Food is only nutrition.
Carbs are only fuel.
Chocolate is only fuel.
Ice cream is only fuel.
Pizza is only fuel.
Burgers are only fuel.
Milkshake is only fuel.
Fruit is only fuel.
Yoghurt is only fuel.
Tuna is only fuel.
Pasta is only fuel.
Cheese is only fuel.
Vegetables are only fuel.
Sugar is only fuel.
Chicken is only fuel.
Nuts are only fuel.
Bread is only fuel.
Food isn’t good or bad, it’s just fuel for your body. The sooner you learn that, the happier and healthier you will be.
Food is only nutrition.
Obviously this isn’t a “cure all” when you want to relapse, but the following tips all helped me at various stages of recovery or relapse and continue to help me to this day…
1. Remember why you started recovery. Write down all the things you wanted to change by recovering, and all the things which were hell about living with ED.
2. Tell yourself you can lapse in a week’s time. Sometimes if you delay taking action you won’t want to do it when your allocated time is up. This also helps because you aren’t banning yourself from engaging in ed behaviours, you’re just saying “not right now.”
3. Understand that you are in control of your recovery. It’s yours, just like ed is yours. No one can make you lapse and no one can make you recover. This is up to YOU.
4. Talk. Preferably to someone who won’t get upset or try and tell you what to do. Therapists are invaluable here, but any of the helplines such as the Samaritans are also fab.
5. Don’t push yourself too hard. Now probably isn’t the time to tackle your number one fear food. If you can, stick to your basic meal plan and carry on eating appropriately and at correct times. You may want to go back to planning each meal and that’s fine. I still plan mine sometimes, it gives me back the control I so desperately need.
6. Look back through food journals or your diary and realise just how far you’ve come. We often can’t see that until we reflect back on our journey but it’s a really big motivator to carry on.
7. Write an angry letter to Ed. Tell it all the things it’s taken away from you. Hold nothing back.
8. What was your worst fear of recovery? Has it happened? If so, is it as bad as you imagined? Chances are no. So if the terrible thing either hasn’t happened yet or its not as awful as you thought, why stop now?
Finally, remember that lapses are part of the process. You have NOT failed. In fact, you have a lower risk of full relapse if you recover slowly with lapses than if you just did it “perfectly” right away. Each lapse teaches you something about ed that you don’t like and makes you stronger in the long run. This isn’t an open invitation to lapse though - fighting the desire is ALSO part of recovery. If you don’t learn to fight it, you will never recover. It’s a fine balancing act and you will stumble and wobble and fall and get stuck, but you will slowly, slowly move in the right direction. IF you keep going when you want to stop.
If someone doesn’t want to recover from their disorder, it wont matter how much you beg, cry, sulk or threaten them. They will only recover when THEY want to.
Instead, be open, consistent and patient so that when the person does eventually want to try and recover they will feel more able to ask you for support.
I can assure you that you are beautiful. Your body is the most amazing thing you will ever own, it is the only thing which is guaranteed to be with you until you die and it is the one thing which allows you to live your life. Without your body you simply would not exist.
Our bodies are not fat - they have fat. Fat which protects our internal organs and stops us dying from hypothermia when it gets cold or malnutrition when we get a tummy bug. Fat which, if you are a woman, will be used to feed your future unborn baby, to produce breast milk and to protect the embryo from being knocked and damaged inside your tummy.
Your body was quite simply not designed to be teeny tiny. It was designed to keep you alive so you can live without worrying about it giving up on you. Your body is only a vessel - you aren’t a body, you HAVE a body. And it is your number one champion.
I get really angry when people say “Oh you can’t use logic to fight an ED, the sufferer won’t listen.”
Well let me tell you that a constant drip, drip of logic is what made me recover. Having my thoughts argued against calmly and regularly forced me to keep assessing my ED beliefs and in turn forced me to continue to fight against them.
I think the worst thing you can do for someone with an ED is smile sadly and nod along when they tell you that they don’t need X amount of calories today, because all you are doing then is affirming the disordered mindset and giving the sufferer permission to carry on.
I’m not saying that anyone with an ED is going to hug you and yell “hallelujah! you’re right - pass me the pizza!” but I know from my own experiences that the person may go away and just have a little think about what you said, and the next time they hear your idea, they’ll think about it a bit more, and slowly, slowly they’ll start to think maybe you’re correct and they are wrong.
So please, don’t wrap someone up in cotton wool just because they have an eating disorder. Tell them gently why you believe their logic is flawed and then move on. That’s it. don’t create an argument, don’t get mad at them, just state what you know to be true and then let them digest that information in their own time.
