climbED: The Review

The end of Eating Disorder Awareness week has arrived and it has been an incredible and successful one:

23 blog posts on here.

2 Huffington Post blog posts:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/claire-greaves-/eating-disorder-awareness-week_b_6742760.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/claire-greaves-/eating-disorder-awareness-week_b_6758114.html

4 newspapers:

The South Wales Argus

The South Wales Echo

The FreePost

The mirror: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/claire-greaves-anorexia-sufferer-turned-5222535

1 mountain scaled:

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A rising total of £1233.71 raised for b-eat on justgiving.com/climbED

7 sock it to eating disorder photographs:

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and many tweets, facebook statuses and instagram posts.

Together We Can Beat Eating Disorders!

end

climbED: DBT For Eating Disorders

DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy) is often used to help treat personality disorders, however my eating disorder service run a DBT group to treat eating disorders and I thought I’d share my experiences of it so far.

The set up of the DBT group is that we attend the group to learn the DBT skills and then we have individual sessions to talk about our specific eating disorders and applying the skills to our behaviours. We also fill out a daily diary card scoring on a scale of 0-5 our emotions and urges and if we engaged in any behaviours such as self-harm, restriction or exercise.

The aim of DBT is to decrease relationship difficulties, intense and unstable emotions, impulsive behaviours and confusion about one’s self and troubling thoughts. DBT then aims to increase interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance and mindfulness.

Interpersonal effectiveness skills teach a person how to get what they want, how to say ‘no’ and how to deal with conflict. Emotion regulation skills teach people how to change their emotions or situations, if this is not appropriate then distress tolerance skills should be used in order to tolerate and get through the situation without changing it or making it worst. Mindfulness teaches people to be in the present.

So how can these skills help to treat eating disorders?

Mindfulness includes ‘what’ skills (observe, describe and participate) and ‘how’ skills (one mindfully, effectively, non-judgementally) and it can be applied to nearly everything we do, including eating. Mindful eating may help people with an eating disorder by treating food in a non-judgmental way. Rather than describing the food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or looking at it and seeing the number of calories in it, describe it by it’s colour, shape, texture, taste and/or smell. Mindfulness can also help people to relax, I find that using bath bombs works really well when practicing mindfulness as it involves touch, smell and visionary senses.

We often talk about the states of mind in DBT. Firstly there is emotional mind which involves:

  • Emotion controlling thoughts and behaviours.
  • Thoughts that are unhelpful and distressing.
  • Difficulty thinking logically and rationally.
  • Facts that are distorted to fit with current distress.
  • Emotions tend to drive opinion and strong behaviour.

Then there is reasonable mind which involves:

  • Intellectual, scientific facts which are evidence based.
  • Logical and rational thinking.
  • Focuses attention.
  • People in reasonable mind can come across as cool when approaching problems.

Wise mind integrates both emotional and reasonable mind, reasonable mind must be listened to but emotional mind needs to be soothed. By being in wise mind we can see the bigger picture and do what is both appropriate and effective in a given situation. Mindfulness can help people to get to wise mind.

Recovery from an eating disorder can be incredibly stressful. It can be distressing to increase dietary intake and to gain weight. I have to do the opposite of what my head was telling me which is very difficult. Distress tolerance skills can help people to cope. For example, distraction skills such as ACCEPTS can help people to manage around meal times.

Activities: Baking, writing, journalling, nail painting, making amazon wishlists etc

Contributing: Blogging, making something for someone, looking after a pet etc

Comparisons: Think about where you have come from and where you want to go.

Emotions (opposite): Watch something funny, find positive quotes etc

Pushing away: Leave the situation behind for a while. Decide not to think about it.

Thoughts (changing): Word games, puzzle books, make plans, learn lyrics etc

Sensations (smell, taste, sound, sight, touch): Bath bombs, stress ball, hand cream, loud music, bright pictures etc.

It can be helpful to list out the pros and cons of behaviours that you engage in and to put them somewhere you can easily access when you are struggling. For example write out the pros and cons of binging, why do you do it? What are the consequences? When you feel the urge to binge go and read your pros and cons card.

Urge management can be particularly helpful for binge eating. When an urge strikes rate the intensity from 0-10. Set a timer for 15 minutes and in the meantime choose a pleasant activity to distract you and/or write out the pros and cons of engaging in the urge. At the end of 15 minutes rate your urge intensity again, if the urge has gone down then carry on with your day, if it’s the same or higher reset the timer and repeat.

I think DBT can help an individual to cope with the stress and distress of both their eating disorder and recovery from their eating disorder by learning how to tolerate the distress rather than using harmful behaviours to get rid of the distress.

Here’s today’s sock it to eating disorders silly socks photo:

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To find out more about our mountain climb and to donate please visit: http://www.justgiving.com/climbED

climbED: There isn’t just thin or fat, there is healthy!

