eating disorders, there is no size guideline. I don’t care what anyone says. An Eating Disorder is a serious psychiatric illness and is not characterised by how much a person weighs. If a person is thinner, it does not mean they are anymore ill than someone of normal size. Everyone with an eating disorder is ill and needs help and care. It is wrong to view eating disorders as a weight illness. In a person with an eating disorder, the brain is disorded to think that food is bad for you. An eating disorder comes along with many mental illnesses including depression, anxiety and body dysmorphia. An eating disorder, no matter how heavy the person is, is life threatening and should be taken seriously.

It really annoys me that there is a BMI guideline for diagnosis of Anorexia. I development Anorexia Nervosa at slightly overweight. No one noticed my disordered thinking. Nobody noticed I pretended to fill my empty cereal bowl with a little drop of milk in the sink to make it look like I’d eaten. Nobody noticed me wrapping my food in napkins at dinner time. Nobody noticed the excessive use of tablets to make me lose weight. Nobody noticed the excessive exercise that caused me to faint. No one noticed the change in the mood, the lack of sleep and always being severely tired, or the unexplained bruises, the constant illnesses and the inability to function everyday. All people noticed was an overweight girl losing weight to fit society’s view of perfection. Everyone was ‘proud’ of me. I suffered for over a year before anyone noticed that I was “losing too much weight”.  Even then when my BMI hit underweight, the doctor deemed me as ‘fine’ because I was not yet thin enough….

Eating Disorders do not fit one box. Two people who both have anorexia are NOT the same. Anorexia Nerovsa shares similar characteristics but is NOT the same. The media does not portray a realistic view of eating disorders…

So when someone walks past you in the street and you whisper, “that girl looks anorexic,” please tell me…What does an eating disorder look like anyway?

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

A Girl Called Ana [POEM]

I found this poem a few days back on my old blog and it gives me goosebumps every time I read it. I wanted to share, because it explains the grips of an eating disorder well.

I’ve seen a girl called Ana,

She’s pretty, thin and tall,

She has the smallest frame I’ve seen,

And not one single flaw.

I’ve met a girl called Ana,

she introduced herself one day,

She seemed so very nice at first,

and said she wants to stay.

I’ve known this girl named Ana,

She’s so perfect and it’s true,

I’m fat compared to her,

But she’ll make me skinny too.

I’ve become friends with this girl named Ana,

I’ve started eating less,

Hating the person in the mirror,

My life’s become a mess.

My best friend is a girl named Ana,

I just want her to stay,

All my other friends have left,

But she will never stray.

I always listen to Ana,

She’s smart and full of advice,

I’m starting to get smaller,

my health is the only sacrifice.

I’m scared of this girl called Ana,

I can’t get her from my head,

It always occurred to me,

that Ana wants me dead.

I despise this girl called Ana,

She makes my life a hell,

Someone hear my silent screams,

cause she won’t let me tell!

My worst enemy is this girl called Ana,

She’s a demon in my head,

She seemed so nice at first,

But now I am mislead.

I’m a prisoner to this girl called Ana,

I’m captive to her will,

I can’t help but do what she says,

How can I be so fat still?

My murderer is this girl called Ana,

She starves me to my grave,

My heart will stop beating,

When I can’t continue to be brave.

This is about Ana,

She’ll take your life away.

If you give her any chance,

in your head she’ll stay.