A day in the life of an Anorexic

*Trigger Warning for all Eating Disorders. Contains details of behaviours and numbers. Please DO NOT read if you are struggling or feel you are in a position where you may be triggered*

“Beauty is not measured in pounds”

I wake up and check the clock. 4am. Urgh. Still so early. I toss and turn and spend the next 3 hours slipping in and out of sleep. My mind is full of numbers and planning and exercise. 7am. Ok. Time to move. God its cold. Why is my room so cold? Come on Jenny. MOVE. I force myself out of bed and go straight to the bathroom. I stare at the scale knowing the number will determine the course of the day. Taking a deep breath I step on fighting the urge to jump off and run forever in the opposite direction. No. I deserve to feel this pain. The numbers move rapidly and finally settle. Damn. Same as yesterday. Still fat.

I jump in the shower and avoid even glancing at my disgusting fat covered self in the mirror. I am always conscious of every atom in my body. I can feel the soft rolls of skin fat on my stomach fall on top of each other as I bend down to pick up my shampoo. It makes me want to cut it off. I see my thighs, thick and wide as I scrub the badness away. I wrap a towel round me and run to my bedroom. I put on my make-up and dry my hair in a desperate bid to look less ugly. Now for the hard bit. Getting dressed in the morning is always the most traumatising experience. I settle for leggings and an oversized jumper. It makes me feel smaller. And hides the feeling of my forever expanding body.

I walk into the kitchen. I stare around. I don’t know what I like. I don’t know what I want. But I do know I do not like lingering in kitchens – its dangerous territory. What if I lose control and eat everything? I pick up an apple and eat it slowly savouring every last bite. I finish and I know I want more. I want toast with melted butter. I want eggs and bacon. I want waffles and pancakes and cereal. But instead I shiver as I clutch my black coffee.

I go about my day. It revolves solely around food and exercise – calories in v calories out. Every calorie is counted with meticulous precision. Every step taken counts. The aim – a serious calorie deficit. I walk/run all morning until I feel physically sick but I still cannot allow myself to stop. That would be weak. That would be wrong. That would be bad. So I stagger home, forcing myself to use the stairs because every tiny bit of exercise I do is crucial.

Its lunch time. I watch others unpack sandwiches, crips, chocolate, yoghurts and every other forbidden food wherever I happen to be (School, Uni or Work). The list of bad foods gets longer every single day. What started off as cutting out a few ‘unhealthy’ snacks years ago rapidly snowballed into a list that turned out not to be of what I couldn’t eat but of only those things I could eat. My lunch? A 70 calorie cereal bar. I kid myself i’m not jealous. I lie and tell myself I’m strong for resisting the temptation to eat normally. In a desperate bid to distract myself from the pain of an empty stomach, I drink copious amounts of Diet Coke. I remember someone once recommending that I try a flavoured Diet Coke. My head screamed NO! Not because I thought I wouldn’t like it, but because it was 1 calorie more. Did I not say EVERY calorie counts? Sometimes I allow myself to relax in the evenings but often that time is devoted to studying/working. When I finally go to bed I struggle to fall asleep. I’m mentally and physically exhausted but I can’t sleep. My stomach growls in frustration, my head spins and aches and my exposed bones make lying down in any position horrifically uncomfortable. But in some ways that gives me pleasure. I feel my hip bones sticking out and my concave stomach. I feel my arms and legs with no muscle left. I don’t ever feel beautiful or thin enough but knowing the number is going down calms the voice in my head.

As my body shrinks the bigger I feel. A starved mind does not function normally. I hold my breath around restaurants or take aways because I genuinely think I’ll absorb calories through smelling food. I turn down social events because I cannot cope around the food and the mental energy it takes to hold a conversation that lasts more than 3 minutes is monumental.

I am obsessed by food. I look at recipes or pictures of food online and feel guilty. How dare I even dream of allowing that amount of food to enter my body. It is hard to explain to someone who has no idea the high you get from starving yourself what it is like. I got a kind of twisted satisfaction. It’s also addictive. Oh so addictive. Because Anorexia is clever. It tricked me into believing that I was in control until the last possible moment. The moment when it pulled the rug from under my feet. This is the point of no return.

