Eating disorder recovery stories
Read some real life stories of our patients who have recovered from eating disorders.
Speak up about your eating disorder
As I step on those scales my minds screaming at me “you better have lost otherwise there’ll be problems”. I used to think weighing myself everyday was ‘normal’. That counting calories was ‘healthy’. That seeing bones was ‘beautiful’. How wrong was I? Very.
My eating disorder consumed every single thought I had. It destroyed me. I couldn’t go out and do normal things due to collapsing and exhaustion. I couldn’t eat in front of people in case they thought “wow, look at how fat she is”. It was the scariest time of my life and still haunts me now. I would go days at a time without eating and what did I achieve? Nothing but pain and discomfort. I still didn’t please the voices circulating in my head.
Food was the enemy! On some days I would cry over drinking a glass of water scared it was going to make me gain weight. I just got told “how stupid it’s only water” but to me it was more than water, it was poison dripping through my veins.
But after all these years of self-neglect I can finally say with the help of my amazing team around me I’ve overcome my eating disorder and am now weight restored.
It is so important to speak up about your eating disorder and get help. It can escalate so quickly and is a very dangerous disorder.
A mother's story
2016 was a year that brought it’s challenged to the world. We saw some crucial political decisions made and home and abroad that shocked us. Many of us were pleased to see the back of 2016.
On a much more personal level, 2016 was the year that we as a family met our Eating Disorder. I say “our” eating disorder (ED) as reflecting back on our experiences as a family of four, we have had our own individual relationship with our youngest daughters ED.
Our journey to the ED service started about 6 months ago when she began to develop a fixation with food. Initially I thought she was just on a healthy eating drive, cutting out “bad food” and eating regular, healthy meals. However over the next 3-4 months, she moved slowly and steadily through healthy eating onto increased exercise and latterly a situation where she talked about food incessantly. She wrote out recipes, spent hours creating beautifully crafted recipe pages, all for food she had no intention of eating. We felt, as her mum and dad, that our carefree, lively, funny and easy-going little girl was slowly being replaced by a much sadder person, with less energy, someone who spent time on her own and withdrawn from friends.
She reassured us that she was eating her school lunch and as she ate her dinner with us in the evening we responded to the changes in her body shape and size in a supportive way. We sought support from Pause and she reluctantly spoke to a worker there who gave her reassurance that she was not alone with being worried about her body shape and size.
An FTB body image group helped her to slowly and gently begin to recognise the connections with external pressures like social media, celebrity culture and body image.
When asked “what do you wish you had known…” that you didn’t during the early months of her ED, I would say quite clearly… “trust your instincts as a parent”. You know your child better than anyone else. If you feel things are changing, get help as early as possible. I wish I had approached her school earlier and checked out whether she was eating her lunch or if her behaviour or participation at school had changed. Not because I thought she was a liar, but because our beautiful daughters physical and mental health takes precedence over everything.
I would also say to parents, there is a wealth of really useful knowledge and support via the internet. Reading about stories of recovery gave us as parents hope and helped her to see (when she was ready) that the journey of recovery is a long, overwhelming but worthwhile process.
As a family we have received a good service from knowledgeable, supportive and respectful nurses, dietician, psychologist and family therapists. They have taken the time to listen to us as a family and individually helped us through the challenging times and most importantly reinforced with us as a family and as parents that we are the expert in our own experience. Only we know what it’s like to parent her. To be alongside her as she gradually and with tremendous resilience and determination begins to take control back from the ED. We have benefitted from the wisdom and knowledge of professionals, but overall I feel now, reflecting back on 2016 that we as a family have collectively taken control back, confronted the ED head on and refusing to let it permanently damage our small and precious family.
With thanks to the ED nurse, the dietician, the clinical psychologist and the Family therapy team who have helped us and continue to do so as we travel on our journey through the world of an ED.
Regaining my sass
I have struggled with an eating disorder for 7 years. It’s been a long road to where I am today, but I am proud of the strong woman that I have become.
I was diagnosed with EDNOS at 16, with many symptoms typical of anorexia. I received treatment from CAHMS but unfortunately, the focus on gaining weight caused my illness to evolve into bingeing and purging.
I kept my new illness a secret because I was ashamed of being a failure. I was discharged 6 months later, and for many years I was stuck in a cycle where my self-worth was defined by my eating disorder. I had a very unhealthy relationship with food and suffered from low self-esteem, low confidence, and constant guilt.
Last year I decided that I wanted to be free from the control that my eating disorder has had over my life. Eating disorders thrive in silence, so the first step towards recovery, for me, was to talk to people about it. This included my family, friends, my GP, a counsellor, and the Forward Thinking Birmingham team.
