How Summer Can Affect People With Eating Disorders

When you live with an eating disorder, there are a lot of things that can affect it. For example my eating disorder rules are often impacted by things like my location, what time it is, who I am with, what is going on for the rest of that day, and, as I have learnt very recently, what season it is.

I have always known that things like the season can affect my eating disorder, but never have I realised this more than this summer, especially the past few weeks of June. If you do not live in England you may not be aware of what has been going on, so to clue you in, you should know that for the majority of June, England has been doing its very best impersonation of a Sauna. IT WAS 34 DEGREES.
For those of you who are used to living in hot countries this may not sound particularly hot, but for people who have always lived in England, 34 degrees feels like you are wearing three hundred woollen jumpers and have been thrust into a furnace with a hot potato shoved down your trousers, a feeling that is not helped by our inability to go for more than 24 hours without a good cup of hot tea (seriously we can’t do it. This isn’t a joke. Tea withdrawal disease is a very serious problem in the UK and 90% of hospital admissions are poor folk who cannot find their favourite teapot).

Now when the weather is hot, people like to take off their clothes or at least wear as few clothes as possible. Gone are the winter coats and snow boots and out come the shorts and crop tops, items that I find rather terrifying due to my eating disorder and body confidence issues. Throughout the year I live in large baggy jumpers so as to cover my body up and out of sight, so that people cannot see all of the disgustingness I see when I look in the mirror, which is a slightly problematic practice when the weather is hot. In summer when you have an eating disorder or body dysmorphic issues, you basically have two choices, stick to your normal wardrobe and roast to death or wear sensible clothes that allow a little bit of breeze here and there but that simultaneously leave you incredibly uncomfortable/stuck in the high street rigid with anxiety because you are wearing a pair of shorts.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I also find summer and warm weather extremely triggering to my eating disorder because I am so used to being cold and being cold is a symptom of being “unwell”. Indeed being cold is a feeling so synonymous and such a documented symptom for people with eating disorders that thermometers were shoved in our ears multiple times a day in hospital to see if we were at risk of hypothermia (an unpleasant experience though I suppose better than that of having a thermometer shoved anywhere else…).
Every time I say or am told by someone that I feel cold, doctors will say things like “it is because you are underweight” or “it is because you don’t eat enough”, so when I am not cold, I panic.
Due to the association with being cold to not eating enough, if I feel warm or heaven forfend “hot” at any time, my head will immediately convince me that it is because I must have accidentally eaten ten buckets of lard and have gained one thousand kilograms. If I feel warm, my eating disorder states that I also must be fat.
It is completely nonsensical but I cannot help it. As much as I try to apply logic to the situation, my brain will always convince me that being warm has absolutely nothing to do with the giant ball of fire burning in the sky (aka the sun…calm down this is not the apocalypse), and has everything to do with what I have eaten and how much I weigh. For me then, eating becomes a lot harder in the summer time because it is easier for my eating disorder to convince me that I don’t really need the food seeing as I am already abundantly covered in enough flesh to keep me toasty warm.

Another problem I have faced this year more than ever, is that of the longer daylight hours we have in summer. I know a lot of people find that sunlight is beneficial to their mood and can actually help them with mental health problems like depression, but for me it is the opposite. I hate sunshine (which is why I live in the UK).
In the sunshine everything feels too bright, too loud, too intense, and I feel calmer in the quiet winter months when people are tucked up inside rather than running around out doors with no clothes on.
I have also always struggled to eat when the sun is up, a problem that has somehow got worse this year. You see, I am currently sectioned under a CTO, a part of the mental health act that means I am allowed to live at home as long as I adhere to certain conditions like staying above a certain weight and going to appointments. I want to say that my main motivation to eat is to be healthy but as true as that is, I am ashamed to say that if I am completely honest, the main push that gets me eating is the fear of going back into hospital and having to eat more food and gain more weight. In the day time however, that fear is not as strong. When the sun is up my brain thinks “hey it is fine, you will stay above your CTO weight, if you don’t need to eat now, you can do it later”.
When the sun is down, there is no later though, and I realise that if I want to maintain my weight and with it my freedom, I am going to need to get some munchies out. The problem is that I know my weight will be acceptable as long as I eat and does not depend on when that eating happens, so naturally as with most things you fear/dread in life, I avoid it as long as possible.
In the winter, this was not such a problem because it was dark by 4pm, but in the summer with all this daylight savings malarky, it isn’t dark until around 10pm and as the months have gone on I have found my eating getting later and later in the day until the point I am at as I write this, a point where I am basically carrying out a year long, eating disorder motivated version of Ramadan. This would make sense if I was a particularly devout follower of the Muslim faith, but my adherence to such rules is not driven by a special spiritual meaning or importance, it is is because I have an eating disorder in my ear who is a total idiot.

