A Seasonal “Sod Off” to Disordered Eating [Top Tips]

This post will be particularly useful for those who:

Experience a heightened level of anxiety around food and eating.

Are inclined to compensate or punish themselves for food eaten.

Those currently having treatment for, or in recovery for, disordered eating.

Those who find themselves stuck in diet mentality, when eating causes negative self- judgement.

For those caring for another with disordered eating.

It’s now November [what the ..?! How’d that happen…] and in my family that’s a cue for premature Christmas songs and getting busy in the kitchen making lots of Christmas goodies! 

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Christmas has always been my favourite time of year, and let’s face it what’s Christmas without the amazing array of food. 

The warm comforting smells sum up Winter, and spark nostalgic memories; Christmas evenings filled with games, music and laughter.  

This hasn’t always been the case for me though.
The years spent battling anorexia turned Christmas joys into Christmas fears.
Christmases spent anxious in tears.
Christmases on meal plans, worried and concerned about every spoonful to come, every meal out, and dreading every party.

For those suffering with an eating disorder Christmas can be a serious time for struggles and set backs.

Coming into my fifth year of recovery it is lovely to be able to once again embrace the season’s festivities.  
Over the years I have learnt to hold a more realistic and educated perspective by continuously, and immediately, challenging faulty thoughts, behaviours and communicating anxieties.

This is my wish for all of you this season.


So, without further ado, let’s kick start the festive period with a seasonal “sod off” to your eating disorder.

Here are my Top Tips for Surviving Christmas Time

(ft. mistletoe, and glass upon glassful of wine…)

1.  Don’t restrict/skip meals.  

Compensating and restricting your eating in the weeks leading up to Christmas parties, meals out is more likely to increase anxiety as it puts your body under huge amounts of stress.
Restrictive eating has been found to be associated with overeating later on in the day, that may spark binges for those susceptible. 

Keep to a routine, and if you’re nervous about an upcoming event or meal out simply find out what will be on offer beforehand and pick a couple of options  you think you’ll be able to manage, that way you can feel more chilled in advance and focus on the social side of season!
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2. Movement should be optional and not obligatory.

You do not have to “work for” or “work off” your food.
You deserve to eat food and enjoy yourself just like everyone else, regardless of what you have or have not done.

This is where diet-culture often wins us over, because in the next few weeks we will be inundated with advert after advert for workout DVDs, all this rubbish about detoxes, cleanses, and loads more dieting messages reminding us to hit the gym hard before we have any festive foods.
Remind yourself that these are marketing gimmicks; existing to make sales, and caring about their profits and not your health.

Instead of believing you have to run yourself into the ground, be gentle, do things you enjoy; go on wintery walks, do gentle stretching like yoga.  

                 Move because you want to move, and in the ways you love to move.

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3. Be Aware of Faulty Thinking Traps:

Christmas can be a playground for eating disorders, freely swinging guilt and shame around so that you end up perpetually swung into the control of your eating disorder. Thoughts and feelings can feel extreme, self-punishing, all encompassing.
But remind yourself they are lies.
What you eat is not to be internalised as a reflection of who you are as a person; you are not bad, nor are you guilty, or greedy, or shameful for nourishing your body. 


Write down these faulty thoughts on note cards along with some counteractive comebacks,
 have them handy so you can remind yourself that actually everything is ok.

The more you challenge the thoughts and behaviours the more you see that things aren’t really all that scary and the festive fun begins to slowly creep back in!
Thought challenging and putting a realistic perspective on a situation [I have written a blog about common thinking errors and ways to challenge them in a blog that you can read here]

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4. Use it as a time to challenge and change!

Instead of allowing the season to hold you back, use it as a chance to push you forward! 

I have often dealt with people who say it’s easier to avoid certain situations, or eating certain foods, so as not to evoke negative and uncomfortable thoughts/feelings. 
But this doesn’t help you challenge your irrational food fears, and by remaining captive to your eating disorder you are preventing little steps forward in your recovery.

Make a little list of foods you tend to avoid or feel anxious about, and then work them into your meals and snacks.  Have a trusted friend that can support you trying these foods out and help you handle anxiety around this.

You may wish to journal how you felt before, during, and after eating them
I promise you will survive to see that nothing bad happens.
The more you practice this task the more you break down barriers and increase the variety of foods into your diet. 

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5. Try Something New!

There is so much more to Christmas than food!
Get festive with crafts, movies, winter walks, visiting German Markets, seeing the lights, games. These and many more are all great distractions away from negative thinking and ruminating thoughts.
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6. Make Self-Care A Priority

Give yourself space and time to calm your thoughts and feelings; breathing exercises or having something soothing (I used aromatherapy candles and music) can help if you are susceptible to panic attacks or extreme anxiety.
This will also help aid digestion, and may help reduce any pain, discomfort or bloating caused by tension and stress around food often confused as GI dysfunctions such as IBS or coeliac – no self diagnosis please.

Relax

6. Take One Day At A Time. 

For many the social occasions are more than just the day itself and many have extended Christmas and New Years plans. This amount of socialising and foody events may feel very overwhelming when you think about it all at once, so don’t get ahead of yourself.
It may be helpful to take time to sit and plan, with a clinician or any trusted other, ways to manage the upcoming season so that your health remains stable.

Knowing where you will be for events, looking at menus in advance, or having some pre-made snacks are all ways you can make sure you feel comfortable socialising this season.

Remember that the season is more than just food, so what else can you get up too with friend and family?!

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7. Ditch The Diet and Body Talk:

I used to dread coming back from my treatment at Christmas just because it meant hearing the words “you’re looking so much better” repeatedly said to me.
*Cringe* 

Now, to many this may seem bizzare,  because surely that’s a lovely compliment to hear?!
And true, it is….now!
But, when ill with an eating disorder, such comments are likely interpreted as “looking bigger/fatter”.

This it then associated with many other hugely complex underlying  beliefs and labels:  being bad/unworthy/unloveable/not deserving treatment/care…feeling out of control.
A complex can of worms you just didn’t wanna open… 

It’s worth telling friends, family members in advance not to comment on your appearance, and abstain from topics of conversation regarding body image and food talk.
None of this talk on “good or bad foods”, or “such and such will go straight to my hips…”…tell them to leave that diet-trash talk out of the picture for their sake as well as yours.
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Personal reflection; it definitely helped me to challenge this warped interpretation by remembering they hadn’t seen me since I went into hospital, really they were just thrilled to see me back at home for Christmas, and actually what they were referring to was my bubblier, brighter side that was shining through now I was becoming “me” again.
When I was more motivated in recovery I would challenge these thoughts and ask myself why was I interpreting comments in this way, and why I felt the need to look “ill” – what was this function playing for me? what was I actually trying to vocalise through restrictive eating and self-starvation?
Deep stuff I know…but just points to ponder.

8. Communication is Key:

Believe it or not but people do care about you.
Talk to whoever’s cooking for you, and be honest about how you’re feeling to your friends and family, the more they understand how you’re coping with things the more they can support you at meals and in states of high anxiety.
Whether it’s going for a coffee with a mate, or having a hug from your parents, if you need it, ask for it. 

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You Got This!

Christmas is a hard time for those with eating disorders, so don’t be hard on yourself, and don’t expect every day to go perfectly.
Take small steps to challenge your thinking and your eating.

Remember:

It’s only one month. You will survive to see that nothing bad has happened!!!

You do not need to work for, or work off, what you eat. 

