It's eating disorder awareness week in the UK, and to me it's almost like a holiday to be excited for.
I know, it's quite an unusual thing to say.. but I've been so passionate about eating disorders from a young age. I've never had an eating disorder nor have I been close to someone with one, it's just been an interest that turned into a full blown fascination and passion. Let me tell you a bit about my background, and how it all relates into eating disorders..
I'm 21 years old and I'm a mental health nurse. Like any teenage girl growing up I had issues with my appearance, I didn't like my new hips or my small chest and I was constantly pouring over magazines with heavily photoshopped models with flat tummies and taut thighs and began to torture myself for not looking a certain way. Like many people, I grew out of this phase and started to read into photoshopped images within the media and how this impacts society and gradually came across eating disorders and it all came to a halt. I was fascinated, enthralled, gob smacked and pulled in by this online world for people with eating disorders, and rather than wanting in I wanted to know why these people felt that they had to hide away in the wide world of the internet to seek help from their illness. As my interest grew I researched eating disorders more and before I knew it I had a growing pile of textbooks (psychology, physiology and sociology books about eating disorders) and years had gone that I knew this was the career I was born to do.
All of my assignments in high school were related to body image and eating disorders, photoshop, mental health and the media's obsession with falsifying a person's image, and with every assignment I needed more and more information. I followed the size zero debates and created scrapbooks with stories in newspapers and magazines about eating disorders and even joined an organisation for young people to help educate those about eating disorders. I can remember being told when I was 17 years old that I was not allowed to go into classrooms to discuss eating disorders because it 'might encourage people to starve themselves' and the ignorance of this nearly knocked me off my feet. A typical teenager, I thought the world had the same thoughts as me and I felt (and still feel) that eating disorders are serious, scary and anyone suffering deserves the best care in order to tackle such a deadly illness.
Needing to vent my frustration somehow, I started campaigning. I raised money for BEAT (http://www.b-eat.co.uk/) and ran body image work shops during the summer for young people interested in looking after themselves mentally and emotionally as well as physically. I did this for 3 summers in a row and by the time I'd reached 18 I was looking to further my career in something, but what? I could be a dietitian for people with eating disorders, I could be a music therapist.. but it just didn't give me that satisfaction. So I applied for mental health nursing and began a very long but self fulfilling 3 years of hard work and dedication and gained a Bachelor of Honours Degree in Mental Health Nursing.
Now, during my time of studying, I found that the stigma and prejudice against people with eating disorders was rife. Some staff nurses were scared of caring for someone with anorexia due to lack of education about the illness and others just couldn't be bothered with them, thinking that the patient had 'brought this on themselves' and 'obviously didn't want help'.
***Can I just say right now, an eating disorder is not self-inflicted. It's not an extreme diet or attention seeking behaviour. It is a true and deadly mental illness, and the deadliest one at that. A person with an eating disorder can strive for control and there are often underlying problems also***
For 3 months I worked within a wonderful team caring for people with eating disorders and I came across some devastating cases. There were individuals who could not function without doing 300 sit ups in the morning and surviving on a very small amount of food. There is this ignorant view that someone with an eating disorder is smug and wants to look like a particular celebrity, but this is not the case. Seeing an articulate, intelligent and bright individual cry over a full fat yoghurt is really sad and upsetting, especially when you have an understanding of eating disordered behaviours.
Now, I'm still campaigning. I still actively research eating disorders and have written countless essays and reports regarding the nurse's role in caring for someone with an eating disorder and how we can change as a society to support the vulnerable members. For eating disorder awareness week, I challenge you all to research with me. Look up the signs and symptoms, behaviours and warning signs. Take that fear away.. you might save someone's life by doing so.
Let me just start with a bit of background information regarding my eating disorder:
From day 1 my eating habits weren't normal, I refused to eat and was very fussy and picky when I did. Growing up I saw many nutritionist who all told me the same, eat healthly and gain some weight, which I didnt. I never choose to be thin and underweight and much of the time I felt ill and missed a lot of time from school. I had no energy and was convinced this was how I was going to feel for the rest of my life as I didnt believe healthy eating would help. When I was 13 however I decided enough was enough and maybe eating healthier and excersize a little bit would make me feel a bit more lively and happy, and it did. But I dislike healthy food with a passion and growing up I would demand takeaways or refuse to eat. It didnt take me long to slip back into my old habits and start reaching for the chinese takeaway menu, again, I had no energy and felt ill much of the time.
When I was 14 I was reaching the end of year 9 and taking my options for my GCSE'S, being the perfectionist I am I started to worry that I wouldnt get the straight A's I wanted so badly and started to restrict my food. I took up smoking, and started drinking with my friends, not to forget my problems, but just to have control over something.
When I started back in year 10 I started refusing to go to school and again my eating suffered. My grandad had gone into hospital and I was due to have a major operation and all the stress was making me seriously depressed. I wasnt eating or sleeping and it didnt take long for me to notice the bad effect it was having over me. When my grandad died a few months later it tore me apart and I didnt eat for days on end. I even attempted suicide because I was feeling so low. I was diagnosed a few weeks later but refused to change my eating pattern. I'd originally used food as a form of control but now I had no control over anything.
I started to self harm and eventually not going to school most of the time. If I was there I would suffer anxiety attacks and I missed a lot of my GCSE'S. I wish I had picked up on it sooner.
I'm still suffering today and dont want help. I dont think Im ready to give up on that last little bit of control I have.
If you suspect someone is suffering look out for these signs:
-Loss of muscle tone
-Nails are brittle
-Skin is dry
-Wears baggy clothes
-Grey or yellow tone to the skin
-Avoids certain foods
-Refuses to eat in public
-Obsessed with being fat
-Obsessed with food and the amount of fat, calories, carbohydrates, sugar in food
-Suddenly wants to be a vegetarian
-Weighs food or obsessively counts calorie content
-Weighs herself constantly
-Avoids weighing herself at all cost
-Moods are dependent on whether she has lost weight or not
-Eats in secret
-When asked, always says she ate, although you'll rarely see her eat
-Has rituals when she eats
-Prepares elaborate meals for others (but won't eat it herself)
-Obsessively collects recipes
-Hides food in odd places so she doesn't have to eat it
-Frequently takes food up to her room to eat (so she can hide it and not have to eat it)
-Chews food and then quickly puts a napkin up to her mouth (to spit out the food)
-Hides laxatives, enemas, diet pills or ipecac (syrup that induces vomiting)
-Complains of constipation
-Obsessively researches and reads books on weight loss and eating disorders
-Exercises obsessively and if she can't exercise, freaks out about not being able to
-Constantly seems to have an immense amount of energy
-Never stops moving or refuses to sit down (because she can burn more calories that way)
-Is always cold
-Complains of feeling dizzy or appears to get dizzy when she stands up
-Frequently complains of headaches
-Unable to concentrate like she used to (because she is always thinking about food)
-Has mood swings - gets upset easily and is irritable
-At times is lethargic, tired
-Doesn't sleep well - stays up late at night, has insomnia
-Is a perfectionist -
-Appears anxious most of the time
-Has withdrawn from activities she once enjoyed
-Does not interact socially or does so on a much less frequent basis
-Is constantly hard on herself for every little thing
-Appears short of breath
-Amenhhoreic - lost her monthly period
-Has low blood pressure
-Low resting heart rate (weak pulse)
-Heart rate spikes upon rising from lying to sitting or sitting to standing
-Has osteopenia or even osteoporosis - brittle bones
-Has heart palpitations
-May suffer from panic attacks
(Information from http://www.eatingdisorders411.com/anorexia-symptoms.html)
If you spot any of these symptoms please try to get help for the person suffering or if you yourself are reading this and thinking, that sounds similar, please get help. The quicker it is caught the easier it is to treat
I suffered from Anorexia mostly through my teenage years, nowadays I am in my twenties and still suffering consequences.
I was always one of the tallest girls in class, not too tall but taller than the average girls. I grew up quicker than the other girls in my class too, I already wore a c cup bra at the age of 10. I always felt self concious that I was bigger than most girls and I felt uncomfortable.
I was always a fussy eater as a young girl but my mother always made sure I ate enough. At around 12 I stopped eating lunch at school, partly because I was shy and partly because I felt fat. I kept eating less to get thin. When I got back to school from summer holidays for my last year at secondary school, I remember some teachers were concerned mentioned to my sister that I looked pale and thin, as if I was sick. I was 14 turning 15 at this time. I would wake up at 7am took a cup of tea and sometimes 1 small biscuit which would keep me going through the whole day. Then I wouldn't eat anything at school, maybe just drink a little water if any. Then when I got home I would drink a cup of tea and in the evening I would get a bad headache and I wouldn't have the energy to do anything and get very bad headaches so sometimes I would just end up in bed. My mum would force me to eat something, and I would eat a little and feel sick.