You see, you don’t just hand in your resignation to Anorexia. Oh no. You have entered into a contract. You can’t just walk away and say ‘thank you very much but I want to live normally now…’ You’re stuck in a very abusive relationship where you cannot leave. This is where all hell breaks loose and the real inner battle and torment starts. In many ways you knew what you were getting yourself into, but you convinced yourself that you could stop at any moment. However, now you want an out and Anorexia is not just going to hand the reigns back over. It has been the mastermind and puppeteer since the beginning.

So now you don’t feel strong when you refuse food. You cry in anger and frustration and sadness. It has gone from choosing not to eat to a desperation to be allowed something, but the physical act of putting food on a fork and chewing and swallowing terrifies you. You are desperate to eat without the guilt. You don’t want to spend every day head bent over the toilet seat bringing up every last thing you ate. You don’t want to spend hours running frantically. And now when the numbers go down there is a feeling of blind panic hidden amongst the satisfaction at reaching another goal weight. You’re scared because you can’t stop and you don’t want to die.

And as each day passes you grow weaker. Your heart and organs are beginning to shut down. You’re dehydrated. You’re tired. You’re hungry. You’re forced to exercise well into the night. You are covered in bruises. Your skin is dry and your nails peel. You have dark shadows under your lifeless eyes framed by a gaunt face you do not recognise anymore. And while the changes in your appearence are scary enough, nothing has changed more than your mind. Anorexia is a leach. It slowly sucks away any hope, happiness or sense of self you have. It is ruthless. It is unforgiving. It is a liar. And it will hit you black and blue until you have no fight left. And while along the way it has slowly but surely taken away your health, your friends, your hobbies it will not rest until it takes away the ultimate thing. Your life.

Anorexia kills 1 in 5 sufferers. Seek help. You cannot fight this alone. You deserve more than an existence, you deserve freedom. And I promise you this – nothing will EVER be enough. There is nothing glamorous or beautifully sad yet romantic about Anorexia. It is ugly. It is dangerous. And it is evil.

Take care guys

xx

Why I hate the weight loss industry

Hands up who has ever tried or been tempted to try any crazy diet or pill to lose weight? I certainly have.

Studies have shown that 2/3 women have tried to diet in the last year. But have we ever stopped to think why we are so concerned with our weight? We live in society where girls are taught that they must not take up space. We tell people that they ‘look good’ when they lose weight but telling them they ‘look healthy’ has connotations of weight gain. Studies have further shown that girls as young as 8 are dissatisfied with their bodies. When did this happen? When did we allow our 8 year old girls to feel so inadequate because they have thighs that touch? When did we stop teaching them that it is who you are on the inside that is so much more important?

So why do I hate the weight loss industry? Well firstly, because they are constantly pushing messages that we are not good enough because we are not thin enough. So we must take this pill that will make us thinner, or lose 10 pounds in a week with this one secret, or drop a dress size in 3 weeks. Because then we will be happier, more confident and our lives will be more together…right? Wrong. Weight loss does not equal happiness. Rapid weight loss, as promoted by the weight loss industry, does not even equate to good physical health. All it does is promote the destruction of our bodies and the manipulation of our organism in order to fabricate quick weight loss results which are completely unmaintainable in the long term.

Secondly, it takes advantage. January is a month I hate. Why? Not because of the long dark days, cold temperatures and dreary weather but because the weight loss industry takes advantage of the post-Christmas slump. Christmas is such a happy time for most people, and yes it’s indulgent. But who cares? Who cares that you spent a month eating two mince pies for breakfast, accidentally ate your advent calender in one go (we’ve all done it) and drank far too much on Christmas Day. In reality no-one cares because we’re all in the same boat. But I’ll tell you who does care, the weight loss industry. Christmas is barely over and everywhere you turn, in every shop, there is a book or DVD or magazine encouraging you to lose weight. But its not just suggesting you might want to lose weight. It’s telling you you SHOULD want to lose weight. You must because it is vital that those few pounds you put on over Christmas are lost. And as fast as possible.

But does it stop there? Oh no. Fast forwarded to May and we are quite literally bombard with adverts and magazines all telling us how to get ‘that bikini body’. Let me tell you one thing right now. You already have your bikini body. You have a body. Next stick a bikini on it. Now whether you’re a size 2 or 22 strut your stuff because no-one has a right to tell you whether you are ‘beach body ready’ or not. You’re already ready. And damn you look good.

