Welcome to the first of my “5 ways” post. For the next 5 days, I will be posting about 5 ways in which I have conquered something, changed something, improved something or managed something in my life. The aim of this is to not only see how I have grown in different areas, but also to prove to anybody reading this that overcoming and changing things is possible, and to hopefully help to give recipes for which to do so.
So, without further ado…
5 ways I have taken steps towards eradicating my eating disorders
If you have kept up to date with my blog, you will know that from a very young age, I have suffered greatly with my relationship with food, and tried to develop ways in which I could change this, often to no avail. I have had anorexia, binge eating disorder and bulimia on and off since I was 8 years old, and still to this day on occasion feel more in control of my body if it is empty. I have battled and fought hard for years to change my disordered eating habits. How have I taken the steps to do so?
1.Doing my research – I have researched into how not eating and controlling your food intake in a negative way affects your body, your organs and your mind. In doing so, I almost scared myself into making little steps into changing my eating. By researching what could happen to my body if I continued my eating patterns, I saw how dangerous it truly was. When you skip two meals a day, starve your body, and then overfill it, followed by making yourself violently sick, your body is driven to the extreme. I took for granted how lucky I was to not have any serious problems, but the fear of what could happen to my body if I continued these dangerous habits, definitely did hit me like a tonne of bricks. I needed to make a change! I would like to share with you the information I found on the National Eating Disorders website:
Health Consequences of Anorexia Nervosa
In anorexia nervosa’s cycle of self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally. Thus, the body is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy, resulting in serious medical consequences:
- Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
- Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
- Muscle loss and weakness.
- Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
- Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
- Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common.
- Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.
Health Consequences of Bulimia Nervosa
The recurrent binge-and-purge cycles of bulimia can affect the entire digestive system and can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions. Some of the health consequences of bulimia nervosa include:
- Electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death. Electrolyte imbalance is caused by dehydration and loss of potassium, sodium and chloride from the body as a result of purging behaviors.
- Potential for gastric rupture during periods of bingeing.
- Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting.
- Tooth decay and staining from stomach acids released during frequent vomiting.
- Chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation as a result of laxative abuse.
- Peptic ulcers and pancreatitis.
Health Consequences of Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder often results in many of the same health risks associated with clinical obesity. Some of the potential health consequences of binge eating disorder include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Heart disease as a result of elevated triglyceride levels
- Type II diabetes mellitus
- Gallbladder disease
2. Listening to my body – In a similar way to the research I had carried out, another way I realised that my eating disorders were dangerous, was in the signs of my own health. I have always seen myself as a ‘sickly person’, which here means that I picked up every cough, cold and bug that was within 100 miles of my location. I now realise that as a result of having an empty body, not nourishing myself and trying to run my body with no fuel, I left my immune system weak and a target for attack. When I finally realised how much feeling poorly and picking up all of these illnesses was affecting my life, I knew this had to stop. Hand in hand with my anxiety of social situations, and my depression wanting to keep me indoors, I used to miss out on things I wanted to do with my friends, as I simply felt too poorly, or had no energy. I can totally see why! You can’t expect a car to move with no petrol in it! When I realised the effect that this was taking on my body, and the lack of energy I had, alongside always feeling unwell, I began to make a change. I began to listen to my body. Although there are still times where physically my body is hungry and my anxiety implores me not to eat, in the main I do listen to when my body needs food, and when I should stop eating. I listen to my body rather than my mind, and as a result I no longer make myself sick. I have realised that my body needs the food, and to process it to release energy throughout the day. I now put my physical health well up there in my priorities – especially following my recent operation – and this has allowed me to see the importance of regular food intake and encouraged me to listen to what my body needs. In doing so, I have gained the confidence to eat out in public – something that I never thought I could do and used to induce terrible panic attacks. If my body wants it, my body gets it!
3. Forgiveness for myself – one of the most important things I have learned to do is to forgive myself. I forgive myself if I can’t eat lunch that one day, or if I eat too much the next. Because I know what not eating at all felt like, I know how far I have come and how much the uphill struggle has nearly pushed me over the edge, and I am proud of myself. And that deserves forgiveness for the slips, and for the past.
4. Allowing myself to eat what I want, when I want it – I will never be a breakfast eater. If you call 11am readiness to eat breakfast, then I guess I can do breakfast. However, upon first waking, I simply couldn’t think of anything worse than eating. I know, I know, they say it is the most important meal of the day. But I still know my own body…I’ve been in it for 22 years! My body simply isn’t ready for food in the morning, and I need a little warming up before I’m ready to eat. But I allow that. And if I want brunch, followed immediately by lunch, I’ll allow that. If I want two lunches, I will. If I want 7 meals a day, I will do that too. I know this doesn’t work for everyone, and I am super lucky to have a fast metabolism that means my eating ups and downs doesn’t really seem to have much effect on my weight at the moment, but it works for me. I feel differently every day, and I eat what I want, when I want. This particular rule has made me feel more in control of my eating habits, and taken the pressure off myself. I am not the same as everyone else, and neither are you! We do not have to stick to the “norm” and eat 3 meals a day with a few snacks here and there. People who have suffered from eating disorders can eat when the hell they want!! It’s a celebration that we feel comfortable enough to eat, and no longer feel constricted by dangerous habits.
5. No longer listening to the opinions of others – leading on from the idea that we do not have to follow the “norm” of 3 set meals a day, another way that I have taken a step forward into the eradication of my disordered eating, is to stop listening to what others think about my eating habits. If I had a pound/dollar/insert currency here for every time someone had commented on my not eating being “weird” or been questioned as to “why aren’t you eating?”, I would be a millionaire in all four corners of the world. I used to worry so much about what people thought, that it would make me more anxious, and therefore even less likely to eat. It was a vicious circle. But why should I let small-minded, sheltered individuals who simply don’t understand dictate my health? I decided that I no longer care for the opinions of people who judge without asking caring questions. They just want to pass judgement, not find out if I am okay. And those are the people we need to ignore. Those are the people that bring us down. Ignore, and be you!
I’ve still got a long journey ahead to be happy with where I am in my little eating bubble, but my progression has exceeded anything I ever expected, and I am truly proud of myself. This was one of my biggest problems, and the improvements have genuinely changed my life for the better. Here’s to more growth, more change, and more food!