Welcome back to my A-Z of eating disorders (part two). I hope you enjoyed reading the first half of the alphabet, and that my thoughts and opinions resonated with you.
Please read on for the next instalment…
N – Nutrition
In all of the seemingly crazy obsessiveness with eating low calorie or ‘strictly healthy’ foods, it’s easy to forget that food is nourishment and needs balance. I look back at the days I only ate dry cereal, dry crackers and dry vegetables and wonder why I felt so rubbish! I’m still quite limited in the foods I will eat but I have a better nutritional equilibrium now and feel remarkably better for it. Nutrition education is very key in recovery.
O – Obsession
So many elements of ED’s are obsessive. The food restriction, calorie counting, body checking, compulsive exercise, bingeing and purging… it’s a condition that’s riddled with rituals that vary depending on the diagnosis. Tackling each of these one by one and reducing the urges gradually has worked best for me so far. It’s hard to stop them cold turkey and it isn’t sustainable to do that either as you’ll risk becoming even more obsessed.
P – Paranoia
Sadly, eating disorders are riddled with paranoia. You fear people looking at you, judging you, thinking you’re overweight, underweight, eating too much or not enough. You become deprived of rational thoughts and bend the world around you to fit your narrative. I’m still experiencing paranoid and negative thoughts on a daily basis so can’t say I’ve beaten them yet but I am getting to realise that is my irrational and illogical brain saying these things to me, not my true ‘Georgie’ brain.
Q – Questioning
Questioning my condition has helped me no end in my ED treatment. Being educated about the reasons why you feel the way you do helps to challenge the way you think and the behaviours that have become part of your everyday life. I now go to my therapy sessions armed with questions to ask, I have so much interest in understanding this multi-faceted problem so that I can hopefully beat it off for good.
R – Restriction
Food restriction is a huge part of my eating problem and something I tackle daily. It’s not a battle I always win, and I find myself giving in to the side of my brain telling me I should skip a meal in order to keep the world on an even keel. There’s an emotional high that comes with depriving yourself of food – it’s like you’ve won a competition or achieved a big goal, and sadly the feeling is addictive. I’m still in a place where the high keeps me motivated but I am finding myself questioning this more and enjoying the food restriction process much less.
S – Secrecy
Eating disorders are shrouded in secrecy and so many of the rituals and behaviours remain known only by the sufferer that is carrying them out. It’s the act of keeping everything to yourself that fuels the ED and gives it the power to continue as it slowly takes over your mind, convincing you you’re doing the right thing. Once you break down it’s walls and ‘out it’ to others it loses its grip and you begin to regain the freedom of your life.
T – Triggers
Many factors can trigger eating disorders to not only start, but also continue. The diet talk in the office, filtered-to-perfection influencers on Instagram, seeing your reflection in a mirror and longing to look different – it can be very hard to avoid these detrimental prompts and every trickier to ignore them. I know my triggers now, so I work hard to build my life away from them by limiting my exposure to certain profiles online and reducing contact with those individuals that have a negative effect on me. It really helps.
U – Uncertainty
Uncertainty is incredibly common with ED’s and you’re left constantly doubting and questioning yourself. Your mind is plagued by negative thinking, wondering if you’re making enough progress, or maybe if you’re recovering too quickly or not fast enough. I’m awful for comparisons, looking at those around me and worrying that I’m much bigger or smaller than they are and thinking that perhaps I should be more like them, whoever they may be. You start to doubt your own mind. Therapy certainly improves this, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still struggling with the thoughts.
V – Vicious circle
There are many negative thought patterns involved in living with an eating disorder and it’s difficult not to fall down the traps. My main cycle at the moment is: ‘I want to recover from my ED’ > ‘I have to gain weight for that to happen’ > ‘I am now gaining weight and it’s making me feel unhappy’ > ‘If I lose weight I will feel happier’ > ‘I need to lose weight now’. It’s an exhausting merry-go-round of torment and I’m yet to find the solution but identifying the habitual thought-loops is definitely the first step.
W – Worthiness
Everyone is worth recovery, no matter how underserving they may feel. I put off getting support for such a long time because I believed I didn’t need or require it. I thought people with eating disorders were much thinner and sicker than me and I truly couldn’t comprehend a diagnosis of anorexia because ‘that’s what really ill people have’. The truth is, regardless of your weight or appearance, it’s how you feel, think and behave that determines your right to support – not what you look like.
X – xxx
Let’s face it, X was always going to be the trickiest letter. I’ve fudged it a bit by going with ‘xxx’ as a representative of love. ED’s require a tonne of love, support and kindness from people around you and professional services. Knowing that people love you is such a strong motivator for getting well, as is remembering all the reasons why you are loved and what a great person you are regardless of your illness. Love conquers all!
Y – Yearning
Not a day goes by when I don’t yearn to be better. Or wish that mental health problems had never shown their ugly face at my front door in the first place! It’s a deep longing that keeps me awake at night, wondering how different my life could have been if I’d never become unwell. In many ways it’s heart-breaking but it’s also a great motivator to improve and get life back on track before any more precious time gets wasted.
Z – Zest (for life)
Nothing zaps your enthusiasm for life like an eating disorder. They’re a breeding ground for low mood, minimal energy and a total lack of motivation or interest in doing things that you used to enjoy. If you’re not careful it can reduce your life as much as it reduces your food intake or body shape. Slowly but surely, I have noticed that desire to truly live a fulfilling life again coming back to me with the strong will to kick the ED into touch for the last time.
Let’s all keep going – we’re so worth this!