At 15 I met a boy who told me I should go to an aerobics class, years later I got to know that he didn't mean to say I was fat ( I was curvy, UK size 10). I got worse after this. By the time I turned 16 I started a new school, and I was eating less each day. I would go for 2 hour walks/jogging each day. I tried to avoid meals as much as possible which involved a lot of lies to my parents. In mornings I was at school, so I didn't have trouble saying I ate when I didn't. During evening mealtimes, I would fill my mouth with food, and go to the bathroom and flush everything in the toilet. I would also put food in tissues and put in my pocket to throw away, eat a mouthful and leave the rest saying I was full up. I don't know how I managed to "hide" all that food everyday but I was so determined that I managed and my parents were talking or watching tv while eating so they didn't notice. It got easier when I started going out with my boyfriend certain evenings because I would tell my boyfriend I ate at home and tell my parents I ate out.
I kept getting sick all the time since I had no immune system. My hair started falling in clumps and I remember my cousin was shocked when he saw literally a large strand of hair coming off. My gums were sick
since I wasn't eating anything with vitamin c (I had scurvy symptoms) and if I had any scratches they would take ages to heal. My nails were fragile and stopped growing.
I was a UK size 6 or smaller and practically a walking skeleton. My ribs were showing and it hurt to sit down because I was nothing but bones. I would look in the mirror and see fat everywhere and see myself as very fat. I weighed 47kgs (I am 5'5). I would also see other people as fat, for example Geri Halliwell was really thin at that time, too thin and I would see her as very fat. It seemed through my eyes I could see nothing but fat. My mother kept trying to feed me or give me vitamins but I would throw away everything, lie, say I was eating out and say I was thin due to all the exercise. I was self concious wearing a bikini and I wouldn't wear certain clothes since I thought I was too fat.
Food for me was something disgusting and I regarded it as something not neccessary in life.
I kept getting sick more often but at one time I didn't want a doctor because he commented on how thin I was (he clearly saw I had a problem). I even fainted on several occasions. It was Christmas time and I had been sick with a bad cold for weeks and it wouldn't get better. I was 17 by this time. The one night I fainted and lost conciousness for quite some time. When I woke up, for a few minutes I couldn't remember who I was. I was in bed for several days and my mother kept making me chicken broth to get better. She said it would not make me fat and I was so scared after what had happened that I ate it.
I kept eating a little more each day until I started eating almost normally, with my mother's and boyfriend's help.
My new boyfriend loved food and his mother was a great cook who cooked lots of delicous food, and forced me to eat and I started to "like" food as if it was something I had just discovered. I never over ate and I was still exercising regularly. The thing was, since I had starved my body, my metabolism had slowed down a lot, and every little thing I ate would turn into fat ("real" fat this time). So I started gaining weight very quickly and nowadays I weigh over 30 kilos more and have a problem with being slightly overweight. From a UK size 4-6 I am a size 14-16. I still find it hard to lose weight especially since I can no longer exercise due to other health problems. I still don't eat too much but I keep gaining weight since my metabolism seems permanently slow. So now I have the opposite problem. The thing is when you're anorexic, its all in your mind and you really believe you are fat even though you're so skinny its ugly. It's all in the way you see yourself and I almost feel sorry for not realising what a great figure I had and how I could have worn any kind of clothes.
Still despite not being happy about my current figure, I hope I never go back to those times because I was lucky to get out of it before getting any more sick than I already was.
Hi, I'm sure most of you will recognise me by now, but for those who are reading this who haven't seen my previous reviews/dooyoo profile, my name's Daisy and i'm 19 years old.
This is a story of how my eating disorder developed. It's a gradual review and isn't solely focused on anorexia, as i've also struggled with binge eating and compulsive eating.
As a child i was very overweight, which started to noticeably pile on at the age of 7/8, and at 10 years old was around the 12 stone mark, which is around 182 pounds and is classed as obese for a child of 5'1; an average man who's 6 foot plus weighs around 12 stone, so for a 10 year old girl carrying that amount of weight around you're able to imagine how large i was. This may shock some, but i actually wasn't badly bullied back then. I grew up in a street where every one knew eachother and i had good friends who would stick up for me if anyone did say anything, and my parents were still together then and were both very protective, with my dad having a bit of a reputation, so to be honest i think no one actually dared make a comment about my weight!
I think the main reason i was overweight was simply eating too much. I was encouraged to try new foods, clean my plate and to be full at all times. That's how my mum was, and still is, always making sure i'm not hungry or wanting anything because she's the fussy-mumsy type. I don't blame her for my weight. She didn't shove the food down my neck, and i was a brat at times; demanding chocolate, sweets and takeaways, demands which ofcourse she would fulfill because she hated seeing me upset. I think i did it for the sake of it; the fact i knew she'd buy me stuff - i took advantage.
I wasn't the average fat child who sits on the computer all day and expects food to be brought to them infront of the telly; I exercised every day as we didn't own a car, so every day was filled with walks to school, long walks down the local canal and sometimes a long walk into town, which was atleast 8 miles from our home, and i don't remember ever been in discomfort and i honestly think i was pretty fit for a fat kid!
I never remember been in discomfort about my weight and i was never really bothered about my appearence. I'd stick on a t shirt and jeans and run down the local field to play football with my friends; i was simply an innocent kid without a care in the world.
At 10 and a half a range of traumatic experiences happened. First my mum and dad split up after 13 years together, and then my grandad on my mums side died of cancer. My mum made the enormous and very hard desision to move 200 miles away to be there for my grandma, and by the time i was 10 and a half we had our own home and were somewhat settled in the new area.
I cried everyday for around a year without fail, begging for us to go back to our old house. It was painful, i won't lie. Friendships had been ripped apart and talking on the phone to old friends simply wasn't enough. It was traumatic and i missed everything i'd ever known. The new house was nicer, posher, quiter, the people were snobbier and had big cars and big tv's in there front rooms. I didn't understand this whole new place, but i tried my hardest to fit in and made 4/5 good friends in the primary school. I was teased mericlessly at the new school. "Fatty bum bum, does your dad work at mcdonalds?", taunts would be shouted across the playground with teachers too busy engaged in there own gossip to really care. It was nothing serious, and i still wasn't too bothered about my weight.
Then it was time to start secondary school. By then i was around 10 stone as i'd lost weight due to a small increase in my appetite because of the stress of missing home, even after all the time that had passed. I can't remember alot of my secondary school days. It's numb and blacked out with only speckles of memory dotted around like a puzzle. My first day, i got smartly dressed, and posed proudly for a photo with my best friend from primary. Mum looked so proud, the happiest she'd looked in years. She waved us off and me and my best friend started the journey walking to our big new school. A few steps down the road and some girls are behind us. "Have you ever seen an elephant in school uniform?" one laughed loudly to the other. I went numb and knew they were talking about me. Suddenly i cared. i don't know what it was, but suddenly i wanted to rip the fat off me and be normal, skinny like them. I was numb throughout the first day, avoiding eye contact and only speaking when spoken to. A few other comments were made that day, some too painful to be repeated. I felt well and truly humiliated.
I was fat. I could change that. I knew it'd take time, so i made the most of what i did have. The second day of school i straightened my hair and put on my mums makeup subtle enough to get away with it. No luck, i was branded the school's 'dog in makeup.'
From then on i cut back. I wouldn't eat meals properly and would avoid chocolate, ice cream and would instead nibble on fruit if there was a watchful eye. Lie upon lie of "Oh, i ate at so-and-so's house, i'm not hungry" unfolded, with my lies becoming hard to keep track of. Within just a few months i'd lost alot of weight, around 2 stone. My mum was worried but never said a thing, only wishful encoraging comments such as, "i made you a lovely cake, will you eat a bit for me?" etc etc. I'd say this is when my eating disorder truly started. I certianly wasn't anorexic, but i definetly had distorted eating habits as well as the mental traits of an anorexic; the obsessive portions, the lies, the self hate..
Aswell as losing weight, i'd been doing alot of things to fit in, such as smoking, sex, shop lifting and generally bad things that even when i was doing them, didn't feel comfortable doing.
By my second year of high school i fell pregnant. I told the father, who was 16, and he told the entire school. I was soon been bullied badly again, and started showing signs of agraphobia. I had a miscarriage at around 14 weeks into the pregnancy, at which stage my mum found out after finding me in my room in agony only to discover at the hospital that i had indeed lost the baby she knew nothing about.
She pretended nothing had happened. I think it was her way of coping; denial. Back at school, i was branded a sick liar, and i had apparently faked the whole 'been pregnant' thing to get attention. Ofcourse this was a horrible, disgusting rumour, but i had no strength to fight it and instead let them do and say whatever they wanted. A group of girls in my year took a particular liking to following me home, pushing me into the local canal or kicking and hitting me. A group of boys also decided to join in, with the final straw been when i was hit in the face with a brick.
After that i stayed at home. My mum got me a place in a new school but i refused to go. I was scared, depressed and by this time couldn't even take a step out of the front door. The truant officers were merciless, and would be ringing or in the house every day pressurising my mum to get me to school or else she'd go to prison.