Your eating disorder has no authority to restrict or rule your life 

 Above all else, remember that you deserve to enjoy Christmas, just like everyone else.


Dear parents and carers…
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Remember to not neglect your own needs. For more info please check out the blog written by guest writer on my site, and one strong mummy, Janet Richards, sharing her top tips.


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@Josceline_Joy

If you liked this post please don’t forget to leave a comment, follow the blog and my social media tags! 

#MeToo: A Social Storm To Stop Suffering

In response to the #MeToo campaign, why it’s so important to take a stand and not be afraid to speak out about the suffering behind seemingly smiling eyes. I touch on my own experience and my hopes for this movement helping both the victims and perpetrators involved in such sex crimes.

A campaign that predated social media, set up in 2007 by Tarana Burke who up a non-profit organisation aiming to provide the resources and support for victims of sexual assault and harassment, and committed her time and energy to be with those who had experienced abuse.

Now, in response to the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein, the social media movement #MeToo has resurfaced. 

Retweeted earlier this month by actress, and producer, Alyssa Milano, the responses to movement highlights how common these problems are, and just how many have suffered (or are suffering…) as a result of sexual misconduct.

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The response; devastating and heartbreaking.

12 million posts in the first 24 hours – CBS News

All stories, from minor assaults, to full on abusive disclosures, are harrowing.
Hard to read, but equally harder to experience.

#MeToo gives women everywhere an opportunity to speak up and break the social taboos that prefer to sweep such suffering under the carpet, when really the response has highlighted the phenomenal rate in which these misconducts are being experienced.

#MeToo is integral for the future protection and safeguarding of young people in society. Since statistics show that around 1 in 10 young people will experienced sexual abuse or assault by their 18th Birthday, making child sexual abuse the most prevalent health care problem with devastating consequences to later physical, emotional and social development.

Feelings of blame.
Isolation.
Self-hate.
Confusion.
Problems with body-image
Anxiety

Such experiences of sexual assault an abuse lead to many developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and disordered eating, that can turn into chronic and distressing mental health disorders. 

Whilst victims should not be made to relive their experiences, it has given many the freedom, and voice, to stand with thousands of other women, without shame or disgrace, and shout out that any form of sexually oppressive behaviour is not acceptable, and demands change. 


My #MeToo

Whilst I will not let myself relive this episode of my life, I want to take this opportunity to stand with those women who have bravely spoken out. Formally acknowledging the wrong that was done to me I hope will encourage others not to keep their grief and suffering  hidden behind smiling eyes as I once did

I can empathise with the feelings of confusion and self-doubt many have posted about, as for years I buried a series of persisting sexual assaults that desecrated 5 years of my childhood, and later robbed me of my teen years. 

38% of children never report sexual abuse or assault. Many never say anything.

So why you ask didn’t I speak up?

I was certain the whole thing was my fault.
Confused about it all.

I felt I was the burden on the family, the one with all the issues who it’d be better of without, so I just won’t say a thing… and being such a young age I did not have the capacity, or vocabulary, to fully understand or portray, the situation; not even to myself.me2_3

All I knew was that I felt unclean.
Tainted.
Unworthy of love and affection.
I hated my body.

So I remained silenced, petrified that should my family ever find out they would think I was disgusting, or that they wouldn’t believe me, and maybe they would disown me. 

 

I silenced it from everyone, and even tried to bury it forever through silencing myself through years of disordered eating, body image issues, low-self esteem, and one failed suicide attempt. 

Many years later I sat in a therapy session in a Psychiatric Hospital where I was being treated for anorexia nervosa. It was there I finally allowed myself to look back and connect with this experience.
Head in hands and uncontrollable floods of tears followed.
I  was crying for the four year old inside of me; looking back on her and finally welcoming her as part of me instead of locking her out with blame. I wanted nothing more than to hold and comfort her brokenness.

Although investigations and trials were carried out the case was closed due to old legislation, and a crafty solicitor on the defendant’s side.

I never got the closure I deserved, nor the acknowledgement from an apology I so longed for.

MeToo2But now I see just how weak he really is. 
Weak for not having the balls to when the time came to it taking responsibility for the suffering he caused, not only to myself but also my family.

It makes me strong.
Strong for breaking out of that suppressed state where I felt powerless, and deciding that his past actions will not dictate my present happiness or health!

I have now overcome my eating disorder, in fact most the time I love being in my own skin. 
Most importantly I finally look at myself with worth, respect and sheer joy for being where I am today.
Every day is a blessing, and I intend to make everything I do in life a blessing to follow this.


#MyHope

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, it is #MyHope that the #MeToo enables girls and women everywhere no longer live in fear, confusion, or with the notion that this behaviour is acceptable, neither are they deserving of it.

#MyHope is that they can be proud that they are survivors, and feel supported and united – whether they choose to publicly say anything, or privately follow the campaign with newfound hope in their hearts.

We all have a responsibility to take a stand, and raise awareness about these issues. To realise that we can’t allow people to grow up believing that sexual misconduct, harassment, assaults and abuse, are to be expected norms of treatment in any relationship.

I would also like to commend the men who have responded to such posts with #IHave and #HowIWillChange, as this is an equally brave movement, for sometimes the power of remorse, acknowledgement and a desire to change, is all that’s needed to amend the mess.

 

 

Diet Culture Is Damaging Our Health: Problems and Solutions

Bulking, Cutting, Clean Eating, Cheat Days…
This post is dishes up the dirt on Diet Culture and the destructive subtexts hidden in the language used around food and exercise, that makes disordered eating seem socially acceptable, encourages yo-yo dieting and ultimately leads to an unhealthy relationship with food and body image.

No labels or diets should ever make you feel inferior or bad about being in your own skin, nor should any diet mean you are not allowed to enjoy the foods and drinks you love.

No labels or associations should ever make you feel inferior or bad about being in your own skin, nor should any diet mean you are not allowed to enjoy the foods and drinks you love…if diet culture hasn’t lead you to forget what these truly are

Whilst this post may seem like a bit of a rant, it comes from a place of genuine worry and concern about the obsessive diet-culture, and aesthetically driven, society we are creating, not just for ourselves, but for the younger generations growing up.

Only recently I was having a chat with a friend about the baking I had done on one of my days off. His response made my blood boil;
“You on the winter bulk then?” 😡
To which I replied.. 

“No. I’m just on this thing called life”
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Diet-culture terminology seems to be never ending, and ever growing, and it is SO WRONG. It is certainly not helped of course by the increased access to images, articles and youtube videos (if I see another “what I eat in a day” post I swear I’ll loose my mind….!!) and more. All of this fuels the myths, rules and associations regarding the “right” types and quantities of food we should (or rather, should not..) eat, not to mention the excessive exercise we should be doing…constantly.

The labels and associations we attach to what we think we believe to be “good” or “bad” foods is destructive to our physical and mental states, and together influences the disordered relationship with food and body image by reinforcing some very damaging messages in its sub-text.

  • Clean-eating
    Cue the undeserved feelings of guilt because you’ve eaten another slice of birthday cake, or a pizza that wasn’t made out of cauliflower
    Foods that aren’t seen as “clean” are then “bad” or “off limits” this has lead to an increase in orthorexia: The obsession with eating “pure foods”…whatever that means?! Problem being, there is no agreeable definition on what determines a food being “clean”, most foods you buy are to some extent processed and manufactured somewhere, somehow, so does that mean these are all “unclean” or “bad” for you? Those words in themselves should never be used in association with your food,  they cause so much judgement and guilt when you then project them onto a reflection of yourself and your body

  • “Cheat Days”
    ...where to begin. There is so much wrong with this. Not only does it reinforce the binge-restrict, yo-yo dieting, that has time and time again been proven to end in more weight gain in the long term, but in reality these “cheat” days you probably eat normally, but because diet culture has become so normalised we have created a day dedicated to normalising our diet. Or, alternatively for many, a day you choose to eat all the foods you’ve limited from your diet to remain sane and curb cravings, so you binge/overeat, and then justify it with the weekly restriction and over exercising. Does this sound healthy to you…?

