I would Rather Be Deaf Than Fat

I would rather be deaf and dead than be fat gain 2 lbs.

‘I was living a life, but not living the life that I wanted. Every day my thoughts were consumed with food, over-exercising, calorie counting, label checking and fear. I could not concentrate or focus on a task without looking at the clock to indicate when the next snack or meal was due. The enthusiasm and motivation I had for life was sucked out of me, taking most of my ambition and interests with it’. (Jessica Mell)

That is what people with eating disorders say to me. I was thinking about that when I listened to this amazing music played by a very young boy.

Overweight people do experience the most awful stigma; every day every moment is a moment laden with possibilities for being shamed. But thinking you are fat is not the same as being overweight, and we all need to know the difference and stop listening to the fat demon in our head.  Listen to the music. Take a moment out of thinking and anguishing about food, calories, the next meal, the next binge, the next diet, the person on the train who is thinner than you, we might be able to live and banish eating disorders back to the hellhole where they belong.

Severe Anorexia: A Poem From A Carer

Charlie Williams fought severe anorexia for many years. At times her parents thought she would die. She has written a musical – ‘Strawberries are not enough’ about her experience which is being performed in Hampton in April 2017. Her father wrote a poem which is being sung during the musical. It is very beautiful and here it is

Verse If anything happened to you
That would be unbearable for us
Our lives would stop
And never be the same again

Verse That powerful voice of your mind
Is leading you somewhere you must not go
We see it all
You’re further down than you could know

Chorus You must listen to another voice
This voice is saying
Every time you eat you are not failing;
You are taking
A step towards your future all your hopes and dreams

If anything happened to you
We would be left in an empty place
So dark and cold
Don’t ever let us see that day

Darling listen now and hear our voice
Our voice is saying
Every time you eat
You’re not failing
You are taking
A step towards your future all your hopes and dreams

Are You Cursed By Perfectionism?

Flora Assistant Producer of 20-20  Productions is looking to interview anyone who feels that perfectionism has blighted their life and led to mental health issues.

I understand perfectionism and it has showed up a lot in my own life, but I have grown to manage it so that I can be happy and effective.

Perfectionism has a lot to answer for, it leads people into particular manias, such as the mania to be super thin, the mania to run marathons even if you are throwing up by the roadside, the mania to climb mountains even if your family need you at home, the mania to take part in cycle races even if you have to inject toxic substances to keep up. Eating disorders and the quest to be thin at all costs is a very particular kind of mania.

Viewing anorexia as a kind of mania is one way we look at the illness, in our quest to heal people and help them live more healthfully. But some people feel that the only way to survive is to follow a particular quest; for perfection in something that becomes important. Who wants to be ….. ordinary.

So if you want to help Flora email  flora.hamilton@twentytwenty.tv

T: +44 (0)203 301 8405

Another Anorexia Death

Another Anorexia death

Even someone who is specialised in working with eating disorders can succumb to this awful illness.

You might want to read about it here. The trouble is that being older no one can force her to get help. Anorexia. It is like a possession.

Is Vegetarianism An Escape From Anorexia?

I’m really bothered about the claims made by the “clean eating” brigade about eating fish and meat.

At the risk of annoying many people including those who are excited about clean eating; I’ve just read some interesting research about vegetarians and vegans. Many people with eating disorders become vegetarian as a means to eat less fat / calories in their diet or apparently because of concerns about animal welfare. The latter is the most common reason given by people who turn against eating meat.

Anorexics and vegetarians are typically young western women and increasingly males who have changed their diet in their teenage years and have adopted food attitudes which are more extreme, ascetic and black-and-white than those of other people and by non consumption for specific foods, they both seem to strive for a stronger sense of purification, control and identity.

Vegetarians studied had differences from normal  eaters on the E.A.T. which is a  measure of disturbed eating patterns. They were similar to anorexics on psychological disturbance such as maturity fears, ineffectiveness and interpersonal distrust. Together with high levels of “perfectionism”, difficulty “connecting” to their physical body, and distinguish hunger from emotions, vegetarians and vegans share many fundamental aspects of the psychopathology of anorexia nervosa.

Many studies suggest that vegetarianism and anorexia are not independent but intertwined, the process may either be that anorexics turn to vegetarianism as part of their symptomology which may contaminate the research findings, or that vegetarianism may be an escape route for someone who might otherwise become anorexic.

I’d say there may be some truth in that.

Running & Eating Disorders – Recovery Really?

Is running marathons a legitimate and useful way to promote recovery from eating disorders?

Is running marathons a good way to raise money for eating disorder charities?

Is running just another way of expressing eating disorder pathology?

Is EVEN MORE running a substitution for eating disorder behaviour?

Is EVEN MORE marathon running a good example to set for people recovering from eating disorders?