It might just be the key they need to recover.
|Fantasy:||I didn't eat for 3 days so I could be lovely.|
|Reality:||Don't fucking talk to me, I haven't eaten for 3 days. I can't eat that, it'll make me gain weight. No I can't go out tonight I'm too tired due to a lack of nutrition combined with insomnia, and anyway I need to get in my 4 hours of exercise.|
|Fantasy:||Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.|
|Reality:||When you're starving yourself even a piece of chalk would be the most delicious thing in the world. All you can think about is food and even the smell of food makes you drool like a baby.|
|Fantasy:||Eating is cheating.|
|Reality:||Eating is essential to our survival. Starving never works in the long run and you have to eat sooner or later or you will die.|
|Ed:||If you step foot inside Macdonalds the airborne fat will seep into your skin and make you gain weight,|
|Ed:||If you weigh yourself 20 minutes earlier tomorrow, you will weigh more because you've not had a full 24 hours to lose weight.|
|Ed:||binging makes you gain fat instantly.|
|Ed:||Drinking calories is a waste.|
|Ed:||Toothpaste contains calories. This means they must be counted.|
|Ed:||If you do even 1 minute less exercise today than yesterday, you won't lose weight.|
|Ed:||Drinking water makes you retain water and weigh more.|
|Ed:||Carbs are the enemy|
|Ed:||Eat that slightly funny chicken, if you get food poisoning you'll lose a ton of weight.|
|Ed:||You can't sleep tonight because you haven't done enough today.|
If you have a binge type eating disorder, binging is going to happen. I still binge most weeks and I’m supposed to be pretty damn near recovered. The best thing you can do is accept that binges will happen. Don’t make them out to be some massive thing that you’re not allowed to do - you have an ED which means that binging is, in this context, normal and actually OK.
I know I sound like a lunatic, but it’s true. Let me tell you some of the things I have learnt (the hard way) about binging.
1. If you weigh yourself the next day, you will weigh more. However, this isn’t fat. Think about all the food you’ve consumed and then think about the fact that your digestive system can take around 48 hours to process a day’s worth of food. So while it’s waiting to be digested, that food sits in your tummy. Sounds gross I know, but the point is IT’S NOT FAT. You’ve not gained weight, you’ve gained food.
2. You can eat pretty much anything at all the day after a binge and you will STILL weigh less the following day. Because your digestive system has gotten rid of the binge food by then.
3. restricting after a binge makes you at least 50% more likely to binge again. Binges have 2 triggers - emotions and hunger. Don’t give your body unnecessary triggers by starving it.
4. Eating normally gives your body the message that food is readily available. As time goes by it will reduce the urge to binge. The moment you start to restrict (or in my case even slightly reduce my calories.) your body panics and thinks it’s about to be starved again - making you much more likely to binge.
5. binging doesn’t make you gain weight, compensating does. Your body is perfectly capable of dealing with excess food. Look at all the occasions people over eat and they don’t gain any noticeable weight. (Christmas, Birthdays, Weddings, Dates, Family meals, Movie and pizza nights, takeaways…)This is because they just carry on like normal after the period of over eating. Your metabolism is 100 x more effective than you give it credit for. Trust it. Even if you think you’ve messed it up through ED behaviours, it WILL sort itself out again. You just have to sit it out while it does it’s thing.
So to sum up: Compensating for a binge leads to more binges. It’s really that simple.
People with a BMI in the overweight category are shown to have the same risk of health issues as those in the “normal” weight category, so being overweight isn’t actually “bad” for you.
This means that the only reason being overweight is an issue is because of society’s idea of “the perfect body.” And why should you have to conform? I mean seriously, why is it important? Only 4% of women have a BMI that is naturally 18.5 - 20 whereas 63% of Americans fall into the overweight category. so it’s not even “average” to be slim. Maybe this isn’t all due to bad diets - maybe it’s because it’s actually OK for our bodies to be a bit bigger?
Just think about it. With an overweight body you can do absolutely everything you can do with a “normal” body. EVERYTHING. In fact a lot of clothes look better on bigger bodies - how often do you hear tiny girls complaining that their clothes don’t give them shape? Probably just as often as you hear an overweight girl complaining that she looks fat in various things. It’s not our bodies that are wrong, it’s the clothes we’re trying to force ourselves into.
Being overweight doesn’t stop you from being able to run or dance or skip or hug or work or drive or laugh or have sex or cry or cycle or bungee jump or swim or ride a horse. It stops you doing NOTHING. Unless YOU decide you’re too big to do them.
Why is overweight so scary, so hated, so frowned upon? I bet you that there are people you come across everyday who fall into that category and you wouldn’t even know it to look at them.
A number shouldn’t define your health, or dictate the things you can and can not do. In fact it DOESN’T do those things - it’s only in our heads that these things are so important.