In summer as well as taking their clothes off, people tend to change their way of life in the sense of what food they eat and the roast dinners and steamed syrup puddings of the winter time are replaced by cold salads and ice cream.
Again however, this is another seasonal transition that my eating disorder leaves me struggling with, because I eat exactly the same foods in the exact same proportions every day and one of these foods is porridge, aka that boiling hot bowl of oats that most people don’t whip a pan out for until there is a significant chill in the air.
When it is 34 degrees outside, nobody in their right mind would start getting oats out of the cupboard to perform their daily Goldilocks’ impression, but I am not in my right mind, so that is exactly what I do (the slight difference in my impersonation being that I am a brunette version of Goldilocks…Oh yeah and I don’t break into people’s houses to get my oats, especially if those people are bears).

In June then, during the hottest week England has seen in my lifetime, I was stuck in the predicament of being boiling hot and thus convinced that I didn’t need to eat because I was clearly obese. Then by 10pm when the CTO fear would hit me, I would force myself to eat despite being so warm, only I would trigger myself even more and make it even harder by making the food I was consuming a steaming bowl of porridge.
“Eat cold porridge” I hear you cry, “try overnight oats which is the exact same thing but you don’t cook it”, yet even that couldn’t solve my problem as OCD has rules about how porridge is prepared and naturally has me convinced that unless my porridge has been cooked for exactly 4 minutes and 40 seconds with stirring at the appropriate intervals, I will kill everyone on the planet. What logic!

As you can see then, summer/the season and weather in general is one of the many things that people may not think about affecting people with an eating disorder, another thing that complicates the simplified idea that people with eating disorders “just don’t eat”.
They are complex creatures, mysterious as the dark side of the moon (10 points to anyone who got that reference), and the control they hold over a person’s life creates anxieties and difficulties most people might not think about. I am of course happy for everyone out there who loves summer and if you are one of those people living in England, I really hope you are having a lovely time in the June sunshine and are feeling as sunny as…well…the sun…
In the meantime I guess I will just have to suck it up and count down until the winter months when jumpers, porridge and 24 hour darkness are socially acceptable again. My God I am a jolly soul!

Take care everyone x

SummerBear

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10 Ways To Support Someone With An Eating Disorder

Living with an eating disorder is hell, but I think it is underestimated just how horrendous it can be for the people living with people who have eating disorders. I know many parents, families, partners and friends tend to feel pretty hopeless when watching someone they love slowly drowning, without knowing how to stop it. Almost every day my mum will ask me what she can do to help, like there is some problem solving action she can perform as easily as changing a lightbulb.
I know for a fact that if there were an action she could carry out, my mum would do it in an instant no matter how inconvenient or unpleasant (I think she would even play Pictionary and she HATES Pictionary…weirdo). Unfortunately, eating disorders don’t have quick solutions and no matter how much a loved one wants to help, they cannot fix the problem. They can however support the person, and often these little offerings of support are nowhere near as dramatic as people seem to think. Supporting someone with an eating disorder doesn’t require grand complicated acts of kindness, often you can support someone with little things that don’t take much time or effort at all. So today, I am going to share with you a list of things that I find help me at home aka 10 simple ways you can help someone with an eating disorder.