Then the abuse at home started. Every morning i'd be dragged outside into the garden in my pyjamas, my school uniform slung out and the door locked. My mum would go off to work and not be back until 7-8pm. I think she thought i'd give in, get dressed and go about my day as if nothing ever happened. I wanted to, but i couldn't. This went on for 3/4 months, 1 meal a day, locked out in the pouring rain and my mum screaming abuse and threatening me whenever i was allowed in the house. She told me several times she was going to kill me etc, and the stress of this caused me to stop eating pretty much completely, with just 1 small meal i had to prepare myself. My mum was given tablets to help her with her depression/stress and she was given tranquelisers to help her sleep through the stress of possibly going to prison.
Social workers soon stepped in and i was provided with a home tutor. My mum got better within a few months and my confidence was soon growing, and i gradually was able to go out and about again. This process took 3 years. Throughout this time my mum would get takeaways and chocolate on the way home from work, either as rewards for me doing something that was challenging, such as getting the bus or walking the dogs. Looking back she was trying to make things better with food but i didn't realise at the time. I soon was back up to 12/13 stone and mantained this all the way up to the age of 16 through my new compulsive binge eating regime.
At 16 something snapped and i didn't want to be like this anymore; fat, alone and depressed, and started looking online at websites that promoted starving. I was hooked and gradually decreased my calories and watched the weight fall off. Ofcourse it was hard; i was fighting cravings, impulses and desperatly wanted to stuff myself full, and found the only way to stop my self from doing so was to cut myself to distract myself, which is a whole different story so i won't go into it.
At first i wanted to healthily get down to 9 stone, which i accomplished in 8 months after eating a small but reasonable 1,000 calories a day. By time i'd got to 9 stone, my goal weight was down to 7 stone, which took me a long time to reach so i upped my game and reduced my calories to 600, with 2 hrs of dog walking each day. The weight dropped off and i soon couldn't care less about food. It was useless, a product to make us fat and greedy - i didn't need it. My mum bought me food still, thinking i was eating it and exercising more. Infact, i was actually chewing it up and spitting it out into the toilet, which stopped after a while as i became scared that i'd still absorb the calories. I also refused to brush my teeth, wear lipgloss or chew chewing gum as i was terrified there was calories in them.
At 17 i began seeing a councellor at a local child and family unit about my bad experiences during school, and she soon picked up my eating disorder. It took a while but i was diagnosed as EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) with anorexic tendancies, and was made to undergo tests and weigh ins. My mum was told and to be honest she didnd't seem at all suprised. Perhaps i wasn't as convincing as i thought i was.
This new found exposure simply encouraged me to carry on; if they thought i was skinny, i'd get even skinnier and show them just how skinny i could really get. No more 600 calories. Food intake for the day would be the same, day after day. 1 pear, chopped into small dices, 1 apple, chopped into fine chips and half a tin of tuna. That'd be a good day, and there'd often be left overs.
In late 2008 something scary happened. I was laid down, watching tv when i became dizzy and the room turned a funny grey colour, and that's the last thing i remember. I woke up in hospital on a heart monitor and drip and was soon informed by a worried looking nurse that i had fallen into a diabetic coma after my blood sugar went below 2.1 and i was now in-patient (sectioned with my mum and gp's permission). I didn't care, the fact the iv attatched to me was putting something inside of me scared me even more than the fact i'd fallen into a diabetic coma, and i kept wrapping my arm around it to stop the flow. They soon picked up on this and changed the iv so that it would beep if the flow became interuppted. A few hours passed and 2 nurses appeard with a bag of cream, custard like liquid, explaining to me that it was my feed. I screamed, cried and fought with all my effort to stop them connecting the bag to my tube, but i was so weak i couldn't stop them.
I was in-patient for 4 months. I refused to eat and drink and was regulary force fed, including vile fortisips; a meal replacement drink that contains 300 calories and has the consitency of glue. Each day my stats were checked, and was regulary placed on obseravation due to low blood pressure.
Been in patient is horrible. You're watched 24/7. While you're eating, while you're sleeping, you're even followed in to the toilet to make sure there's no purging or flushing of food.
I forced myself to gain weight by the third month and was aloud home with a strict 2500 calorie diet to follow.
The diet was designed to make me gain 2kg per week.
I have no idea how i followed it but somehow did, perhaps sheer determination to get better and prove everyone who'd ever calld me names wrong, and with support from friends and family, and i am yet to relapse, although i have come very close. I also still have regular contact with support workers, phychiatrists etc which is a big pressure as i know if i do relapse i'll be straight back into the ip unit. I don't eat 2500 calories now, and currently struggle to manage my goal of 1200 a day, but the thought of relapsing back to 600 or less calories scares me. I've improved alot, and am now at uni and have a job, and i no longer self harm. Food is still not a pleasureable experience for me and scares me at times, but the main reason i wrote this is incase any girls, boys, women or men are on the internet right now looking for anorexia tips. I want them to see this and realise it is not a fashionable fad that will turn you into a gorgeous stick thin model. It will turn you into a lifeless calorie obsessed skeleton with serious health implications.
I am so proud of my self for overcoming my issues with food and other things and i'm the happiest i've been in ages. The thought of weight gain is still scary, but i don't let it rule my life. Not any more.
I hope my story helped someone who's been through similar experiences as me.
scanning through the internet desperately trying to help my cousin to start eating again, we showed her a photo of an anorexic girl. then came the dreaded ''thats what i want to look like'' .. she was only 11-12 at the time. my cousin always used to have a healthy appetite. i would stay over regularly and we used to have midnight feasts, huge dinners and buy loads of ice cream and pizza to snack on. She definitely wasn't fat! I was a skinny size 6 and she fitted into size 8-10 clothes, which meant if something was too small for her she'd give it too me and if i bought something a little too big i'd give it too her.
our family went through a massive problem and she stopped eating. i wont say what the problem was though, but it nearly tore everyone apart. i think thats what made her depressed and stopped eating. She skipped every meal and her stomach quickly adjusted to eating nothing more than 2-3 crackers a day and a few soft drinks. if she hadn't eaten those crackers, she would've died in 2 weeks.
She became really frail and when I visited her when i was early pregnant, she fitted into my size 6 skinny jeans! hers were falling off her when she kept checking herself in the mirror so we swapped. By then i was size 8. I tried getting her to eat anything i could get my hands on. i put a bowl of pringles in front of her and she ate a few without realizing and burst into tears... :(
in the end, my aunt forced her to the doctors, who said her eating habit may never be normal again and it was on the verge of life threatening if she didn't do anything about it. She kept saying she wanted to be thin and didn't want to get fat - again so she said.
She counted the calories on the back of boxes and if it was over 10 she refused to eat it. but everytime she ate something we would all jump for joy and just hope to god she'd get better soon. her face was beginning to sink inwards and you could see her ribs. Her legs were like sticks and her arms looked like they'd snap in half if you touched them. She lost 2 stone in one month and lost about 4 in total. She ended up about 4 1/2 stone.
She is now on the road to recovery but her eating has been affected. She will have her dinner, but barely snack in between any more. My aunt had to ''wean'' her back onto foods again.
Anorexia is life threatening and life changing. it affects 1 in 200 women and 1 in 2,000 men. it can kill you and can certainly make you ill. you could be left with
*Heart Failure and
*Weakening of the bones.
The biggest part aswell as like my cousin, anorexia affected people will often deny they have the problem and that they are 'normal' .. i just pray she don't relapse and gets back to her normal self again. we could've lost her.
When I was a child of just 10 suffered from anorexia nervosa for nearly two years, but I have made a happy and healthy recovery. The months I suffered were utter hell, and no-one deserves to have this illness.
Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness in which the sufferer deliberatley starves themselves and excersises excessively. The ammunition behind all this is that the anorexics believe they are overweight, when they are perfectly OK, and then they start the jouney on a downward spiral in their quest to become 'thin', just like the celebrities that dominate today's media, and they are also an anorexic's role model. Anorexics aren't slim, or thin even - the worst cases end up emacited.
What shocks me the most is that a fifth of anorexia sufferers will die. They want to recover, but something isn't letting them - their mind - the anorexia itself.
I was just 10 when I developed an eating disorder. I was 128cm, quite petite for my age but a perfectly healthy height too, and I was 4st 1lb - an ideal weight for my height. What caused it was my father was overweight, so he went on a diet and excersise regime in order to lose weight. I wanted to join in with the diet - join in with his daily jogs, and eat was he was eating. But my mother and father disagreed - there was no way I needed to go on diet, I was a growing child, and I was already very slim - I've always been naturally slim, and I still am. But I was convinced that I needed to lose weight, so I took action.
I cut out 'junk' food from my diet - crisps, cakes, sweets, etc and reduced my meals at school - instead of having a perfectly good portion of a hot meal like I used to and eating it all, I opted for a measly ham sandwhich with no butter. Christmas was also coming, but I withdrew myself completely - I had a very small portion of Christmas dinner, and didn't have any of the chocolates that my family were having, and instead of settling down to watch some Christmas TV with everyone, I holed up in my room, dancing to music to burn off calories.
