TRIGGER WARNING: This post talks about eating disorders including bulimia and binge eating disorders and restriction. Please don’t read this post if these topics are sensitive for you and may trigger you.
Today’s post is more of a personal one but I think it’s really important to spread awareness of mental illnesses including eating disorders.
This is my eating disorder recovery story.
So if you haven’t already guessed from the title, today marks one year since my last purge. I have suffered from bulimia and binge eating disorder (BED) for many years but I actually only got diagnosed last year as I finally went to the doctors about it.
For a little bit of background information, I should probably tell you that I have had issues with my body image and eating since I was around 10 (that’s 11 years). I vividly remember being in Year 6 and holding in my stomach for hours on end.
Since then I have suffered from body dysmorphia and tried every diet under the sun. By the age of 13, I was attending slimming world and obsessed with trying to lose weight. I went through periods of restricting calories and binge eating – it was a horrible, continuous cycle.
I didn’t start making myself sick until I was 18 and had started at university. My second year was when it started getting pretty bad. I was being sick 5-6 times a day and not really keeping any meals down. It was my way of trying to feel in control of everything that was going on around me.
It became really addictive and it started affecting my health. The final straw was when I fainted at the gym at my first ever session with a personal trainer and I realised that I was actually quite ill.
I finally told the doctor what was going on and she diagnosed me with bulimia and binge eating disorder. I was sent for blood tests and found out I was severely anemic and my liver wasn’t functioning properly (this was also due to the copious amounts of alcohol I was drinking at the time but more on that later).
I was referred to an eating disorder therapist and to say he saved my life would be an understatement. He is still my therapist to this day (for other mental illnesses) and I am so grateful to have him in my life.
At the time of my eating disorder getting worse, I was also struggling with drinking too much alcohol. I’d drink liters of pure vodka multiple times a month and I don’t think there was a night out where I wasn’t sick. So you can probably understand why my body was giving up on me as I was treating it like sh*t.
I remember my first day of therapy, my therapist challenged me to go a whole week without purging and I remember thinking I would never be able to do that. But here I am writing this post, having gone a whole year without making myself sick. My recovery hasn’t been linear (it never is), and I still have days where I just want to be sick and convince myself that one-time won’t hurt.
But for one whole year, I have managed to resist the urge to purge and treat my body with the respect it deserves.
I don’t want this post to just be my eating disorder recovery story. I’d like to share some nuggets of wisdom I have learned from therapy and throughout my recovery that have helped me get through this last year without purging.
Acknowledge it and Reach Out
I spent many years denying I had any problems with food and therefore it went unnoticed. Even when I was making myself sick I refused to believe there was something wrong. The first step to recovery is acknowledging you have an issue – it’s hard but necessary!
Believe You Can Recover
Whether you’ve been dealing with an eating disorder for days or years, it can sometimes feel like there’s no way out. But this is not true. Recovery is 100% possible but you have to be motivated to recover too.
I couldn’t have gone through recovery without the help of my family, boyfriend, friends and my therapist! Reaching out for help was the best thing I did and was the beginning of my recovery.
I really recommend speaking to a doctor if you are having any issues with food. Speak to someone you trust, whether it’s a friend or family member, and tell them what’s going on. It can be easier to deal with an eating disorder with the help of other people, so you don’t feel so alone!
Therapists can help you to challenge your food rules and “all or nothing” thinking towards food, which helps you to stop engaging in the binge/purge cycle – this is definitely what helped me!
Stop Restricting Foods
Dieting and food restriction often naturally leads to binge or emotional overeating. From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense that starvation or the threat of future starvation would trigger us instinctively to binge eat.
Even if you don’t physically restrict food, you may be emotionally restricting food Emotional deprivation is the concept of allowing yourself to eat a certain food, but continuing to feel shame and guilt around your food choices.
Emotional deprivation can trigger the binge-purge cycle, as the thought behind it is often, “I am eating this now, but I won’t allow myself to eat it tomorrow.” This mindset triggers binge eating, as it is the perceived threat of starvation or deprivation.
I found that stopping restricting foods has helped me stop thinking of food as the enemy and it has really helped me stop binging. Even if I do binge, I don’t feel guilty about it, I just accept it and move on.
Practicing mindfulness is something I never thought would help with my eating disorder. But actually, it has played a massive role in my recovery. Meditation is part of my morning routine and evening routine and I sometimes meditate during the day as well.
Being in the moment can help you work through feelings and resist urges to binge. I like to practice mindfulness when I have an urge to binge or purge as it grounds me and I can usually identify what the trigger is.
Have A Plan
“A goal without a plan is just a wish”
Eating disorder recovery is a process and it is important to have a plan in place. This can be a plan for when you have urges, a food plan (if that’s what your doctor recommends), a safety plan, etc.
I hope this post helps you feel less alone and helps you in some way. For anyone who is struggling right now, I want you to know that recovery is possible and you will get through this.
Please don’t be afraid to ask for help and talk to someone you trust. Below are some resources for eating disorders that I have found useful in the past and hope you will find them helpful too.
Anorexia and Bulimia Care (ABC) – 03000 11 12 13 & anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk