Saturday, 9 May 2015

Guest Post: Living with an eating disorder

This post is written by an amazing lady that wishes to stay anonymous, who I have the utmost respect for as she has battled her eating disorder from a young age and come out the other side. I have learnt a lot from just talking to her, but this article made me learn even more about eating disorders - it's an incredible piece so I hope you enjoy it as something a little different. One thing that unnerved me was that when I typed in 'anorexia' into Pinterest to get a photo for this post, it came up with loads of encouragement and tips on losing weight, not the opposite - to get help and get better - which was what I expected to come up. It saddens me that society still think it's a good thing to suffer with a mental illness that physically destroys you at the same time, and shows that more awareness needs to be raised around the consequences. That's why this post is so important.

Eating disorders are something that there is a lot of public stigma about, that few people properly understand and many people think it is an individual's choice or their 'fault' for deciding to be too thin. This couldn't be further from the truth. Each individual is different and every case is different.

 I first started suffering with negative thoughts about food when I was 13. I was really unhappy and felt down a lot of the time. I felt left out with all of my friends and like they always did things without me and that I wasn't good enough for them. This got me down, upset and anxious so much and so often that I couldn't cope with it anymore. My mind needed some form of escape. It started when my year nine teacher said that teenagers ate too much fat and sugar and should only eat one chocolate bar a day. This I took to heart and became something my mind obsessed about. I remember starting to check calories and change my diet, I never stopped eating, never made myself sick and always ate 3 meals a day, which was the main reason why my friends and family didn't notice anything was wrong. Over the next 6 months I became more and more aware of what was in foods and had a mental battle with my mind constantly. I would worry for hours and hours about eating a tiny morsel of cheese or chocolate, then the next I would worry that I was too thin and was sick. My mind would bat from one to the other and back again until the point where I had no concentration, I couldn't read, watch a tv programme or hold a conversation properly with people. By the September of year 10 when I was 14 I could barely sleep at night. My mind was on constant overdrive about food and exercise and what my weight was and it became an obsession and my body was weak and I would toss and turn for hours and hours just wanting to go to sleep. I was getting sent home from school every day almost because I was looking ill and unable to concentrate and really tired in my classes. After going to the doctors about my sleeping they weighed me and the next day I was being sent to the hospital. By the time I was admitted I had had a really bad sickness and diarrhoea bug that I'd had for over a week and my body just couldn't fight off. My weight had plummeted to just over five stone. I spent the next 2 months in hospital on a children's ward, not being allowed to walk and having to ring a nurse to take me in a wheelchair just to go to the toilet, was being told to eat 5 meals a day and biscuits and energy drinks in between, but just felt relief from it and not having to make decisions on what to eat any more. Over the last few years I have gotten better and still worry about food but not to the same extent and not constantly and I enjoy plenty of big meals, cake, chocolate and crisps.

An eating disorder can take over your life, it can take over your thoughts and make you tired, weak and make situations like eating meals out or eating at other people's houses become very stressful experiences.

The types of thoughts that can come into your head:
1.       I can't eat that, it will make me fat and put too much weight on.
2.       I'm so stupid, why would anyone want to be around me.
3.       I feel so alone
4.       I ate too much today. I'll have to go for a long walk or eat less tomorrow.

What to do/not do to help someone who is suffering with an eating disorder
1.       Never tell them they are silly - this will just make them feel worse.
2.       Never blame them - it is not their fault, it is a medical condition and so much worse than many physical conditions as there is no easy fix.
3.       Never try to force them to eat too much at first. If someone has been eating very little for months their stomach will have shrunk and their body will find it hard to tolerate large quantities of food. Little quantities and often are best at first and then gradually building up.
4.       Be reassuring and let them know that they are not alone and that you're not judging and love them for who they are.
5.       Let them know that you care and try to explain how ill they are and that they have to eat and put weight on to get better.

Eating disorders can be all encompassing and can take over your life, but they are beatable and there are plenty of ways out. The best ways to get better are by combinations of counselling, dietician help and help from your GP and most importantly by fighting yourself. However much help you may receive the only way really out is to battle with yourself. I don't know whether they are truly something you can ever recover properly from, I hope so, but I feel that it is important to get to a stage where you control the eating disorder, whether that be anorexia, bulmia or something else, rather than it controlling you.  The most helpful aspect is by talking to people who understand and have been through it themselves, which can be done on the website Beat

If you are affected by anything mentioned in this article, or if you are suffering with an eating disorder, please please get help. Visit Beat or contact them on 0845 634 1414.
- Chocolate milk left over from chocolate breakfast cereal
- Lazy weekends
- Planning fun things to do in the summer

PS Please donate towards my sponsored skydive for Mind here, or text MIHV99 £1 to 70070 - thank you for your support!


  1. Thanks for this post! Do you actually feel "cured" completely?

    I've had eating disorders, anorexia and later orthorexia, and even though I now eat more or less like a normal person (I eat a lot and do sports daily and try to appreciate my body for what it can do), I do not think I'll ever have a completely normal relationship with food. Even 18 years after it all had started...
    Though I do feel I've progressed from analyzing nutritional content of every bite like I used to (I knew everything by heart, didn't even need to look it up anymore, actually I still remember this information), I now only estimate 5 or 6 meals a day and gauge my intake by that.
    I'm actually afraid of eating less (it would benefit my cycling if I had a few kilo less fat), because what if I become obsessed again. And then gain weight again... It boggles me how people can actually eat without thinking about it, and I envy them a bit.

    I think the beginning of my disorder was a mixture of stress - my grandma had died (she was my only elative except my mother) and I received my first period the next week, as the first of only 6 girls in the class, 2 years before others. I hated the way my body started developing and I had gained 6 kilo in a year (I did grow a lot that year, but still). I tried to drown myself when I was 10 years old. A few years later it turned out 4 of my friends were bulimic, which I didn't know at the time.
    I blame a lot of this on our stupid school system (I'm not from UK). Our teachers, even if not old, were definitely very old-school. I wasn't good at sports and that definitely affected how I felt about my body. The way they separate boys from the girls in middle and high school here is just stupid. They got to do the fun sports and we had to do aerobics and feminine things, like we just entered the 20th and not the 21st century. Hanging out with weight-obsessed friends in my free time didn't help either.
    When I look at a 10-y-old child now, they always seem without worries and like "normal" carefree children. And it scares me, because I know they can't all be.

    1. I don't think eating disorders are easily 'cured' - as this brave lady said she still worries about food but has got to the stage where she can control it.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with me, it sounds like you have been through a really tough time, but at the same time it's really good that you're aware of why you went through it. Good luck for the future, I know you'll do really well! x

  2. I can only imagine what she was going through as she dealt with this disorder. It was brave of her to share her story with us, and was even able to share some tips of how to cope in difficult situations. Anyway, thank you very much for sharing this with us, Hannah. All the best!

    Lyle Larson @ Superior Psychiatric Services

    1. Thank you for your comment Lyle. I know it was very brave of her to share such a personal post, and I think it is written so well x