New year new diet

It’s that time of the year again; the new year new diet time, which I have grown to hate a lot! Every new year we are told we ate way too much over the holiday period and we must lose it to be happy for the new year. My google alert has been on fire right now with articles stating ways to shed weight for the new year and be the best version of yourself this year. Why must we lose weight to be the best version of ourselves, why does weight equate to our happiness and how successful we will be. This will be my first year with no new year’s resolution to lose weight, and honestly, it’s the happiest I have ever been going into a new year.

I have seen words describing the food as; bad, toxic or the superfood, when we label food and give it value we begin to internalise those labels and see ourselves as that label, for example bad, toxic or bad. Instead of just seeing food as the food we are giving it more meaning and life than it necessarily needs. Essentially the diet industry uses words such as bad and toxic to teach us to be scared of food and this in turn leading us to have unhealthy habits and ideas around food.

We have people who are not trained or qualified in nutrition giving health advice which can be incredibly dangerous. Just because something worked for your body does not mean it will work for someone else, and do you have substantial evidence that it did work for you, sure that quick diet may have got you to lose lots of weight but how are your insides and your mental health? If you are not a qualified health professional, you do not have the right to tell someone if they are unhealthy or overweight

These ads tell us that if we lose the weight we are going to be so much happier, but this is so false, if you do not work on what’s going on inside your mind it does not matter how much weight you lose you are going to be stuck with those same problems, and this can lead to further worsening your mental health.

It’s time we begin to question diet culture and take a stand against it, I will no longer listen to its lies and will not involve myself in the new year’s resolution to lose weight mentality.

 

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Cancer council BANuary- my thoughts

I thought a lot about whether I should talk about this and I have decided that it is important to give another perception particularly from an eating disorder lens on the cancer council BANuary month.

Now I want to make this completely clear I fully support cancer council I have fundraised for them before, donated money to them countless times and think they do great work for cancer. I have had numerous relatives who have suffered from cancer, so I think they do a great job.

Recently Cancer council have come up with a campaign to help raise money for cancer called BANuary where you “ban” a bad habit for a month and have people send you donations through it. They include on their website ideas that people can give up which includes alcohol, chocolate, coffee or sugar etc. My concern with this new campaign is the idea of banning foods.  I noticed chocolate (we all know my love) and sugar was mentioned, sugar also wasn’t explicitly defined either, sugar is in many things, there is even sugar in fruits and vegetables, and this is where my concerns grow someone can take this innocent campaign and go too far with it. To mean the banning of particular foods for a month if not first discussed with a qualified health professional becomes a restrictive diet which is not at all healthy for someone to undertake. When we restrict foods, we crave that craving grows stronger and thus can lead to binge eating episodes and overeating rather than eating the amount you originally wanted.

While browsing the website, I also saw that they had a picture of a girl holding a piece of pizza and doughnut and a cross against those foods. I found this imaginary very interesting although innocent can send the message that eating those foods is shameful and I feel as though diet culture is creeping in there into those pictures. The website also has quotes such as “give your body a break this January “again I can really feel diet culture creeping in with these quotes that pin the idea that we haven’t been taking care of ourselves and we ate “too much” in the holiday period, this simple quote can really impact someone who is vulnerable. The promotion gives the idea that this will help you to become a healthier you while raising money thus implying you were not already healthy, and I can see the diet culture words popping up there

This campaign is creative and a great idea to raise money to have people give up something for a month, I have seen some people do alcohol, smoking and ubers for this fundraiser.  However the way it is promoted sends the message to give up something that is a bad habit this stating that what someone is eating is a bad habit, and when we begin to label foods we then internalise them and when we eat those “bad foods” we see ourselves as bad and then the guilty and shame floods through.

My issue is that people can take this too far mainly when it involves food and their diet, a whole month without something may seem simple and harmless enough, but some people may take it too far or see this as a chance to start afresh and begin to restrict in their diet. Particularly with the word sugar which is so broad someone may attempt to ban all kinds of sugar for a whole month, and our brain does need some sugar to function

I do know it is for a good cause however I would expect cancer council who are a health organisation to consider the health problems with this campaign, particularly considering eating disorders in Australia and remembering that eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality out of any other mental illness in Australia. There are impressionable and vulnerable people out there who will take this as a chance to start a diet and of course it may start of harmless but as I have already stated restriction is never healthy and leads to unhealthy consequences and further health problems. From my personal experience I know if I were still sick and were how I was this time last year I would have jumped at the chance to be part of it to start a new diet and ban all those “bad foods”  I thought were making me “fat”.