I realised that when I look at pictures of myself or my reflection in the mirror then I often see myself as thin or fat, there is no in between but the truth of the situation is that I have never been overweight, or remotely near overweight. This is my black and white thinking saying that I can only be thin or fat and I don’t even acknowledge that healthy sits in between those two. I even found myself the other day saying to my psychologist, “But when I’m a healthy weight, I look fat.” Whoa! Wait a minute, let’s break that down. When I am a healthy weight, I look fat. That doesn’t make sense. Surely when I am a healthy weight, I look healthy and healthy is not at all the same as overweight.

I think it’s a common thing with eating disorders, black and white thinking occurs quite a lot, for example food is either good or bad, someone is either thin or fat. The middle-ground and ‘normal’ areas do not seem to exist in many people’s minds. That’s okay to feel that way, to think that way,  as an unwell person these thoughts are going to happen but what I am trying to do is think deeper about these thoughts. Rather than accept the thought as correct and letting it fly by I think about it and break it down. It can also be helpful to apply it to other people. My friend is healthy, she is not thin or fat for example.

Eating disorders can warp thinking and I find this very difficult, what is an eating disorder thought? What is a true thought? But I write them down and try to think about the things I think and accept on a daily basis to see if there is any truth behind them. Seeing yourself as thin or fat and not acknowledging that there is an in between is an eating disorder thought and it is not helpful. Don’t forget that there is a middle-ground.

To find out more about our mountain climb and to donate please visit: http://www.justgiving.com/climbED

climbED: Supporting Someone With An Eating Disorder

It can be very difficult to support someone with an eating disorder, not only because it can be very upsetting to see someone you love unwell and distressed but also because it is the nature of these illnesses to push people away and interpret things wrongly. I’m writing this post from personal experience of what helps me and what doesn’t.

When most people have been unwell it can be a compliment to tell them that they look well but with eating disorders this can be one of the most triggering things that people can say even though they mean well. My eating disorder interprets this as fat or healthy and therefore I think I don’t need to work on recovery because I am fine. Sometimes I have been a healthy weight but my eating disorder has been at it’s worst and people would tell me I looked well and it would upset me because I wasn’t well at all. I think when it comes to supporting someone with an eating disorder it is best not to comment on appearance at all. Commenting on both weight loss and weight gain will feed the eating disorder. It is much better for the person if you compliment them on their personality, or smile, or outfit.

Don’t push the person you are with to eat when they are spending time with you. If they want to eat then that’s great but by pushing someone or saying things like “You have to have something to eat when we meet” it will push the person away and leave them more isolated. If someone tried to make me eat then I usually avoided meeting up with them.

Be careful that you don’t become friends with the eating disorder. What I mean by this is don’t spend the entire time talking about the eating disorder and things that the person has gone through with their illness. Talk about the person, their achievements and talents, funny memories, the future. Allow the person to feel like they are more than their illness and remind them of the reasons to get better.

Never ask the person you are supporting for diet advice. You may be tempted but it will feed the eating disorder more than you could possibly imagine and whether or not the person lets on, you will have damaged the relationship and trust between you two. It can make it so much harder to recover when you know the people around you are losing weight, it’s even worse when you know they are using you to lose that weight.

Try not to comment on what the person is eating, even comments such as “That looks nice” and “Whoa that’s yellow” can trigger and upset the person and lead the person to only feel safe eating alone. Try to keep all thoughts around food at meal times in your head.

Don’t be offended or take it personally if the person you are supporting seems a bit off with you or doesn’t want to hang out. It is exhausting to suffer from an eating disorder and can severely affect a person both mentally and physically. Let your friend know that you are always there for them and allow them to have their space to rest and be quiet if need be.

Don’t forget to look after yourself, self soothe with a bubbly bath, scented candles, chocolate or your favourite TV programme….whatever makes you happy. Make sure you take time to relax and unwind so that you can look after your own health.

Here’s today’s sock it to eating disorder silly socks photo:

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To find our more about our mountain climb and to donate please visit: http://www.justgiving.com/climbED

climbED: The Serotonin Story

Serotonin is a chemical that is released in the brain and when serotonin is released it makes a person feel happy and controls their mood. You may have heard of serotonin when people talk about depression or a chemical imbalance. Serotonin can also affect a person’s behaviour, appetite and thinking and low levels may lead to depression, migraines/headaches, sleeping problems and memory problems. Low serotonin levels can also cause cravings for sweet or starchy foods which may then lead to binge eating.

Serotonin is made out of protein and so if you aren’t eating enough protein you could have low serotonin levels. This is why protein is vital in anyone’s diet but especially in those who already struggle with their mental health.

It isn’t just protein that is important for serotonin, in order for serotonin to be taken up into the brain it requires insulin which is released when we eat starchy foods as well as zinc and vitamin C.

To keep a person’s mood steady and stable throughout the day the person requires regular and balanced meals that include starchy food at least every 5-6 hours.

I think that the serotonin story can help eating disorder sufferers understand why restrictive eating leads to low mood and related problems but also I personally find that seeing food has a purpose helps me to eat it and feel okay about eating it.

For example, if I ate 2 slices of peanut butter on toast with some orange juice that would be perfect for my serotonin, the toast provides the insulin, the peanut butter provides the protein and the orange juice provides the vitamins. Why should I feel guilty about helping my mental health? With a lifted mood it will be so much easier to get through the day.

