No, I Don’t Want To Hear About Your Diet

Something I have discovered in all my years of anorexia is that the moment people know they somehow think its appropriate to talk about dieting, weight loss and going to the gym. Let me tell you this…I don’t want to hear it and I’m sure anyone else suffering from an eating disorder doesn’t want to hear it.

How is it helpful to discuss which foods are sinful, to talk about grapes being ‘fatty’ at slimming world whilst they are marked as the healthy option on the hospital menu. How do you think this conflicting information is going to help someone already living in a world of confusion? Anorexia is enough, I don’t need other people to tell me about foods being bad or fatty or sinful. I don’t need to be told that people eat junk and that’s why they get fat.

I’m struggling enough with anorexia alone. Yes, I have an eating disorder, yes I am obsessed with food, yes I think about weight and shape all the time but that doesn’t give you an invitation to join in with my illness. The number of staff that sit with me on my 2:1 observations and discuss their diets, weight loss, gym regimes and opinions on food you would not believe. I’ve even had someone ask me for tips on weight loss. It’s just not appropriate and it needs to stop.

Healthy Perspectives On Emotions

Emotions get slammed a lot as being a negative aspect of us human beings. Being emotional is seen by some as a bad thing, a weakness, but whether we like it or not we all have emotions and it is healthier to accept that we are emotional beings. Emotions are neither good or bad, they just exist and it is not helpful to judge your emotions. Emotions don’t last forever, no matter what the emotion is or how intense it feels it will fade eventually and be replaced by another emotion.

There is a difference between having an emotion and acting on an emotion. You cannot choose your emotion but you can choose your reaction to it. It is okay to feel raging angry with someone but it is not okay to scream and shout at them and make them cry. When an intense emotion arrives you do not have to act on it, all you need to do is recognise the emotion, feel it and let it pass.

Emotions are not facts, just because you feel it, it doesn’t mean it is true. When emotions are very powerful they feel like the truth but they only feel like the truth, they are not the truth.

When thinking about healthy perspectives on emotion, it can be helpful to think about the white bear experiment. If someone tells you that for a minute you can think about anything you like but you must not think about the white bear, you will instantly be thinking of the white bear and be thinking that you mustn’t be thinking about it. This is very similar to obsessional thinking and the thoughts that say, “I am a terrible person if I think X” and then you can’t help but think X. When we have certain emotions that we feel are wrong or bad we may think, “I’m having this emotion, I don’t like it, go away” and we may do all we can to push it away but this is not effective, the emotion will keep coming back to us.

You cannot get rid of emotions, emotions are there because they serve important survival functions. The best way to deal with emotions in a healthy and effective way is to be willing to radically accept your emotions as they arise.

climbED: “Healthy” Eating In Recovery

This morning I had a conversation with my psychiatrist because I haven’t been too well with anorexia lately. I was talking about how even when I was in recovery I felt the need to eat ‘what I consider to be healthy food’ and he asked me what that meant and I explained that I feel like it’s okay for everyone else to eat what they want and eat ‘normal’ meals but I feel like I have to eat raw, vegan, natural, nutritional food otherwise I get the thoughts that I didn’t need to eat what I did and I didn’t deserve it and that the food feels unnecessary.

He told me that unless I foraged for food then it isn’t natural, everything is manufactured and chocolate has a lot of natural ingredients and it made me realise that I have these irrational thoughts in my mind of what is healthy and what isn’t healthy but when I dig deeper into those thoughts they actually make no sense. I need to start thinking more about my thoughts and rules around my eating and weight because I accept them as right and that is the way things are but there are actually no facts to support them.

I’ve noticed that there are ‘fashionable foods’, for example sweet potato and quest bars. Those foods that start appearing on menus of all the hip restaurants and are plastered over instagram. I think sometimes my eating disorder interprets these as healthy. In recovery I wouldn’t eat a normal baked potato with normal beans but I would eat a sweet potato with ‘5 beans’, the reality is that there is very little difference between the two but in my head one is totally okay and the other is completely not allowed.