1. Don’t get angry with the person, get angry with their disorder – When you have an eating disorder in the house/in any relationship, you can guarantee it is going to cause some conflict. I have lost count of the number of arguments I have had with my mum with regard to eating disorder issues like what I am eating for dinner. I honestly don’t think we have ever had an argument about anything that wasn’t mental health related (bar one argument we had in 2002 because she wanted Will Young to win Pop Idol when I was firmly on the side of Gareth Gates. I would like it noted that I can now lift my hands up and admit I was wrong on that one). Just yesterday I am ashamed to say I had an argument with my mother and yelled at her for about half an hour because she tried to help, and unknowingly put my kidney beans in the “wrong pan”.
Afterwards I felt incredibly guilty/like the worst person in the world. This guilt would have eaten me up and is the kind of thing that makes me feel that I don’t deserve food, but after we had all calmed down and I had apologised, what I found helpful is the fact that my mum made it clear that she understood that I hadn’t meant to yell about a bean pan. She knew it had just been the eating disorder taking control, and though I need to work on managing that myself, the acknowledgement that I wasn’t this terrible person who worried more about what pan my beans were in than my mother’s kind attempt at assistance, made me feel more able to continue with the meal.

2. If you are eating with someone with an eating disorder, keep them distracted and don’t make the food the sole focus of the experience – Meal times with someone with an eating disorder are not the most relaxing of situations and can be pretty intense (like one of those awkward dinner parties you see on Come Dine with me only less bitchy and without a voiceover man commenting on every little thing that occurs). For this reason, when I have to eat a meal with someone, I find it really helpful for them to help keep me distracted and not make it all about the food. Silence allows thoughts to creep in at the table, so I would recommend conversation if the person is able or, if they are unable (sometimes I cannot talk very much/think of words because I am so anxious), have the radio on in the background or play a game. Sometimes in hospital we would even do things like crosswords or little quizzes which really helped keep your mind occupied by working on something else (my favourite thing about this was that when there were bank staff they would go through the pile of quiz questions without realising which ones we had already done so we were all able to provide correct answers instantly and looked like geniuses.)

3. Allow them to take baby steps in their recovery rather than expecting miracles overnight – When people are in recovery from any mental health problem, there is often a lot of pressure for progress to be quick so that the problem can be solved and forgotten about as soon as possible. However, recovery is a very slow process and this pressure is often detrimental as it can make a sufferer more anxious and stressed. To help someone who is struggling, allow them to make progress at a steady pace they are comfortable with rather than forcing them to make dramatic changes which ultimately will not be sustainable.

4. Praise them…or don’t praise them at all – I have many friends who appreciate a little “well done” or similar nudge of encouragement after a meal to make them feel supported and like their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed, so offering those words of praise can be a great way to support a loved one. That said, I know there are others, (me included) who actually find this more unhelpful, as they like to leave the table and forget everything rather than acknowledge the meal that has just been consumed. Denial may not be the best way to deal with mealtimes, but at the moment denial is how I cope, so I am helped by nobody commenting on how fantastic it is that I have cleared my plate. For this one then, maybe ask the person you are supporting to see whether praise would be helpful to them before whipping out the party poppers to celebrate an empty bowl of cereal.

5. Try to be as relaxed as possible at the dinner table – When I sit at the table, I am always anxious, and when I can see that other people are anxious, it makes me more anxious. This then makes them more anxious and before you know we are left with a table of people panicking about a meal that hasn’t even happened yet. For this reason when supporting someone at a meal time, if possible try to be calm and relaxed to show that the situation isn’t anything to be afraid of, rather than freaking  yourself out and condoning the “THE TABLE IS A SCARY PLACE” fear.

6. Seek support for yourself – People with eating disorders need support and so do the people around them. As important as it is for carers to have an outlet somewhere to discuss their concerns and worries though, it is helpful to make that outlet someone other than the person who is struggling. When you feel that you are a terrible person who is ruining everyone’s lives because you cant eat normally, emotional outpourings condoning that are only going to make things worse. Ultimately then for this one, support someone by finding support and seeking help for yourself too.

