Anorexia Nervosa

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Anorexia Nervosa
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    Procrastinating Eating Meals as a Symptom of Anorexia Nervosa

    I’m a procrastinator — but not in the way you think. I stress about projects when I don’t start them early enough. I feel safe and comfortable when I know I have a head-start on my to-do list. There’s just one problem: I use the stress I feel about procrastinating on deadlines to procrastinate on eating . In college, I studied so diligently that I would convince myself to study five minutes longer — and then only 10 minutes longer and then just 15 minutes longer — before I ate dinner. As midterms and finals drew closer, I’d find myself reluctantly preparing dinner at 9 or 10 p.m. because I had spent so long doing anything but eating. And when I had too many extracurriculars on my plate, my dubious eating habits would seep into lunchtime — and I wouldn’t eat until the late afternoon. I didn’t see my habits as unhealthy — I was simply too busy to eat in a typical timeframe. At the time, though, I was completely unaware I had a full-blown eating disorder — and my fashionably late meals were just another symptom. When I lugged textbooks, kitchenware, and apartment décor home after my college graduation, my “food procrastination” followed me back to my hometown as well. I couldn’t seem to eat lunch on time, and eventually, my untraditional schedule as a respite care worker meant I could continue to procrastinate on eating. I wasn’t working a 9-5 job with a set lunch break, so I could eat whenever I wanted — and my eating disordered-mind took full advantage of my schedule. I know my behavior wasn’t “typical,” but I assumed my internal clock was aligned later than others’ were. It was all just a quirky personal habit — not anything serious. A couple of years later, I received the shock of my life when I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. The diagnosis didn’t feel like it fit me because I was missing so many of the hallmark anorexia symptoms. The reality, though, was that I was subconsciously scared of weight gain, I didn’t eat enough to adequately fuel my body, and I delayed meals so as to avoid triggers. However, I had not yet arrived at the realization that my late meals served a dangerous purpose, so I carried on with putting off every meal until the last possible minute. When I entered eating disorder treatment, meals were highly regimented. Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Lunch at noon. Dinner at 5:30 p.m. No exceptions. I was blown away at how early every meal seemed to be skewed, but come mealtime, I ate every bite. I was determined to be the “perfect” eating disorder treatment client — even if it meant giving up my late lunches and dinners. However, when I left residential eating disorder treatment, my “food procrastination” came back in full force. I had no one telling me when to eat anymore, so when I wasn’t in my part-day treatment program, I took full advantage of my freedom. As I began chipping away at the motivation behind my eating disorder behavior, though, I began to fully realize that I procrastinate on eating meals. Entering treatment brought new triggers — and a renewed desire to distance myself from the complex feelings that ignited my eating disorder — so delaying meals was a surefire way to avoid thinking too much, feeling too much, and recovering too much. Even now, three years into my eating disorder recovery, I still struggle with “food procrastination.” On days when I feel emotionally numb or struggle with eating disorder thoughts, eating meals on time feels especially daunting. Even buying food at the grocery store can feel like too much to handle — especially if I know I need to buy potentially challenging snack foods. I tell myself that if I postpone the inevitable food challenge outing or grocery shopping trip long enough, it’ll be “too late” to go, and I’ll simply need to cope with the triggers later. I force myself to believe that eating meals late is more recovery-oriented than not eating them at all — and in doing so, I reinforce my eating disorder. I still tell myself that I’ll eat “after I finish this homework,” “after I’m done working,” or “after this YouTube video ends,” but I also know I have accountability. My family gently encourages me to eat meals in a “typical” timeframe, and my friends hold me accountable for picking up my favorite foods no later than when I say I will. I also remind myself that food is necessary, and delaying inevitable triggers may just increase my anxiety. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever stop procrastinating on eating — but I’m now aware of why I delay meals and snacks, I have support, and I’m working hard to kick this eating disorder behavior to the curb.

    Community Voices
    Community Voices
    Community Voices

    How to help deal with the new requirement for calories on menus

    The new requirement for restaurants and cafes to display calories on menus will no doubt challenge people with eating disorders – myself included, as I have personally suffered with anorexia. Here are some things to remember, which might help if you’re struggling with this.