You think you have control? you think you’re in charge because you know exactly what you weigh?. Because you know the precise number of calories you have put in to your body, and the exact amount you have taken out again? Your life is ordered because you only eat a certain brand of yoghurt or you haven’t touched cake since your last binge three weeks a go? you walked 10 miles today so everything is OK?
You can keep your control because it won’t ever make you happy, it will only make you trapped and depressed and distant and scared.
Counting and weighing and restricting isn’t power, it’s a lack of it. You think you’re in charge, but in reality your disorder is. Real power comes from letting go, relaxing, and trying to live your life without fear of gaining a pound. Real power comes from accepting that your body is wonderful whatever its size. Real power comes from living your one and only life and not allowing your idea of how your body should look to hold you back.
You haven’t eaten properly for weeks, you’ve purged more times than you can count on one hand, and you are obsessed about your weight. It’s pretty safe to say that this is no longer a slip or a lapse. It’s a full on relapse. The worst part of this is that you don’t really care. Well, as long as you don’t think about it that is. There’s still a nagging voice at the back of your mind telling you that this is wrong and you’re messing up all the hard work you put in over the last few months, but you don’t listen to that because this is safe, this is easy and this feels utterly necessary.
Just stop for a moment and think about what you’re throwing away here. Remember how clear your head used to be? Remember how you used to get out out of bed in the morning with relative ease? The beauty of a relapse is that you were doing these things just a few weeks a go so you can still remember them. Remember how you were cheerful and had energy? remember how food was exciting? How you’d look forward to a slice of cake with a pang of nervousness, and remember the sense of pride, satisfaction and relief after eating it as you realised it really was OK to have that scary thing? How about the increasingly common good days, do you remember those? When you would barely think about food or your weight? Weren’t they refreshing and exciting?
Are you fat? Are you medically overweight? If you are, is this a direct result of recovery? What can you not do at your current weight that you could do while you were wrapped in the arms of your disorder?
You might say you felt better when you weighed less, but we both know that’s nonsense. You had an ED, you got through your day in a haze of numbers, waiting until bedtime so you could wake up the next day and discover if you’d lost another 0.25 of a pound. you felt just as big, if not bigger than you do now, so don’t tell me you were happier when your weight was lower because if that was true you wouldn’t have embarked on recovery in the first place.
Is engaging in your ED behaviours helping you in any way at all? Your problems aren’t going anywhere, they’re just being put in a neat little box where they’re going to grow and grow and eventually burst out of it and demand to be dealt with. Except you’ll be physically and mentally weaker because you’ve been listening to ED for so long and this will make them seem impossible to handle.
All you are achieving right now is strengthening ED so it’s more resistant to the help you will be forced into getting sooner or later. Because we all know there are 2 ultimate choices. 1. Let Ed kill you - either through complications or suicide. 2. Recover - either through choice or force. Every single day you let ED take charge it gets stronger and it makes returning to recovery more difficult. Stop kidding yourself that you’ll sort this out next week or tomorrow or when you weigh X because those are lies and you know it. You need to be honest with yourself. You’re relapsing, you’re going to get as sick as last time, if not sicker unless you pull yourself together right now. All those hospitals and appointments and arguments and sleepless nights and awkward conversations will come right back. Do you really want that? And for what? For a lower weight.
I’m sure you don’t really want to trade your health, your confidence, your friendships and your happiness for a lower BMI. It clearly wasn’t worth it last time so why on Earth would it be worth it now? You’d be sacrificing everything you have achieved recently for a number and for depression. Just think about that.
THIS MAKES ME SO ANGRY I COULD ACTUALLY HIT THEM WITH CAKES IN THEIR STUPID MOUTHS. HELLO DAILY MAIL? CONGRATS ON ENCOURAGING DISORDERED THOUGHTS AND BEHAVIOURS BY TELLING PEOPLE IT’S OK TO ONLY EAT 500 CALORIES A DAY TWO DAYS A WEEK AND THEN EAT WHATEVER THE HELL THEY LIKE THE REST OF THE TIME.
JESUS CHRIST WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS WORLD?
That thing you just ate? It WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT. I promise you it won’t. It’s impossible that the food you consume in one meal or on one day can make you gain weight. Our bodies don’t work like that, despite what we’re told.
Fat doesn’t get created overnight. It takes weeks and months of eating too much and not moving enough for you to gain weight. One slice of cake or one pizza or one bowl of pasta or a tray of brownies won’t make you fat.
You might weigh more tomorrow but that’s the weight of the food in your stomach, it takes around 36 - 48 hours for your body to digest it, but it’s NOT FAT. You haven’t actually gained weight - you’ve just gained a pizza and it’ll be gone in a couple of days.
So stop stressing, stop planning to fast or exercise, stop trying to purge. YOU ARE NOT FAT.