  • Winter Bulk/Summer Cut
    …A winter bulk, or sometimes referred to as”off season”,  when you allow yourself to eat more foods that have been off limit during the summer period, because you care less about looking lean. These foods are categorised then as foods that will make you gain weight, and are off limits or “bad” for cutting, when you restrict the diet and over exercise to get lean for summer.Again, constant yo-yo dieting, and justifying what you eat and when you eat based on aesthetic goals. Bulking foods are seen as high calorie and to be avoided otherwise, and so associated with weight gain, however many of these include foods that are also very nutritious, such as nut butters, avocados, rye breads.Many may programme these foods around workouts as pre/post workout meals, which I do understand if you are an athlete, training for an event or following a particular programme that may have a performance, or medically advised weight loss/gain, outcome. But for the majority who are not performance based athletes, this can be damaging and stressful, creating the association with exercise equating to being able to eat certain foods or not.If you want porridge in the morning but don’t want to work out that is fine! If you want to eat a meal with less protein in it after you workout, or have a pizza in the evening (not made with cauliflower..) this does not have to be a post-workout meal, you can just eat for the sake of enjoying food, socialising, and keep fit for the same reasons too! No rights or wrongs, no good or bad.

  • Elimination diets, and classing everything high protein and low carb as “healthier”
     no medical justification to cut out gluten and/or dairy are the common ones that spring to mind. Are you sure you understand the function of gluten in food?
    Protein does not magically make it a healthier option, and carbs don’t make you fat. Consistently eating in a calorie surplus, carbs or no carbs, will lead to excess weight being stored.
    Like most things, it’s individual preference, but if you are eliminating foods based on false education and rumour then maybe you should begin asking questions and properly educating yourself by reading research and literature that is not just one-sided, or scare mongering, but factual and relevant.
    Listen to your body and begin to get real about why you feel the need to restrict or eliminate food groups.
    It is worth pointing out that saying “oh but I bloat after eating x,y,z…” bloating is normal. Everyone bloats and gets gassy from time to time, another normal (ok, pretty disgusting) human function, it may not be coeliac disease or IBS so always go to the Dr instead of self-diagnosing.  

These are just a few, there are many other labels, rules and restriction-based diets you’ve probably come across (cleanes/detoxes…all that crap) that create beliefs about what is right and wrong to eat.

Let’s get one thing straight, there is no right or wrong, no good or bad, no guilt, shame, or weakness, for feeding your body the food it wants and needs; this includes cake and pizza as well as kale and quinoa.

Following strict rules and restrictions as a way to control food intake, weight or shape is becoming the social norm. Not only this, but for those with a clinically diagnosed eating disorder it makes it a socially justifiable way to hide their disorder behind these labels.
You do not have to work for the food you eat; your body deserves food regardless of the exercise you have or have not done.  


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Pseudo-Dieting: The Diet-Mentality Trap

Overtime the more you adhere to these rules the more reinforced and habitual they become, to the point that even when you think you’re not following these beliefs they are still their dictating your choices; this is known as pseudo-dieting

What is “Pseudo-Dieting”? Written about in Elyse Reich book “Intuitive Eating” , pseudo-dieting refers to the diet beliefs that we still hold on too, and that dictate your food choices, even when you don’t actively realise you’re dieting.
It’s when what you say doesn’t add up to what you do. So you may believe you are not actively engrained in diet culture, but you actually are still allowing it to control you.

So this could be stuff like:

  • You only eat carbs on days you gym/are active
  • Still using calorie apps to count macros … can’t eat when hungry because an app that estimated your daily needs tells you so?! 
  • Compensating for food eaten (e.g restricting, over exercising, laxatives)
  • Restricting food groups
  • Eating only “safe” foods
  • Following certain beliefs such as “carbs make you fat after 6pm” …news flash, your body doesn’t have some magic switch. It doesn’t know. It only knows that it’s hungry and needs nourishing. 

Problems with this are: 

❌  You to forget how to respond to normal physiological hunger, and cravings become a challenge you need to resist This prevents you listening to your body, what it needs, and what it wants. 
Not honouring your hunger increases your chances of overeating later on in the evening, or at the weekends when your restriction and denial of food you want catches up with you; known as the “what the hell effect” – yes, those weekend binges are actually a well researched psychological phenomena, a normal physiological reaction to any diet that is restrictive or avoidant of certain foods or food groups.

❌  This then creates the experience of guilt when certain foods are eaten outside of these boundaries and beliefs.
Stress and anxiety around food, or from eating certain foods, can cause bloating. Many people suddenly suffering from IBS and other gut related problems may just be a result of your body readjusting to your inconsistent feeding and stress about food messing with your usual digestion.regret

❌  Feeling bad and guilty about foods leads to body dissatisfaction, self blame and yo-yo dieting. Emotional eating as a result of this, or using food to increase your self-worth is disordered. There is an increase in disordered eating such as orthorexia, exercise-bulimia, or binge-purge anorexia as a result of many trying to control their emotions using food. 

❌  It creates a viscous cycle;  avoid/restrict, intense cravings and then over-eating causing you to further go back to restriction and avoidance. This reinforces your initial belief that you can’t control yourself around these foods. In hindsight if you just learnt to nourish your body properly you’d find you don’t always want to eat chocolate and when you do you don’t eat the whole bar because your body knows it will have it again sometime, that it’s not off limits. 


So What’s The Solution?

Avoidance and restriction are commonly ways to gain control, avoid negative feelings associated with eating certain foods (promoted by diet culture) negative beliefs about your body. The fear of weight gain? Feeling out of control? Fear of over-eating?

What really needs to be addressed is the real reason behind the diet beliefs and behaviour.

It’s not simple.
These messages are everywhere. We are bombarded by diet culture wherever we look, sucked in by every penny the £2billion diet industry throws at us

Becoming more aware of the labels and associations we use around diet and body image is a step in the right direction to disconnecting from diet culture, and re-learning how to nourish your body,  be healthy and embrace the skin you’re in!  

It takes you practicing self-awareness and reflection: 

  • Where these beliefs come from?
  • What function are they holding (control? self-esteem)?
  • What associations/beliefs are you still holding onto?
  • What foods don’t you allow yourself, that if you’re honest with yourself, you avoid?
  • Are there foods that you instantly feel guilty for when you eat?
  • Do you compensate for eating certain foods? (exercise more, use laxatives, restrict the next day…)
  • Are there foods you can only eat if you’ve exercised or tracked your calories/macros?

Ultimately, controlling food and weight is not the key to happiness.

You should never feel restricted by your diet, or need to use labels to justify your preferences.

Food should not be given the power to control how you feel toward yourself and your body, which is what diet terminology creates through its labels and subsequent associations.

