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:
- Seek professional help immediately.
- Relapse does not mean failure.
- You have been through this before and you can get through it again.
- Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to recover.
- Refer often to your values and strive to live by them.
- Work on self-approval, which is not dependent on weight.
- Accept your personal limitations.
- Create an environment of respect, optimism, trust and honesty with yourself and others.
- Know that “failure” neither dooms nor defines you. You are just a person who is willing to take on challenges.
- Practice, practice, practice!
Steps to Help Prevent Relapse:
- Seek help from a professional.
- Develop self acceptance through practising compassion toward self.
- Develop a positive and self nurturing internal dialogue.
- Get treatment for co-occurring disorders such as anxiety and depression.
- Practice mindfulness and living in the moment.
- Listen to and honour your feelings.
- Eat well and listen to your body’s hunger and fullness signs.
- Accept your genetic makeup and appreciate your body.
- Have a relapse prevention or correction plan.
When it comes to eating disorders, everyone has heard of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. However, these are not the only types of eating disorders that exist.
EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) or now recognised as OSFED (other specified feeding or eating disorder) is the most common type of eating disorder and the most deadly – but no one seems to know about it or its consequences!
A person with OSFED may present with many of the symptoms of other eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder but will not meet the full criteria for diagnosis of these disorders. Diagnoses that fit within this criteria include atypical anorexia (anorexic behaviours but a normal weight), atypical bulimia (less frequent behaviours), purging disorder (vomiting without binging), and night eating syndrome (excessively eating after bed time).
This does not mean that the person has a less serious eating disorder.
OSFED is the most common eating disorder and the most deadliest.
It has a mortality rate of 5.2 percent — higher than both anorexia and bulimia — despite the fact its sufferers often look healthy.
Signs that a person is struggling with OSFED
The warning signs of OSFED can be physical, psychological and behavioural. It is possible for someone with OSFED to display a combination of these symptoms:
- Weight loss, weight gain or weight fluctuations
- Loss of or disturbance of menstrual periods in girls and women and decreased libido in men
- Compromised immune system (e.g. getting sick more often)
- Signs of damage due to vomiting including swelling around the cheeks or jaw, calluses on knuckles, damage to teeth and bad breath
- Fainting and dizziness as a result of dehydration
- Preoccupation with food and eating
- Preoccupation with body shape and weight (in men this can be a preoccupation with increasing muscle bulk)
- Extreme body dissatisfaction
- Having a distorted body image (e.g. seeing themselves as overweight even if they are in a healthy weight range for their age and height)
- Sensitivity to comments relating to food, weight, body shape or exercise
- Heightened anxiety and/or irritability around meal times
- Depression, anxiety or irritability
- Low self esteem and feelings of shame, self loathing or guilt
- ‘Black and white’ thinking – rigid thoughts about food being ‘good’ or ‘bad’
- Dieting behaviour (e.g. fasting, counting calories/kilojoules, avoiding food groups such as fats and carbohydrates)
- Evidence of binge eating (e.g. disappearance or hoarding of food)
- Frequent trips to the bathroom during or shortly after meals which could be evidence of vomiting or laxative use
- Compulsive or excessive exercising (e.g. exercising in bad weather, continuing to exercise when sick or injured, and experiencing distress if exercise is not possible)
- Eating at unusual times and/or after going to sleep at night
- Changes in food preferences (e.g. claiming to dislike foods previously enjoyed, sudden preoccupation with ‘healthy eating’, or replacing meals with fluids)
- Obsessive rituals around food preparation and eating (e.g. eating very slowly, cutting food into very small pieces, insisting that meals are served at exactly the same time everyday)
- Anti-social behaviour, particularly around meal times, and withdrawal from social situations involving food
- Secretive behaviour around food (e.g. saying they have eaten when they haven’t, hiding uneaten food in their rooms)
- Increased interest in food preparation (e.g. planning, buying, preparing and cooking meals for others but not actually consuming; interest in cookbooks, recipes and nutrition)
- Increased interest and focus on body shape and weight (e.g. interest in weight loss websites, books, magazines or images of thin people)
- Repetitive or obsessive behaviours relating to body shape and weight (e.g. weighing themselves repeatedly, looking in the mirror obsessively and pinching waist or wrists)
- Increased isolation, spending more and more time alone and avoiding previously enjoyed activities
Where to go for help:
If you suspect that you or someone you know has OSFED, 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
Today I woke up at 6am to travel all the way to Wales for the St David Awards. I was so anxious that I actually felt physically sick but it was such a good event and everyone was so friendly.