7. Keep diet talk to a minimum if you are on a diet – Obviously when you have an eating disorder, people being on diets can be rather triggering. That said you cannot dictate that nobody who lives with someone who is struggling is allowed to have any say in what they eat. Naturally we all have needs and some people may be prescribed special diets from a doctor which of course they should follow. If this is the case however, the best way to help the sufferer manage the situation is to not make a song and dance about it (aka no conga lines for the fact you have switched to low fat yoghurt and if possible none of those “I LOST THREE STONE” certificates which diet clubs award people plastered all over the fridge).

8. Know their meal plan – Again this one depends from sufferer to sufferer but personally I find it helpful when those around me know what is on and what is expected of me in my meal plan as it makes me accountable in some way. Obviously the goal is to get to a point where I don’t need people to know what I should be eating and am able to be responsible myself, but right now my mum having a copy of my meal plan supports me every day. That way, when I am struggling and want to miss things out, I know that it is not a case of “nobody will notice so just throw the bread out of the window” as my mum would immediately wonder where the soft wholemeal has gone (and why there is half a loaf of Hovis stuck in the garden hedge)…

9. Don’t treat them like a disorder – When people see or think of me, I always feel they think of me as “the one with the eating disorder” and that I have no other identifiers to me as a person. It is therefore helpful when living with someone with an ED, to treat them as a normal person with other interests and hobbies so as to remind them that they are more than their disorder and will ultimately still have an identity left, even when the disorder is gone.

10. Do not comment on their meal plan or their body weight – This last one is probably fairly obvious but nevertheless very important so I had to include it. Whatever you do and if you only follow one of these tips as to how to support a loved one, make it this one and for the love of all that is holy NEVER comment on how much weight someone has gained on their recovery meal plan and NEVER comment on how big someone’s meal is. Eating disorder recovery meal plans may look totally normal but there are some that may perhaps be bigger than normal. Whatever the meal plan though, the person will need all the food prescribed to treat their malnourished body and repair all of the damage that has been done internally. If someone is soldiering through their meal plan trying to reassure themselves of this, the last thing they need is a comment like “blimey that is a lot of food, I couldn’t eat that”. Hand on heart a bank HCA in hospital with no experience in eating disorders sat next to me one meal time and after I had finished my main/was picking a spoon up to dive into my rhubarb crumble with custard, they commented “I don’t know how you can eat that. My main course was half the size of yours and I am already too full to eat another bite”…THAT IS NOT HELPFUL INFORMATION.

So there you have it, ten ways in which family/friends can support people with eating disorders (at least in my experience), without actually having to do much at all. Being desperate to help a loved one and wanting to support them doesn’t have to be carried out in dramatic acts like white water rafting or playing Pictionary, Sometimes all you need do to be the most helpful and make the biggest difference, is the little things like asking them for help with a crossword over their cornflakes or giving an encouraging nod at lunchtime.

Take care everyone x

supportsomeonewithed

A Message To All The People Out There Who Are “Pro-Ana”

Before I get on with the main bulk of this post I just want to preface it by clearly stating the fact that eating disorders are not a choice and are horrible illnesses that barge into and take people’s lives without those people having a chance to stop the aforementioned barging. However, as involuntary as eating disorders are, there are some people out there who for some reason see them as a glamorous and desirable life choice/thing to aspire to. It is to THESE people and not all involuntary sufferers out there, to whom I address this post. All clear? Cool, let’s get on with it…

