Running through April

Excuse the pun. I do feel as though I literally ran through April in the sense that it’s another month that has just disappeared in a blink of the eye.

In training terms April has been a good month. I don’t want to write ‘May’ because as we enter May tomorrow that means I have just 12 days before I am driving down to London ready for the London Revolution cycle! 

My focus for London Revolution this month was to keep increasing the long Sunday ride along with slightly shorter rides on Saturdays, to ensure I was conditioning my muscles really for consecutive days cycling. My longest ride was 129km and I finished this ride feeling strong and felt as though there were still some miles left in me. This helped boost my confidence for London slightly but still feel anxious (and slightly nauseous) when I think about it.

I started to focus some attention on my running training plan to, it’s crazy to think that I have signed up to Gloucester Marathon in August. The cycling has taken most of my attention and focus and balancing the two is difficult. Gloucester doesn’t feel real yet.

Who watched the London Marathon? One of the biggest events in the running world. Who watched the marathon and thought “actually I could do that”? I hold my hand up. So many people from all different backgrounds crossed that start line, and finish line. 

My heart and attention was particularly with those running for the charity ‘Heads Together’ for the programme Mind Over Marathon. The programme resonates with me deeply and I have personally experienced the benefits of running and mental health. I liked how they focused on showing mental health as part of someone’s life, not all encompassing and not in a way that negative stigma is attached. Many people experience mental health struggles be it depression, anxiety, OCD or many others but it doesn’t and shouldn’t define you and you can function and live a normal life. You can carry on with family life, work hard at your career and personal commitments, it’s just a whole lot harder.

Running can help on so many levels from giving structure and routine, the need to fuel your body properly and look after yourself to get the most of your running. It offers a distraction, a place to find space in your mind and feel free. It floods your body with endorphins, that ‘runners high’ that can make you feel better about yourself. It also allows you to do something that you can achieve great things in, whether that is your first 5km, half marathon or full marathon. You can see yourself improving and it gives you worth.

I’m doing Gloucester Marathon in August, initially I thought about doing it for charity. Not only is raining money for charity an amazing thing to do but it also adds some responsibilities to the run. People have sponsored you so you have to go out there and finish. A marathon is a long long way, one that I don’t know if I can do and so the added motivation that people have sponsored me would have been a big help. But when I stopped and thought about exactly why I want to run a marathon (and was completely honest with myself) the reasons are exactly the same as all of those people on Mind Over Marathon (and probably thousands of others who ran London). I want to run Gloucester Marathon for me. I want to show myself that I can do it, that I am strong enough and that my anxiety and confidence issues that I often face about many situations is not going to stop me from getting to the start line. It will be 14 weeks of ‘lessons to learn’, ups and downs of training and battling negative thoughts that tell me I can’t do it, but the only thing that will stand between me and my finishers medal is injury, a genuine reason.

So back to cycling. May will be knocking at the door tomorrow and the countdown will begin. The next week will be a hard training week and then it will ease off slightly until the big day. Next time I write my monthly review it will be done and hopefully I will have an amazing story to tell.

That’s all for now.

M x

Running through April

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

New Year…Better Me

New Year, New Me… or rather ‘Better Me’
Resolutions are a funny thing. For me I’d always finish December and vow to be better, to fix everything and change my life. Part of my resolutions were just words to make my family happy and looking back I’m not sure how much they believed me anyway.

Life with an eating disorder was full of hope and promises come January. Hope that this year would be the year I cracked it. Promises that this time next year we would be looking back and it would all be behind us. In a way these were empty promises. Sometimes New Years resolutions are just not as shiny and motivating as they seem on the outside. The eating disorder couldn’t be overcome by a promise come the first of the month rather a promise and hope every single day that I could get better. 

I’m not a fan of resolutions that tell you to stop doing something, I think you are setting yourself up to fail by putting barriers in place before the year has even began. After leaving hospital and beginning to settle back in to normal life in 2015 this last year has been a great time to make some changes and steps in the right direction, it has helped me see areas that I still need to work on and things that I want to improve. I developed a love for running last year and completed my first and second half marathon. This showed me what my body can do but also made me want to push further. This year my New Years Resolutions are focused on making positive changes, setting challenges that mean I have to start doing certain things rather than focusing on stopping something. Focus on the positives not the negatives.