    Firstly, calories aren’t the enemy. Calories are simply units of energy, which everyone needs in order for your body to carry out its basic functions. You wouldn’t tell your younger self that you couldn’t have that cookie because it had ‘too many’ calories in it, would you? You wouldn’t make your younger self have that plain salad instead of pizza would you? So why would you now? You are still as deserving as your younger self to have full food freedom and have permission to live your life to the fullest, without a number on a flimsy menu telling you otherwise.

    Secondly, for someone with an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, it may be hard to have foods that you’re scared you may not like, and it be a ‘waste of calories’. But calories aren’t a currency you spend, they’re something everyone needs to live! When you’re older, looking back on your life, don’t you want to say you made the most of it, and enjoyed it to the fullest? Don’t let a number control you. Calories aren’t money and you don’t need to ‘save’ them up, or decide what to get with them. You control food. Don’t let food control you. Because a life of food freedom, will always be better than a life listening to an eating disorder.

    Lastly, calories aren’t an exact science. They’re simply an indicator of how much energy a food contains. Your body doesn’t care if it’s had X more calories than usual; it only cares that it’s getting enough fuel.

    #BodyPositivity #EatingDisorderRecovery #anorexiarecovery #Selfacceptance #eatingdisorderawareness #tipsandtricks

    One thing I can promise you is that once you push through the hardest parts of recovery, you will not regret it. I can't promise that things will be perfect, or that recovery will be easy. But I promise that you will find yourself again and things will be so much better than they are.

    So, don’t let this new law knock you back. Get that pudding. Eat what younger you would really want. You wouldn’t tell your friends they couldn’t have something, so why would you tell yourself that? Don’t let a number on a menu get in the way of you enjoying yourself and creating memories. You’ve got this!

    Community Voices

    When Crisis is Your Default

    I always wonder what it’s like to be “normal.” I’ve never experienced it. Ever since I can remember, I was riddled with anxiety, living in constant worry. When I was a kid, I didn’t understand it, and neither did my parents. I would get so anxious about going to school, even in kindergarten, I would be physically sick. I didn’t know how to express what I was feeling, so I would just tell my parents my stomach hurt and I felt sick. They chalked it up to having a kid who didn’t want to wake up early and wanted to go back to bed, and sent me to school with a “barf bag” and told me I could come home when I filled it up.
    I remember in first grade, my best friend had appendecitis, and was in the hospital for about a week after her surgery. When she told me what happened (in true first grade fashion- that her appendix almost “exploded” inside her), I was consumed with the fear that mine would, too. The smallest side cramp sent me into a full blown panic that my insides were going to explode. Again, my parents just chalked it up to having a hypochondriac child. The early signs of my mental illnesses were written off, and honestly, who could blame them? I grew up in the nineties, the mental health movement wasn’t exactly booming.
    Things that would send me into full blown panic earned me the labels of being dramatic, lazy, a hypochondriac. I would hoard paper under my bed and have a melt down when my mom would throw my papers away. They weren’t important- literally just scraps. But it was enough to send me into a meltdown. If my brother made a mess in our room, I would have a full blown mental break down and be so overwhelmed I would sit on the floor and scream and cry. I even had a pair of orange shorts that I would strictly only wear with the pockets turned out. God FORBID if my mom tried to tuck them in. These were all labeled as quirks.
    It wasn’t until I hit middle school that things started seeming… off. I could sort of express how I was feeling, but wasn’t very educated on what it was.
    I began making myself throw up every day after lunch in seventh grade. I’d leave lunch early to go to the bathroom and purge and then head to gym class like nothing happened.
    By the end of my freshman year of high school, I was bestowed with a bi polar diagnosis and promptly started on medication. I went from having such violent mood swings, where I would literally go from screaming to laughing to crying to back to screaming within a half an hour, like a broken record of emotion, to being somewhat stable. I stopped purging, but instead just stopped eating almost altogether.
    By the time I went to college, I received yet another diagnosis- OCD. At the time, I thought it was ridiculous. I didn’t flip the light switch seven times, or circle the block twice before leaving for class. And that’s when my psychiatrist explained that that wasn’t what OCD really was. It was “anxiety on crack.” Once I learned the ins and outs of the illness, everything clicked. It felt like my whole life was put into perspective. The fear of leaving the house, the constant worry about my health and my parents health (even though we were all relatively healthy), even down to the orange shorts with the pockets turned out. All I’d ever known was anxiety, I just… didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know that’s not how everyone felt all the time.
    By my sophomore year of college, the anorexia got out of hand and I was slapped with an official diagnosis for that, as well. I was 5”3 and down to 90lbs, give or take. My period had completely stopped, my hair started to fall out, my teeth had began to deteriorate. And I wasn’t doing it to be skinny—I was doing it to be in control. Just to be in control of something, because my life had always been a constant state of crisis and chaos. I couldn’t control my moods or my thoughts, and a lot of times, even my impulses, but I could control what I ate. Now, six years later, I look back at pictures of me and my friends and I don’t recognize myself. I distinctly remember thinking I was a little chubby, but in reality I was so tiny you could make out my bones. I would wear baggy clothes to hide my “chub” but really just looked like a sickly toddler swimming in a man’s XL t -shirt.
    And then, I just started to get better. I was getting professional medical help, I was in therapy, and I was on a solid medication regiment. I had a wonderful support system between my friends, family, and professors. And honestly, college was the best time of my life. Not because of the parties, or the flings, or the fresh taste of freedom. It was so great because I was able to heal. I was able to be genuinely happy and relatively care free. It was like I was reborn. I went from a constant state of flight or fight, constantly worrying about what would go wrong, to enjoying life and truly finding who I was when the illnesses weren’t taking over. And I loved her. She was smart and funny and kind.
    I’m twenty-seven now. I lost my job about a year ago, and I just got medical insurance back this month. Im starting my medications again. And in the past year, I regressed a lot. Things are still bad. But I’m looking forward to healing, once again, and finding that girl who had a passion for life.

