Today I lay on a beach in a bikini, I ate ice-cream and walked around through crowds of people at a food festival by the sea. It was a beautiful summer’s day. Sunny and warm and lit up by the throngs of holiday-makers and weekend day-trippers milling around enjoying the sunshine and the atmosphere of a summer festival.
Today I won.
I won the daily battle against my eating disorder. I won my freedom back. I won my happiness back. Just for a day. But I fully intend to win again tomorrow.
I have engaged in these daily battles against Ed the Evil Eating Disorder for quite a long time. In the beginning I emerged from these battles exhausted, scarred and anxious for the next day, afraid for what Ed might do to me tomorrow. But now I mostly emerge …. If I dare say it, happy. Happy to be free from anxiously planning every morsel of food I touched, free from hiding my binges and my almost hourly purges. Happy to be able to just live my life with just the occasional negative thought about food and my body.
I am free.
Let me take you back to a year ago. Summer 2016. I ran out of my last therapy session before my summer holidays in the midst of a panic attack. Panic at the fact that I hadn’t the control or the wherewithal to plan my every meal over the three weeks I was to spend interrailing around Europe. Panic at the fact that my friends may find out about my eating habits while they travelled with me. Panic at the fact that my holidays were upon me and I was still too fat. I was always going to be too fat. I had worked my ass off in the gym every day, twice a day even. I had restricted my food, I had planned every meal religiously, only to freak out, panic and binge a few times a day on the ‘forbidden foods’. I told myself I would get control of myself…stop freaking out. Stop bingeing and stop trying to work off my binges in the gym, stop trying to get rid of every single extra calorie by any means I knew how. Stop getting sicker and sicker. I was terrified that someone would find out. I couldn’t hide my binges or my purges on a train, in a hostel, on a beach. I was FREAKING out.
My therapist had made me promise that I would enjoy my holidays. She had told me that I could still sort out my eating disorder when I got back. I could still go to the gym when I got back. And I didn’t need to tell anyone. We had only begun to work on my understanding of bulimia and how it affects your body. I had only begun to understand that I was doing more harm than good. My Eating Disorder brain still had full control over my psyche. I knew what I was doing to my body was bad, but Ed didn’t care.
I’m not going to go into a full explanation of what bulimia is and how it affects your body and your mind. It is an eating disorder. It is harmful. It is a mental problem. For more information on this I would suggest reading ‘Overcoming Bulimia Nervosa and Binge-Eating’ by Peter J Cooper (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Overcoming-Bulimia-Nervosa-Binge-Eating-Cooper/dp/1849010757 ) or ‘Overcoming Binge-Eating’ by Christoper Fairburn. (https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Overcoming-Binge-Eating-Second-Proven-Program-Learn/1572305614/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=W2530ADEESP3W7EHK44X ) Both on Amazon and both amazing self-help guides to overcoming bulimia and binge-eating disorder.
What I am going to go into is my own experience of my eating disorder and how I began to overcome it myself.
I spent last summer and the majority of the last year having severe ups and downs regarding my mental health and my eating disorder. I saw many different therapists, tried many different methods, gave up and started again several times but there was one therapy that stood out to me.
Dr. Christopher Fairburn’s method of overcoming binge-eating is based on CBT training and commitment to his teachings. CBT in non-psychologist terms is basically a therapy that changes how you think and act by taking note of your behaviour, analysing it and problem solving to change that behaviour. In Christopher Fairburn’s eyes, this meant physically taking note of what you eat and how you think about eating at a particular moment and then changing how you eat based on thinking about how you can change those habits. He offers a substantial amount of advice and practical ideas to manage how you think about food and eating.
He is basically my god.
I never thought, at the beginning of my CBT experience, that I would ever get a handle on my eating disorder. But I did.
Here are some things I have changed in my life to facilitate my new lease on eating-disorder-free life.
- I started writing a food diary that tracks when I eat, how I eat and what my thoughts are at that particular moment. (Templates are in Christopher Fairburn’s book.) This made me think about what I was eating and why.
- I stopped restricting my food. Basically any food is allowed in moderation. Moderation is KEY.
- I began roughly planning meals within reason. I am allowed to eat anything I want so I can plan to eat out once a week, I can plan to eat a takeaway and I can plan to eat crap if I want to. But by planning it I can realise just how much of something I’m eating and then more often than not I can curb the craving. I now plan to eat nourishing food that I like!
- I started following the Body Positive movement – on Instagram, twitter and facebook. This movement is centred on loving your body no matter the size and feeding your body with nourishing food, not because you want to lose weight or because you hate the way it looks, but because you love it. (I will leave a list of Body Positive bloggers at the end of this post).
- I stopped comparing myself to others. (This was literally the hardest part.) Tip: If you see yourself starting to compare to others, then start noticing what others are doing rather than what they look like. Look at their facial expressions and their body language. Soon you will realise that people are all just trying to enjoy their own lives, and nobody is comparing themselves to you!
- I started TALKING. I started to have meals with other people, enjoying their company and talking to them. That took the focus off the food and onto enjoying the whole experience of eating.
- I exercise because I want to and not because I need to lose weight. I stopped going to the gym as I find it too triggering for me still and I started walking and running and doing my own home workouts. This might not be for everyone but its what suits me.
Today I wore a bikini (win). Today I ate food and didn’t hate myself for doing so (WIN). Today I walked around in a crowd and didn’t compare myself to anyone else. (WINNNN!)
So maybe you think I am saying this is easy. It is easy to get over an eating disorder.
It is NOT easy. It is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. And like I said before, I am not completely recovered. It is a daily battle. I am still learning and I am still counting my wins.
My goal is to reach the point where I don’t even think about counting my wins because I just win by being alive.
It’s not that easy. But it can be done. And there are several ways of doing it. My advice? Just start. Start by acknowledging that you have a problem and go from there.
Everyday is a battle but you can win.