I have several things that I want to achieve this year on a physical and personal level.
So what do I want 2017 to hold for me?
Completing my first full marathon and my first (185mile) cycle ride. I know I’m not strong enough at the moment to do this but my goals for 2017 are to become fitter and stronger to ensure I succeed in these challenges.

On a personal level there are things that I want to change, or at least improve. 

Whatever your plans are for 2017, think about where you are now and where you would like to be and look at the positive changes you need to make to get there. 
For those who are suffering with an Eating Disorder remember that you can’t change everything in a year, you can’t ‘be cured’ or ‘recovered’ these are not realistic goals, but there are many things that you can do to start on that road to recovery. Recovery is a process, a road and a journey, it doesn’t start on the first of January and you don’t just decide to get better, there will be bumps in the path but there is no failure. 

2017 will be the year that I continue to get stronger. You can do it to. Whether that be summoning the courage to ask for help, continuing to fight a mental health condition or making your body stronger. 


Happy New Year 

M x

New Year…Better Me

The most difficult time of the year

“Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year”

It’s that time of year again, where most people are busy planning all of the festive parties they will be attending, drinks nights, work parties and the ultimate family get together over a big Christmas lunch. For most this is what Christmas is all about, this is what we wait for all year. But for someone suffering with an eating disorder this is the most difficult time of the year

I’m lucky, for the first time in 10 years I can fit back in to the majority, I’m looking forward to my work Christmas party and all the family time that is fast approaching but until now it’s been a very different story.

I’m writing this, not to look at how far I have come but to offer support, understanding and advice to everyone I know (and don’t know) who will be dreading this time of year like I was. 
For someone in the grips of an eating disorder or someone who is on the road to recovery or even those who consider themselves recovered Christmas is still a big deal. Although an AMAZING time of the year it is still hard. For me it’s an emotional time on different levels, I get emotional thinking about how lucky I am to be here and appreciating my amazing family. I get emotional thinking about all of the wasted Christmases where I have just dreaded the lead up and been a panicky mess on the day through to the deep regret and guilt of ruining the day for the ones I love. Christmas is a big deal and can and will trigger anxieties around food and drink but what you need to remember is that it is just one day. 
Christmas is an occasion to spend time with family and friends and yes there happens to be lots of food around but treat this as a normal day. You still need to give yourself permission to eat just like recovery teaches you. Looking back over past Christmases I can see that my anxieties around the day and the lead up were bigger than the food itself. The more I thought about what I would and wouldn’t eat the bigger the food became. My downfall was the amount I was catastrophizing every situation.
Sometimes it is easier to keep your feelings to yourself and struggle through the day so that other people don’t worry about you and you are not a burden on others but from experience your family will know that you are struggling and they are there to help you and talk about it. You shouldn’t have to go through it alone.

I’m no expert and I’m not a qualified professional but from personal experience I want to share my tips for surviving the Christmas period with an eating disorder.
1. Reassure yourself that it is ok, you are allowed to enjoy yourself and you are allowed to eat.
2. Spend time with your family and get involved with what’s happening around you. It may be difficult but try not to distance yourself. Feeling like an outsider looking in will increase the negative feelings.
3. Talk talk talk. Talk about your anxieties, tell your family how you are feeling and inform them on how they can help make the day easier for you.
4. Remind yourself it is just a normal day
5. Have a meal plan that you have made before the big day, that way you won’t be faced with decisions that heighten your anxiety. 
6. Play games and take your mind off the negativity
7. Remember that this isn’t really about food, remember to look deeper at what is really going on. Try to journal and explore where the feelings are coming from and what the thoughts of food are actually distracting you from 

If you are reading this because you want to support a loved one with an eating disorder then please remember…
1. It’s not their fault and there is no blame


2. Be supportive and encouraging but do not watch their every move


3. Don’t make unnecessary comments over food or monitor the amount that they are eating
4. Never make someone feel as if they are letting you down or being difficult
5. Help take their mind off things with conversations that are not focused on food
6. Don’t talk about how much you have eaten or that you feel ‘fat’. These kinds of comments make it very hard for a sufferer to eat the foods they consider bad
Remember, this can be just as hard for you as it is for someone suffering with an eating disorder. It can be frustrating and upsetting but the most you can do is be supportive and let your loved one know you are there without coming across as the food police! 
Christmas is a family time, don’t let your eating disorder take away anymore valuable time, it’s taken enough.
M x 

The most difficult time of the year

Myths and Misconceptions

There are lots of misconceptions surrounding Eating Didorders, here are 8 main myths that stand out to me and need to be challenged.