However, before this, my mother had decided to weigh me at home. She hadn't told me that she suspected anything, but she still seemed a little worried. She said, 'If you're under 4st, I won't be happy.' Alarm bells had rung in my head - I hads been weighing myself every day for the last three months and my weight was 3st 10lbs. And my poor mother wasn't happy at all. She decided that I should eat more. My father, who was now a healthy weight, had heard everything - he was organising all the finacial matters of my school that I was heading off to. Father said, 'If you don't put on weight, you won't be healthy enough to go.'
Mum weighed me every Wednesday. Some weeks I was 3st 11lbs, others I was 3st 10lbs. I hovered around those weights until mother took action and arranged for a phycologist to come to our house and have a chat, once a week. I really hated her - she didn't help at all, and she jabbered on about, 'Finishing my meals' and 'How I was feeling'. She also set up an eating plan for me - I was now only 3st 7lbs, 130cm in height and I wasn't eating much - I had no milk with my cereal in the morning, had no snacks, and had very little for lunch and dinner. It was now May, and it would only be a matter of time before I was starting my new school in September. My new eating plan:
BREAKFAST: A vitamin drink made with full-fat milk and two slices of toast with full-fat butter.
SNACK: Cereal bar
LUNCH: Sandwhich with cheese and full-fat butter, along with a full-fat yoghurt, fruit and another item of my choice.
SNACK: Cereal bar
DINNER: A decent portion of whatever my mother cooked, and I had to eat it all.
SUPPER: Hot chocolate made with full-fat milk.
I was overwhelmed by this eating plan. I was so used to eating such small portions and low-fat food, my stomach had shrunk and we had to take all the food on board, little by little, in order to get my stomach used to it. I did, but I wasn't cured phycologically as the anorexia was still making me excesise excessively and I was riddled with guilt after every meal and snack. I had to have each snack and meal under my mother's supervision. I also got weighed each week - by September, when I was starting my new school, I was 3st 12lbs - but I wasn't happy, the anorexia told me I needed to lose weight, so I listened to it.
I started having a very little amount for school dinners, and I threw away the snack that my mother had given me for morning break. I also started skipping breakfast, and I became depressed, because I was deprived of the nutrients my body needed, and I was isolated at school. Mother now suspected something - she took me to an eating disorders clinic, three days before Christmas day, so the news was bound to dampen our spirits. And it was shocking - I weighed just 3st 4lbs, and I was only 130cm - I had stunted my growth because I had been so deprived on nutrients, I was a lot smaller than my Year 7 school peers. I had to go on a strict eating plan - but this time I stuck with it, as I longed to be as stong as my school peers one day. I was also not allowed to do sport at school, as I was far too weak. I had councelling to cure my in my mid too, which worked well. I became happier, made more friends and slowly recovered - by July, I was 4st 2lbs, and 133cm - I had even grown a little, because I had finally been giving my body the fuel it needed to grow. Even when I was at my highest weight (4st 2lbs) I was still a lot smaller than my friends - but I was catching them up and becoming stronger. I also joined in with sport too, because I was stong enough. My appetite increased, because my body was craving the fuel for a growth spurt, so I ate until I was full at meal times, and my stomach expanded to take in the food I was giving it. I am now fully recovered, and I am still naturally slim - I always have been, always will be - but I am a healthy weight for my height now and I eat what I want, when I want without worrying, and I excersise a perfect amount - I play tennis every day!
Anorexia is a horrible illness that no-one should have to suffer from. It hinders growth, make one weak, and overall manipulates the sufferer to starve themselves and become isolated. All sufferers deserve to make a healthy and happy recovery.
I have been undecided about writing this review for some time. Why? Because it is not me that has been through it.......although I may have contributed to it......and it is not your "typical" case of an eating disorder that I am writing about. Or is it? Because I don't believe that there is anything such as "typical" about anorexia, bulimia, or indeed any form of eating disorder.
And that is the reason I chose to write this review in the end - because someone might identify with it, and be able to nip a problem in the bud.
I have been on and off diets since the age of 15 - I don't have an eating disorder, as such, but I am an emotional eater who has always felt as though "losing another half stone will make all the difference". This stems back to a visit to Top Shop changing rooms with my mother, at the age of 15, where I was trying on an electric blue long knitted tube skirt. Anyone who remembers the fashion of the mid-80s will recall that almost anyone trying on such a skirt will have not looked their best.....with such clingy items not forgiving in the lumps, bumps and curves department!
My mother's response (and I can still hear it as clear as anything) was "It'll be alright if you lose 3 or 4 lbs"........I was 7 and a half stone at the time, 5 ft 4 and 15......but there began my belief that losing 3 or 4 lbs will make all the difference, and so my yo-yo dieting life began.
The reason for mentioning this is because it is so common - a throwaway remark by my well meaning mother, something said not with malice, but not with thought. How often do we say things without thinking how it makes the other person feel?
Yo-yo dieting - obsessions with latest diet crazes, cutting out one food group completely, or overloading on another food group.....all in the hope we can "lose 3 or 4 lbs, and it will be alright" - has become the norm for many women. We can easily become fixated on our weight and what we eat, and although we may not see it as a problem ourselves, we may not be sending the most positive messages to those who are growing up with us.
Leading us on to my daughter.....now 15 and very healthy, my daughter has had a number of episodes in her life, eating-wise, which have given us cause for concern. People (me included previously) have often assumed that anorexia is a problem for women in their teens and 20s, people with issues, who have a belief that they are fat.
Yet one of my daughter's worst episodes was at the age of 9 and 10......and it wasn't her first. Problems with eating can start at a very early age, and if you don't know what to look out for, can go undetected for some time, leading to longer health concerns, as well as causing stress for everyone in the household.
My daughter was poorly as a baby and a toddler, and as a result we had to be very careful about what she ate. I carried out her first elimination diet at the age of 6 months. Day one - rice. Day two - rice and leek. Day three rice, leek and chicken. Day four, bad reaction, so back to rice and leek.......etc.
At the age of 2, she was so sick that she could barely stand up - a virus had led to her stomach hardening and not being able to absorb certain foods, meaning that every time she ate, she rejected the food because the stomach was hard.
At 7 she was put on a gluten free diet - anyone who has been on a diet like this will know that it is quite difficult. Packed lunches were a nightmare.....no bread, no pasta, no biscuits. My attempts at rice bread rolls took some practice to make them remotely edible, the gluten free pasta we had just went soggy, and shop bought gluten free bread is something belonging to the same family as the humble house brick......
I tried to be supportive and make everything "normal" by eating the same things as my daughter so she did not feel isolated. I chomped my way through brick-bread, and soggy pasta with her, and had hoped that everything would be ok, especially as once she became better, she was allowed to resume a "normal" diet again....hurrah for all concerned!!
Except....for the first 8 years of her life, food had been controlled for her to a large extent. If she ate the wrong things she was ill. Simple, and of course we only did what we needed to do - it wasn't a lifestyle choice we were making during that time.
But now, she could take control - and without really realising what she was doing, she took control of her eating.......
She was not fat, and has never had any comment on her being so - anyone who looked at her at any stage of her life and thought she was carrying weight would seriously need to get their eyes tested. The lack of eating was not down to being teased at school, boyfriends, or lack of, problems at home, etc.
It simply a case of "I can choose what I eat now".......so she did. Although that also meant "I can choose what NOT to eat now".
I mentioned my yo-yo dieting above, because by me being permanently on a diet, I was inadvertantly showing my daughter that food was there to be manipulated in some way. One meal for the rest of the family, the latest diet-attempt for Mum. You eat that, but I can't eat it because I am fat.....thereby inadvertantly endorsing the fact that it was OK to control what you eat. That by eating less, or eating differently through choice was a good thing.
Over time, my daughter started showing the more "obvious" signs of food control. Chewing mashed potato for several minutes, claiming "I'm full" after just two mouthfuls, numerous trips to the toilet during meal times, finding stashes of mouldy packed lunch sandwiches, untouched, in her bedroom....etc...etc....etc....
So what do you do when faced with a child who isn't eating? You get cross, you get stressed, you get upset, all because you have no idea WHAT to do. As a parent of a young child it is hard enough anyway to make sure they are eating healthily, and incorporating any "fads" that they might be going through, but this is something different....and at the time, there was not a lot to help us through it.
There is no point in saying - "sit there until you have eaten it". You will reach a standoff. And if they do eat it, you know they can get rid of it later...bribery, tough love, more praise, you name it, and I think we tried it.
The thing that worked best at the age of 9 or 10 for us, was a shock tactic. We went on some websites showing very anorexic girls, close to death, one with the simple headline "IF YOU DO NOT EAT, YOU WILL DIE". It was horrid. We simply allowed our daughter to read, and look, and she was in tears as she did so. She then had horrific nightmares for 3 nights on the trot. But it worked. She started eating properly again, and became healthy.