You can be healthy, fit and happy at every size, and eating anything you want.
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If this post resonates with you in any way, or you are interested in reading more about how to break free from diet culture, rebuilding your relationship with food and your body I recommend following up some of these links below: 

Pixie Turner

aka Plant Based Pixie. Nutritionist and food blogger. Informative, and says it like it is posts. 
Laura Thomas PhD 
Registered nutritionist with a fantastic podcast
Evelyn Tribole: Intuitive Eating
Link to her book on Amazon, outlining the principles of intuitive eating: building healthy body image and making peace with food

Louise Jones
Nutrition student and writer, recommend her post on Intuitive Eating and Why Flexible Dieting is a Fad 
Megan Jayne Crabbe 
aka BodyPosiPanda  all centred around body positivity and non-diet approach

Emotional Abuse…Through Her Eyes

A brave and honest account that challenges our perceptions of who is considered vulnerable. As well as exploring issues of trust and manipulation within relationships.

When first contacted by this remarkable young lady I had no idea what she had been through. What her bubbly smile, confident demeanour, and bright eyes masked. 

Whilst the title of this blog post sounds heavy, I ask you to read on.

Why?
If you’ve ever attended safeguarding training, be that for adults or children, you are taught about the signs and consequences of different types of abuse: Physical, Verbal, Sexual, Neglect, Discriminatory and Emotional (to name a few). 

You are given the policies and procedures to follow should a concern arise, as we all have a duty of care to look out for vulnerable individuals, namely children, the disabled and the elderly. 

Often in the midst of looking out for others we forget to look out for ourselves. Rarely considering that we may in fact actually be the vulnerable ones.

No matter your background abusers do not discriminate, they destroy.

This account challenges us to consider just who is vulnerable?

It explores how events may go unrecognised, and the difficulty confronting the reality of the situation when  emotionally attached, even in love with, the perpetrator.

She herself is the voice of strength, reminding us that no matter how hard it may seem, there is always an escape route waiting, and that these experiences can have detrimental consequences even after the storms have passed.

Whilst the speaker has chosen to remain anonymous,

This is Emotional Abuse…Through Her Eyes


“When someone is described as ‘vulnerable’, like ‘vulnerable young person’ or ‘vulnerable adult’, we make assumptions on who these people are. I would never have considered myself to be ‘vulnerable’ at the age of 18 because I didn’t fall into any of the stereotypical groups I associated with the word. I was still in education, I wasn’t on drugs, I was living at home and I was a pretty confident and capable person. I was surrounded by a network of friends and I had hobbies that saw me mixing with a wide range of people.

I was a reasonably mature 18 year old. The moment you discount yourself or someone else as not ‘vulnerable’, you remove a layer of protection and care, otherwise afforded to others. You make a judgement call that this person is less at risk of harm.

When I was 17, I met someone 16 years my senior. By 18 I had fallen in love with him and we had embarked on a relationship.

It was great.

He was funny, handsome, caring and charming.

He took me to nice places, he cooked for me, he encouraged and supported me with my studies and my hobbies. We went on some amazing holidays and despite me feeling guilty for not being able to contribute financially, he would always reassure me that it was fine, I was a student after all.

There were whispers and mutterings about the age difference but when people saw us together, laughing and smiling, they soon accepted that ‘sometimes age doesn’t matter’ and it made me more determined to prove that.

I went to university and worried a lot about what it meant for our relationship. Luckily for me, he wanted me to come home every weekend and sometimes during the week if I could. He’d show up when I was on nights out with my friends and say how much he missed me and that he’d come to take me home. I thought it was lovely to be missed and thought about so much.

When I moved out of halls, I moved in.

Things began to change without me really noticing, I wasn’t allowed my own key. I wasn’t allowed to have people round, I wasn’t allowed to bring more than a few items of clothing at a time, I couldn’t be there unless he was or unless I was locked in.

I was working as well as studying but earning barely enough to pay my train fare each week. This became an issue. He said university was pointless and I’d never succeed anyway. I needed to be paying half for the things we did together. Dinners out, day trips, holidays, all things I couldn’t afford and hadn’t chosen to do. I didn’t drive so would often end up waiting for hours at train stations or walking back alone late at night.

He started using my insecurities against me, he’d make passing remarks about my weight, about my body, about me being unstable or overly emotional. He’d make jokes about it in public and I’d laugh too to try and make it less painful.

He withheld affection and sex, it all became on his terms, which was hard considering I’d had a difficult history with intimacy. I’d overcompensate by spending money I didn’t have, buying him gifts or taking him out but it was always wrong and never enough. I knew he was cheating and with multiple people but I felt unable to act.

By this point, I’d become isolated at university.

I’d lost friends because I hadn’t seen them.

I’d been so determined to prove people wrong, how could I now tell them I was unhappy?

Before I knew it, I’d become entirely dependent on him. I was depressed, in debt, isolated and had no self worth.

Ending the relationship was the hardest and best thing I have ever done. It took all of my strength and all of my courage to acknowledge that it was unhealthy, even though I didn’t believe I deserved any better.

Initially he made it easy for me to leave. He was convinced I’d be back. Then he continued to try and control elements of my life.

He wouldn’t return my possessions for months.

He tarnished my reputation by fabricating reasons for our split – generally based on me being emotionally unstable and that he’d had to deal with a lot.

Classic manipulation really.

 It has taken years to regain some sense of identity, to begin to understand myself, even just figuring out what I like and don’t like.

It continues to affect my relationships now.

I am always fearful that being truly myself will leave me open to more hurt and harm so I never let my guard down and I push people away when they get too close.

It took a while for me to totally break free of him. I’ve done a lot of soul searching and have had counselling too. I still struggle now and find myself behaving in a very defensive way, like my body and mind are constantly in self preservation/flight mode. Intimacy is the hardest bit and I still struggle with the associations I have between sex and my self worth particularly – am I being used/do I feel obliged. I’m always learning and I have to really depend on and trust who I’m intimate with because I’m scared.

Learning to be loved and learning that sometimes it’s ok to rely and need other people is hard but necessary to have fulfilling relationships. Emotional abuse is abuse. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how long you’ve been together, your gender, if you’re straight or LQBTQ+, the affect can be devastating.

Understanding and recognising what constitutes a healthy relationship is essential. Encouraging a sense of self-worth is essential.

Until we start talking more openly about what happens behind closed doors and educating children and young people appropriately, everyone is ‘vulnerable’.”


If yourself, or anyone you know of, are at risk or have been affected by any issues in this post that you feel you need help with then please either reach out and use the contacts below, or drop me a message on my contact page

It doesn’t matter if you are unsure, or if the incident was long ago. If it is impacting your safety, wellbeing and health then make it a priority. 

Contacts

Victim Support: Free confidential service tailored to your needs. Online, calls or 
Samaritans: Call or drop in for help, support or advice 
MIND: Offer information about abuse, and contacts for qualified counsellors 

Other sources of help, advice and domestic abuse helplines can be found on the Crime Stoppers website. 

 

Beating Binge Eating [6 Tips]

Beat the Binge

Since 2013 binge eating disorder (BED) has been classified as a distinct eating disorder, as stated in the fifth edition of the DSM classification and diagnostic manual for clinical disorders.

Although many who are obese have BED not all people with a binging disorder are obese. Furthermore, binging is not simply ‘overeating’, which is something every normal human being engages in every now and again – think about Christmas,  parties, or the evenings you get back from a crappy day and turn to the tub of Ben and Jerries, only to realise half an hour later there’s none left; we’ve all been there!

That is not a binge.
That my friends is life.

You are not out of control, not abnormal, bad, disgusting, or any of the other horrifically degrading labels people use.