1. Anorexia is a phase

It can often be thought that anorexia or bulimia are ‘phases’ that someone can and will ‘grow out of’. This couldn’t be further from the truth and is a very damaging view to take. This misconception comes from a lack of understanding and knowledge that surrounds eating disorders. Often those suffering will be viewed as a ‘fussy eater’ or ‘being difficult’ some may go as far as to say ‘attention seeking’. If you know someone who appears to be fussy or difficult it’s important that you look a bit closer and be open to the fact that more may be going on inside. By telling someone it’s a phase that they can just ‘snap out of’ can have negative implications, causing the person with the disorder to be more closed and withdrawn for fear of being judged and their struggles shrugged off as a ‘phase’. Eating disorders are real and serious.

2. Eating disorders will just go away in time. 

They absolutely, most definitely will not just go away. It may be possible to attempt recovery without help however most people with an eating disorder will need medical intervention and professional help in order to begin the road to recovery. By ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away will escalate the problem. The sooner help is sought the more chance of a successful recovery. If things are swept under the carpet, more damage will be done.

3. You have to be thin to be anorexic 

This is everything that is wrong with attitudes and perceptions, made increasingly worse by the media. Anorexia is a preoccupation with weight and body image, a control over food when all other areas of life feel out of control. You do not need to look ill, to be ill. Many people do not seek the help they so desperately require because they feel that they are not ‘sick enough’ and that they are not deserving of treatment. When I was in hospital, although I was not at my lowest weight physically I was at my most unwell mentally. Yes I was considerably underweight, I looked ill and bones were visible BUT there were people who were a lower weight than me. I remember being told ‘you aren’t in that bad a situation, you will turn things around quickly’ by a fellow inpatient. Not only did this reinforce the feelings of not needing treatment but it also fed into the thoughts of not being ‘ill enough’. Looking back I can see I was very unwell mentally and I needed just as much help as the person who said it to me. Weight is irrelevant. Anorexia is a mental illness. The mind can be ill even when everything looks fine on the outside.

4. Eating Disorders are a female illness

Due to the media eating disorders have been portrayed as a female only illness. Men don’t get eating disorders, it’s not a’manly’ disorder. This however is incorrect. Men do have eating disorders however they find it more difficult to seek help because of the stigma attached. It’s important that more awareness is given to the fact men are just as likely to suffer and that there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Eating disorders are a mental illness, not a gender specific illness.

5. Parents are to blame for eating disorders

Many people assume that the ‘blame’ lies with the parents or family. Each circumstance is different and an eating disorder can be triggered by so many different factors. Very often there is not one specific cause but a series of events and feelings that have built up over time. Noone is to blame and it’s important that this feeling of blame is explored and dealt with.

6. Someone with an eating disorder has a choice

People believe that someone suffering with anorexia conciously chooses not to eat or someone diagnosed with bulimia chooses to purge after eating and someone with Binge Eating Disorder chooses to binge and overeat. The truth is, when suffering from an eating disorder there is no choice, you feel completely out of control of your actions and compulsions take over. You do not choose not to eat, you are terrified of food and physically can’t let yourself. Just like in bulimia you are terrified of keeping food in your stomach and you have to purge yourself. Those with BED want to stop eating but cannot do so. It’s not as simple as choosing to do or not do a behaviour. In theory those suffering do have a ‘choice’ but they are not able to control this or see the choice. A treatment programme is needed to help see the choice and that we are all in control of our behaviour.

7. People can only have one type of eating disorder 

Eating disorders are interchangeable and very often people can transition through several different eating disorders. For example someone may have anorexia and when they begin refeeding and recovery they begin overeating and purging. This can happen when the body panics and thinks it may not get any more food so the binges begin and as this is such a scary time purging can feel like the only option. Just as easily could someone who has BED and begins recovery and they are so unhappy with their body that they begin to restrict and then transition into anorexia. Eating disorders do not always occur in isolation. The right treatment needs to be given at the right stage.