It is important to remember that food isn’t just calories, fat and weight gain like your eating disorder will tell you. Food helps your mind, nails, skin, hair, organs….the list is endless. Food has a purpose.

To find out more about our mountain climb and to donate please visit: http://www.justgiving.com/climbED

climbED: Climbing The Mountain To Recovery

Today is the day that my best friend and I climb a mountain to raise money for b-eat. I wanted to climb a mountain because it felt very fitting as recovery from anorexia nervosa has often felt like climbing a mountain and now I will explain why.

When you first start climbing a mountain you can’t always see the top, you might be able to see a third of the mountain, half at the most. Mist will stop you from seeing the pinnacle. Because you can’t see the top, you can’t imagine what it’s like up there, you can’t vision it and it seems unreachable. You begin to doubt that you can get there. At the beginning of recovery it felt like that for me and it still does. I can’t imagine what a ‘recovered life’ looks like, I often wonder about it. What would my life look like? What would I eat? How would I feel? I can’t remember what life was like without anorexia and there are days that I doubt I can reach recovery because it is so far away. There’s so much to overcome and climb before I get there but that doesn’t make it impossible.

Climbing a mountain involves a lot of walking and can take a long time, the same as recovery includes a lot of meals, a lot of therapy and a lot of trust and takes a long time, you may stumble and slip down the mountain a but you aren’t at the bottom again. You are still on the mountain even if it feels like you’re struggling. You might have relapsed but you are not stood back in the car park, you are still somewhere on the mountain to recovery.

I don’t know many people that have recovered from anorexia and aside from the people I know online I don’t know many people who have an eating disorder besides myself which often makes me feel quite alone in recovery. On the days I’m consumed by self-doubt I find it hard to believe I will ever recover because it feels like I am the only one on this journey. Not everyone climbs a mountain in their lifetime. I don’t know many people who have climbed mountains and knowing that a lot of people don’t do it can make it feel like an impossible task. People don’t climb mountains because it takes energy, endurance, motivation and determination, that can make it feel impossible but it isn’t.

When climbing a mountain you will get tired and you will get breathless. You will have to take regular breaks, sit down for five minutes and get your breath back before you carry on. Recovery is similar, you will struggle to go right from the bottom to the top in the quickest way possible. You have to take things at your own pace and you might need to hold things steady for a while before you carry on up the mountain. Recovery is about you and you have to make sure you can manage the stage you are at in recovery.

There may be hiccups in the mountain climb, a tree blocking a path meaning you have to turn around and go another way or ice that slows you down or makes you slip. Recovery will not always be perfect, you will slip up and have blips but that’s okay. I can guarantee you that it won’t be a perfect straight line from illness to health. You may have to re-trace your steps and go over the same thing a few times, you may fall and binge or restrict but you haven’t failed. Just keep trying, part of recovery is accepting that there are imperfections and mistakes do happen.

It may feel too difficult at times, the cold wind blowing in your face and your whole body feels exhausted and you just want to give up. When climbing a mountain it feels hardest the nearer you get to the top, the weather worsens and the temperature drops and it can feel hard to breathe but you have to keep going because the peak of the mountain is just around the corner. Recovery can feel impossible at times, you might feel exhausted and want to give up and stop trying but it could feel difficult because you are nearly there. Hold on tight, health and happiness is around the corner.

Walking down the other side of a mountain is so much easier than climbing up it. You will feel amazing because of what you have achieved. You’ll feel free and run down the steep drops. Recovery is difficult and really hard work but once you’ve reached the other side it will feel amazing. One day it will be easier. You can climb the mountain to recovery and live a freer, healthier and happier life.

Here’s today’s sock it to eating disorders silly socks photo:

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Today is Sock It To Eating Disorders Day, wear your silliest socks and tell the world that eating disorders can be beaten.

To find out more about our mountain climb and to donate please visit: http://www.justgiving.com/climbED

climbED: “My Eating Disorder Makes Me Successful”

As shocking as it is I found these words leaving my mouth when talking to my psychologist today. I have never been confident in myself, everything that I have done in my life has never been good enough. My eating disorder often convinces me that it is the only good part of me when in reality it is the main bad part of me but a lot of the time I used to believe those thoughts.

With my eating disorder thoughts telling me that it makes me successful, it disregards all the positives about me to the point that I can rarely think of any because for years and years my eating disorder has pushed these out and made me believe that the A grades, the achievements and everything that I have done has been down to my eating disorder. I believed it made me focus, made me work harder and gave me the confidence I needed to do things.

The truth is that my eating disorder doesn’t make me successful at all, in fact quite the opposite. My talents, passion, hard work and sheer guts made me successful and for some reason writing that now is difficult, as though I can’t say those things about myself. My eating disorder did one thing for me, it lost me everything. College courses, jobs, friends. Anorexia has the ability to end everything that I have going on right now. I never thought I’d want to cry over seeing a loss on the scales but right now life is going well and I cannot allow anorexia to be in control. I want to live my life and not spend it shut in a psychiatric ward being fed. My eating disorder does not make me successful. I make me successful.