Norma eating and the difference between overeating, bulimia and binge eating disorder? 

Our eating behaviour is never just biologically determined. What, when and how we eat is shaped socially, by culture and dietary norms, by our health status, age and exercise habits which alters our internal physiology and metabolic needs. Stress and emotions also influence the experience of hunger and fullness. Negative emotions, such as stress and depression, have been found to both suppress and increase appetite.
Positive emotions have been found to lead to over eating, as food is used, and associated with social occasions, celebrations and reward.

Whereas normal hunger can be postponed and prolonged, emotional hunger is intense and immediate, and usually the cravings will centre around all the foods you’ve either been restricting from your diet, or that have high carb and sugar content. There is a neurobiological reason for this, as foods high in carbs and fats release higher levels of serotonin and dopamine which are the “happy”, pleasure hormones in the brain, and enhance feelings of comfort.
These are also responsible for motivation and reward learning, meaning that you will be more likely to repeat the behaviours again.

So whilst over or under eating in some situations is expected, and normal, prolonged periods of disordered eating (pervasive over months) which impact your quality of life, such as your ability to socialise, hold down relationships, work, and your physical and mental health, are hugely complex.

Binge eating disorder is not followed by purges.

Purging; 
compensatory behaviours used to relieve guilt from eating foods) are associated with bulimia and are also found in sub-types of anorexia.

These behaviours may include using laxatives, over exercising or vomiting. If engaged in for prolonged periods of time are dangerously detrimental to ones health. Breaking these cycles can be difficult and cause intense amounts of anxiety.

Patients with BED have described entering a trance-like state when they binge eat. Describe being “out of control” with an inability to stop eating, even when they’re in severe discomfort from fullness and bloating.
Eating episodes are rapid
The person may hide away and eat out of shame and embarrassment.
Different from bulimia, there is no purging behaviours used to compensate. However it is followed by distress and sadness around the binge episode.

If this is your situation at the moment then you must seek medical help from your GP and local mental health clinic.


What causes binge eating disorders?

Whilst some may turn to alcohol, drugs, sex or develop depression, as a response to difficult life events (past or present stress or trauma) many turn to food as a form of control, or escape.
Triggers that have been found common to those with BED include:

  • Body image problems
  • Excessive yo-yo dieting and prolonged periods of restriction
  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma

People with BED may use food to negatively punish their body, others use food to comfort, trying to fill a void and escape from their negative emotions. This leads to a really unhealthy relationship with food and ones own body to develop, and over time can increase the risk of obesity.


What my experience has taught me…

I understand that both ends of the spectrum can be devastatingly hard to deal with, and be a lonely experience to go through. However, now if I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I check in with myself and make sure I prevent under or over-eating that is emotionally driven.

Whilst my experience was not with BED, in my early teens I emotional over-ate. Often buying two or three lunches a day, and eating them as a way to calm myself in social situations, and then on the way home from school would happily demolish cakes and sweets from the local shop before tucking into packet, upon packet of crisps before my dinner, which I would regularly have seconds of, and dessert.

Later in life I developed anorexia.
As my journey unveiled itself the underling trauma surfaced, and this was where my use of food as punishment and comfort came from. Over the years it was dealt with, and now I have a very happy and healthy relationship with my food and body.

I would highly recommend therapy and clinical treatment with a local mental health service alongside any self-help or social support you choose to use. 


My Top 6 Tips For Getting On-Top of Emotional Binge-Eating:

  1. Watch what you buy:
    If you don’t have it in you are not going to binge on it!!
     Make a balanced shopping list that includes small treats, but not packets of foods you know you’re likely to centre your binges on. Try and avoid shopping when hungry, and make sure you eat well during the day, not restricting food groups, so you don’t get over hungry and binge in the evenings.
  2. Distract your mind:
    Distracting your mind, and finding other equally relaxing and pleasurable activities outside of food is important.
    Going for a walk, ringing a friend or journalling/writing are good exercises to do. Art has also been found to be a great distractor and therapeutic outlet for handling difficult emotions. Anything to keep your mind and hands busy.
  3.  Know your triggers:  Be it stress, break ups, loneliness, arguments…what are the repeated events that precede your binges.
    Write your triggers down; how the situation makes you feel, what behaviours happens, and an action plan to counter them.
    e.g argued with my boss, felt useless so binged, next time I will go for a walk to get some fresh air and think about the situation before talking with him the next day.
     
  4. Eat well during the day:
    Don’t skip meals, or eliminate foods from your diet.
    This leads to a higher chance of overeating and if you’re trying hard to not eat a food you generally love, common ones are bread or chocolate,  then you are more likely going to crave a binge on these later in the day. So don’t skip meals, and include all food types so that your body is nutritionally satiated. Portion size is variable depending on your own needs for your height, weight and activity levels. Learn to intuitively eat;  listening to your bodies hunger signals and the foods it actually wants. The more you take care of your body the more it will take care of you.
  5. Most importantly, be kind to yourself!!
    Disordered eating does not manifest over night, and neither will it disappear over night. Be gentle on yourself, know there will be good days, and bad days – write down in a journal what went well, what didn’t work, and learn to know yourself inside out. Setting achievable goals to combat your behaviours is more sustainable than expecting perfection within a week.


WinniethePooh

Preventing Relapses at Uni [Top Tips]

I felt this was an important subject to chat about because University can be a stressful times, and trigger an array of unhealthy behaviours and mental health problems if not managed.

So  if you have read a bit about my own journey you may be aware that my first Uni experience wasn’t all peachy, and in 2011 I ended up relapsing and dropping out of my first degree up in lovely Leeds!

Recently I have completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at The University of Surrey (highly recommend, excuse the cheeky plug) so I decided a post on How not to relapse whilst at Uni” would be very relevant.

I felt this was an important subject to chat about because University can be a stressful times, and trigger an array of unhealthy behaviours and mental health problems if not managed. For those about to start University who may be more vulnerable to relapses with disordered eating, anxiety or depression, understanding how you can manage relapses and stress is integral to being able to fully immerse yourself in your Uni experience regardless of the inevitable work pressures.

I will add a little disclaimer here that whilst these things have helped my experience at Uni they may not be what is right for you. I was also in a very different mental/physical place starting this degree than I was in my first Uni experience. So I had given myself time to build a solid foundation from which I had built my confidence up in my ability to manage my anorexia. Therefore I would really consider if this is you to not rush into a degree but if you need time out, take it! Do you. You got time….believe me!