Was it the best thing for us to do? Who knows? But we were running out of ideas that might work......and this particular one did.
Sadly, we had another "episode" with my daughter at the age of 12. She had become very ill with a kidney infection that wouldn't shift. A whole year of backwards and forwards to the hospital, various treatments, missing school,vomiting, etc, led her to lose her appetite. This time was different to previous times. She had been obviously ill, and anyone in the same boat would have lost their appetite. It did, however, lead to a vicious circle......no appetite, don't eat, so no energy, so muscles hurt, so feeling poorly, so no appetite.......
We tried the "if you eat, you will have more energy" line, as being "obvious" but that didn't work - the response was "I'm not hungry, I don't want anything".
This went on for some time, affecting her sport (she is a very sporty girl, who was unable to train for 6 months because she was so weak), affecting her schooling, and certainly affecting everyone at home. She is naturally slim, but she became worryingly thin - weighing very little and having no flesh on her. She was standing on the scales most days - never a good thing.
At the end of my tether, it was her karate instructor who came up with a different tack - instead of me saying "eat and you will have the energy to do things", he said "come and do my class and you will work up an appetite".
He knew how ill she had been, and agreed that he wouldn't push her too hard, letting her sit out or reduce effort when appropriate.
What this did, is break the cycle. And she did, indeed, build up an appetite - once she had done so, we could get back to a "normal" routine.
During all of this though, I lost my dad, and turned to my "comfort eating" followed by my yo-yo dieting to try and lose the weight I piled on after his death.......I now recognise all this in being a factor in how my daughter has learnt to behave during a very impressionable time.
Thankfully, at 15, and doing her GCSEs, she has a healthy appetite, has a body many would be envious of, and is training and competing again, and enjoying doing so. Her weight of 7 stone for a 15 year old at 5 ft 2 is just right, and the scales only make a rare appearance.
That goes for me too - learning that losing 3 or 4 lbs isn't actually going to make any difference to me in life, has finally meant that we all eat the same thing at mealtimes - we all eat healthily, and eat well. So what if I am no longer a size 10......I ran a marathon this year - I am obviously fit and healthy, and that is what counts.
I see what we went through as the thin end of the wedge. I hope we have learned to recognise that this is a potential problem for us, and to talk about issues, problems and concerns, whether health related, school, family, friends, before they lead to other things.
So far, so good, but I also recognise that at 15, doing GCSEs, other pressures from many areas, in many ways we are only just entering the danger zone....
Thankfully, there is now more help and information available, with BEAT (what used to be called the Eating Disorder Association) having a dedicated area to eating problems with younger children now, with a dedicated Youthline now set up. When we were initially having problems, there was little or nothing available relating to that age group.
My daughter has helped others receive support from BEAT, and has also been able to help a teacher who was concerned about another pupil, and who didn't know how to approach the issue.
My reason for writing this review is to point out that eating disorders can happen from a very early age. Look out for the signs and get help if you need. I acknowledge fully that my daughter's problems may not be seen by some as "real eating disorders" but there is nothing typical about any of these - everyone is different and the way they take control is different, and the way it takes control of them is different.
It is also to say, please think about what you are inadvertantly teaching your children. A throwaway remark, or a desire to lose a few lbs for a holiday, could be the beginning of something a lot more serious.
I hope you have found this interesting and that anyone who is reading it who is suffering or who has suffered from an eating disorder does not find it patronising, or too simplistic, as that was not my intention.
youth helpline - 0845 634 7650
Anorexia is a severe psychological condition, usually leading to dangerous weight loss and self-destruction. Having suffered with the condition myself, I think I can give a good, informative account of this psychological disease. Most people have heard of this condition but it is commonly misinterpreted as just being severe weight loss; many people don't realise the psychological extent of the condition.
Anorexia nervosa, the full name of the condition, means 'nervous loss of appetite'. Sufferers usually experience distorted feelings about their body image. Even when an individual is near to death, they will often still see fat when they stand in front of the mirror. As the condition progresses, the sufferers are plagued my extreme negative feelings about their body image despite them becoming dangerously underweight.
This condition most commonly affects women, generally middle-class, white individuals who have experiences troubled childhoods or are under considerable pressure to succeed. The condition is becoming more common amongst boys. Sufferers' problems usually develop during their teenage lives and for some can continue throughout their entire life. The NHS website states that 'in teenagers and young adults, the condition affects about 1 in 250 females and 1 in 2000 males'. These are shockingly high statistics and it worries me that these may be rising considerably. Less than half of all sufferers will ever progress to making a full recovery; 5% tragically die due to their condition.
Anorexia is a well recognised eating disorder but it is important that people realise that is a mental health problem. Many sufferers can't accept that they have psychological issues, making treatment difficult. Anorexics extremely limit their food intake to keep their weight and BMI low. They can't see that they are starving themselves and become very defensive about the severity of their problems. Whenever someone would question me, I would immediately make excuses to justify my erratic behaviour.
Symptoms/Behavioural changes: I think all parents should have some good basic knowledge about this potentially fatal disorder. Often the cases which progress to be chronic or fatal simply weren't recognised by a sufferer's family. By the time the condition is detected, the sufferer's mind may have become so confused that treatment is unlikely to be a success.
From my own experience, in addition to extensive research, I can compile a list of the earliest symptoms to watch for. Many of these present themselves before the weight loss becomes noticeable or severe. Lots of these are changes in behaviour rather than physical changes to the body which don't become apparent straight away.
1) Avoiding eating meals with their family - Many anorexics will say they have eaten already (when they haven't) and aren't hungry. If someone is repeatedly doing this, they could quite possibly be developing eating problems.
2) Always talking/thinking about food - Many sufferers become fascinated by food. They can list the ingredients in a huge array of products and many develop a passion for cooking. They will serve up great, nutritious dishes and take glory in watching people eat them. However, the sufferer won't consume any of the food themselves. They will spend lots of time looking through recipe books and will develop an unhealthy obsession with what is in their food. I have met many sufferers who are more clued up than nutritionists about what we eat and how our body processes food.
3) Excessive exercising - Whilst exercising is essential as part of a healthy lifestyle, anorexics often become obsessive. What starts as a hobby may develop into much more and sufferers work out/train until they can't even stand up. They do this to assist in their rapid weight loss.
4) Hiding food - Sometimes a sufferer feels they should accept meals in order to please people, as an attempt to hide their problems. If the food is later found after an attempt on behalf of the sufferer to hide it, they should be confronted in a compassionate manner.
5) Low self esteem and depression - Many people develop these problems in addition to anorexia nervosa. As the condition progresses, these other mental problems can become worse. A sufferer may become detached from friends and family. Their performance at school/work may start to suffer although other anorexics have been known to do better at school, as they use learning as a distraction from food.
Obviously the main and most well known symptom of anorexia nervosa is the extreme weight loss. This can lead to a huge array of internal/external body problems. This is achieved by following extreme diets, exercising excessively and in some cases by making themselves vomit.
Physical Symptoms: Dangerous weight loss, the most well known characteristic of anorexia nervosa is just one of many serious problems which the disease can cause.
Some anorexics develop more of these symptoms than others but parents should be familiar with these so that they can spot them quickly. Common symptoms of anorexia nervosa are:
1) A layer of hair often develops over most of the body. This is a protective measure which the body does in order to try to keep warm. The name for this is lanugo and is noticeable.
2) The hair on the scalp may thin, knocking the sufferer's self-esteem even further. The body does this to conserve protein for the muscles.
3) Their nails may become brittle due to lack of protein and vitamins.
4) They may be very bloated which is noticeable on their tiny frames.
5) Women often stop having periods. This is referred to as amenorrhoea. Although periods usually return when an anorexic recovers, in some cases sufferers are left infertile.
6) Always tired - Starving oneself means that an individual doesn't have any energy and may sleep more than usual.
The problems which I experienced during my battle with anorexia, which were missed for a long time by my Mum, were amenorrhoea, hair loss on the scalp, low blood pressure, fatigue, a slight lanugo and abdominal pain. All these became part of my life and I never realised the terrible damage that I was causing to my body.
I hope this is informative and helpful. If all parents were to read this and familiarise themselves with these early symptoms, perhaps less people would fall in to deadly trap of this terrible psychological disease. If you suspect a friend or family member to be developing anorexia nervosa, don't be afraid to speak to them about it. Don't punish children for not eating as this may lead them to have a disturbed relationship with food. Spot the signs before it's too late!
Ok, now this should be a fun review to do (sarcasm at its best), but there's several reasons why I've chosen this topic. Firstly because I keep looking at it and thinking I should but never quite plucking up the courage...secondly because I think I can have something useful to say because I've been there...some would say still am there...and thirdly because it's a controversial topic...and I've always liked controversial topics...
