It’s eating disorders awareness week so I wanted to write a post supporting this. A few facts…
The average time between someone experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder to them seeking help is 3 years. In my case it was 4, and I can safely say that things escalated over this time beyond anything I could have ever imagined. As time elapsed though, these behaviours became normality and new ‘targets’ continued to develop. They became a way of life, so much so that I didn’t know how to live without them. I still battle day in, day out to fight against those behaviours from creeping back into my life. I still have to use all of my strength every day to shut out the incessant little voices telling me that I’m useless, worthless, weak, a failure because I’ve eaten too much recently, because I’ve not been to gym today, because I’m not as skinny as the majority of the girls in the room. If people feel they can speak out earlier on, things like this can be prevented. Unhealthy behaviours can be addressed before they become normality, and before they completely take over, making recovery more likely.
Recent statistics from Beat have shown that 33% of adults in the UK couldn’t name a sign or symptom of an eating disorder. It’s so important to be able to recognise when someone’s struggling, to providing them with the knowledge that they’re not alone and they have the support to ask for help. I didn’t recognise I had a problem for a couple of years, and even when I did I didn’t know what to do about it. To be frank I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it, I thought I’d feel that way forever. My family and friends came to me on numerous occasions to tell me how worried they were, and I brushed those comments off for a number of years. It was when I hit rock bottom and both my mum and housemate came to say just how worried they were and reached out a hand for me to take that I knew it was time for me to ask for help. We must know how to recognise easting disorders and where help can be found. The Beat website is excellent and I recommend everyone visits it. They list 6 signs to look out for…
Are they obsessive about food? Have their eating habits changed?
Is their behaviour changing? More erratic or defensive? Dressing differently?
Do they have distorted beliefs about their body size? Are they losing weight?
Have they started exercising excessively?
Do they disappear to the loo after meals?
Are they often tired or struggling to concentrate?
I remember becoming obsessed with food, planning every meal I’d eat the next day, totalling the calories and making sure I did as much exercise as I could to decrease the total calories for the day. My mood changed, I became crabby and descended into a cloud of darkness, ultimately ending up on antidepressants. I couldn’t concrete and lost and any passion I had for life, everything was about food and exercise and I just couldn’t see beyond that.
UK adults are twice as likely to list weight loss or ‘being thin’ as a symptom of an eating disorder than any other symptom. This is hugely problematic. Not everyone with an eating disorder is stick thin, and this is such a common misconception. People can still have disordered behaviour surrounding food and be a normal weight or overweight. Yes, I was very underweight during the depths of my eating disorder, but as I’ve gained weight those thoughts and behaviours haven’t change immediately. I was diagnosed with anorexia, but I’ve also struggled with binge eating during my recovery, even when I was weigh restored. You can’t see from just looking at someone whether they have an eating disorder. There are such a huge array of eating disorders, not just anorexia and bulimia, which are commonly recognised as being the only ‘eating disorders’.
We all just need to be more informed about eating disorders, enabling us to create an open and accepting environment in which people who are struggling feel like they’re able to ask for healp. And my God do we need to stop bombarding society with unrealistic ideals about being thin. To stop portraying thin, able bodies as perfection, making anything less feel like a failure. We should be striving for greatness in so many other ways than our appearances. We need to know that out worth is not defined by our appearance. We are all beautiful, no matter what size we are!!!