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.
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!
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.
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
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 #EatingDisorders – anorexia, 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 🙂