Giving the silent illness a voice

With Eating Disorder Awareness Week taking place next week 27th – 5th March it’s a little reminder just how crucial awareness of this ‘silent’ illness is. Eating disorders are a very secretive illness. Using myself as an example, to begin with I looked fine, my favourite phrase was ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m ok’ and I acted fine and my behaviour was fine. On the outside everything was OK. As the illness progresses it begins to take its toll and it’s clear to people around you that you are not indeed ‘fine’ but by this point it’s too late, the damage is done, the thoughts and feelings are ingrained and have taken deep root. These thoughts and feelings are no longer thoughts and feelings but they are the truth, they are fact and you believe them. Belief is the key here. If you believe something to be true then no matter what your friends or family or the doctors say to you, you won’t believe them. You know the truth. Everyone else is lying to you. That’s when the paranoia begins, everyone and everything is against you, you feel on edge when you walk in to the room and everyone goes quiet… or worse overly chatty. Clearly everyone was talking about you. Against you. This is when you no longer look fine, your behaviour speaks volumes but it’s too late. This is the point where people may try to help you, where you are forced to see a doctor. I did exactly that and only agreed to see a doctor to make my family happy and stop them worrying. I didn’t see the problem and didn’t think I was poorly enough to get help. When it slowly clicked I was terrified but I felt like it was too late. I wished that I’d seen the problem at the very beginning so that I could have received the help I needed before things got too bad but I didn’t. No-one noticed the signs and that’s because I was so good at hiding it, I had all of the excuses, all of the lies and I manipulated. No-one knew what was going on and why should they? Eating disorders were not talked about so freely and so how could anyone have noticed the signs so early on when I was fighting so hard to keep it hidden.

Awareness of eating disorders is so so important and by people talking about mental health and understanding the early warning signs better places family and friends to make the intervention. It’s sad but true that this lies with family and friends because your loved one cannot be trusted to help themselves, that is not the nature of an eating disorder. 

Recovery from an eating disorder is not a quick fix, you don’t get help and then you are better again, it takes years of hard work and in many cases you never fully recover BUT the sooner you get support and the treatment needed the sooner you can stop the downward spiral and begin working towards recovery. 

Whether it’s the beginning of an eating disorder or a third or forth relapse getting help quickly is the most important thing.

I’m no professional but from personal experiences I have identified the early warning signs. If a handful of people are reading this and take something you never know when or if you might need it.

Early warning signs, to name a few:

Preoccupation with food:

  • having ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods
  • having a list of ‘safe’ foods
  • eliminating entire food groups
  • extreme interest in what others are eating
  • feeding other people 

Comments and thoughts around   weight, weighing themselves more frequently and a desire for the number to go down

Looking in the mirror more often than normal and touching or pinching body parts. 

If these phrases become part of your day to day conversations:

“I have already eaten”, ” I’ll eat later”, “I’m not hungry” “I don’t like that anymore” ” I had a big lunch”

Hiding food and throwing it away

Exercising obsessively with the intention of burning calories

Fixation on counting calories and numbers, checking food labels or knowing the calorie content in almost every food

Supermarket shops become painful, time consuming and stressful

Spending more time on the internet looking at diet sites and forums 

Anxiety and depression

Having a few outfits that are worn and washed constantly and only feeling comfortable in these. They tend to be loose fitting

Becoming defensive and snappy and angry with intense mood swings. Becoming angry for what seems like no reason and then being tearful the next.

Rigid eating behaviours:

  • using a certain bowl or spoon
  • cutting food into tiny pieces 
  • chewing a certain number of times
  • not letting foods touch

Avoiding social situations or being socially awkward and withdrawing and becoming isolated

Being cold and tired all the time

The more we talk and read about eating disorders the greater awareness there will be, with more people getting the help that they need. Eating disorders are silent… we need to give them a voice, we need to make them loud.
M x 

Giving the silent illness a voice

My Road to Recovery

Having an eating disorder leads you into a different world, dark, self-absorbed and narrow. I found that I lost focus of the real world and didn’t (or couldn’t) see what was around me whether it be people, places, or family. My eating disorder became apparent while I was at university. It was there before but I didn’t realise it, it happens gradually to begin with and then when you realise what is happening it is to late.

At my worst and before I knew it I was living on less than 100 calories a day, visiting the gym twice a day. Every single calorie that passed my lips had to be accounted for. I say I was living but I wasn’t I was existing. 

I was stuck in a cycle that I couldn’t seem to get out of. I’d lose weight to the point where I couldn’t take anymore, i’d get some help and reintroduce food until my weight was approaching healthy and then I would panic and lose weight again, the cycle would then begin again. My problem was that I was trying to recover on my own in my own surroundings but I wasn’t strong enough. I was so absorbed in the illness and the deceit that it brought that I would pretend I was eating and not exercising, telling the professionals what I thought they wanted to hear. As I lost weight my mood became affected, I slipped further and further into depression that I could see no way out. I wanted it to end, I wanted the constant battle in my head to stop. And I almost got my wish. Anorexia nearly killed me.

