I think of anorexia as a bit like ivy. In the same way that ivy works itself so well into a wall, that you don’t realise what a good job it’s done until you try to remove it, anorexia creeps into everything. It takes up all your space. Anorexia edges into the existing vulnerabilities that […]

‘I feel fat’. It’s something most (not all) people with an eating disorder diagnosis can relate to, and often it can be a real barrier to making progress in recovery. If you feel ‘fat’, how can you possibly allow yourself more food, more rest, or to consider the possibility that weight gain might actually be a good thing? Continue reading

I always say no one chooses an eating disorder, but a part of me definitely thinks it’s somehow ‘my fault’. I especially think it’s my fault for still being stuck with it at this stage. I know better, I should be able to do better. I am sure at least some people in my life think this too. I thought recovery would be relatively easy. That the reason it hadn’t happened so far is because I chose not to rather than couldn’t. Once I acknowledged to myself – and others – that actually, I’m not ok, I expected I’d just be able to drop the restriction, manage the guilt, the thoughts. I’ve discovered over the last few months that (even with great support from professionals, family and friends) it really doesn’t work like that. Recovery seems to be less about ‘letting go’ and more about wrestling your way out of something you’re so entangled in you have no real idea where you end and it begins. Continue reading

I’ve been having a bit more support for my eating disorder recently. This means more time away from work, absence which will definitely impact on my colleagues. I feel I owe the people I work closely with an explanation about where I am disappearing to and why. I also won’t see many members of my team for a while, and (if all goes to plan) I’ll look noticeably different when they do next see me. I am still fairly private at work (and in general) about my ‘issues’, but during the last year conversations about food and weight have gradually become part the normal fabric of life with my partner and close friends. Not so long ago I couldn’t say the words ‘eating disorder’ or ‘anorexia’ without becoming overwhelmed, so the talking is definite progress, even if I do feel ashamed and guilty, hate that it is necessary and feel horribly embarrassed that I find certain things so difficult the stage of life I’m at. I don’t know if anyone actually gets how embarrassed I feel every time I try to ask for help, help I don’t think I should need, can’t judge how or when to ask for, and can’t always say what I think I actually might need.

Continue reading

Because people do, don’t they. Even those who know us well and would call themselves friends or colleagues. Or maybe it’s just me.

Part of the challenge is that I have been MUCH more open about my eating disorder recently. For years, no one in my wider life, including work, had any idea. If I weren’t trying to change things, I could have continued this indefinitely. But keeping things private at work wasn’t an option if I wanted time off for therapy. So far, my manager has been supportive. The work friends I’ve been open with continue to express confidence in my ability. I suspect I’m fortunate. It’s no secret that mental health services haven’t always been great at looking after their own.  Continue reading

If you’re recovering from an eating disorder and are underweight, you really can’t get away from the fact that weight gain is an inevitable part of the process. It’s definitely the most ‘visible’ part, and often the element that people focus on most. At the same time, we often hear that it’s really not about the weight. It’s true that weight gain alone definitely won’t fix everything, although it may shift some of the rigidity that is secondary to ‘starvation’. But the uncomfortable truth is that for me at least, gaining weight may make some things worse, before they improve. This may not be the case for everyone, and I’m definitely not saying it isn’t worth it.

Continue reading

The topic of eating disorders has been in the media a fair bit recently, and a recurring theme is that of ‘choice’. So for what it’s worth, here are my (unfinished) thoughts on the subject. I wonder what it will take for society to realise that eating disorders are no more an active choice than any other mental health problem. I also sometimes whether we need to think differently about the role of choice within recovery.

Continue reading

I’m feeling fairly determined at the moment. It’s unexpected, considering how I wanted to sink into the ground after therapy this morning. Part of the problem is that professionally, I know the answers, certainly in relation to managing anxiety. But I can’t always apply this to myself, and it sometimes gets in the way of my ability to challenge ‘food rules’ as much as I need to.

So this is an attempt to capture some of this unexpected perspective, as a way to (hopefully) refocus and provide an outside perspective when ‘eating disordered’ thoughts feel consuming and all too reasonable. 

Continue reading

So recently I’ve been having a few of those days where I feel a bit rubbish, a failure, and intensely irritated with myself. I’m anxious and jittery, keeping busy to avoid my thoughts (because we all know that works really well!) I suspect if I didn’t have the training I have, I might see things differently. I know at least some of the answers. I know […]

We hear a lot about how controlling weight and eating can be motivated by the desire to appease a general sense of not being good enough. If you have unrelentingly high standards, weight loss is measurable evidence that you’re doing ok somewhere. This is especially relevant in a society where women are socialised to value thinness as attractive. I know for me, controlling food became tangible proof that I could definitely achieve something, albeit in a very distorted way. These are the ‘usual’ issues we hear about. However there are other important themes. Things we don’t often hear about in the media, because they aren’t convenient and they don’t fit the (more palatable) narrative of the white, appearance focused, over achieving young woman. Contrary to the popular myth that anorexia is narcissistic, it is more often about a person being silenced, feeling unheard, or having a lack of control in areas of life that really matter. Turning to, or away from food can be a way to manage feelings of worthlessness, an attempt to ‘fix’ a constant, nagging sense of never quite measuring up.

Of course, dominant narratives around being female prime us early for a disordered relationship with food and our bodies. The message that thinness is synonymous with attractiveness and power sits heavily. But not everyone exposed to the ‘thin ideal’ develops a consuming eating disorder. Often, it is where difficult relationships or experiences outweigh our ability to cope, that weight loss all too easily comes to provide tangible, measurable evidence of achievement. ‘At least I’m doing ok somewhere’. People with the psychological and practical resources to manage difficult experiences and painful feelings usually don’t develop eating disorders. But for some, controlling food is the only available way to manage an overwhelming sense of confusion. It isn’t a choice, it is about survival.

Continue reading