I am in complete support of raising money for cancer and always will be. However, I do think there need to be some adjustments to this campaign/fundraiser to ensure people’s wellbeing are being considered and protected in the process, mainly when it involves diet and health.

The way we view people who are overweight

I used to have a friend who would often express that they “hated fat people” often putting them all in a category of evil, mean people, as well as always adding that they were unhealthy who have done it too themselves (luckily we are no longer friends). I have heard a lot of people describe individuals who are overweight as lazy and, stating that it is their lifestyle choice that has put them in that position. But what if it’s not the case? It is estimated that 40-60% of people who are overweight are experiencing binge eating disorder, which is a mental illness. That is an extremely high percentage of people who are currently experiencing a mental illness and being told it’s their fault and their lifestyle choices.

Although I have not experienced binge eating disorder myself, it does have some similarities to bulimia which I experienced and can relate on some level with what these individuals can be experiencing. Through my research of binge eating disorder, it was outlined that while individuals who experience bulimia will binge and engage in acts such as purging and over-exercising after a binge, with binge eating disorder there is an absence of purging etc. However, individuals will still experience feelings of guilt, shame and self-hatred after binges, which I can relate to 100% because all those feelings were so intense during my eating disorder especially every time I engaged in a binge. I can only imagine how someone else would feel going through this, hating yourself is so tiring and having people blaming you for your health would just be so painful. It is also important to add that binge eating disorder is not at all the same to overeating, as it is reoccurring and more dangerous, binge eating is where you lose control of yourself, and it becomes a coping mechanism for many people. The research outlined that binge eating disorder often occurs as a way for an individual to cope with challenging emotions and events.

As was mentioned before individuals with binge eating disorder do not purge however research stated they can engage in erratic fasts and extreme diets in response to the emotions which come after a binge episode. I often remember that self-hatred after a binge and promising myself I was going to go on a stringent diet and stick to it, or just starve myself, none of which ever worked and almost always ended in a binge episode and then the self-hatred and shame would start again. It’s an extremely tiring and debilitating cycle, and until you have been through similar you will have no idea how tiring it is, and just to add having people blaming you for your mental illness would just be exhausting.

Although I do not have Binge eating disorder, none the less it is an eating disorder and a mental illness that I believe deserves acknowledgement and further education around it. It pains me to think about the number of people (40-60%) who are experiencing this disorder and are being blamed for it and told it’s their lifestyle choices and they are to blame for it all.

Before you go to judge someone based on their weight and size first think of what they are currently going through, whether it is an eating disorder or another mental illness or even just life struggles, stop to think about that and see them as a human. It is not for us to judge people for what they look like and to fit into the mainstream idea of a healthy body. My rule of advice is always unless you are a trained health professional you don’t get to give health advice on my body and tell me if I am healthy or unhealthy, you cannot determine someone’s health and who they are as an individual by merely looking at them.

 

Saying goodbye to the gym!

After much thought, I recently decided it was time for me to cancel my gym membership and no longer return to the gym. I love to exercise and have been incredibly active most of my life and can see the benefits of physical activity for mental health. However, I have recently been thinking whether the gym or the gym I attend in particular is a healthy place for my mental health.

For starters they provide scales, and for many people, this may seem like a regular thing to have in a gym and a way to track the progress you have made. However, for someone who is recovering from an eating disorder, it can be so tempting to weigh yourself every time you go to the gym and can trigger that need for weight loss at any cost. When I attended the gym, I would often observe women weighing themselves before and after exercise, and I found myself following in this routine as it became the norm at the gym I went to. I also noticed that the fact the machines count the calories you are burning was extremely triggering for my eating disorder because I would spend a ridiculous amount of time on a machine in an attempt to see how much I could burn off and putting my physical health at risk in the process. I would like to question why the machines do need to count the calories we burn, for me it does highlight the notion that the gym is designed purely for weight loss and does not have other purposes such as going out of enjoyment or for your mental health.

Further, the gym also promoted weight loss challenges, which again can be seen fine for some people, but I would like to highlight that personal health should not be a competition, and these challenges can be extremely dangerous for some individuals. These challenges run the risk of people comparing their bodies to others who may have lost more which I found myself doing, and nowhere within these challenges did the gym mention that we all have different bodies and therefore will have completely different progress! It was evident to me that I was only going to the gym to lose weight and therefore enabling my eating disorder to linger inside.

