Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2019.

I’ve spoken about food, eating and (my) relationship with food a lot recently not knowing that last week (25th February – 3rd March) here in the UK was Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

I recently discovered the amazing Instagram account @phellanwell aka Laura Phelan ED Specialist, and felt the immediate urge to grab my laptop and start scribbling down my thoughts.

I’ve always struggled to get my words down on paper about my eating disorder because well, it’s hard.

Hard to relive the darkest days and moments where I genuinely didn’t think I’d recover. I’ve opened up before about the moment that marked the first step in redefining my relationship with food, but never actually before that because I can’t really remember it all.

But I do remember a few moments that I’m happy to share below.

I remember being cold, tired and irritable. Teary, angry, stressy, and tired. Tired all the time. Did I mention that?

I took a photo of myself on my Blackberry and I was both horrified and pleased at the same time – I looked so pale, ghostly almost. But that wasn’t enough to stop me. I continued my ways for months after that photo was taken. I would walk home feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders and reward myself with a mentos mint. Eating dinner from a side plate with children’s cutlery so my mouthfuls would be smaller.

I remember vividly eating a caramel muffin at school in our Sixth Form Centre just before an exam because I thought to myself, I need this energy, I cannot fall asleep during and I cannot fail. As I took a bite, one of my teachers said out loud, ‘big enough bite of that muffin?’

Everyone in the Sixth Form Centre heard and turned to look – I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I was horrified that I was caught eating and ‘something like a muffin’ at that.

A few months into my recovery, a friend text me saying she was really proud of me that day for eating that muffin and now I know that my teacher was probably proud of me too. But he didn’t know that for the days following, I threw my lunches in the bin.

One thing that I didn’t understand until recently is that it’s not about being thin or hitting a goal weight. You’ll never be thin enough and that goal weight will never be low enough. It’s a battle with you mind. Your mind bullies your body until one day the voice in your head is so loud it takes over and it’s all you can hear. No amount of hunger, help or support from you family, friends or loved ones is enough to silence it.

It’s really hard to explain how and why I suffered from an eating disorder but I know one aspect of it is was that I craved control but food ended up controlling me.

I don’t feel that way anymore. It doesn’t have as much of a grip on me. Sure there are still tricky days, but I know I can deal with them.

I am more determined than ever to NEVER let it get the better of me again. It stole far too much of my time.

I recently shared this photo on my Instagram (you can find the full caption here) but the reason I wanted to share was for a few reasons.

1. I’m often asked to share what I eat in a day and there is a reason why I don’t.
2. I used to avoid peanut butter, jam and bread like the plague.
3. I wanted to prove that you can re-learn to enjoy the foods that you used to terrified off.
4. I enjoyed every bite.

An eating disorder can affect ANYbody. At any age, at any time. Anybody can struggle with their relationship with food. You’ll never know from just looking at someone.

It may seem a bit strange to share a photo of food with a caption like that, but it felt more fitting and appropriate to share that instead of a ‘candid’ shot of me smiling. ED’s aren’t happy and they aren’t smiley*.

The relationship you have with food is more important that the foods you decide to eat. If you want the muffin, have it. Don’t let it make you feel bad or dictate how the rest of your day pans out.

And whilst were discussing the foods we decide to eat, let’s talk about Ash Wednesday, more commonly known as Lent.

Wednesday 6th March 2019 marked the start of lent – a religious occasion when Christians practice 40 days of penitence and fasting. In our modern world, it basically marks a definitive day when lots of people decide to abstain from something. Usually food, and usually a type of food that is considered bad. Chocolate, sweets, bread are just a few examples I’ve seen.

My eating disorder LOVED Lent. It arose as the perfect opportunity to say no to everything I considered ‘bad’. You name it and I’d ‘given it up for lent’.

(Please note, I’m not saying that everyone who did or does this has a negative relationship with food nor will this cause that. I am just saying this is what I did).

I’m always cautious when Lent comes around because it bears a lot of focus on food and quite often, ‘fear foods’. So this year, if you’re planning on giving something up for lent, why not drift the focus away from food and ask yourself this…

What could you give up that would improve your life? Aimless scrolling? Giving up putting others before yourself?

I personally think we’re too hard on ourselves as it is. So instead of deciding to give up chocolate (and then spend the whole month thinking about how many Easter Eggs you’re going to have when it’s all over) why not eat the chocolate and focus your efforts on something else.

One thing I want to abstain from is self doubt. I spent February working on me for me and I’m going to continue this into March, April, May… There isn’t enough space (or time) in my life for self doubt so I’m going to work on eliminating it.

It’s not going to be easy, but it’s sure as hell going to be worth it.

Eating disorders affect too many people but you can recover.

There are so many charities, networks, people and places that offer incredible support and help and I urge you to reach out if you’re struggling.

You don’t need to suffer in silence. You can beat it. I promise you.

Amy xo.

*Disclaimer: I am not a registered nutritionist, dietician or psychologist and if you feel that you need to speak to a professional, I really do urge you to do so. However,  if you want to talk about anything, I will always try to help! My DM’s emails and comments are ALWAYS open.

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