Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2018 will take place from 26 February to 4 March.
This year, during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Beat: the eating disorders awareness charity is asking the question ‘Why Wait?’
‘On average, 149 weeks pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. That’s almost three years, 37 months or 1,043 days. On top of this, in a YouGov survey conducted for EDAW, more than one in three adults (34%) in the UK, who gave an answer, could not name any signs or symptoms of eating disorders’ (Beat, 2018).
Two important messages have come from Beat’s research: that people with eating disorders are not being treated quickly enough and that there is not enough awareness about their symptoms. The latter leads to the former as friends, family and even doctors will not realise people are suffering from an eating disorder until the illness is deeply entrenched and harder to recover from. The only symptom most people associate with eating disorders is someone being visibly emaciated. This symptom only occurs once the illness is advanced and may not happen in many instances of eating disorder. A person’s physical appearance is no indicator of whether they are ill. This also goes for other invisible illnesses, such as M.E. and other mental health problems.
As I have described in previous posts, when I went for help at my doctors surgery because of the thoughts I was having around food I was turned away because I was not thin enough. I have heard the same story repeated by many of my friends who also suffer with eating disorders and it is infuriating. After being turned away at a weight which was a ‘healthy’ minimum for my height according to BMI I then lost over a stone and destroyed my health, damaging my stomach and digestive system and making my M.E. so much worse. Similarly when gaining weight, once I got to my ‘healthy’ weight for my BMI which is 7.5 stone (47kg) I was deemed recovered. Which is absolute bollocks. You are only recovered once you stop having any unhealthy thoughts relating to food, or you can at least control them and they do not impact your life negatively. Tabitha Farrar, eating disorder recovery coach, who argues against using BMI as a marker for recovery from restrictive eating disorders, suggests that you need to gain at least 10lbs over your original weight (before the eating disorder) in order to heal he damage caused by your body. If you can sit at that weight and learn to be comfortable there without restricting, your body will naturally find the weight it needs to be. Because everyone is different and the weight they should naturally be is defined by their genes not by a generic BMI table.
I am trying to follow Tabitha’s advice and gain the extra weight in the hope that it will help my recovery from both anorexia and M.E. Every week brings new challenges: having to go and buy new underwear and jeans because mine are now too small, the digestive issues caused by eating more, my acne getting worse because I’m letting myself eat sugary/fatty things. But I am persisting and Ana’s screaming in my head has lessened. I’m enjoying my new curves too and am trying to look forward to having an excuse to buy new clothes. One of my main issues has been combining weight gain and trying to restrict less with managing my M.E. through diet. Because this is the main thing that I feel is holding me back I have decided to go back to an M.E. specialist nutritionist for help. Maybe by next year’s EDAW I will be able to tell you about my lovely curves and healthy approach to food.
In conclusion: weight is not an indicator of an eating disorder or any other type of illness. Please educate yourself and others in the signs of an eating disorder with information from Beat.
These can include:
- Lips: Are they obsessive about food?
- Flips: Is their behaviour changing?
- Hips: Do they have distorted beliefs about their body size?
- Kips: Are they often tired or struggle to concentrate?
- Nips: Do they disappear to the toilet after meals?
- Skips: Have they started exercising excessively?
(Note: this blog only focuses on restrictive eating disorders because that has been my experience. Beat has information about all types of eating disorders.)
Tabitha Farrar on ‘overshoot’ weight in recovery from restrictive eating disorders: http://tabithafarrar.com/2015/11/eating-disorder-recovery-aim-overshoot-pre-ed-weight/