Moreover, the gym I attended was quite big on helping women get their perfect body mainly when summer was coming up, and it would be all about getting that bikini body ready (or as I like to say bikini body bullshit). There was this massive emphasis from the class instructors, the personal trainers and everyone there that there was only one perfect body which was petite and toned all over, which is not at all wrong if someone has that body or works towards that, but not everyone wants or can have that perfect body, but we are told that we do want that body, and that’s the only “healthy” body, which becomes quite confusing! We were given only one example of what a healthy body looks like, and it can become disheartening when you feel like you do not look like that perfect body and that’s when it can trigger unhealthy behaviours for people and enable eating disorders.

I will still be exercising but doing alternative things now, such as running, going for walks and joining yoga classes. Exercise should not be about trying look the best or fitting into what society says is attractive and perfect; exercise should be about making ourselves feel good and being healthy. I am not saying that no one should go to the gym and that if you do you are wrong, but I have accepted for myself that it is just not the place for me mentally; however it may be the place for others who have had an entirely different experience.

 

The “I wish I had an eating disorder”

“I wish I had an eating disorder”, or “I have tried so hard to have an eating disorder” are just some things I have heard from people and even friends, and it has made me wonder lately why eating disorders seem to be so glamourized when I know the truth, and it is far from glamorous. I am not angry at friends and individuals for saying these things, but it does make me so concerned that there are people out there wishing they could have this life. I think the media is partly to blame for this, people with eating disorders are often presented in the media as young underweight females with this magical ability to restrain from food. Often the media forgets to highlight that a lot of people with eating disorders are actually at an average weight or can be overweight, they can also be from a different gender, and it can affect different age groups. The media does not highlight that eating disorders are a mental illness that can affect anyone, and when you have one it can become one the darkest periods in your life, I would not wish an eating disorder upon anyone.

In Australia eating disorders have the highest mortality rate out of any other mental illness, is that something people want? There are so many people out there who have no idea about eating disorders and think it’s a lifestyle choice, which it is not. This is not something I woke up one day and decide to do; this is a deeply rooted mental illness. This does highlight for me that there needs to be higher awareness in the media about the true extent of an eating disorder, as well as developing early intervention education programs within schools that educate young people on what exactly an eating disorder is.

For those who do not know, there are serious health risks that come with having an eating disorder.  My immune system is so low currently that I get sick instantly, and when I get a common cold it’s not a typical few days still able to function cold, I become very seriously ill which means taking time off work and missing out on social events. Something a little too TMI but should be told is that you screw up your bowels when you have an eating disorder, I become so constipated at times I have been in tears from the amount of pain and discomfort I was experiencing. I also lost my periods for a while and was told I had increased my risk of infertility, and as you get older this becomes a scary thing when you start to plan your future and consider the possibility of children and realise you may have ruined your chances. Due to the constant vomiting over the years I often get tonsillitis frequently throughout the year and have a severely sore throat a lot of the time, I have had an infected mouth and throat which was not pleasant. By the age of 21, I had my first tooth removed, and have been paying a ridiculous amount of money to try and save the rest of my back teeth.  Other people with eating disorders suffer from the ruptured oesophagus, stomach and intestinal ulcers and can develop osteoporosis. Moreover, people who suffer from an eating disorder can also have irregular heartbeats increasing the chances of heart failure, and can also be at risk of kidney failure. Above all, the most significant risk of an eating disorder is death, which scares me so much when I hear people wishing they could have an eating disorder while individuals are dying from the illness.

I could never imagine myself saying I wish I could have depression or I wish I could have anxiety, so why do people think it is acceptable to say they wish they had an eating disorder. Eating disorders are a mental illness that absolutely crushes an individual’s self-esteem and confidence. It becomes an obsession and a means of control for people, it becomes someone’s life and energy and becomes utterly exhausting trying to control it. Eating disorders are so much more than wanting to lose weight; it is a mental illness that takes that lives of so many people. So please do not wish you had an eating disorder, because it is not fun or glamorous, it is incredibly lonely and debilitating for people.

I deserve to be helped

On Thursday I went and visited a dietitian for the first time, as you could imagine there were a lot of different feelings around going, I was feeling nervous, anxious, scared and I was a little excited as well. I was excited at the thought of taking another step in my recovery, however, I was scared of the unknown and what I may have to do. I then had a scary thought, and thought am I ready to get better? And I said to myself my eating disorder may not be ready but I am as ready as ever to fight my hardest to recover and become the best version of myself.