Thirdly, it worries me what all these messages are doing to our younger generation. I’m concerned that in a world where we have an obesity epidemic, we will also see a considerable rise in disordered eating among adolescents. I am saddened to read that children so young are unhappy with their bodies. We should be teaching children how fantastic their bodies are and that fuelling them with healthy food is not just a means of maintaining a healthy weight but a means of maintaining a healthy body. We should be telling them that they are beautiful no matter what and that their weight has no correlation with who they are as a person.

If you are unhappy with your weight, try and figure out why. It could be to do with something much deeper. Do you constantly compare yourself to your friends? Do you change 8 times before you go out because you’re desperately trying to find clothes that make you look thinner. Could it perhaps be that you are unhappy with yourself and you are subconsciously using your body to project that insecurity you feel within? Just remember everyBODY is different.

My main struggle is that my natural body weight is the upper side of healthy. And even though my body weight is still healthy at my set point and my body works best there, I struggle with the relentless talks of diets and detoxes and am jealous of those with a naturally low set point. But we are all wonderfully unique and its about time we accepted that our lives should not be ruled by a number on a scale, or what clothing size we are but by what kind of person we are and how hard we love, how wide we smile and how strongly we care for others.

xx

 

10 Things not to say to someone Suffering from an Eating Disorder.

I asked a few people, who all suffer from different types of Eating Disorders, what things are often said by people which can be triggering or upsetting. These are the things they wished they could share. This list is composed of some of their views and mine.

  1. ‘You look so much better’ – This is a common one and one which I have heard millions of times before. If someone is struggling with an Eating Disorder and has perhaps gained some weight, hearing that they ‘look better’ often makes them feel worse. Remember, Eating Disorders are Mental Illnesses with physical side effects. So actually being told this can often make sufferers feel that people do not realise how much they are still struggling internally as physically they look OK. Rationally we should perceive ‘you look better’ or ‘you are doing well’ as a complement but Eating Disorders are not rational. We use our bodies to physically display the turmoil that is inside us. And when people cannot recognise that, it can often trigger sufferers to relapse or simply make recovery so much harder.
  2. ‘But you eat…you can’t have an Eating Disorder if you eat?’ – This is so wrong on so many levels. Not least because the vast majority of Eating Disorders are not even categorised by restriction. In regard to Anorexia Nervosa – the majority do eat!! The criteria for a diagnosis of AN does not have a set amount of calories that a sufferer must be consuming under. Yes, there is restriction to varying degrees, but not always. Also people may be eating because they have made the incredibly brave choice to recover. This does not mean that they no longer have an Eating Disorder. It means they are fighting a daily battle. One which I would not wish on anyone. Furthermore, other Eating Disorders are characterised by the consumption of vast quantities of food and the use of specific methods to get rid of that food in an unhealthy manner. So yes. You can have an Eating Disorder and still eat.
  3. ‘You must be better because you’re healthy now’ – Any sufferer will tell you that fighting an Eating Disorder full on is the hardest thing that they have ever done. It does not take days off. Not at Christmas, Birthdays, Halloween or New Year. A person does not become recovered when weight restoration is achieved. It takes years to fully recover. And weight restoration is only a small part of it. And in Bulimia Nervosa, and other Eating Disorders, it may not play a part at all. You cannot judge a book by its cover. You cannot judge how much a person is struggling with an Eating Disorder simply by looking at them. It is a Mental Illness, and you cannot see a ‘healthy’ mind.
  4. ‘You don’t look like you have an Eating Disorder’ – I have often had this said to me. And it hurts. A lot. How should I look to you? There is no set way anyone with an Eating Disorder should look. You can be ANY weight and have an Eating Disorder. The idea that sufferers should be emaciated and look ill is simply a common misconception. Just as you don’t ‘look’ like you have diabetes or epilepsy – you don’t have to ‘look’ like you have an Eating Disorder to be suffering. Eating Disorders are NOT characterised solely on weight, there is a whole mental aspect to Eating Disorders that is so often forgotten and overlooked.
  5. ‘So it’s like an extreme diet?’ – No its not I’m afraid. It’s not a diet gone wrong. It’s not a diet gone too far. It’s not even a diet. It’s not a case of aspiring to skinny models in the media or stick thin celebrities. Diet culture and living in a society obsessed with weight loss does not HELP but it is by no means the cause nor the driving force behind Eating Disorders.
  6. ‘Why can’t you just snap out of it? Why can’t you just eat?’ – Oh how we wish it was that simple. Oh how I wish it was a case that we didn’t physically KNOW how to put food in our mouths and chew and swallow and taste. But just like you cannot snap out of having a broken leg we cannot just snap out of an Eating Disorder. A leg will break and, given time, it will heal. Sometimes perfectly and sometimes enough for it to function again. It is the same with Eating Disorders. Some people recover completely, but most get to the point where they can manage the condition and live a relatively normal life. So no. Sorry. We cannot just ‘snap out of it’.
  7. ‘Just eat normally, then you’ll be fine’ – Unfortunately it does not work like that. Normal eating becomes a foreign concept. It is like having to learn to walk again; you can see everyone else doing it but cannot understand where to begin. The brain creates new rules, rituals and ideas surrounding food which are unhealthy, but difficult to let go of. True recovery can only come from unlearning all the unhelpful beliefs surrounding food that have been formed. So no, sadly, it is not as simple as just ‘eating normally’.
  8. ‘If you think you’re fat, what do you think I am?’ – Body Dysmorphia is a very real condition that often coincides with Eating Disorders. The suffer has an inability to see themselves as they truly are but this does NOT impact their ability to see others the way they truely are.
  9. ‘I think I should go on a diet, what do you think?’ – If you know someone who has an Eating Disorder please try and refrain from any talk of diets, weight loss, exercise, measurements or numbers. We don’t want to know about your latest fad diet or how you lost a stone in a day, ran 800 miles, weigh x amount and have avoided carbs since 2005. It is hard enough trying to eat well in a society obsessed with diets and the latest exercise fad without hearing it all from family and friends.
  10. ‘Can you give me tips for weight loss’ – No I won’t I’m afraid. If you want to lose weight unhealthily I’ll provide a list of things to expect:
  • Dry hair, skin and nails that peel.
  • Insomnia
  • Cramping in muscles and muscle loss
  • Hair that falls out
  • Low blood pressure/ slow heart rate
  • Osteoporosis
  • Fainting or just generally feeling weak
  • Feeling cold ALL THE TIME
  • Hair growth all over as your body desperately tries to keep itself warm
  • Loss of periods
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Poor concentration