There are also several reasons for why I've been avoiding this topic...and possibly the most major is the fact that I've got to 'know' and 'like' a fair few members on this site...and the last thing I want to do is scare them off...sounds silly, but it's a fairly standard reaction. So yeah, if you're not going to like it, please don't read it...
Anorexia is not a 'fun' disorder. It's not an easy dieting way. It's not something you want to get into. Once you are into it, it takes control of your life. Too many times I hear people saying that they 'envy an anorexics will power', or 'they're trying to figure out how to become an anorexic' because they want to lose weight. This does make me angry. You may want to lose weight. You don't want to become anorexic.
Anorexia is a serious mental health condition. Medically it is classified by the 'Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders' (DSM-IV from now on) as being characterised by:
1. Sufferer refusing to maintain a 'normal' body weight for their size, and age. Body weight being below 85% of what would normally be expected, or a 'Body Mass Index' (BMI - weight in kg divided by height in metres squared) of under 17.5 is classified as medically anorexic.
2. Sufferer has an intense fear of gaining weight and becoming fat.
3. There is a major discrepancy between the way the sufferer views their body weight and size and the way that others see them. Other people may look at a sufferer and see them as painfully thin, whereas a sufferer would look in the mirror and see themselves as fat.
4. The stopping of the females menstrual cycle, otherwise known as amenorrhea - 3 months of no periods is classed as the medical sign.
The DSM-IV also splits anorexics up into two categories:
Restricting Type: An anorexic of this type does not indulge in purging - this would include laxatives or self induced throwing up, they tend to just reduce food levels...
Binge-Eating Type or Purging Type: The opposite; the anorexic does indulge in purging behaviours.
But this is just medical science telling you how to recognise an anorexic when you see one...and isn't a great deal of use for someone who's not a doctor really...other psychological and medical signs which are slightly more useful to someone who does not have a degree in medicine are:
- Distorted body image
- Complete obsession about food and weight
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD
- Low self esteem
- An intense fear of becoming overweight
- Mood swings
- Poor or deteriorating performance at school or at work
- Cutting self off from others such as friends or family
- Lying about food habits
- Excessive exercise and food restriction
- Secretive about eating behaviour
- Possible self harm or suicide attempts
- Becomes angry and distressed when forced to eat
Ok, yeah we get that, but what is anorexia?
Anorexia is not a diet, a diet is about losing weight healthily, anorexia is a complete obsession with food and weight, needing to lose weight and not happy until you've got to a goal...except you're still not happy at the goal because you still think you are fat. It doesn't matter how much damage you have to do to yourself providing you get to that goal. An anorexic's whole concept of self esteem is based on those little numbers on the scales (which become your best friend), if you've put on a pound since morning you are a failure...but even if you've lost a pound there is still plenty more to go...you're still worthless, you still haven't lost enough.
Control is a major issue in an anorexic's life; often they feel that they have lost control elsewhere and that their food is the only thing they can control. It's a way of coping with everything else that's going on and fooling yourself into thinking 'If I lose just 3 more pounds I'll be happy.'
Anorexia isn't just a teenage drama queen disease. If anything it is the complete opposite. To begin with the feelings that are associated with people saying 'You've lost weight, you look good' might be enough, but if that was the only reason then why carry on when people have stopped saying that a long, long time ago? Why hide under baggy clothing? Why try to hide in a corner pretending no-one can see? Why shut yourself off from the real world...?
An anorexic truly cannot see that they are dangerously thin. Now this may seem stupid and strange but it is true. When an anorexic looks in the dreaded mirror all they see is fat. And they need to get rid of that fat. You know the saying 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder', for an anorexic it's 'Weight is in the eye of the beholder.'
Other people's difficulties:
Why someone would want to deny themselves the simple pleasure of eating is a question most people find very, very difficult. It is difficult to see why someone would want to cause deliberate harm to themselves just for the sake of being thin. It appears to go against the basic survival trait of human beings and it makes others very uncomfortable.
Now this is something that really does drive me insane. Those message boards where people who have nothing in common except an obsession with weight come and encourage each other. And yes, you are free to say that I'm a hypocrite, I've been there, done that and got the T-shirt. I used to be one of those that went on sites to ask how to beat cravings, how to lose more weight, to look at pictures of scarily thin people. I still have a notebook somewhere with all the pictures and quotes like:
Perfection is gained not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing else to take away.
I've come too far to take orders from a cookie.
And no, I'm not saying that this causes anorexia, but it sure don't help. It introduces an arena of competitiveness - I'm thinner than you are therefore I'm better. I don't think i need to say this is dangerous but I will anyway. These sites become a step by step manual for 'How to become a good anorexic.'
But yet, they are not the cause - the 'thinspiration' shown by pictures shows that the images children are shown by the media does at least have some effect. These are the pictures they strive for...it doesn't matter that they've been airbrushed a thousand times...
Ok, and now here comes the tricky bit...
To be honest I can't tell you when I first 'became' anorexic. I can remember being very conscious of my size and body image from when I was about 11, but that isn't the same as being anorexic. I guess I started going round in circles when I was about 13 when I went into foster care, and things really kicked off about a year after.
I felt as if I was worth nothing, as if nobody cared and if they did then they shouldn't because I wasn't worth it. I don't know how this became projected onto my weight, but it did. The scales became my best friend. Every pound I lost, I rejoiced. Every pound I gained, I despaired. If I'm honest, I became a lying, scheming manipulator - 'Oh, I've already eaten' became my catch phrase, even when it was so obvious that I hadn't. I'd take every excuse to not get home, because then I'd miss the family dinner. My dinner money for school got spent on cigarettes because they took the edge off hunger pains. I was proud of my control and became completely obsessed...but equally I felt that it was the only thing I could do well - and in this I might excel...My weight dropped alarmingly according to my friends - but I couldn't see it. I took to wearing baggy clothes because then others wouldn't comment...plus I was forever feeling cold.
Control was a major, major issue for me, and for many other anorexics. To cut a very long and painful story short I'd been badly hurt in the past and felt completely worthless. But I didn't want to be or look like a victim ever again and anorexia helped me feel like I was in control. What I didn't realise was that I wasn't in control the anorexia was. I'd had my sense of control taken away before and been that scared and lonely girl and I felt this was my fault; I was the one to blame. I couldn't see why I wasn't accepted and loved. And this also had a major impact on my eating habits. I would go to any lengths to fit in, to be accepted, to have other people think of me as worthy...and also the absurd idea that if I was thinner then the hurt would stop, he'd be happy, and I'd be free...or possibly that if I was thinner it would push people away and stop that way. It was a way to gain control when my whole life seemed out of control, and in some strange sense it was my friend...it was a way to forget the pain and to keep living. I felt broken, and this was my way to mend myself...
Approval was another thing that has always been very important to do. Being liked. Being trusted. Even to this day if someone yells at me I burst into tears and immediately try to find a way to make it better. If I didn't behave in the way others meant me to then I had failed. And again this set me up for anorexia - trying to gain approval and the feeling of complete failure. In my head I had to be perfect. I had to be what everyone else wanted. I had to prove myself to others. I had no sense of self worth; my self worth was based entirely on what others thought of me...and how much use I could be to others...
Even when I got admitted to hospital my thoughts weren't for myself but for my carers, I became a model patient; not because I believed that what they were doing was right, but because I didn't want to hurt them, didn't want to make them angry, only wanted to be perfect. However as soon as I was released the spiral and the lies started again.
Religion...I'd love to say it has been my saviour, and in a sense it has. The messages that it gives, and the care from the community has probably saved my life several times. However it's a double edged sword. What the Bible wanted from me I could never give, I could never be perfect. And so my feelings of self worth decreased even further...I loved God with all my heart, soul and mind. But could never believe that I was good enough for him...unconditional love was something I couldn't understand...and still find very difficult...and forgiveness was an alien word. If I couldn't forgive myself how could anyone else? I had to be better, thinner, more perfect. I had to fit in. My self value was only gained by achievement and this could be done with my old friends the scales...
I'd love to tell you all I'm fully recovered...but that would be a lie...recovering is probably better. At my lowest I dropped below 5 stone (which even at a short height of 5'2'' isn't good). I'm still categorised as 'underweight' but not dangerously so. At the weight I am now I'm comfortable. I don't like food. I don't like weight. But I've at least come to understand that there was and is a problem, which is something which anorexics find very difficult - denial is a very strong power. If I get stressed I still turn to my weight...much like alcoholism you are always more prone to relapse...It's been at least a 5 year battle...and one I don't want to lose anymore.
What anorexics often think:
They desperately want to be accepted
Afraid of not winning
Struggle with the idea of forgiveness
Being deathly afraid of growing up and having to take responsibility even if they are technically and adult.
They dont' like having an eating disorder...they however have a hard time disliking it.
Blame themselves for being hurt.
Everyone's flaws should be accepted and forgiven...except for mine...
A hatred of feeling vulnerable
Without the mask I don't know who I am
I won't ever measure up to you
I don't deserve unconditional love.