I also find it difficult because as I have had anorexia for a very long time I often feel judged by others. People seem to have the assumption that people with anorexia only eat ‘healthy’ food, they are under the impression that people with anorexia eat only apples and vegetables and never touch sweets or chocolate but this isn’t true at all. People with anorexia sometimes have food that they never touch but there are also some people with anorexia that will eat any food but in very small portions. I know many people with anorexia who eat sweets and chocolate. I worry that others will judge me by what I eat as I’ve had the ‘anorexic’ label for so long. I feel like I can’t eat chocolate in front of people, or crisps, or popcorn at the cinema. I feel like I have to live by anorexia’s rules out of fears of others judging me. If I really think about it, I don’t think anyone would judge me, they would probably be pleased to see me enjoying life but it is a contributing factor to my ‘healthy’ eating. I even feel judged by the checkout worker in the supermarket.

The problem with my approach to eating and the need for food to be what I consider ‘healthy’ actually leads to the unhealthiest thing because it often leads to avoidance of food and I will say this over and over again: There is no food unhealthier than having an eating disorder.

I am going to try to remember that there is no such thing as an unhealthy food, only unhealthy diets. It is healthier to have a croissant and a hot chocolate for breakfast than it is to have nothing. There is no such thing as a healthy or an unhealthy food when recovering from anorexia.

Eating for a Healthy Mind and a Healthy Body

Since coming home from hospital, I have noticed the amount of ‘anorexic porn’ that surrounds us in this society. The magazines that say someone is too thin one week and too fat the next and the different fad diet featured in every single issue. On top of this are the fat shaming TV programmes, the programmes that will tell the nation that bread is bad, cereal has too much sugar and chocolate should NEVER be eaten. It is not sustainable to completely ban a food, by telling people they can never have chocolate, all that does is create unnecessary and cruel guilt every time that person ‘fails’ as the media put it. These programmes are incorrect, they say the opposite of what my dietician says but the scary thing is a huge number of people believe all the ‘anorexic porn’ that floats around, even people without eating disorders.

In a way, I’m lucky that I am able to access the right information about food from a highly trained and experienced dietician. I’m not lucky that I’m ill, but I think what I am learning through treatment is something many people would benefit from.

Mood and Food

Firstly, I am going to look at food and mood. The first thing I need to say about food and mood is that if you want a chocolate bar, go and eat a chocolate bar because it is healthy to allow yourself treats in a balanced way and sitting there thinking about chocolate for the rest of your life without actually eating it isn’t going to make you feel too happy.

Now for the scientific stuff:

Serotonin is a chemical that is released in the brain. Serotonin is important because it makes people feel happy and controls mood. Low serotonin levels can cause depression, headaches, sleeping problems and memory problems. Serotonin is made out of protein and in order for our body to make it, we need to eat protein (meat, fish, eggs, meat alternatives, nuts) but not only does our body need protein, it also needs insulin (from starchy food) as well as zinc and vitamin C in order for the protein to be taken up into the brain. If you want your mood to remain stable and positive then it will help you to eat regular, balanced meals especially regular starchy foods throughout the day.

Different Foods Have Different Uses

Carbohydrates (starchy food) are important for energy and good mood and are often a good source of fibre.

Fruit and vegetables are full of important vitamins and minerals and again are a good source of fibre.

Protein is important for good mood and strong muscles but also for good hair, skin and nails.

Fat is important if you want good skin, hair and nails. It might get a lot of hate in the media and we may feel that ‘fat free’ is the best thing to read on a nutritional label but that is nonsense. Fat is as important as protein or carbohydrates. Fat gives our bodies energy and is essential for cell functions as well as allowing our nerves and brain to function.

What is Healthy Eating?

  1. Enjoying your food! My dietician once said to me, “If it tastes good then it’s healthy”. I also think it is important to point out that chocolate does not cause weight gain, neither does pizza. 3500 calories is a pound, if your intake is below that and included a chocolate bar then it doesn’t matter. Food is there to be enjoyed and eaten in moderation.
  2. Eat a variety of foods. Whilst you could eat 2000 calories worth of chocolate and it would have no affect on your weight if you ate nothing else that day, it probably wouldn’t be too good for you nutritionally but neither is 2000 calories of fruit and vegetables. Variety is key.
  3. Eat the right amount to be a healthy weight.
  4. Eat plenty of foods rich in starch and fibre. Bread is often slated in the media but actually it’s pretty good for you, especially wholemeal-starch and fibre in one!
  5. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  6. Don’t eat too many fatty foods, but you need to have some!
  7. Don’t have too many sweet foods and drinks, but you need to have some!
  8. Eat a balanced diet. A balanced meal should include starch, protein and fruit/veg/salad.