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    Community Voices

    These past months have been so hard, I feel like giving up on everything and I keep having suicidal thoughts. It scares me so much. It's also hard to eat (I used to have anorexia nervosa).
    I haven't been able to see my therapist because I'm scared I'm just going to blow up. I have a school exam next month and I can't afford breaking down more than this.
    I feel the desperate need for someone to take care of me, but my most, huge desire is to be more independent and more like my own person, functional enough to act on my life. I'm scared of being the one that is supposed to get help. But I don't know how to be a real person. #Therapy #Depression #SuicidalThoughts #AnorexiaNervosa

    Community Voices
    Megan Glosson

    Compliments for Your Partner in Eating Disorder Recovery

    Since I first met my partner back in 2018, I’ve watched her make incredible progress in her recovery from anorexia nervosa. Even though my partner is in fairly solid recovery at this point, she still deals with body image issues from time to time. Because of this, I am trying to find more ways to compliment my partner without making it about her body. I know I’m not the only person with a partner in recovery from an eating disorder. I also know that it’s hard to shift into a mindset of offering compliments that have absolutely nothing to do with a person’s body image because it’s such a common occurrence in modern society. However, I hope this list of 40 compliments can help others give their partners a confidence boost without triggering body image issues. You’re an incredible person. I admire your strength. Your face lights up the room. You’re so smart. I love your sense of humor. You’re such a great listener. You always know just what to say. I really admire that about you. I always appreciate your honesty. You have so many talents. I love your smile. You’re so down to earth. I love that about you. You make me so happy. I love the way you make me feel. You’re so fun to hang out with. You have the best laugh. I love your resilience. You always make me feel less alone. Your kindness is contagious. You make me feel safe. I really admire your work ethic. You’re such a great (insert hobby). You always make me feel so calm. I can’t imagine my life without you. You’re incredibly empathetic. You smell amazing. I can always count on you. You have such a big heart. Our conversations always make me feel better. You’re always so supportive. I’m so proud of how far you’ve come. You’re so dependable. I love the way you carry yourself. Your hair looks amazing. You always look great when you (insert activity). I love your fierce heart. You bring out the best in me. You’re a work of art. I admire your bravery. You bring so much joy into my life. I love you just the way you are. As you can tell from this list, there are lots of ways to compliment your partner without drawing attention to their body. It just takes a bit of creativity and thoughtful attention. If your partner has a hard time talking about their body, these compliments may help.

    Chloe Q.