We arrived and had some breakfast before I had some professional photos taken and spoke to some journalists. We chilled for a little while before the First Minister came and announced all the finalists to the stage. I am in the young person category for my mental health campaigning and special needs volunteering.
It was really lovely to see everyone there today and hear about all their achievements. It’s really overwhelming to think that people feel you deserve a national welsh award for ‘exceptional people in Wales’. I feel so incredibly blessed and feel so motivated to continue reaching out to others in similar situations to my own.
The whole reason I started this personal journey to recovery was because of the amazing people who kept pushing and pushing for my life. Without my family and my close friends, Anorexia would’ve claimed my life 2 years ago. With them, I began to fight for a new life and with it found the amazing joy of helping others. So many people reached out to me during my darkest days and I realised I was never alone no matter how isolated I felt.
I still get emails, facebook messages, and letters from those who wish to thank me for my work. For 2 years, I’ve exposed my inner and most darkest secrets, all my thoughts, and all my struggles in the hopes that it can help others in the same situation get the help they need. Exposing yourself to the world is one of the hardest things you can do – because it feels like everyone can criticise your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. However, I don’t regret ever starting this blog and sharing my story because if one person is helped then thats enough to change the world!
Mental Health problems are such a taboo subject and people struggling are more often than not stigmatised.
Every single day I will fight to change this view.
Mental Health problems are not a liability. They are not shameful. They are not cowardly. They are not only experienced by the weak.
Mental illness has no victim. It affects people of all ages, all backgrounds, all cultures and all social class.
Different but NEVER less
Where do I even start with food. Even before I developed an eating disorder, food was a battle. Back then it was all about having too much too eat, too big of portion sizes and not moving enough. Something changed back when I was 15 – something that literally happened overnight. I remember it was summer and I was eating ice cream on the patio whilst sunbathing. This was the last day I enjoyed eating freely before an eating disorder kicked in. The next day, I began counting calories. I still ate pizza, ice cream and chocolate and didn’t restrict much; I just kept track. Then, each week the calories began to reduce. I began exercising. Eventually, I got to the stage where a full blown eating disorder had taken over my life. We all know the symptoms.
Anywhoo, into the main reasons for this blog post. I went into recovery for my eating disorder on the 1st of September 2014. The first few months were horrendous; not being able to exercise and having people force food down you because looking at it brought you to tears. I wouldn’t even drink water. Eventually, I ate a meal and my body went into craving mode. I ate everything and anything; even stuff I hated. People assumed my eating habits had returned to normal and have been to this day…but they haven’t. I admit it. I’ve relapsed; heck I’ve relapsed. I’ve relapsed more times than stabilised in recovery. I’ve purposely restricted food. I’ve purged. I’ve screamed. I’ve cried. I’ve rejoiced at the sound of my own hunger. I’ve craved dizziness and feeling weak as its eating disorder progress. I’ve also binged and ate whatever the heck I’ve wanted. I’ve eaten takeaways and eaten out at restaurants. I’ve had days where eating 3 meals a day was easy.
My weight has fluctuated ever since my eating disorder. It goes up and down constantly because recovery has prevented me fully relapsing. I’m tired. I’m tired of watching the scales go down and I’m tired of watching it go straight back up. I don’t want the scales to determine my happiness anymore…
So I have joined slimming world. No more counting calories. No more severe restriction. It’s time to tackle 3 healthy meals a day and eating syns without feeling completely guilty. I’ve put my body through enough shit these past 4 years and I’m ready to make healthy changes…
A lot of people don’t realise that eating disorders stay in the mind way longer than the weight is restored…Healthy or overweight does not indicate healthy minds. Please, please remember this. I was a healthy weight when Ana plagued my mind. Eating disorders do not emerge in those who are already severely underweight…they emerge at anytime.
Look around you and notice those who may be struggling. Do not let them slip off the radar.
Here’s two god awful recent pictures of me…2 years weight restored and not at a healthy weight. I hate full length photos of myself so this is the first step to acceptable and realisation that change needs to be made.
Whose ready for this journey.
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?
So many emotions…so much pain.
I know how life can turn on you sometimes. How it can make you feel…lonely. Scared. Life can be so cruel sometimes….I can’t handle it. I don’t know what to do. You asked me before it I was coping. I’m not coping. Not at all.
I distanced myself from my friends. I distanced myself from everyone. It doesn’t go away. It happened weeks ago. It might as well be minutes ago. Because it doesn’t go away. I don’t break down in tears anymore. Not much…
You put me through hell..but I survived.