In life, there are many types of people that I do not understand. For example, I do not understand people who eat a piece of Christmas cake and leave the icing/marzipan behind (THAT IS THE BEST PART WITHOUT THAT IT IS JUST RAISINS), neither do I understand the people planning to vote for Donald Trump in the upcoming election. Possibly the most confusing people to me however, are those who frequent “pro anorexia” websites online (yeah. That’s right. They confuse me even more than Donald Trump supporters. At least Donald Trump has floppy hair you can laugh at when he is spouting bile. Anorexia has no floppy hair and therefore no room for visual comedy). If you didn’t know already, pro-anorexia websites are basically as horrendously sick and disturbing as they sound. Having avoided them like the plague myself, I cannot provide an in depth image as to what they show, but from what I gather it is pretty much a lot of pictures of skeletal bodies that people stare at in order to inspire them to achieve the beauty of collarbones that make you look like you have swallowed a coat hanger. There also may be forums where people can discuss diet tips, encourage each other not to eat and who generally see anorexia as something that is desirable, that they want to have (hence the ‘pro’ in the name).

Now I am not one to tell people what to do. When I do not understand someone’s life choices I am not going to stand in their way and insist they change their deepest desires. Though I do not understand people who leave the icing and marzipan from the top of Christmas cakes (or indeed people who choose to eat Christmas cake when the other option is chocolate log…there is no decision there…obviously it is chocolate log every time), I have never spied an icing abandoner, approached them in outrage and chased them down the street waving the forgotten almond paste and fondant. This is because although I do not understand this behaviour, I trust that they have tried icing before and following the full experience and all the knowledge available, they know that cake without icing is really what they want.
When it comes to people who want eating disorders however, I simply cannot allow myself to sit back and let them make these life “choices”, as in my eyes the only person who would ever make such a decision as to get an eating disorder would be a poor uninformed soul who doesn’t really know what they are getting into. For this reason then, today I thought I would just write a little post to all those people who want eating disorders, in order for them to realise what life with an eating disorder really is like. Basically I am enlarging the font of the little set of “terms and conditions” that accompany the joy of being thin and not eating, so that people can be sure it is what they want. So to all people who want to have an eating disorder, that is cool, but before you go ahead and seek one out, here are a few things that I want you all to know:

1. Eating Disorders are not great for your physical health: Not eating is great and all but it is important to be aware that not eating is potentially fatal and is the reason that eating disorders are the number one killers in terms of mental health problems. Even if you don’t die they will definitely wreck your body, so before investing in an eating disorder you may want to say goodbye to your health first, as lord knows you wont be seeing it for a while. For one thing your hair is going to fall out in clumps, your skin is going to become dry and pale and you will probably have bags under your eyes so big that you can fit a week’s food shop in them (no more paying 5p for a carrier from Tesco for you! Bargain!). You are also going to be freezing cold all the time no matter what the weather, so in preparation you may want to purchase forty to fifty hot water bottles, blankets and thick thermal fleecy undergarments (sexy). This does have the benefit of making you a good pastry chef (as all bake off fans will know, cold hands are essential to a good apple pie), but on the down side you won’t be able to eat that pastry without agonising guilt afterwards… Also you may want to buy a wheel chair or walking stick as eating disorders love to screw with your bones (picture anorexia as a dog having a good old gnaw on your elbow until most of the bone has chipped away, leaving an osteoporosis filled powder). Oh yeah, and if you want kids anorexia will probably render you infertile too, but hey, who cares! You will save a tonne on child care and you get to be thin right? Wrong…

2. Eating Disorders do not make you thin: This disclaimer is a tricky one but allow me to explain. Basically there seems to be this idea that when you have an eating disorder attacking your mind, this will be physically evident in a lot of weight loss. For one thing, not all eating disorders involve weight loss, and for another thing even if they do, you will not be able to appreciate it. Sure you will be able to get on the scales and see the numbers go down but when you look at the reflection in the mirror it is likely you will not see that weight loss at all. Interestingly, when you don’t eat enough and become underweight, self perception becomes more and more distorted, so you may even see yourself as having gained when really the opposite is true. Its just a fun little game eating disorders like to play (the jokers!), so if wanting an eating disorder to “look thin” then maybe look elsewhere in terms of life goals and ambitions as looking thin is not a package deal with an eating disorder. The physical complications mentioned above are a package deal no matter what though, so no worries there.