Eating Disorders are not glamorous and they are not beautiful. It is painful. It is real. They push our bodies to the very limit and sometimes they cause irreversible damage. They can even result in death.

I hope this has been helpful, both to non- sufferers to gain a better insight into Eating Disorders, and to sufferers who feel frustrated when these things have been said to them. I hope I have managed to explain more about how Eating Disorders really are for people and I hope this helps people who know someone who is suffering but are unsure of the things they should/should not say.

Thank you so much for reading

xx

 

When Times are Tough…

“You have survived 100% of your worst days” 

I love this quote a lot. I say it over and over again and perhaps it is most relevant to me now than it ever has been because it has been a very turbulent few weeks. Unfortunately living with Mental Illness can be horrendously unpredictable. Relapses can happen suddenly and a person can deteriorate incredibly quickly. Basically, before I knew what was happening, I was back in hospital for the third time this year.

This was obviously not what I had planned. I had not foreseen spending Halloween and my 21st birthday in hospital. Having vowed never to return after my last admission, my stubbornness to comply and fully accept how ill I was landed me a 28 day section. For those first few weeks I was certain I was fine, that I didn’t need hospital thank you very much and that I could manage alone. I told myself I would be out in a few days and they would soon realise how perfectly fine I was. It was just a blip. Nothing to worry about. I would bounce back in no time. I am lucky I have such a good doctor.

6 weeks later and the fog has finally cleared. I was not recovering. I was not living. I was not coping. My mind had effectively managed to convince me that all was well. After 4 weeks under section some rational part of me realised that actually Anorexia had made an almighty comeback and my self destructive behaviours had managed to worm their way back in and I had been blind to them.

I have now agreed to stay as a ‘voluntary patient’ so a care plan can be put in place for when I finally leave hospital. My medication has been reviewed and is due to be changed. I agreed to start working with them. I agreed to start eating again. I agreed to try and get better and while I am still struggling immensely, I am making small steps forward. A few weeks ago the thought of writing a coherent blog post was beyond me. A few weeks ago eating a slice of toast was beyond me. I am working with the nurses instead of against them. I am trusting the professionals and while I still get angry and frustrated at them, I know they do their best with the limited NHS resources. I still foresee having to stay a while longer. I hope I have the strength in me to keep going and every day fight harder. And most of all I really hope to be allowed home and back into the community as soon as possible, perhaps even for good at Christmas.

xx