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

Do YOU have an eating disorder?

There are various different types of eating disorders and it can be difficult to spot whether a person’s food habits signify those of someone with an eating disorder. This blog post asks questions about your eating habits to determine if you may be struggling with food. It is not a diagnosis. Answering yes to the questions could indicate you have an eating disorder and you should seek advice from a doctor.

  1. Do you spend a significant amount of time worrying about your body, weight or shape?

  2. Would you say that food, or thinking about food, dominates your life?

  3. Do you worry you have lost control over how much you eat?

  4. Do you make yourself sick when you feel uncomfortably full?

  5. Do you believe that you are fat when others say you are too thin?

  6. Do you avoid food or eating? – OR – Have you experienced a lack of interest in food or eating?

    If you suspect that you or someone you know has an eating disorder, it is important to seek help immediately. The earlier you seek help the closer you are to recovery. While your GP may not be formally trained in detecting the presence of an eating disorder, he/she is a good ‘first base.’ A GP can refer you on to a practitioner with specialised knowledge in eating disorders.

    find your local eating disorder service here

    https://www.b-eat.co.uk/

    https://eatingdisorder.org/eating-disorder-information/

    http://eating-disorders.org.uk/

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

Eating Disorders Amongst the Dancer Community

More than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, 11% of these being male. The main eating disorders are Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder (BED), eliminating EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).Before the latest change in diagnostic criteria, it was estimated that of those with eating disorders, 10% were anorexic, 40% were bulimic and the rest fall into the EDNOS category which included BED.

In the dance world, these statistics are even higher. Society puts pressure on people to look a certain way in order to be accepted. In dance, the pressure to be thin is not only due to appearance but also due to performance. Dancers, especially those who take ballet, are often expected to be very thin. Young dancers look to dancers much older who have thin bodies. Dance places a large emphasis on physical appearance. Dance requires you to wear skin-tight clothes whilst dancing in front of a million mirrors for hours at a time. This environment can impact dancers views on their self and possibly lower their self esteem. Dancers constantly look at themselves and their bodies and compare themselves to others.

Many dancers also believe that achieving a lower weight will improve their dancing as well. Female dancers must be held in the air by their male counterparts in a series of long and strenuous lifts. Being lighter and easier to hold is desirable. Because extra weight changes the balance of the body, ballet dancers are careful to maintain a lower weight, thus allowing them to move easier and land softer.

Many people who suffer from eating disorders feel that the disorder gives them a sense of control. This act of self-discipline and structure is inherent in the nature of dance as well. Mastering a skill or achieving a low weight is a tangible goal for dancers. Some dancers have reported that being thinner than the other girls can give them an edge when it comes to getting a role in a dance. Having a sense of control over your body and your competition is powerful for dancers. These pressures are extremely relevant in the world of classical ballet, but that is not to say that developing an eating disorder is the right way to find success as a ballerina. In fact, it is just the opposite. Eating disorders destroy your body, leaving you malnourished and lacking in muscle tone and bone strength. Dance is a rigorous sport that requires an enormous amount of strength. A body plagued by a serious eating disorder is weak and not able to execute difficult leaps and skilful manoeuvres.

Studies have shown that girls begin to express concerns about their own weight or about becoming too fat as early as the age of six. Most dancers begin their high level training around age seven. These girls are dreaming of becoming professional dancers, and are doing so at an impressionable age. Feeling the need to be lean like their idols can significantly damage them both mentally and physically.

The dance world is tough and it can be easy to follow the rules of society.

It can be difficult to spot the onset or re-occurrence of an eating disorder when a person is of a normal weight. Warning signs include:

  • Constant or repetitive dieting such as always counting calories, skipping meals, avoiding foods, replacing meals with fluids.
  • Extreme exercise regimes and abnormal amounts of time spent at a gym to ‘burn calories’. Exercising when injured, in bad weather, exhibiting distress if not able to exercise, refusal to stop exercise for any reason.
  • Evidence of vomiting or laxative abuse – frequent trips to the bathroom during or after meals.
  • Changes in food preferences – suddenly refusing to eat certain foods, changing to vegetarian or vegan to avoid foods, claiming to dislike foods once enjoyed, interested in healthy eating.
  • Avoidance of eating food or social events that involve food.
  • Strong focus on body and body weight – interest in weight-loss websites and pro-ana sites, dieting books and pictures of ‘thin’ people.
  • Development of repetitive behaviours – pinching waist or wrists, constantly weighing, excessive time looking at the mirror.
  • Social withdrawal and isolation, avoidance of once enjoyed activities.
  • Eating very slowly and denying hunger  – even when the belly rumbles.
  • Sudden or rapid weight loss or frequent changes in weight
  • Complaining about being cold even in warm environments
  • Signs of vomiting – swollen cheeks, calluses on the knuckles or damaged teeth.
  • Fainting spells, panic attacks and dizziness
  • Always feeling tired and unable to perform many activities
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Negative self-esteem and body image as well as a distorted body image
  • Sensitive to comments or criticism about the body, weight or exercise and eating habits
  • Heightened anxiety, especially around food
  • Depression and other psychological disorders
  • Black and white thinking – everything is either good or bad, no in between.
  • Feeling out of control or hopeless
  • Moody or irritable

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Eating Disorder symptoms are as follows:

There are physical and psychological indicators of eating disorders. Depending on the disorder, some include: • Preoccupation with food, weight, and body • Unrelenting fear of gaining weight • Refusal to eat except for tiny portions • Dehydration • Compulsive exercise and inappropriate time spent at the gym • difficulty concentrating and focusing  • Distorted body image • Abnormal weight loss • Sensitivity to cold • Absent menstruation • Rapid consumption of a large amount of food • Eating alone or in secret • Abuse of laxatives, diuretics, diet pills, or emetics • Depression • Shame and guilt • Withdrawal • difficulty regulating mood (sad then happy) • associated mental disorders: depression, anxiety, OCD and substance abuse • slow pulse and blood pressure • dizzy spells and shortness of breath • chest pain • electrolyte imbalances • stress fractures, broken bones or injuries • low body temperature • low energy or extreme fatigue • constipation and stomach problems • laxative dependence

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

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Monday the 22nd of February to Sunday the 28th February 2016 marks Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

As many people will know, in 2013 I developed disorded eating and thought patterns that eventually led to a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa.

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.

Although Anorexia is the most lethal, other eating disorders are just as serious. Other disorders (including Anorexia):

  • 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.

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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