Is this really a celebration of recovery or a way to justify eating more?

I leave you to work it out.  See The Marathon Runner’s Story

Clean Eating Isn’t Cool

Jemma is in recovery from anorexia and asks me to share this post with you all. Great job Jemma!   She called it “Eating Disorders Are Cool”.

Eating Disorders are cool. I’m not talking about the ones where people starve themselves to emaciation and end up in hospital within an inch of their life. That’s not cool. That’s Anorexia. I know because I have been there but that’s what people immediately think when you say ‘eating disorder’. But that’s not what I mean, what I’m talking about are the ‘eating disorders’ that are cleverly masked as latest accessory to compare with your friends, who can have the strangest quirks and obsessions, who has made the ‘healthiest’, ‘purest’ ‘cleanist’ meal. If you read the papers, watch the news, scroll through Facebook or look at instragram, you’ll see what I mean. You can’t be blamed for jumping on the band wagon of ‘clean eating’, I mean, everyone is doing it, right? And if you’re not, then you clearly don’t care about yourself or your health. WRONG. Wrong, wrong and wrong again. I am a recovering anorexic in a world full of people, some are telling me that they ‘don’t have an eating disorder’, they just don’t eat gluten, refined sugar, dairy or bread except for every other Thursday at 12.06pm. Please don’t think I am against people who have allergies, members of my family and close friends have health problems which mean they physically cannot eat bread without quite painful and unpleasant consequences and I’ve seen what a real allergic reaction looks like. This is not being fussy, this is having a condition. I’m also not ‘having a go’ at people who choose to not eat a lot of processed food products and are choosing alternatives by cooking meals for their family as part of a healthy balanced lifestyle. These people are aware of what is good for them and what is not so good for them but they don’t allow this or the media to dictate what they fill their cupboards with. These people will pick up a loaf of Kingsmill and place it next to their bag of new potatoes, jar of marmalade and even a packet of biscuits alongside their pint of semi skimmed cows milk – yes COWS MILK. When did that become a no no in the fridges of the people enjoying a bowl of cereal or cup of normal PG Tips? Now it seems if you’re not drinking soya / almond / rice milk then you’re the odd one out. Again, if you’re lactose intolerant, you have to find an alternative to dairy. There are people that ‘prefer’ these milk substitutes and that’s absolutely fine but when you’ve convinced yourself that its because you as person are superior for not consuming cows milk, for whatever reason, this is where the problem escalates…

Having recently read an article written by a very famous female chef where she quite rightly announced that ‘clean eating is merely masking eating disorder’s’ I had to breathe a sigh of relief. I had thought to myself for a while and wondered when this obsession would end? When did food become dirty? When did we become scared of pasta or the humble potato and have to only eat sweet potato? So much so we now add it to chocolate brownies. I say ‘chocolate’, I mean a pinch of pure cacao. This so called brownie will also have no flour, egg substitute and agave nectar instead of sugar. Seriously? This is not a brownie. What happened to baking at home, using fresh ingredients, adding them in yourself to fill your kitchen with the delicious smell of baking and then enjoying your treats, yes treats, with family and friends, washed down with a cup of tea? Apparently this is not allowed within the rules of clean eating. Going to a coffee shop with a friend means pre packing your own snack, preferably one you have made yourself, consisting of ‘raw foods’ such as nuts, dates, some form of nut butter and additional superfood powder. This is the sad, sorry state we have got ourselves into. These people apparently ‘don’t have eating disorders’, even though they’ll spend as much time scouring the list of ingredients of products as anorexics do looking at the calories / carbs / fat content. One rule clean eaters live by it that they have to pronounce every ingredient on the list. This is one I can relate to. I like to know there are real ingredients, fresh produce and that there aren’t any nasty chemicals or additives in my food. I will not, however, go to the extreme of making my own tahini or pesto. Apparently eating a pasta sauce from a jar is also an excludable offence. I have actually enjoyed making my own tomato sauces recently and I must say, they taste amazing! But look in my cupboards, you’ll find an array of homepride jars because, you know what? I actually like them. I cook a fresh piece of chicken, boil new potatoes and steam some vegetables. Never have I seen this meal on any of the Instagram pages I follow and yet this would be a staple meal of meat and veg from my grandparents era (they’re 91 by the way, and both still have all their marbles and in good physical health) my Gran regularly washes her piece of cake down with a glass of red wine.