Anywho.. without further ado here are my 6 top tips for relapse prevention at Uni: 

  1. Know some possible triggers prior to starting. This may involve some detective work. So sit and make a brief list of possible triggers – stress/break ups/isolation/illness – that may be a personal ‘risk’ for you relapsing.
  2. Find out what resources the University offers and pin these to each possible trigger. It is not a weakness to go and ask for help or support, it actually shows a huge amount of independence and responsibility for your health and wellbeing – and a healthy you means a happier, more social and fun you! So make yourself known at your wellbeing centre, or use the ‘stress management’ workshops that they provide if/when you need them. If a trigger is isolation for you then make sure you are getting involved in a club or society that can offer you stress release, friendships and social support.
  3. DO NOT neglect your social life. Be involved in your Uni – join a sport club, or society, take up a new hobby. Just anything that gives you the ability to disconnect from your work, and yourself and reconnect with others and unwind. There will never be another time in your life [probably] where you are faced with SO many opportunities and so cheaply; chances to travel, fundraise, play for a sports club, learn new languages. So whilst grades are all well and good remember that these extra things also add to your character, your identity, build life long friendships and add to the CV.
  4. Eat well. This is VITAL for anyone going to Uni with previous disordered eating. I don’t care if inflation has made food shopping ridiculous I will find a way to make sure I am eating well, fuelling my body with food that keeps it healthy and active […including chocolate, baking ingredients and the odd bottle of Gin…]. Just because work is full on and days can be long does not mean you skip meals. Your friends may – but maybe they didn’t have a previous history of eating disorder! You can shop wisely – there are always cheaper brands and student cook books with healthy recipes! And if all else fails there’s ready meals and Deliveroo. So no excuses.
  5. Plan your time. Time management helps de-stress you, puts you in control, and means you will feel prepared for exams/assignments. You can factor in social events, sports, gym etc… Even plan your meals in advance so you’re ahead of the game if this helps you.
  6. Family time. Ok, so I come from Guildford and studied in Guildford so it made this a tad easier […I moved out ok]. But for me, my family are my absolute rocks. And if I felt stressed/anxious and in need of a little pick me, or god forbid it  some good ol’ dad jokes to kick my arse into gear, I’d pick up the phone, or go home for a few nights. Now I am aware that not everyone has an amazing relationship with their family, and in this case search out the friends on your course, your lecturers who can provide some pastoral care and a good kick in the right direction.  Once again I’m blessed that mine have been above and beyond incredible throughout Uni.

In summary the main gist is a) Do NOT sit back but be proactive, b) Plan and manage your time, and c) use all the social support, clubs, societies, wellbeing services you need!!  We all have different thresholds for stress tolerance so just be aware of yours and the impact it’s having on all levels of your health and wellbeing. You want to be able to have the best time at University so make sure you take control in a healthy way that puts your needs first. It’s not selfish; it’s sensible.

 

Mulan
“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most beautiful flower of all” – Mulan [1998]

How to support your child with an eating disorder: Top Tips from one tough Mum!

Living with a child with an eating disorder is tiring, challenging and often very isolating.
I know my own parent’s compromised their social contact and lost out on experiences with friends due the emotional fatigue and time restraints the illness caused them.

It is very important to remember the wellbeing of the wider family and carers is just as crucial as supporting the sufferer.

For optimal recovery the support system around them needs to be at it’s strongest – you are their fortress – but your needs should not be discounted, and for you to be a solid rock for them you need to have your needs met as well.

I first met Janet Richards approximately seven years ago; sadly it was under unfortunate circumstances since it was her daughter, Emma, now one of my dearest friends and fellow recovery troopers, who also received inpatient treatment at the same psychiatric hospital as me.

Since supporting her daughter through anorexia, Janet Richards, Emma’s strong-minded and determined mother, now works alongside Winchester CAMHs (child and adult mental health services), setting up a parent ‘buddying’ system through the ACE programme they have already running there.

Below she shares her an insight to her story and 12 “top-tips” for parents, friends and carers, who are living with the commotion and confusion that having an eating disorder can cause.


image1Hello, this picture of my daughter and me was taken whilst away in Gran Canaria earlier this year. Six years ago, I couldn’t even dream of a holiday as Emma was receiving in-patient treatment psychiatric unit for anorexia nervosa. This was where we met the lovely Joss and that friendship between the girls has continued.

The two years were horrendous, but we got through it and now she is an amazing young woman studying for a degree in mental health nursing. During the desperate dark days early on, I attended a support group who had invited a mum and her daughter recovering from anorexia. It gave me so much hope that I hung onto their story – it was a light at the end of the very dark tunnel. Since then I have tried to give support as an ‘expert parent’ to other parents now in similar situations either through ED support groups or individually. But I am one person, and so through the ACE programme that Wnchester CAMHS is running I am developing a ‘buddying’ programme to encourage other parents and young people to become buddies to help support those in need.

So when I am asked about the advice I would give to parents with youngsters struggling with Eating Disorders, I try and make it as simple as possible. So I’ve come up with a list of things that I wish someone had told me when my daughter was going through her dreadful journey.

And don’t you just love the benefit of hindsight!!! Here goes:

  1. Don’t waste energy on blaming yourself, anyone or anything else – you’ll need all your energy to preserve your sanity!
  2. Maintain positive intent – in order words you have absolute conviction that they will recover.
  3. Realise you can’t make them better – the only one that can is them!
  4. Ensure that you have a core of resilience & strength, which means taking care of yourself by taking time out to do ‘nice’ stuff for you.
  5. The medical professionals know the theory but are very unlikely to understand the suffering – they will probably lack  any practical experience with a loved one suffering, so try and find someone who has lived the nightmare & can give you support.
  6. You will be their absolute rock whatever they throw at you (& I do mean physically!) so don’t underestimate how important you are to them.
  7. Try and keep an environment that optimises their chance of recovery –In terms of action, you can try and ensure that they have an environment in which they can recover themselves. Examples being:
    1. Staying calm (as possible)
    2. Having a life yourself, which means going out for dinner with friends/partner – yes if it is at a mealtime!
    3. Don’t add stress by going on holiday together – if you need a break take one on your own or with just your partner
    4. Establish boundaries & stick to them even though they are very ill individuals
  8. Drink red wine – it can soften the pain & get you through the next meal!
  9. Don’t walk on egg shells: Walking on eggshells (or being afraid of saying the wrong things!) isn’t going to make them better so don’t get twisted up on thinking about how to say stuff – say it with love, compassion but positive intent!
  10. Recognise the excruciating fight going on in their brains – its exhausting for them.
  11. Recognise that your son/daughter is still there, but has been hijacked by an evil spirit. You will get odd glimpses of them & hang onto those sightings.
  12. Everyone’s journey is different but you are not alone….

For more information about supporting your child and yourself please look at the following links:

http://www.b-eat.co.uk/about-eating-disorders/worried-about-someone/support-for-you

http://www.youngminds.org.uk/for_parents/parents_guide

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/eatingdisorders/Pages/eating-disorders-advice-parents.aspx

 

Break Free from Comparative Behaviour and Negative Self-Talk [4 Challenges]

Practical advice how to transform four common thinking errors and break free from negative self-talk.

Have you ever caught yourself scrutinising yourself in front of the mirror?

You stand there, staring hard, taking in all the small marks on your face, noticing all the freckles, birthmarks and spots.

You look hard at your thighs, the tiny bit of belly fat that you’ve accumulated over a few nights of late night drinking and pizza sessions.

Then to make matters worth you click onto Instagram only to spend the next hour trolling through feeds of thin, toned beautiful (yet photoshopped) pictures, and everyones green smoothies and poached eggs.

Instantly you’re filled with unnecessary guilt and regret.

They all appear so happy and confident.

Your comparing turns to despairing.
You begin to feel imperfect in comparison to these supposedly ‘perfect’ ideals.
Before you know it that well known negative self-talk record hits repeat.

It is estimated that 1 in 100 will suffer from some form of eating disorder, body dysmorphia or muscle dysmorphia.

 

Unsurprisingly this correlates with the increase in social media, “fitspo” accounts, dating apps, and commercialised diets.

Exposure to thin ideals in the media has been shown to adversely influence how one perceives their own body image and internalises feedback from others.

Comparing yourself endlessly to those you meet or see on social media, in magazines or TV, increased your risk of developing mood disorders (depression/anxiety), and  higher levels of internalising  thin ideals (Tiggemann, 2004; Yamamiya, 2005).
In short,  what we feed our minds with literally has the power to transform our personal growth, impact self-esteem and confidence in our own skin.