3. Eating Disorders do not make you happy: Much like the myth that eating disorders make you thin, there is the idea that they will make you happy (probably because there is the association that being thin makes you happy but the happiness idea remains nonetheless). Yeah, if you want an eating disorder because you think it will make you happier, once again I would advise you to reconsider, as being undernourished is actually a way to encourage our good friend depression to join the party rather than the desired eternal bliss. Often anxiety will pop round too, so again be aware that those two delights are part of the package deal. You will often note that in these pictures on ‘thinspiration’ websites there will often be “models” without a face (primarily the images show thigh gaps and rib cages), and the reason for this is because were consumers to see the full image, the whole thing wouldn’t look so appealing. After all it is a lot more difficult to sell the idea of how beautiful a hipbone is when the owner of said bone is crying and waiting for the pain inside to end.

4. Eating disorders will mess up your social life: Aside from the effects eating disorders will have on your body and mood, it is also important to note that they affect your social life, and by “affect” I mean utterly destroy it until you are left all alone. You can have the best friends in the world but ultimately with all the “catch ups over drinks” and “dinner reservations” you will constantly find yourself avoiding them as you cannot join in with any activity whatsoever. You may be thinking “Ok I will ruin pizza night but I can still go out to play mini golf with friends”. That is a really nice thought, yet alas this will get ruined as well. Even if an activity is not revolving around food, you will still not want to go either because you have exercises to do or because you are too miserable, anxious/hate yourself and are too self conscious to socialise.

5. Eating disorders will/are likely to cause some issues in the workplace: Much like socialising with friends, working or holding down a job will also become impossible with an eating disorder, even if your job is not food related. Again we have the classics of depression and anxiety making it hard to leave the house, as well as the required sick days for your battered physique (you may pick up virus’ and illnesses a lot easier than most people due to damaged immune system, so stock up on the cough syrup). Bigger than that however will be the issue of concentration. Yeah…with an eating disorder your ability to function mentally will spiral away faster than water down a plug hole (especially water down the plug hole in your bath remember as all your hair will have fallen out and blocked the pipes with soggy wodges of entangled strands). Ahh, nothing says “living the life” like a Saturday night spent in the house pulling hair bundles the size of kittens from your drain (top tip: if you put goggly eyes on those bundles they look even more like kittens. They are adorable. Great Christmas presents too and December is coming! Get malting!). With mental functioning at an all time low then, it is likely you will lose any job you do have and money problems will likely follow as well as our old pals who love to join money problems for a party, depression and anxiety!

So that is only five of the terms and conditions important to be aware of when wanting an eating disorder (there are millions, trust me), but I think that for now I have made my point/ helped potential eating disorder investors to be a little more aware of what they are desiring/encouraging when scrolling through those pro anorexia websites. Like I said, I am not one to tell anyone what to do so if these points don’t diminish the glamour of the thigh gap photos, then go ahead and have fun. I just want you to know what you are getting yourself into so you can make an informed decision. There are people out there who want eating disorders, but I doubt they would find the unwelcome surprises that come with them as appealing.

Take care everyone x

pro-anorexia

Born Without Marbles Is Now On YouTube!

What is this? A born without marbles post on a Friday? What is going on? I thought they only came on Mondays? Someone contact the BBC and get Fiona Bruce to report this (actually don’t bother. I already contacted them. They weren’t interested). No, this is not actually the usual Monday blog post, it is in fact an announcement to let you all know that Born Without Marbles is now not just on my website…IT IS NOW ON YOUTUBE AS WELL! Are you thrilled? Now you can hear me waffle as well as read about it every Monday! Bless this happy happy day! Anyway, this is just to let everyone know that the channel is there so feel free to take a gander and subscribe if you fancy (and by if you fancy I mean please subscribe even if you don’t fancy. Trust me, All the cool kids are doing it so it must be a good idea). I won’t post on here every time I upload a video (unless that wouldn’t be annoying/you wouldn’t mind), so be sure to check on the Youtubes for my face whenever you can.

Hope you are all having a marvellous day, take care everyone x