I'm scared this might kill me
The downfalls of anorexia...an interesting one, if purely because there are so many.
-Feelings of complete worthlessness and unworthiness...weight is the only thing that matters and you can't even completely control that. Why would anyone want to love someone as worthless as you?
-An obsession with weight...I can assure you with all my heart, mind and soul that you do not want to have to check the scales every hour 'just in case'. That you do not want to be forever looking at yourself just seeing fat.
-Death...a fairly obvious one. 10-15% of anorexic cases are fatal.
- Brittle hair, nails and generally looking like death
-Bones. However much you may want to see them as an anorexic, they are not good...they don't look good and they shouldn't be showing...
-Body issues such as feeling the cold, dizziness, fainting, shakiness...tiredness, fatigue, low concentration.
-Medical issues: Brittle bones, heart failure, kidney failure...
Basically there are more side effects than any medications on earth!
How to help
Now that is a difficult one. Because someone who is anorexic will not want to admit there is a problem. Their only coping mechanism is self destructive and to lose it would seem like losing self control, and therefore losing themselves...
1. Read up on anorexia, don't go into it cold. But however much you read, try not to over generalise as each case is different.
2. Recognise that is not 'just a phase' - it is serious. It is not just a cry for help, or an attention seeking ploy.
3. Listen. Don't judge. Care and show you care.
4. Be persistent, confident and stick to your guns. Anorexics are the most manipulative people on the earth. Don't get sucked in. Don't make promises you cannot keep, or threats you cannot stick to - 'I won't tell anyone' or 'Do that again and I'll...'
5. Be available. Make it clear you are available to talk and you want to help.
6. Try to get the person to seek help. This can be very difficult. I can assure you dragging someone kicking and screaming to the doctors will not help much. They will resent you, and whatever they are forced to gain they will lose soon after. They have to admit there is a problem and they need help.
7. Don't burn yourself out. Don't give more than you can afford emotionally. Make sure your available, but turn your phone off when you sleep. Get support for yourself. However much you may want to help you will be no help if you turn yourself into a wreck trying to care for someone else...
For parents in particular watching their child go through an eating disorder can be devastating, home can easily turn into a battle ground with you yelling at your child to 'Eat for Godssake. EAT!' and your child getting equally stressed back at you for 'not understanding'. If there is one thing to remember - It's not your fault. You cannot blame yourself because that will end up destroying you. It is the disorder that has taken over, and you are not to blame. But equally however much you are hurting, you cannot allow the roles to change so the one you are meant to be caring for becomes the care giver. But anorexia cannot be fought alone, somehow you need to get professional help...however much the anorexic doesn't believe they need it...but don't feel you are to blame, and don't feel your child hates you. Your little girl/boy still loves you, it's just at this moment they are wrapped up in their own personal hell and cannot break free....a personal hell you have got caught up in because you care. Keep caring. Don't give up.
Ok...I think I have gone on long enough...I might think of something else to add later...but for now...it's enough...
A fairly useful website for information is
It isn't pro-ana, but is an information sharing site aimed at helping those with a view to recover.
Also on Ciao as Secre
Some people say that anorexia it´s a teenager issue, it starts in our teen years that´s true but once you have it it remains on you for the rest of your life with many ups and downs but it is always there with you.
Normaly people who suffer from this disorder have many problems with their body and appearance, they always think they´re and ugly, and they realy seem themselves like that no matter how skiny and beautiful they are, it happens normaly when we are teen. The big ploblem is that if you suffer from anorexia in your teen years, even you have psicolygical help and take very seriously your treatment you will be tormented with weight problems for the rest of life. That doesn´t mean that you´re still sufering from this disorder but you will never be satisfied with your physical appearence, and you will have periods that you might suffer from anorexia again, you must be careful with is and take good care of yourself to not fall in the same circle again.
**** ?The weight issue?: Who?s responsible for the increasing occurrence of anorexia? And how can we deal with Britain?s weight problems? **** [I recognize this is perhaps not the most ideal category to post a review of this title, however, due to the fact dooyoo are currently not adding any suggestions for the ?Discussion? section, I have decided this is the most appropriate site. I will try to encourage the team to move it soon and hope, given this, that you can be lenient when rating.] ***Some facts*** ?Eating disorders, like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating, are becoming increasingly prevalent throughout western countries. According to US estimates from The National Institute of Mental Health: 15 per cent of young women have significantly disordered eating attitudes and behavior. It is estimated that 200,000 to 300,000 Canadian women aged 13 to 40 have anorexia nervosa and twice as many have bulimia. In the UK, nearly 2 in every 100 secondary school girls suffer from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder. And 80 per cent of 10 year olds are worried in case they become fat. General estimates suggest that as many as 10-15 per cent of eating disorders are fatal for those affected.? From: www.annecollins.com/eating-disorders/statistics.htm ***Introduction*** (Aside: firstly, I feel I should warn you ?rather than risk insulting anyone- that I intend to take a fairly light-hearted attitude when writing this opinion as it is more on the issue of weight, as I have explained earlier, rather than anorexia itself, which I do appreciate is a very serious illness.) Sporting a $1000 dress, ?rebel? boyfriend and someone else?s stomach [thanks to Photo Shop] on the front of magazines, are celebrity Go ldie [peroxide] Locks dictating to us what is too big, too small and just right. Though whilst more mature women tend to realise these are fair
y-tales, it is the innocent little bears that are suffering the consequences of these delusions. Indeed it seems all celebrities have an opinion on what we, in particular the young, should be doing about our weight: LOSING IT. Many of the ?I?ll-be-forgotten-by-next-week-so-I?ll-make-my-mark-now? types tend to exemplify these opinions through low budget workout videos. I am of course far too classy, lazy and famous for this (you never see my fellow superstars ?Madonna, Catherine Zeta-Jones, , the queen etc.- making these sorts of videos?..thank goodness!) Instead I have chosen write a review to express my opinion on what Britain should be doing about weight problems and who is really responsible for the increase in cases of anorexia; something I will not disrespect sufferers by pretending to understand the full affects of, though I have had some experience of this illness through 3 teenage friends. ************************* Can we blame celebrities and the Fourth estate for causing the above statistics, as so many suggest? There is evidence that it is in fact dieting mothers that have a greater influence in instigating young weight watchers. Then again where are the mothers getting THEIR inspiration? Films, magazines, posters etc. Even so it does seem unfair and rather simplistic to infer that the media is entirely responsible for every case of anorexia. After all it is the public that effectively decides who it considers fit (get the pun?) to watch, read and write about. Would we really aspire to a big big shot, lumpy luminary or plump pop star? The fact that last year?s ?Pop Idol? winner [Michelle McManus], voted for by the public, was shall we say, ENORMOUS, would suggest the nation doesn?t care either way??..at least ostensibly; in my opinion many of Ms. McManus? ?fans? were actually attempting to prove to themselves their open-mindedness by voting for talent (well?supposedly) over image. Anyone I?ve previously suggested this to has dispu
ted it, yet their response, often along the lines of: ?You shouldn?t be so mean to Michelle just cos she?s fat?, seems to prove rather than contradict my theory. Furthermore if this is NOT the case, then why is it that her size was made a public issue? Surely if Britain really were as liberal as it tries to demonstrate, then there would be no need for the extent of her weight to ever be mentioned when we could instead have been discussing the extent of her talent. Yet having somewhat excused the influence of celebrities I will confess there are exceptions that, in my mind, deserve no clemency. Those such as Vanessa Feltz who, despite having originally been FAP (fat-and-proud) are now apparently running out, not only of food but also money to put where their mouths are. So they?re producing workout videos and diets to help us drop the pounds (the fat kind) while they pick up the cash kind. Worst still are anorexic stars like Natasha, from Atomic Kitten [pop band]. Now I?m not suggesting that celebrities are the super-heroes they make themselves out to be: an obsession is an obsession no matter who you are so its not poor old Nitty Natty?s fault for failing to combat her illness earlier. BUT if in the eyes of millions of tweenagers (9-12 year-olds) you are better than Wonder Woman herself, then with a waist the size of my finger its not a good idea to deny you have a problem and instead make a music video showing off your famished-figure. Yet though the press have caused huge com motion over such music videos as TaTu?s ?All the things she said? (which shows two girls in school uniform fondling each other) arguing that it encourages sick, paedophiles to purv on innocent children, no one seems to care that Atomic Kitten?s video encourages those innocent children to make themselves sick. But its not just those with brains the size of their non-existent stomachs that are provoking us to loose weight. Doctors, including Peter Kopelman (my own uncle