We live in a warped society whereby beauty, weight and shape equates to our self worth, happiness and success:

Dion’s (1972) ‘beautiful is good’ hypothesis: a remarkable amount of research supporting the influence appearance has on how we judge others, with more attractive pictures yielding higher ratings of happiness, success, likability and health.

Women who view these images on a regular basis have reported higher levels of body dissatisfaction; lower self-esteem and positivity about their futures. However, if they were told that the person they viewed was unhappy or unsuccessful this had reduced effect.

The more you tell yourself negatives, the more you’ll believe them.

Have you ever come away feeling good about yourself after comparing yourself to others?

No. You feel inferior. It saps your confidence.

The problem is the more you allow yourself to listen, and believe, these thoughts they stick like glue, becoming hardwired habitual thought processes you just can’t seem to switch off.

Hebbs Law: “what fires together wires together”.

It is widely used to explain how we form automatic memories, but this is also applied to automatic thought processes and addictive behaviours, which are learnt.

Such as having a cigarette with a glass of wine, even though you swore you’d quit!

Negative self-talk is poisonous and often is a reflection of the faulty, internalised beliefs you hold about yourself.


So Lets Get Positive.

Cognitive restructuring, or, thought correction, involves a desire to change your thinking by challenging negative and faulty errors.  Unlearning behaviours and changing your internal belief system doe not happen over night.  It takes perseverance and practice to literally re-wire the way you think.

The following are four common thinking errors and some practical challenges to help start your journey towards balanced thinking:

  1. Black-and-White (or dichotomous) thinking.

You fit yourself into one of two extremes; there is no continuum or ‘grey area’. You then judge yourself harshly; find yourself easily stressed and unable to see alternative explanations or logical reasoning.

e.g: ‘fat’ or ‘thin’, ‘failure’ or ‘success’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Challenge:

  • Do you judge others by extremes? Then why judge yourself by a harsher standard.
  • Start to see the continuum, notice that not being a 10 does not automatically place you at the bottom as a 1.
  • Eliminate the loaded language you use in the extremes. E.g. “I’m scrawny” becomes “I have a thin physique”. It’s less damning and emotionally unloaded.
  1. Comparisons to Unrealistic Expectations.

You pit yourself against ideals and spend more time focusing on what you don’t have than what you do have. You end up making copious social comparisons wanting the desirable characteristics others display and believing they must be happier because of them.

You may also believe you ‘ought/must/should’ have certain attributes, and with unobtainable ideal of ‘perfection’ you always fall short, thus you find yourself constantly beaten down and falling short.

Challenge:

  • Remind yourself that no one is perfect. In fact perfection doesn’t exist because it is a subjective phenomenon. Media is photo shopped and even your friend with the gorgeous smile hates elements about herself, but she rocks what she’s got and so should you.
  • When you find yourself making a negative comparison balance it out with a positive to compare yourself favorably.
  • A mental compliment to someone is not an automatic criticism of you. Learn to give and receive compliments, then repeat them to yourself to allow yourself to believe and see them.
  • Reduce the time you spend scrolling through social media/Instagram, and filter out accounts that constantly make you feel downhearted.
  1. Projection/Mind-Reading.

You place your own beliefs, and evaluations about yourself into the minds of others. If you assume that your worth is defined by your appearance and you worry what others will think, you will find yourself falling into the category vulnerable to projection, and miss-reading peoples body language and behaviours.

Challenge:

  • What contradicting evidence do you have? Are these thoughts reflecting how you feel about yourself?
  • Remind yourself that it’s not you, and that the person probably seems off because he/she is having a bad day. Remind yourself of the other options for the behaviours.
  • Remind yourself that no one else sees you in the critical way you see yourself. That is what needs to change.
  1. Magnifying Glass:

You have tunneled vision and focus on the one thing that is wrong, rather than looking at the picture as a whole. The opinion you have is biased, and it’s as if all other compliments, achievements and positive attributes are insignificant because you put so much emphasis onto this one aspect of yourself.

Challenge:

  • Stick positive post-it notes around your mirror so whenever you catch yourself scrutinising yourself you read a positive statement back. Then walk away from what you’re doing.
  • Take a step back and look at the bigger picture; notice that your thighs are in proportion to your body or that your smile isn’t as wonky as you thought.
  • Ask yourself why that part of you should mask the rest of you so much? It doesn’t define you, therefore you won’t let it.

These are just a few small steps to start you off on your journey to breaking maladaptive thought patterns, and comparative behaviours.

I hope you have found it useful, please do get in contact for any other advice or questions related to this or any of the other blog posts!

Stay Happy. Stay Healthy.

Myth Busting Eating Disorders: 9 Truths You Need to Know

Since it’s ‘World Eating Disorders Action Day’ I wanted to write a a post debunking nine common myths about eating disorders, and just offer some personal reflections from my own journey. 

If you are currently struggling with an eating disorder, or any mental health illness, please be reassured from this post, and the other blogs on my site that they can be conquered.


Get the Facts right: 9 Eating Disorder Truths

Truth #1: Weight is a poor indicator of mental health. Many people with eating disorders look healthy, yet may be extremely ill. Although weight and BMI is used in the diagnostic criteria for eating disorders they are poor indicators of health, both mentally and physically [you can read more about this here].

Truth #2: Food and weight isn’t the main problem. This is the most misunderstood and hard to understand truth to get your head around. People often think anorexics don’t eat at all (wrong), or that all eating disorders are driven by wanting to be thin in order to look good. The truth is they are hugely complex, food and weight is the fear, it is the surfacing problem used to control deeper issues such as low-self esteem, depression, dampen down emotional distress, such as previous traumas. In some respects they are a method of self-harm. They also have ties with psychosis, anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder. Weight loss is the addiction and drive, food and weight is the fear and controlled to deal with these underlying issues.

Truth #3: Families are not to blame. Families and friends are the greatest allies in treatment and recovery for the patients’ and providers’. 

Truth #4: An eating disorder diagnosis is a health crisis, it disrupts personal, and family, functioning. They have major physical consequences associated with them that can continue to impact health even after recovery, making early intervention vital.

Truth #5: Eating disorders are not choices, but serious illnesses with many biological, social, psychological and environmental factors contributing to their onset, development and recovery prospects.

Truth #6: Anyone can develop an eating disorder. Eating disorders affect people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, body shapes and weights, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses. New statistics have found that one quarter of admissions for bulimia and anorexia are in fact males.

Truth #7: Eating disorders carry increased risks for suicide and medical complications even after recovery. In fact they have the highest mortality rate out of any psychological illness, with around 40% not surviving, and can impact on fertility, bone density and cardiovascular health.

Truth #8: Whilst genes and environment play important roles in the development of eating disorders, there is no one determining factor found responsible for their development, making them a hugely unique experience for each person as well as being complex disorders to treat.

Truth #9: Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. Early detection and intervention are important and have been found to have the best outcomes for future health. 


Personal reflections

1. Everyday is a journey.

Although I would say I am ‘recovered’ I am still unsure what this means. There are times when I am certainly fine, and other times where my anxiety and stress causes me to become more conscious about food and weight. I have noticed this is usually when I feel I lack direction or purpose. Therefore having goals and ambitions has been a huge factor keeping me well and most importantly keeping my eyes upwards and outwards.

2. Reaching Out.

I am thankful someone came and expressed their concerns back in 2008 (you know who you are!). Many people don’t know what to do or say to someone they may have concerns about regarding their eating, exercise or any imbalanced behaviours.