    The Importance of Early Intervention for Eating Disorders

    Why is early intervention for eating disorders so important? As with many illnesses, early intervention and detection play a key role in recovery. Research has shown that taking quick action improves not only the likelihood of recovery but reduces long-term symptoms. All of this combined can reduce the occurrence of relapse and improve the overall quality of life. There has also been evidence that when teenagers with anorexia nervosa are given family-based treatment promptly (within the first three years of the illness), they have a much greater chance of lasting recovery. Through adequate early intervention, medical issues presented by eating disorders can be addressed and dealt with quickly. It also allows the person experiencing the disorder to begin work on healing the mental impacts. This progress is arguably the most difficult to overcome, and therefore takes time and a significant amount of effort. Much like an addiction, kicking an eating disorder for good is more difficult the longer it’s present in the brain. But if the individual begins treatment early enough, it allows them to work on eliminating behaviors, addresses comorbid conditions, and helps them develop a relapse prevention plan. Eating disorders are preventable illnesses! There’s no doubt in my mind that eating disorders are entirely preventable when the right tools are in place. There are a variety of methods that can be used to provide training to medical professionals, and those who work closely with key groups. Training for general practitioners, counselors, therapists, teachers, lecturers, coaches, etc is particularly important. It’s thought that early intervention starts with prevention. This means that education and screening are at the forefront of stopping the onset of eating disorders. Beat Eating Disorder’s national officer for Northern Ireland, Nicola Armstrong, has this to say about early intervention: “Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that impact around 37,500 people in Northern Ireland. We know that the sooner somebody with an eating disorder accesses quality treatment, the higher their chances of making a full and sustained recovery. That’s why it’s so important that our healthcare system is equipped to identify eating disorder behaviours quickly and that services are available to anybody who needs it, regardless of how long the person has been unwell. At Beat, we would encourage the Northern Ireland Executive to fund quality eating disorder training and staffing for healthcare professionals, so that they have the tools that they need to spot the signs of eating disorders quickly and signpost patients to support. We have also been campaigning for the 10 year Mental Health Strategy to secure its full amount of funding from the Northern Ireland Executive, which is crucial for improving eating disorder care across the nation.” What barriers prevent successful early intervention? One of the main barriers to early intervention is the focus on weight rather than the symptoms of the illness. Unless your physical weight is within a dangerously low category, help is often denied. Even if mental and physical health is at risk. Anorexia is often what comes to mind when you think of an eating disorder. However, there are a variety of other illnesses under the umbrella that are flying under the radar. These often receive little to no treatment, leaving patients without support indefinitely. Phoebe works on a psychiatric ward and has personal experience with an eating disorder. “Part of why a lot of people get denied treatment is on the basis of weight.” she states, “Since working on an acute psychiatric ward, it’s become even more obvious to me how absurd it is to measure someone’s mental illness on weight or physical observations. Someone could be highly distressed and disabled by their eating disorder. But if their blood sugar and pressure are OK, they’re dismissed. Meanwhile, we don’t measure the severity of someone’s schizophrenia or major depressive disorder by their physical observations.” Alongside weight stigma, there are many other barriers in the way of early intervention such as the following. There is a severe lack of funding for eating disorder research and treatment. This applies across the UK, with Northern Ireland being among one of the lowest regions for available funding. Partially due to funding is the lack of resources available.That includes treatment facilities, therapists, groups etc. As well as weight stigma, there is also a stigma surrounding eating disorders in regards to gender, race, socio-economic background and age. Lived experience with early intervention Thank you to all those who have lent their experience to this article. Everyone has a different experience with treatment, some good, others not so much. The purpose of this is to highlight the experiences of others and their thoughts on early intervention. Please be kind when commenting and bear in mind that experience with treatment is individual to everyone. My personal experience with inadequate early intervention As someone who has struggled with anorexia for years, I can clearly see the impact that inadequate treatment has had. While I received treatment as a teenager, their methods were, in my opinion, poor. Firstly, I had to travel 40 minutes from home for a simple one-hour appointment. I missed important classes, events, and time with friends who, at the time, were my lifeline. The guidance and support given to my parents was non-existent. It’s no surprise that they were unsure how to handle my illness! In the grand scheme of things, I can understand that this isn’t the worst-case scenario. I was very lucky to have any intervention, no matter how awful it was. Many from my home country have had to travel across seas for even the most basic of treatment. I was certainly one of the lucky ones in that regard. However, the level of treatment received was basic, to say the least. It was primitive, clearly generic, and carried out as quickly as possible. The key goal from day one was weight gain in order to complete discharge, even if that meant you were still mentally unwell. Adam’s experience I feel had we been given support when my family and I first reached out for help, we wouldn’t have suffered for so long. It would have also potentially prevented the physical complications I’ve since experienced. I’ve also had various hospital admissions and operations, all caused by me being so unwell. Not to mention the trauma we’ve had to endure. Early intervention isn’t just about increasing chances of recovery. It’s about preventing years of suffering, physical, emotional, social, and financial complications. Phoebe’s experience I wasn’t able to access “early intervention” when in a relapse despite having been hospitalized with anorexia a couple of years earlier. As the tale so classically goes, once they decided I needed treatment I didn’t want it and ended up in a worse state than ever before. It’s no wonder that people presenting with an eating disorder for the first time get turned away if someone with an established diagnosis can’t get help!

