Read some real life stories of our patients who have recovered from eating disorders.
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 every day 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.
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.
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.
It was just over two years ago when Evan’s eating disorder began. He was nine and a keen cross-country runner. He began to think about eating and thought that if he was lighter he would be able to go faster. And so began the voice in his head telling him to eat less.
At first, it was difficult for us to understand what was happening. He was generally anxious and depressed and said that he felt sick after every meal, and we really wondered if there was something physically wrong.
We initially accessed Forward Thinking Birmingham for treatment for anxiety and depression and he was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. Throughout this time the voice saying ‘Eat less’ persisted and became increasingly problematic.
The lowest point came after a week during the summer holidays when he, his siblings and cousins were staying with his grandparents. When we went to pick him up, we were appalled by his skeletal frame – clearly worse after a further week of eating practically nothing.
The psychologist we were seeing was monitoring his weight and charted a steady decline, and we were referred to the Eating Disorders Service. That initial visit marked a turning point for us. It was a gruelling three-hour visit with the dietician and psychologists and Evan initially was very disheartened, feeling that it was going to be impossible to increase how much he ate.
Within a couple of weeks, Evan was managing to follow the meal plan and his weight stabilised. Things were OK at home but not at school, it was difficult for Evan to eat in this setting and there were many days that he would not eat lunch.
With the support of his psychologist advising us and school, we put a plan in place to tackle this and eventually, over a year after he initially developed his problems, he was consistently eating lunch. We had enormous help, support and advice from Evan’s psychologist and our family therapists, who dedicated many hours to Evan and our family. They gave us confidence and strategies to help Evan overcome his difficulties. Another key resource for us was a book by Eva Musby called ‘Anorexia and eating disorders: how to help you child eat well and be well’. Together, these sources of help enabled us to understand anorexia better and face many difficult eating battles.
The road to recovery has been slow but sure. We can now go to a restaurant and enjoy a meal together rather than it be a horribly stressful experience, Evan can visit a friend and share a meal with them. And just this week he told us how he enjoyed a donut at school given to him to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Just six months ago, we could not envisage such a change. We are immensely grateful for the help and support from Forward Thinking Birmingham. We would also like to offer hope to others in the midst of similar struggles – seemingly impossible situations can change.
Within the last year and following onto the start of the new year I have been suffering with an eating disorder. What is one I hear you ask well an eating disorder is a mental battle that happens when this mind demon takes over to make you think things that are untrue. This mental battle can interfere when you least expect it for example when I was at my sister's birthday I was fine I was eating and I was loving life and then all of a sudden a change happened in my life from October onwards where I started to restrict myself to the point of nearly being anorexic and to the near point of death.
Now I know this might sound dramatic and over the top, but this is what an eating disorder can do I nearly lost my life to this invisible demon and I knew I was going to do so if I didn't take action and listen to the professional advice from this eating disorder service and family support. That was given to me as well as results from weekly weight checks and blood tests as well as family therapy, mantra therapy and so I started to improve by eating which was hard at first as my brain was telling me not to eat, but then the eating disorder was saying some of the following points to back that point up. Too many calories! Too fattening! You don't need it
But I didn't listen to it as I knew if I did I could never move forward and from that point onwards I started to combat the eating disorder by eating what I wanted when I wanted it while still adhering to the food plan that I was set in order to help me get through this brutal mental disorder. But the real truth is the food plan is there as a guide and it's you who has to eat the food and it's you who has to do it
During the course of my eating disorder. I lost my attributes, I lost my confidence, my strengths, my passion for things such as drama and video games and my body image, but that came back in time as a few months later from this eating disorder.
But now I have started to feel heat again, enjoy food again, and since then my passion for things such as drama, video games and sport has returned and I am loving life and appreciate my life. It is such a relief to be able to do the things you want to do in life. I see this as a second chance at life and I'm gonna live it to the way I want to live, healthy, fit and strong as that is what I want my life to consist of.
Thank you for listening to my notes, and thank you for giving me this chance to express my feelings and thoughts on my personal experience of my eating disorder.
If you have told my 12-year-old self that in a few years time she would develop an eating disorder, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Growing up, I would eat anything without hesitation. Food was solely associated with enjoyment, not guilt and fear. The thing with eating disorders such as anorexia is that you often don’t realise that you’re experiencing one as your ED disguises itself in sneaky ways.
As I started to slowly decrease the amount of calories I was eating in a day, measure out my food just so I would know exactly what I was consuming and eliminate the foods that I used to love, I told myself that I was doing the right thing, that it was only a harmless diet and that it would all be worth it if it meant losing weight and gaining complete control over something. I kept telling myself that what I was doing was normal as I lost my period and stopped fitting into my clothes. I wanted to be the best at something. I wanted people to see me and notice my thinness. And so I became fixated with maintaining a ‘perfect’ diet. Soon it would mean feeling proud of myself for skipping lunch and being terrified if I felt I had eaten one too many grapes.
Getting help felt like the hardest thing ever; how was I going to regain my old life and be free with food again but make sure I didn’t gain weight? However, when I started receiving therapy from Forward Thinking Birmingham I learnt that my eating disorder was my enemy, not the friend that I made it out to be, and that it ultimately wanted to kill me.
Today I can say that I have a much healthier relationship with food and eating is no longer a dreaded task but an enjoyable one. If I didn’t speak out and get the help when I did, it could’ve been too late which is why it is so important that you don’t let your eating disorder go untreated.
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 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 culture surrounds us, it lives everywhere, it pollutes our minds suffocating us. Diet culture 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 WON'T 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.