Being open and honest allowed me to accept my illness and work towards getting better. When it’s so easy to be knocked down by setbacks, it’s crucial to remember how far you have come already. The Forward Thinking Birmingham team has helped me to understand that recovery is a process of self-discovery and self-acceptance. I am extremely proud of how far I have come. Regaining my sassiness and confidence means so much more to me now than the numbers on the scales or the calories in my food.
A break-up letter to eating disorders
Dear eating disorder today is a big day, today I say goodbye to you, today I let you go, today I banish you from my life. But not completely... the only purpose you will have in my life is to serve as a reminder of how far I have come and a reminder of the amazing woman I always have and always will be. An amazing woman who has accomplished so many things and will continue to do so.
I would firstly like to express my anger towards you, you came into my life without permission, you brainwashed, belittled and isolated me. You are a bully, and I am so very very relieved to finally have the strength to stand up for myself and fight back against you. I let go of diet culture, an infectious disease itself. Diet cultures surrounds us, it lives everywhere, it pollutes our minds suffocating us. Diet cultures makes you believe you can only be loved, accepted, successful if you make yourself small enough. What an utter load of RUBBISH.
I am so proud to say I can look into the mirror and say ‘this is me, I am kind, caring, funny, intelligent … and so much more’. I do not see my ‘rolls, my fat thighs, my blubber. I see me . I see beyond my physical appearance because I know this is in fact is completely irrelevant and my worth in no way depends on what I look like.
For a while throughout recovery I struggled with gaining weight after I stopped restricting and over exercising. However, I have come to the realisation that I haven’t just gained weight, I’ve gained so much more. I have gained food freedom, I have gained a healthy relationship with exercise and food, I have gained body positivity and confidence... Gaining weight has been the best thing that’s happened to me and all I simply had to do was eat the food, which I have actually discovered is something I really love doing!! AMEN Nutella.
Eating Disorder, you have imprisoned me and taken many years of my life. Today I am set free. Today I escape the unbearable relationship I have had with you. Today I am the bigger voice, today I leave you behind. I feel so sad for the innocent venerable souls that diet culture preys on. I vow to spread awareness and tell my story to help support the many people who have been taken hostage like me, without permission, scared and lonely. I promise to never let you back in my life, and if you somehow do, I will show myself compassion, accept what’s happening and remember everything I have learnt. However, I’m pretty sure you won’t want to mess with me again. Day to day I am getting stronger and stronger, I’m experiencing the freedom of living without you, I’m tasting the freedom of living without you, I AM PHYSCIALLY EATING THE FREEDOM and its wonderfully liberating, you will never win in a battle against me.
PS: I WONT MISS YOU.
My eating disorder (anorexia) was me. It engulfed me for nine years of my life. It was my identity and all I knew. I was 11 when it all first started. It all stemmed from my core values of ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I’m unlovable’ ‘Everybody’s going to leave me’, ‘I need to be small to be accepted’, ‘If I am sick people will stay’. I was scared of food, petrified in fact. I was scared to ever gain even a pound of weight. It became everything to me. I could not see a life without anorexia. I thought I would never recover. Until I landed myself in hospital struggling to breathe. When trying to fight for a breath, it hit me; 'I need to recover, I need to do this or the reality is, I won’t be here for much longer'. I knew in that moment that I needed to fight. I needed to fight anorexia and get myself back. It was a long journey, rewiring nine years of thought patterns was hard. I remember refusing to comply with anything on my care plan when I first started therapy. But the truth couldn’t escape me, I was deteriorating. I would sit and stare at meals and cry and I would cry every time I was made to stand on a scale to get weighed. Recovery is not just one fight to a stage where you are healthy, it is a battle every day. It requires daily work, from meal choices, to controlling thoughts that may arise. Today it has been a few weeks since I have been discharged from all eating disorder therapy services and I am beyond proud of myself. I have not only gained weight, but I have gained my life back, my period back, my smile back and food freedom back.
- Have a strong support system around you.
- Talk to others about how you feel.
- Journal thoughts.
- Sit with the anxiety and feelings of being uncomfortable and ride them out.
- Start small, start by increasing your food by maybe adding in one extra snack.
- Make a list of fear foods from low to high and start with the least fearful item.
- Eat your fear food with someone so it feels easier.
- Keep a list of your motivations and when it feels like you cannot go on, read them and remind yourself exactly why you are fighting.
- Try a new hobby or activity and start building a life, so that it motivates you to keep going.
Be kind to yourself, it is going to be one difficult journey, and in the moment, you may feel like you cannot go on, but one day it will all be worth it.