This post kind of comes to you in two halves. The first half, is my honest confession:
I have had anxiety around food and disordered eating since I was 8 years old, and since I cannot remember a time before this, it has effectively been going on all of my life. As you can imagine, building these patterns of behaviour centred around food over 22 years makes it difficult to break the habit. But I’m trying!
I am aware that my eating disorders are centred around my anxiety of being looked at and judged by others, having to explain myself, drawing attention to myself, feeling and being sick, and also are all about control. I started to control my eating when my home life was particularly difficult, and used binge eating, starving myself and making myself sick to take the reigns over something, anything, in my life. Since then, I have never been able to shift this unhealthy and debilitating habit.
My daily food intake (on a day that I feel comfortable and not anxious whereby I can actually eat something at all) looks something like this:
- Breakfast – nothing
- Mid morning snack – cereal bar
- Further snack – crisps
- Lunch – chocolate
- Afternoon snack – chocolate
- Dinner – healthy tea (the only good bit of my diet)
- Snack – chocolate or biscuits
- Alongside this is several fizzy drinks and high sugar juice drinks as well as a reasonable amount of water.
As you can see, my routine is either binging and grazing all day on unhealthy food and eating a healthy balanced dinner, or eating nothing at all throught the day. Neither of these patterns is healthy or will keep me strong and my body functioning to the best of its ability. The impact that this pattern of eating has on my physical health is also detrimental to my daily life. My symptoms include: fatigue, extreme tiredness, low mood, headache, aches and pains in my body and poor bowel habit, to name just a few. I know I can’t go on like this.
Today, I spoke to a dietician. She looked at my diet on days when I do eat (sufficient to say we are all aware that eating nothing on the odd day does nothing for my health) and analysed how many calories I am having, what essential vitamins and minerals I am getting or not getting through food, and how I could rectify this. Her conclusion was that whilst I am getting a good amount of calories due to my sugary snacking, and taking into consideration that I do eat healthy balanced dinners of an evening, I am deficient in almost all of the vitamins and minerals that I need. This included calcium, vitamin b13 and omegas 3 and 6. This truly hit home to me that I am neglecting my body and therefore my mind, and that it is about time that I get this eating problem under control. I know it can do it, baby step after baby step and I truly want to. I want to maintain a healthy weight, eaten and enjoy food, allow myself treats and not be regimented, and to start taking care of my body, as we only ever get one! I therefore wrote a list of foods that I would feel comfortable eating at work, and compiled a shopping list of dinners I could precook and freeze so that even on nights when I am working until late, I can come home to a healthy, home cooked meal. Easy, cheap and effective. I will beat this. Alongside this, I have also signed up to a new counselling service and hope to discuss my anxiety based around food in order to really best my unhealthy eating patterns for good!!
As I said, this post comes to you in two halves, the second, is how I struggle at work dealing with an eating disorder and the expectations and comments of others.
I have mentioned in previous lists that the reaction in my work place to me not eating regular meals, and not eating at lunch time as all other staff members do, has been a negative one. I have received comments such as:
Why don’t you just eat like a normal person?
You’re going to get a stomach ulcer and you’ll only have yourself to blame!
Dont offer her anything, she won’t eat it.
You’re really strange!
I just don’t understand you!
These comments just make me want to scream! Their highlighting of my issues are just not helping. Don’t they see what a sensitive subject this is? I have never felt under such scrutiny as I do in my current job and it is incredibly difficult to answer their queries when you don’t want to explain the real truth to people who don’t need to know. The most important thing to remember is that I don’t have to explain myself. My eating disorder is not for anyone to understand or to even be aware of. I am not answerable to anyone but myself.
Today, following my chat with the dietician, I decided to make a conscious decision to eat a healthy, and proper lunch instead of snacking on chocolate and crisps, that are not only unhealthy, but also expensive! So, I decided to have a ham salad sandwich. I ate this at my desk whilst I carried on with my work and was again met with comments such as:
Wow, you’re actually eating!!!
The lack of support in comments such as these, from people who are intelligent enough to know to think before they speak offends me. Moreover, highlighting something that for me is a huge step and a brave one at that, only provided me with more anxiety. It reiterated to me the magnitude of the step I was making and for a moment made me doubt whether I could do it. It’s only eating a sandwich I know, but for a sufferer of eating disorders, this is a milestone! I do not therefore deserve to be knocked down from my positive and proud state. I do not deserve to have to question myself and second guess if I can do it. I do not deserve to step backwards again if I choose to work my hardest to improve. I deserve to be respected and not spoken down to, especially regarding a. Subject that is so personal, and has caused such hardships.
I am building the foundations to a healthier and happier life, making the choice to meet my goals and be more confident and content. I just wish people would give me the space to do this and the time to heal without continually highlighting areas that I need to improve!