?that?s my claim to fame), have warned the public of ?the weight issue? by revealling shocking findings into Britain?s growing obesity. For example: About 28% of men and 27% of women aged 16-24 are overweight or obese Compared to thinner children, obese children have a two-fold increase in the risk of becoming overweight adults. How can we possibly allow children to start life like this, I hear you ask! Well?.very easily is the answer. Given the increase in the number of working mums since the 1950?s it?s hardly surprising that the fastness of fast-food is fast becoming more attractive: ***What should we be doing about Britain?s obesity problem?.without inciting more cases of anorexia**** This is the more important question. It seems there are three options: Firstly, getting families to do more exercise. But lets face it, if you?re not good at something (and I don?t know many overweight people who are amazing at P.E) then it is hard to enjoy it. Of course that?s no excuse for anyone to relinquish physical activity but it does make advocating it a lot harder for the parents and teachers concerned. Baring this in mind it seems there are two solutions: a) schools and youth groups offer a wider range of sports to chose from ?true not all can afford the facilities for drastic changes, but how much can a couple of different types of ball cost? b) We hand over respo nsibility to the kids themselves; if they want to loose weight badly enough, they?ll do it. All the adults should be doing is regulating the child?s plans to make sure they?re not taken to extremes. If, however, children don?t want to lose the weight, but need to for serious health reasons, THEN Britain has a problem. But personally I don?t know anyone fat or thin, young or old who wouldn?t like to maintain a slim figure. The other solution is that young people simply eat less, especially when it comes to snacks. Apparently ?breakfast is the most important meal of the day? as it pre
vents us getting hungry before lunch and, apparently, if you eat within an hour of waking, you don?t put on the weight you otherwise would. [There?s a little tip of the day for you] -I don?t quite understand the logic behind it though. The final remedy for avoiding obesity is sillygoose©, inspired by one of my favourite ever songs (?Affirmation? by Savage Garden for anyone vaguely interested.) One of the lines is ?I believe that junk food taste so good because its bad for you? so I propose we experiment with this idea by bringing a child up to believe that sweets are healthy, but those delicious looking mushy peas and Brussels-sprouts are the making of the devil himself?dun-dun-dun! Unfortunately my causticity as to whether this would work is rather undermined by my wish not to have a child at the age of 16, especially not one, who by the age of 3 will weigh the same as me should the experiment and reverse psychology go wrong. ***Conclusion*** When it comes down to it, it seems most of us are worrying unnecessarily anyway; though I hate to sound like a Michelle McManus ?fan?, it really is what?s inside that counts. Obesity should be a concern, yes: Someone who is 40 percent overweight is twice as likely to die prematurely as an average-w eight person. Yet at least, in spite of this there are still FAPs out there who couldn?t care less about a few calories so long as they have a family that loves them. They mightn?t be ideally healthy but they are content. Surely it?s better that they stay this way than committing a long-drawn out suicide before the age of 20 by starving themselves. Having said this though, I do think it?s important that we?re not greedy: I went to Africa a few years ago and met a rather large local man working at the hotel where we were staying. Seeing this I thought to myself ?how can anyone eat that much when there a people starving on his doorstep.? But then I realised (look away now if you hate sentimentality) that those
dying people are just as much his neighbours as they are mine; what difference does a few thousand miles really make? So, my advice is: do be careful and considerate with your food but at the end of the day remember it?s not JUST there to keep us alive but to relish, so??..EAT AND ENJOY
My name is Sarah and I live in England, I have been diagnosed with anorexia within the past year and a half but...theres one problem (please excuse me if i get carried away) I have been extremely underweight ALL of my life , i was premature. My mum was severley underweight ALL through her life...my dad was underweight, ALL my brothers and sisters and generations of grandparents in our family...exactly the same! I've never eat loads but at the same time I've never been without food. I'm 18 now and still struggle to finnish a meal. I do NOT have dellusions about being fat... I know I am skinny but I'm so used to not eating a lot that its hard for me and everyone is so stereotypical about it. I am not throwing up or starving myself on purpose...I'm lost... I love food and I love to eat. At the end of a hard day I will be starving hungry...I cook a nice dinner... I eat about half of whats on the plate and I get so annoyed with myself when I cant manage anymore...and whats worse is ten mins after I scrape off my plate into the bin and sit down....my stomach groans that I'm hungry again... At the moment of writing this I'm hungry and I have to stay in this computer class where averyone judges me on my weight. As anybody else with an eating disorder would say... 'No-one Understands' I'm about 5 1/2 Stone and I'm just over five ft tall. My doctor (another person who thinks he understands..huh..yeah right), is supprised that I have periods and perfectly regular ones at that. My skinny frame is INHERITED and I'm lost in myself... trying to get out of it. I was in hospital last Christmas cos I finally wanted something done. I asked if there was any tablets that would give me an appetite but they told me there wasn't any. A month or so I was watching Ricki Lake and it was about anorexia. A woman was give a lot of attention and al
so...medicine to give her an appitite! I felt so alone...I have friends and family close by and I still feel so alone. I really want to do this for myself but everytime I think I'm on a winning streak...I go downhill again. I want help but I'm also willing to help myself as well...what can I do? I'm so tired and pathetic I really need help.
When I was 10 I got called fat by boys at school. I'd play sick, so I wouldn't have to go. I sit and I cried and somewhere along the line I was led to believe I was a fat disgusting pig. When I was thirteen I stole a bottle of Ipacac syrup from a drug store. I was going to make my self vomit. I read the directions, it said something like, two tablespoons, or one. I swallowed almost half the bottle. For an hour I layed in the bathroom moaning because my stomach hurt so bad. Finally, I succeeded. I vomited more than I had expected to. Since this was such a hassel, I just stopped eating, and along with that came the lying. My best friend would offer me food, without any thinking at all, I'd say no, I had a big breakfast, at home was the same, I ate a lot at my friends house. I never had to go to the hospital. Off and on I binge or I don't eat at all, because there are these little voices that tell me you are perfect, eat something, others say, you're no good if you eat I'll kill you. I am over weight now, because I am trying to control it. Somewhere in me, I still believe with all of my heart that I am no good. I am not thin and beautiful. I have tried diets. But this just made it worse. I'd start counting calories, even 10 calories seemed like too much. When I was hungry, I picked up the habit of smoking. Then the hunger stops. hmh..it's crazy, for a minute there I vaguely remembered an encounter I had, I put my hand on my stomach, and felt the cave of emptiness, and was happy, I was proud of that. Things people do for that hot guy, or to be accepted, huh. I still don't understand why I do this to myself. I guess I could be pretty if I really tried. But at least I have my hair and my teeth, and I have all my five senses. Although, when I do eat, or when I don't, I try to remember a saying my mom used to say all the time, there really is a lot to be thankful for. Even out of the shadows.
I also suffered form anorexia like many others. I suffered for almost 9 years. I personally never saw that I was fat, it was the fact I didn't feel that I deserved to eat. I felt guilty and often deprived myself of food and life. During my last hospital visit, I was down to 87 lbs. Being only 5' 2 this was my attempt at knocking on deaths door. I had IV's and lived off of baby food. My body no longer would digest properly. I was addicted to laxatives and exercise. It was a psychiatrist that asked me why I was suicidal. Of course my first reaction was that he was out of his mind. After much consideration I realized that he was right! I wanted to die. I no longer wanted to wear the guilt and shame that drove me away from food. Currently I am attending college; I am writing a research paper about Anorexia. Most people view it as a vanity issue when in fact that is as far from the truth as possible. During my experiences in the hospital I had a lot of opportunity to speak and listen to other suffers. They also can't see the self destruction in there eyes only a fear of the next bite of food or the next ounce they gain. I am glad that many others are speaking up to share there experiences, this is what will help the next generation discover there self worth is not determined by what they eat or what people see them as, but in fact who the strive to become.
Ok, ive never written down anything about my disorder before, so, it'll be interesting. I first started to diet about 2 years ago, after a long period of over eating. I was 6ft and 10st9. Then i disliked my beer gut so i started to run. Then i came out and my role models started to turn towards women. I started to diet, i was having stressful exams and i was only eating a few potatoes each day. I was running 40 to 50 miles a week and every time that extra lb came off i was extatic. I couldnt eat, i felt bloated and ugly. I started to drink alcohol excessively and not drink water (as it put weight on). I was 15 when this started, i am now 17 and a skinny tall lad who has no social skills, except for alienating people from my life. My life is hell, i wish i never started this thing that was origionally intended to make me feel better. It became so obsessive that i started to throw up, i was throwing up every meal i ate. Also, some times i want to be fat, so id eat. But then id get so guilty id throw up and use laxatives excessively. All around me there are obese people, who i dont want to become and i feel bad as i think of the fat from food going into my arteries. It is hell. I now weigh 8st11lb, which may sound a lot, but for someone of 6ft and male, its nothing. I have lost all upper bidy strength and struggle to lift a pint of beer. Sometimes id cry myself to sleep while i clutch my empty hungry stomach which wont stop hurting. I would not wish this disease on anyone, not even to my worst enemy. Today, i accepted that i have a problem, and although my family dont know, i will try to sort it out. It is a truely horrible thing to go through by yourself. I hope that if you are reading this, that who ever you know that has this will come though it and become a much stronger person. Or if you are reading this and you are annorexic, just lliek me and many others, then you must want to come through it. And you