A common misconception about anorexia and eating disorders is that people suffering from these illnesses avoid food at all costs and don’t want to talk about food. The truth is, the majority of sufferers are obsessed with food. Talking from personal experience I know I am.
I spend hours each day scrolling through pictures of food on instagram. I read food magazines and recipe books. When the staff sat with me get their food out I need to see what it is and I want to inhale the smell of it. I enjoy watching people eat and when I’ve been at home or on the acute ward I have spent a lot of time baking.
I love to be around food, I think about it constantly. I am utterly pre-occupied with food. You wouldn’t think it regarding my diagnosis of anorexia nervosa but I love food.
Okay so it’s been a while, I spent 8 months in a secure unit with my weight dropping and my mental health declining, then in December an eating disorder nurse from my home team came to see me at 8am in the morning. I remember being woken at 7am and having a shower on a chair because my legs would not stand and then being whisked off to the relaxation room to see her.
The nurse wanted to admit me to a general hospital for refeeding but I refused as it was so close to Christmas and I just wanted to be where I felt settled for the festive period. That night I was driven back to my home county and admitted to a general ward. I felt like I was living in a nightmare. I had an NG tube inserted and was started on a feed straight away, drips were in my arms and blood tests taken.
A month later, here I am, still in the same bed, still being fed through a tube and struggling enormously. I feel fatter with each day, the sips of ensure are getting harder and not easier. The plan from here is to go to an eating disorder unit in London which I’m super scared about. I don’t know any more. This battle is hard.
The society that we live in has a scary focus on weight loss. Weight loss is a common New Years Resolution, apparently a self-care method, whatever it is that’s happening in the world you will be encouraged to lose weight for it. Summer on it’s way? Lose weight. Easter just gone? Lose weight. New Year? Lose weight. We are faced with shiny, happy faces plastered all over weight loss adverts on TV, in magazines and at bus stops, community halls. Everywhere. These adverts are all around and they convince us that losing weight will make us happy, but will it?
I think for some people losing weight could make them happy, if someone is overweight and they lose a little bit of weight by changing their eating and lifestyle then losing weight could help their happiness although I’d argue that weight loss alone is not the cause to improved happiness. It’s probably more to do with social life or body image or self-esteem, or perhaps the nutrition in the lifestyle change. Notice I am saying ‘changing their eating and lifestyle’ and not the word diet. Diets don’t make people happy in the long-term. By diets I am referring to those diets that cannot be eaten for the rest of someone’s life. The atkins diet, the 5:2 diet and so on. They are short-term fixes that often result in yo-yo dieting. These diets can actually cause weight gain and increased dissatisfaction in the long run.
Often dieting and weight loss lead to unhappiness, if someone is on a strict diet then it will probably make them quite miserable in themselves, they will battle with cravings and may no longer go out and eat socially. Often people lose their personality along with the weight.
I am not saying that people shouldn’t lose weight. If someone is overweight and makes a lifestyle change with their eating and exercise that is maintainable and does not cut out any food groups and they lose weight to become healthy then that is fantastic. However, I am saying that by losing weight and dieting you are not going to become that shiny, smiling woman on the advert. You are not going to be performing perfect dives in your red swimsuit into a swimming pool with a beautiful blue sky up above you. You will still be you, you will still be living your life and your body will still have flaws. If you are losing weight because you want to be happy then you will probably never achieve your goal. Your weight is a number, it is the overall number of the weight of your bones, your organs, your blood, the food you ate yesterday, the glass of water you have just drank, the teeth in your mouth and your flesh on your body. You cannot weigh your happiness on a scale. You cannot lead a fulfilling life if you are spending each and every day chained to the scale. Life can make you happy, experiences can make you happy, other people can make you happy. The latest diet in Now magazine will not.