So, you’ve decided to recover. Life has become so horrific with your eating disorder that the only option left is to try living without it. Congratulations, this is a massive step on your journey and you should take a moment to really feel proud of this.
You already know it won’t be easy, and hopefully you’ve got some professional support to guide you on the way, but there are some things they are reluctant to, or simple won’t bother to tell you about the early stages of recovery. I have thought long and hard about whether to share them, wondering if they would delay people seeking help. But then I decided that knowing what you’re in for makes it more likely that you won’t panic and relapse after the first week. So here goes…
- Be prepared for the washout phase. This happens anywhere between 5 and 14 days after you start to regulate your eating. All of a sudden you are consuming a correct amount of calories and your body is freaking out just as much as your head. Your digestive system came to an almost standstill months ago in order to keep food in your stomach for longer; preventing you from chewing your arm off from hunger pains. Now it’s got enough food in your belly and it hasn’t quite cottoned on that it can speed up yet. This leads to nausea, heartburn, acne, hot flushes and general lethargy. Get some Rennies and a hot water bottle and try to stick to your meal plans. This should only last a week at the most - IF you persevere.
- Things will get worse before they get better. I went from binging 3 days a week to 5 days a week in my first month of treatment. ED hates it when you go against it’s wishes and acts like a toddler having a tantrum. It yells louder and louder hoping for a response. If you ignore it though, like the child it will soon wear itself out and let you eat in relative peace.
- Extreme hunger. You ate a decent meal an hour ago and yet your stomach is growling angrily at you and you can’t concentrate on anything other than the gnawing hunger which will. Not. Go. Away. This is it, you must surely be developing binge eating disorder. you’re going to swell up and have to be rolled into the grave waiting for you after the heart attack you’ll have in a matter of months due to your incredible greed. Or not. Breathe, it’s OK! Here’s what’s happening:
Food = nutrition and nutrition = fuel for your body. Not enough fuel = deficiencies in really important stuff. The only way to build those stores back up again? Fuel. EXTRA fuel. It doesn’t matter if you are underweight, overweight, obese or “normal.” Your body has been starved of nutrients, vitamins, minerals… for months now (maybe years) and it NEEDS to get to work on building them back up again. Those extra calories your consuming are needed - even though it feels like you’re never going to stop eating.
Secondly, your body has just realised the famine is over! It’s thinking “Holy shit, if that happens again I’d better be prepared, let’s get some emergency stores in!” Very clever, body, thank you. It wants you to survive if there’s another food shortage so it makes you want to eat everything in sight. It’s only trying to keep you alive.
How you deal with this incredible hunger is up to you. Most people recommend going with it and eating as much as you need to. What tends to happen here is a massive amount of bloating, followed by your wonderful body sorting itself out after a few weeks, and then you will no longer look like a puffer fish. your medical team may have other ideas though - it’s important to be honest with them about how hungry you are so they can adapt your meal plans accordingly.
- Bloating. For the sake of your sanity (and it probably feels a bit shaky right now) get some comfy clothes. Just put your jeans away and get some pretty dresses and leggings. Your tummy is going to swell up. Sorry, but it is. It doesn’t last long (like most of these horrible symptoms) and it WILL sort itself out, but in the meantime dress to feel better not worse. While we’re on the subject of clothes - throw out your “skinny” items. now. They are one of the most triggering things ever. Better plan - Burn them. It’s therapeutic.
- You will actually enjoy this eating business. And you will feel guilty for it. (Oh hi Ed, how the hell are you? Not so happy that we’re ENJOYING food now? Well damn, there’s a bit of a tricky situation for your grand plans, hey?) Listen to me. you NEED food to survive. You NEED food to recover. The more you are able to ignore the guilt and keep eating, the sooner it fades in to the background. And always remember, its ED that makes you feel bad for enjoying food, not YOU. Food tastes good, otherwise no one would eat it and we’d have made ourselves extinct. Repeat after me. “FOOD IS GOOD. FOOD IS FUEL. I DESERVE TO EAT.”
I know I’ve probably made you run screaming for the nearest set of scales by writing all of the above, but I’m not done yet. Stay put for a moment. What else do they forget to tell you?
That you will get your energy back almost instantly. (ignoring the washout phase.) You will sleep again, you will be able to concentrate and you will actually want to spend time with people. After a month you will feel calmer, more centred, more able to cope with life. After 3 months your nails will be stronger, your skin clearer, you hair will stop falling out and blocking the drain, the scars on your knuckles from purging will be almost gone. After six months your body will be well on it’s way to being physically healed and you will (excluding very bad days) never want to starve again. You will feel as though you are mending. In fact there will be days when you feel totally better, like you did before ED.
Let me tell you one more thing, from experience. It’s worth the heart burn and the nausea, the bloating and the guilt, because all of that still feels better than starving and binging and purging. Every single time.
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