When did we become scared of food? I spent 6 months in the Priory in Roehampton. Our meals were cooked fresh daily by chefs. They used normal ingredients, potatoes, white rice, vegetables, salads, cheese, meat and puddings. The meals were healthy, balanced and contained everything we needed. The puddings were there obviously to supplement out calorie intake but they were there for the other patients to enjoy. And enjoy, they did. I watched people faces instantly light up when they saw their favourite treat, they’d sit down with fellow patients or friends and family to enjoy their favourite sweet treat. Refined sugars and all! The feeling of nostalgia one gets when eating a food from childhood or that evokes happy memories can work wonders for the soul and coincides beautifully with how the more traditional therapies work. I stand by my belief that eating the food you enjoy can work wonders for the mind and body. Your favourite food is like a hug, and although I don’t agree that food should be used to suppress or enhance emotions, I don’t believe it should be used as a punishment either.

I’m not perfect. I don’t claim to have left behind all my anorexic thoughts and behaviours, I’ll still make some choices based on what I consider to be the healthiest, lowest or ‘safest’ choice. But what I will do is eat the foods I enjoy. I like cereal and toast for breakfast, not quinoa and chia seed porridge. I have a ‘proper’ pudding every night and I snack on cereal bars, yogurt and fruit and I’m not afraid to admit I enjoy chocolate! However, I do like quinoa and avocado, genuinely, and I like to cook healthy meals.  I don’t like chia seed pudding or coconut milk. No matter how good they might be, I don’t want to eat them!

The reason I have written this is because I wanted to express my feelings towards these people who have allowed eating disorders to become acceptable. It has made me angry that people are being allowed to categorise food as ‘dirty’. We all know that regularly eating too much of the high sugar, high fat foods will cause us long term health problems but now what has happened is that we have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed into believing ‘normal’ food is somehow bad for us and if we don’t consume everything in its most natural state, that somehow we have failed. Can we go back to everything in moderation? Can we make cake without having to add beetroot and sweet potato? To me, ‘eating clean’ is just another way to control what we eat, which is just another way to hide someone’s eating disorder.

Recovering From Anorexia And Bulimia

Anorexia Porn: Who Needs All The Grisly Details

During the last year I have read 4 manuscripts by anorexia sufferers who have written about the fine detail year on year of all their suffering. They have asked for my advice about publication.I have also read 3 published books by people who have actually found publishers for their books, to join the list of what some of you might call misery memoirs. These books usually are written after a degree of recovery but they are very tough to read as the behaviour which is a feature of the illness is revealed in all its stark detail.

I have to be honest with you, me and my staff as well,  who know a lot about eating disorders were dismayed (that’s the best way I can put it) by so much reading of the accounts of the things people do to themselves and others with this compulsion to get and stay very thin. We are all suffering from Post Traumatic Anorexia Disorder. It is very hard reading, and a great deal of suffering all round.

As we move into Eating Disorder Awareness Week what really do we want to be aware of, tell me please? What kind of understanding do we seek?  My question is, to what extent is this grisly detail useful for sufferers? For the public?  For therapists?

In her book Almost Anorexic which is a nice book, the Author Jenni Schaefer cautions people from reading accounts of anorexic and bulimic suffering. She says, and I agree,  that it will only increase worry, obsession and activate the competitive instincts of anorexics.

“OMG she got to 35 kilos, it means I’m definitely not thin enough yet!”

“OMG she ran a marathon on nothing but jelly beans, I’m certainly eating way too much!”

“OMG she began to purge, that’s a good idea, I might try that too.”

“OMG I’m not purging, that means I’m greedier than her.”

What is it that drives people with eating disorders to need to set down in writing all this pain. Is it just another form of “look at me” or is it part of the way that they can make sense of what has happened to them and recover. I don’t really know as yet.

But…. I have decided that these accounts do more harm than good to patients and are only useful to therapists who need to read all this to get a proper sense of the demons they are facing. This illness is very, very tough. It is an illness which is invited in and which doesn’t want to leave.

So as the manuscripts pile up on my desk,  I will read them all but heaven knows I need some strength and I probably have seen enough for the moment. I don’t know if reading these memoirs or even broadcasting skeletal images on TV is going to help.   What I really welcome are the accounts of recovery, like the work of Jenni Schaefer and also Emma Woolf;  leaving out the pain of what went on before in all its grisly glory.

Starvation and self harm are not a pretty picture and knowing too much about it can kill.

Emma Woolf Lets Go And Heals

Emma Woolf, author, journalist and journeywoman of Supersize and Superskinny fame has written an inspirational book about her updated journey into recovery: Letting Go: How To Heal Your Hurt, Love Your Body and Transform Your Life. The title of the book means what it says, because Emma has discovered how to transform apparent recovery into real healing. Recovery means getting well, healing is something else, it is about making real caring amends to body, mind, soul and other people who have been blighted by the illness. It is about living a life which is not dominated by anorexic rituals and thoughts. True transformation isn’t about gaining weight – we all know that. It is about being free. I urge all people with eating disorders to read this book and be inspired by someone who has been there before you. Emma my friend, good for you.