My best advice for this: keep a calm approach, be empathetic not aggressive, express concern lovingly, and realise that at the end of the day it’s up to them to admit to a problem and ask for help to change behaviours [click here for the blog on advice for parents by parent support worker, Janet Richard]

3. Negative people who bring you down – get rid of them.

I am such a believer in positivity and surrounding yourself with things (activities, people, places) that make you feel your best! This can be hard if negativity is coming from close family or partner relationships.

I am lucky to be blessed with very close and supportive family, where although at times there have been things they have not fully understood about my past disordered thinking/eating, they always took the time to try and understand and best support me in correcting these behaviours.

If you are in an abusive relationship with friends or family, try and separate yourself and build a life away from them – accept they may never fully “get it” and spend with those who do love you wholeheartedly for you, and that you have fun with!

4. There is no point comparing! 

With any body dysmorphia, low self esteem, eating disorder etc…comparing is automatic. But comparisons are toxic. Learn to love yourself (easily said). Our individual perceptions of what ‘perfect’ looks like will vary hugely, whether this is in your work, a partner, how you look etc.. We live in a world where we strive for perfection, but perfection doesn’t exist!

I am sick to death of seeing posts on social media like “do guys like curves or skinny girls”, “big boobs or big bum?” …you know what, learn to love how you’re made, and I don’t just mean your body I mean yourself. There is nothing more sexy and appealing than someone who is just happy in their own bubbly skin and rocking on with life.  This was hard for me as during my recovery gaining weight made me feel like hiding from the world. But through being able to get involved in charity events, volunteering, having a job and studying again I found I really didn’t need my eating disorder and found the young lady I was becoming far more beautiful than what I was before.

I recommend noting down your achievements, your quirks, your passions and look at these and be proud!

dumbo-timothy
“Don’t just fly, soar” – Dumbo [1941]

Depression Through the Eyes of…Dan Kelly

I was introduced to Dan through social media; a talented young man no doubt, whose passion for writing shines through his own WordPress site. Just like many other talented artists,  Dan too has unfortunately endured, and overcome, his own mental battles.

His account below is not only fantastically articulated, but bravely allows us all a glimpse into what was once his world, and what now is his future.


Depression through the eyes of Dan Kelly…

When were you first aware you were depressed? What triggered it?

Depression is a word that gets thrown around a little bit too much. Quite often we associate a bad day with being depressed – sometimes, we just have bad days, or weeks and months, and realising that comes with a paired requirement to recognise what’s going on in your life. What is making you trip and tumble?

Depression is a little more deep-rooted, and comes down to a question of existence; it’s debilitating, smothering and a shadow that threatens to throttle you in the bed you’re fixed to. For me, I started experiencing that feeling at college, and it came and went in the 8 years since. The more distanced from myself, my identity and who I wanted to be, the heavier and faster it came – that’s the best way I can describe it at this point in my life.

Many people say that you can’t overcome a mental health illness without dealing with the trigger, did you ever find out the trigger illness?

We’re all products of our biology, environment and how we perceive these through our psychology. There are endless things I could identify as a cause for how I felt, from relationships with family members and friends from school in my childhood to how I saw romantic partners as that ‘final part of me’, as if there was a void to fill with endless women. Some of these I have dismissed some make total sense, but what makes more sense than anything else in this world, and will make sense to both you and your readers, is sometimes we feel lost. We don’t know what to do, what’s expected, what the point of it all is, and sometimes a bad thing can happen that just makes all of that all the more prevalent. Maisie(a friend of Dan’s) passing away was a very bad thing to happen in my life which undoubtedly effected me, but what it did was bring to light that I didn’t know who I was as a person.

How did it (if at all) affect your friendships/familial relations/daily functioning?

When I was depressed, and following on from Maisie passing on, friendships were fine until I became restless. Connections with my family members were fine until I became irritable. Relationships were fine until I became curious about what was over the horizon on the greener grass.

How did you find the quality of the help provided to you by the health care services?

The service I used was ‘there’ – I’ll give it that much. I have a lot of NHS staff in my family on the more clinical side of the hospital, but the actual process of getting help with mental health support took months, and this is where they falter.

Who’s fault? Well, when there’s no money to call upon, you can only look to an inconsiderate government to blame – but that’s a discussion for elsewhere.

CBT is not a miracle cure, nor should it be prescribed to every single person. It douses fires, but doesn’t extinguish the crackling underneath. I also, however, think it’s worth noting that, ultimately, even with endless amounts of counselling, CBT and so on, it’s down to me. It’s down to us. It’s down to you. You are the only person who can take steps and be honest with yourself. Scary, right? Absolutely. But the view as you climb the summit only gets more and more stunning.

I couldn’t agree more, and it’s having this outward approach and motivation that can be so hard to keep through recovery.

Did you find, being male, prevented you seeking help or admitting that you had a mental health disorder? Or subject you to any greater discrimination or stigma?

Being male did initially stop me, yes. However, this is only down to my own misconception of what it is to be a man. My advice there is this: you’re a man, sure. I realise you’ve got something dangling down there, but you’re a human first and foremost. Focus on that – if you need help, just flipping take it. It’s there, so look for it and use it.

Stigma? None. Discrimination? None. Once you do it and talk to the right people, you’ll see that everyone that matters will kind of get it.

What were the factors that helped the most in your recovery?

It’s great to talk about mental health problems, because it’s part of a process that allows you to recognise what you need to work on – then it’s all down to you. Depending on myself more and more is an amazing feeling.

What were the things that weren’t so helpful and how did you overcome/avoid these (if any)?

The thing that didn’t help me was having conversations with people that weren’t taking me anywhere, and I had to learn that whilst speaking to people is good, not everyone is worth speaking to. Whether it’s parents, close friends or even your counsellor (and if the latter is true, ask for a new one), you need to make sure that you’re going away from conversations with something clear to work on, a positive step of some sort when you open your heart up.

How has your experience shaped who you are today? Has it changed how you view mental health issues?

Please don’t think I’ve made it. I’m not always happy, but you’ll get a far more solid base if you start to look for what you’re missing from life and focusing on that.

A solid base? Hippy shit, right? When you get it and it’s there, you’ll feel it and know it. I’ve gone straight for the cliché and started learning about Buddhism, Taoism to be precise, I started writing and designing again, and I feel great at the very least while writing this.

I started assessing my beliefs and knowledge (noticing the differences between the two) about questions such as; What happens when you die? What do I really want from a relationship? Do I really hate my job, or am I just approaching it wrong? And when I’ve answered them, being honest enough to look back and realise when my answers reflect what I think I should say rather than my true self. It takes time; it’ll come, and be kind to yourself.

And mental health? You should be training it as much as you do your squats (which should also be a lot, ladies and gents). The School of Life is a fantastic resource, and read read read – let your mind escape from time to time.


 Dan is a deep, creative and insightful thinker and writer and I have no doubt that he will continue to inspire many through his talents of design, writing and humour.

I truly believe that his last point relating to finding your ‘solid base’ is crucial to having a sound mind. Practicing self-love is a daily exercise, and requires mental and emotional effort. There are many resources you can find online, and through mental health services to help with this, and I personally think it’s integral to everyone self-esteem and confidence.

I hope you have found Dans account inspiring and insightful. Through sharing stories and reflecting on each others journeys I believe it will empower those to keep moving forward in their own recoveries.

Do get in touch if you have a journey you’d like to share!