8. Recovery from an eating disorder is a straight road

Recovering from any disorder is not an easy ride, nor is the road straight. There will be many ups and downs, blips in the road, days where you just cannot see a way forward, where you don’t want recovery any more. Then there will be days where eating feels easier, happy days creating memories and living life. Then there will be days where you feel down and deflated or as high as a kite. Every day is a challenge bringing with it its own challenges. But recovery teaches you to cope with the bad days. It’s so important for loved ones, family and friends to understand that it’s not ‘plain sailing’ even when you are doing well it’s easy for people to think it’s over, you are recovered however it’s ok to still struggle, it’s normal for recovery. It’s important to accept that recovery can take years and there will be blips and slips but this is expected.
This is my favourite image that shows what recovery is really like,

Have you heard any other myths or misconceptions that surround Eating Disorders that you think needs to be challenged?

Myths and Misconceptions

Loneliness is a feeling.

Mental health can affect all areas of your life. I personally, suffered from anorexia. But an eating disorder or any mental illness is never an isolated problem. It feeds into so many areas of life and can be all consuming. Loneliness is something that I felt for such a long time. I think it began when I was at uni. All of my friends were going out together, socialising, meeting people. I began isolating myself more and more as the anorexia took over. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go out, I did, I wanted the normal uni life more than anything, I wanted to be accepted, but I couldn’t. The eating disorder had taken over my mind and convinced me I couldn’t do normal things. I was terrified of putting on weight and trying my hardest to continue to lose. Going out with friends always involved meals out or drinks and I was to scared. I started using work as an excuse, I didn’t have time as I had deadlines. I was studying a law degree so this was an acceptable excuse but the more I isolated myself the more lonely I felt and the harder it was to be around people. 
My confidence dropped so quickly.

 I would go out with my few closest friends to the shops but I very quickly felt awkward around everyone else. I felt like I was being judged as ‘boring’ as I never made the effort to go out. So I stayed away even more. Uni is meant to be the best years of your life but for me it was some of the worst. 
I made some friends that I love and will always have in my life but aside from them uni felt very lonely. 

Even 4 years on from uni, I ended up in hospital. The lead up to this was the darkest time in my life not to mention the most lonely. I was scared of any situation that involved people, I felt like an outsider and felt socially awkward around people.

  
Feeling lonely makes you feel hopeless, it makes you want to give up and stop fighting. I felt like this to but through medical intervention I found myself in hospital. Although I hated every second of it I’m grateful that I was able to begin building relationships again with like minded people who understood. I was forced to be around people and I made some amazing friends from this. When I was discharged I was nervous that I was leaving this safe place and coming back home to the life where I didn’t feel that I had many friends. I felt guilty that I pushed everyone away and kept myself in my safety bubble. But I knew that I wanted to get my life back, I had already worked so hard and come so far that I wanted to keep going. 

My confidence had started to grow. 

I told myself that I would start to re-build old friendships and also make new friends. 

I had introduced exercise back into my life in a healthy way and thought this might be a good opportunity to join a group. I’m not sure what initially gave me the push or where the strength came from but I saw a women’s running group near where I live and everybody on the group seemed so friendly. It wasn’t a group focused on ‘serious’ or competitive running but looked like a group of girls just going out there and having fun. I admit I was terrified of just walking up to the group as I felt that everyone would already know each other but I decided to step outside my comfort zone and just do it. I loved it!! This is one of the best things I have done and I have met some amazing people and made some great friends. If I had stayed hiding in my house I would never have some of the friends I do and my confidence wouldn’t have grown. I’m now proud to say I became a running leader for the group and get to meet so many people, forming friendships and growing my confidence.

Loneliness is a terrible feeling and at the time it feels like there is no way out. But I promise that there is. Be strong and remember that there are people surrounding you whether you have distanced yourself or not, they will be waiting and ready to come back into your life when you are ready which is what I found. I lost a lot of friends from being unwell but I’ve made so many more.

I think the advice I would give would be to realise loneliness is a feeling, and as with all feelings these can change. Start small by talking to a few people on a daily basis, when your comfortable with this arrange a meet up, maybe a coffee and a chat, pop to the shops or watch a film. As you start to interact with people you will see how good it feels. Most importantly, don’t put pressure on yourself to be accepted or try and be who you think everyone wants you to be. This can feel just as lonely.
I try and make sure that I talk to several friends each day and also arrange a coffee and catch up, the more you do it the stronger your relationships will be and the more able you will be to talk about things.

Loneliness is a sad place to be but there are ways out. 

I did it, so can you x

  

Loneliness is a feeling.

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.
Mx

My Road to Recovery