Part of my fear was that the dietitian would judge me, of course, this was stemming from the judgement I put on myself and expecting everyone else to see me in the same light. I also had a fear that I did not look “sick enough” to get help, this is something that I have struggled with a lot, and it definitely played out when I was preparing to go to see the dietitian. All the thoughts in my head started to race, am I sick enough to get help, am I worthy to get help, do I deserve to get help, will they believe me when I look fine on the outside. I started to think how sick do I have to get until I believe I deserve help, and I realised that if I wait till I am sick enough in my mind to get help it may be too late for me. So my answer was yes, I do deserve to get help and I am worthy to be helped, my sickness may not always be visible but I feel it every single day and I don’t deserve for it to worsen nor does anyone else going through a similar situation.

Quite often within in our society when we think of someone with an eating disorder we generally think of a girl who is severely underweight, and although this is the case for some people it is not the experience of everyone with an eating disorder and definitely was not for me. Because I also had this preconceived notion of what someone with an eating disorder looks like it really fed into my fear that I was not sick enough for help, I did not look the part of someone who was suffering from an eating disorder in my mind which really prevented me from seeking help for a long time. In reality, though I may look ‘healthy’ on the outside, however, my doctor has brought to my attention the damage I have been doing to the inside of my body. It is a really scary thought to think of the damage you may be causing to the inside of your body because it is not something you can see or look at every day and physically see for yourself what you are causing.

I’m now learning to get rid those preconceived ideas of what someone with an eating disorder looks like because honestly, anyone of any sex, race, age and body type could experience an eating disorder, and we all deserve to seek help and have our stories heard no matter who we are. We need to stop seeing eating disorders as a lifestyle choice or physical attribute and start viewing it as a mental illness that requires support regardless of what you look like. I have been so sick for so long but was convinced I was fine because I wasn’t underweight and no one could see how sick I was getting not even myself. That’s how dangerous eating disorders can be, like other mental illnesses they can be invisible and linger within people for many years without anyone around you even noticing.

So I am going to say this loud and clear, there is no such thing as being not sick enough to seek help! If you are suffering from an eating disorder but like me don’t think you look sick enough, please ask yourself how sick do you have to get before you believe you deserve help. Remember that you deserve to get help and are worthy of being helped regardless of how sick you think you are. Don’t wait for your eating disorder to get worse to get help, because you have no idea what damage you could already be doing to your body without you even knowing.

I decided to finally take control of my eating disorder

After many years of suffering from an eating disorder, I decided this year that it was time to seek help for it and finally take control. There are a few reasons why I decided it was now time, one was that this year I began to feel myself going deeper and deeper into the dark hole and becoming the worse I have ever felt, I begun to feel increasingly depressed and the self-loathing increased with it, as did the need to control my weight and every single piece of food that I put into my mouth.

As my mental health increasingly got worse as did my physical, I began to feel fatigue all the time and I was not able to perform to my best at work, I was noticing constant abdominal and kidney pain which also made me concerned. Although I wish this could be a story where the first sight of my health declining I sort help, that’s not the case, I did ignore a lot of signs for many years even lost a tooth in the process, however this year it did wake me up particularly when I started to get pain in my kidneys.

What also made me want to get help was my relationship with my fiancé, friends and family, I began to notice how isolated my eating disorder had made me from everyone I loved, I had started to push everyone away in order to keep the eating disorder happy. Being around people meant the eating disorder would have to eat or would need to be more secretive of how they binged and purged and so it slowly started to push everyone in my life away, building big walls to stop them from seeing what was happening. I began to realise how lonely and isolated I was starting to become and how it was only feeding the eating disorder and the depression to become worse, I was willing to put my relationships on the line in order to fulfil the eating disorder.

I started to see how much I would miss out on if I continued down this path and did not seek help, not only would my mental and physical health worsen I was going to lose the most important people in my life. Although it is only early days in my recovery and of course the eating disorder is still here and I will be honest I do give in to it some days, I am starting to fight back and I am feeling motivated to have a slow but life-changing recovery. I am currently seeing my general practitioner regularly for health check-ups, as well as a dietitian who specialises in disordered eating. On top of this which is the vital part, I am working with a psychologist and psychiatrist to work on my mental health and build strategies and techniques on how to manage the eating disorder for not only now but for the future. I think it’s important to highlight that for many people with an eating disorder, the need to control your weight and food, and to binge and purge is only the tip of the iceberg and beneath that is a whole range of different complex issues that are going on for people who are suffering with an eating disorder. It is also important to acknowledge that people suffer from an eating disorder for many different reasons there is no clear-cut answer why someone may be suffering from one, just like many other mental illnesses out there, people have their own individual story and struggles.