    Community Voices

    Not a teenage, skinny white girl

    “Wait? Are you going to eat that? You’ll gain weight!” “Congratulations, you’ve lost weight – now lose some more and then you’ll be happy”. These are some thoughts, people with #AnorexiaNervosa may experience, and I wanted to help spread awareness of the topic. I have suffered from an #EatingDisordersanorexia, and It’s the eating disorder I feel most able to talk about. However, we mustn’t forget that despite anorexia being the most publicized, it’s by no means the only eating disorder, or necessarily the most dangerous, and all eating disorders are serious and require help and intervention, and only 10% of diagnosed eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa.

    When you think of anorexia, what do you think of? A skinny girl? Someone on a diet that’s gone too far. Someone who wants attention. Let me tell you this. Anorexia is rarely any of these. It’s not the often depicted skinny, teenage white girl who has ultimate self-control, anorexia is overweight people of color, middle-aged men, healthy-weight women, and takes in every shape and form- it’s a state of mind, not a look. The media often glamourises anorexia, making it seem like ‘the perfect diet’, bombarding our social media feed with ‘how to lose a stone in a day’ or people showing off their perfect breakfast, of a glass of lemon water with a side of air captioning it ‘big breakfast today!’

    This is not anorexia, anorexia is hell. I’ve missed many social occasions and I’ve broken trust, and that doesn’t even begin to describe the impact of anorexia on my life. Nothing, absolutely nothing is glamorous about that. I’ve had doctors tell me I was just killing myself, meanwhile, I was thinking about how I could get away with skipping my next meal.

    It controls your life. So don’t for one minute think anorexia is self-control. It’s being so out of control that you care more about depriving yourself of food than anything else in the world. I’ve lied to people that were just trying to help and support me in the past, just so I could please an illness that was trying to kill me. What’s so glamorous about that? And I would go to extreme lengths to comply with the illness, to please its demands.

    Not all people with anorexia are emaciated (in fact 97% of those with eating disorders are not underweight). Not all calorie count, excessively exercise, purge, wear baggy clothes or have fear foods. You can have anorexia, and not have/do any of those things. Eating disorders are so individual, and BMI should never determine an eating disorder diagnosis. It’s an eating disorder, not a weight disorder. Someone’s weight says nothing about how much or little they are struggling.

    The reality of anorexia, is hair loss, #Infertility , extreme coldness, #Insomnia , tiredness, and you know what? 1 in 10 die from it. As I said before, what’s glamorous about that? And if someone with anorexia hasn’t been hospitalized, force-fed, impatient etc, they are equally as valid, equally as in need of help. Anorexia can be lonely people on online forums competing to be the illest. Anorexia can be falling so behind in education that you feel you’ll never catch up, anorexia is not dramatic. Anorexia is your life slowly falling apart, piece by piece until you have quite literally lost everything you once had. Anorexia is so many things, but please do not portray it as the skinny white girl in magazines.

    The media doesn’t necessarily cause all eating disorders or is the absolute sole cause of them, but they certainly normalise disordered eating. Why should I care what user2737482 on Instagram is having for dinner? I need to nourish my body, as do you, and that’s that.

    If you take away one thing from this article, let it be that you never know what someone is going through, and don’t make any assumptions about people’s mental state by their appearance, but if we treat each other will compassion and love, we can’t go too far wrong 🙂