Reaching rock bottom made me see that I did need help and more importantly that I wanted help but the only way I could get the right help was by being in hospital. Two days after this realisation I arrived at an inpatient unit in Warwick with my suitcase and terrified by what I was doing. 

It was a completely different world, routine, structure and a place where all possible control was taken away at the door. Knowing I had to eat and couldn’t exercise made my panic because it was what I was most scared of, or so I thought. Waking up and not having to go to the gym for hours was actually a relief. I was physically and mentally exhausted. 

I won’t lie, I hated every second of inpatient treatment but looking back it was the best decision I have ever made.
I may not be fully recovered because I don’t think that actually exists but I am so far down the road to recovery that I am finding peace with myself, I’m doing things I never thought possible and I’m finally living my life. I think that someone will always have the eating disorder within them and I’ll be tested at challenging times in my life but I’m recovered and recovering and I will continue to work hard every day because I never want to be in that place. I have freedom, I have a family and I’m in a happy relationship. I have everything to live for.

Inpatient treatment and therapy took me back to basics, learning to eat again, learn to like my body and develop a healthy relationship with food. I soon learnt that eating disorders are not about food or weight they develop as a way to show that you are struggling. I was struggling with something that stems right back to childhood. En eating disorder comes from a need to control something when all other areas in your life are out of control.

Since leaving hospital and getting to such a great place I have been writing a recovery blog ThisIsMeRecovery. I wanted to do this to help people who are struggling with eating disorders, sharing my experience and journey and how I got to where I am. 

If you are really struggling and you are given the option of an inpatient treatment please go for it. I know I wouldn’t be here today to tell my recovery story if I hadn’t have got intervention when I did. Recovery is possible, you just have to decide that enough is enough, you need to be ready and want recovery. You need to work hard and trust the process because it works.

My Road to Recovery

How can we stop ‘pro-ana’?

I’m a complete believer that everyone has a right to their own opinion however I saw something today which bothered me. I’m mentioning no names and I never will but I came across this.   
Now I am in a great place and a position where this won’t affect me. I can turn a blind eye and shrug it off, however this kind of image can be extremely triggering to so many people who are suffering in the grips of an eating disorder. It also got me thinking, my niece is at the age where she can use a computer and she can read. I would be absolutely horrified if she came across this.

1. You do not need to be skinny to be attractive. Whether you are attractive is completely subjective meaning there is no set guidelines on who is attractive, it’s people who judge this for themselves. Kelly brook is not skinny but she is considered one of the most attractive females ever. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

2. Being thin is not more important than being healthy! Being thin nearly killed me. What good would that have done me? It’s better to be healthy and alive than so thin that your organs begin to fail. Being so thin your skin looks gaunt and grey is not attractive- I’ve been there and seen the pictures! It’s NOT pretty.

3. I still struggle with clothes however I wouldn’t buy something intentionally to look thinner, but buy clothes that make you comfortable. If you take laxatives to lose weight, it won’t work. You will become dependant on them and damage your insides. Running to the toilet every 30 minutes isn’t attractive is it? 

4. You shouldn’t feel guilty for eating. Everyone is allowed to look after their bodies and give it the fuel it needs. Eating a healthy diet will make your skin and hair in perfect condition. If you start to restrict then you will lose weight but only for so long. There will come a point where your body will say enough is enough and you will end up binging. This is not only unattractive but also emotionally heartbreaking.

5. You do not need to punish yourself for eating fattening foods. Foods do not belong to a certain category and by eating everything in moderation you will not put on weight or be unhealthy. Punishing your body will fuel the self-hate and keep you stuck in a cycle. 

6. Do not count calories with the intention of restricting. Eating 3 meals a day and a couple of snacks will keep you within the recommended daily intake. As soon as you start counting calories it quickly becomes a habit. A habit that is all consuming. A habit that is dangerous. 

7. What the scales say is the least important thing. So unimportant that you don’t need to weigh yourself. There are so many factors that affect your weight, what time of day it is, what time of the month it is, what you ate for dinner the night before and how much you have exercised. The scales also don’t tell you how much is fat and what is muscle. Muscle is denser and therefore heavier than fat. Did you know some athletes who are pure muscle are ranked obese if they weight themselves and use BMI

8. Do not attribute weight loss and gain as good and bad

9. You can be too thin. When your organs are no longer protected, your periods stop because your body is shutting down and you have so little energy you can’t function- then you are too thin.

10. Being thin and not eating are not true signs of power and success. These two things show you are controlled by an eating disorder- breaking this and beginning to recover shows true power. Feeding yourself and looking after yourself enough to go out and achieve your dreams and goals is true success.

11. Ana is not a lifestyle it is a disease. A deadly disease. Ana is not a lifestyle when it is shortening your life. 

From someone who has suffered with anorexia I do understand where these ‘rules’ come from however I learnt how wrong they are. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions however I disagree that posts like this should be so freely accessible online, people stumbling across this could fall into the dark and dangerous hole of an eating disorder.


How can we stop ‘pro-ana’?