Culturally, eating disorders are associated with models, ballerinas and teenage girls desperate to look like Taylor Swift. We see stick thin girls with gaunt, sallow faces; ribs eerily prominent. The phrase ‘unrealistic standard of beauty’ is thrown around, which implies that eating disorders are easily cured with a meat pie and a stern talking to.
So why are they stuck in the heads of sufferers for years?
I once had an eating disorder. I come from a dance background and I’m in the entertainment industry; there is always pressure to be trim, taught and toned. When I was in my early teens, I was put on a drug to control my temporal lobe epilepsy. While the drug stopped the seizures, the side effects were a slowed metabolism and increased appetite. That, coupled with the changing body of an adolescent girl, assured that I went (quite quickly) from an athletic dancer’s physique to a chubby, unfit package.
Seeing your body transform like this at the age of 14 is tricky. Couple it with the fact that your greatest passion; dance, requires extreme fitness/muscle tone and it becomes trickier. Add an obsessive, anxious personality and you have a recipe for disaster. Looking back, I really had no hope. I was obsessed with food. All I thought about was increasing my fitness and decreasing my weight. I went through periods of deprivation, followed by extreme (and secret) binging. My size fluctuated, along with my self-esteem and mental state.
I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t seek help; I was exhibiting every symptom. Here’s the thing; I never looked anorexic. I was never one of those skeletal images we’ve grown so used to. As such, nobody ever saw it as a disorder, not even myself. However, what society doesn’t realise, through lack of information or lack of interest, is that having an eating disorder DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY IMPLY anorexia or bulimia. There is another spectrum.
Let’s talk about OSFED; Other Specified Eating and Feeding Disorders. An OSFED sufferer can display many of the symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa, but will not meet the full criteria. This doesn’t mean that OSFED is any less serious; 30 per cent of people who seek treatment suffer from it.
Eventually, I began to realise that I had a serious problem. None of my friends obsessed over their weight like I did. With the support of my wonderful parents, I sought help and spent time with a psychologist. I’m now – at the age of 27 – very much out of the woods. However, if I had known earlier that there was more to an eating disorder than being dangerously underweight, I could have saved years of stress.
My purpose here is to clear up a few glaring misconceptions. I can think of 3 big ones:
- You can control your eating disorder.
FALSE. Anorexia is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Other eating disorders follow a similar vein and require behavioural therapy.
- It is a plea for attention.
SO FALSE. Having an eating disorder is psychological torture. The damning voices never leave you alone; they lead to self-harm and even suicide. There are far better ways to get attention.
- It is a sign of vanity.
UNBELIEVABLY FALSE. There is no beauty to be gained by jaundiced skin and protruding ribs. Aside from that, the resulting body dysmorphic disorder distorts your image. A size 4 will look in the mirror and see a size 14 staring back.
Please; if you are reading this and you relate, seek help now, regardless of your size. Stop the juggernaut before it consumes you. Eating disorders are not trivial, they are serious mental illnesses and should be treated as such.
Image via Thefix.com
Ever find yourself devouring a packet of chips before you have any idea how it made it’s way into your house in the first place? Binge eating is a serious problem, and doesn’t discriminate between women, men, or even children. But is it actually possible to stop binge eating altogether, without going cold-turkey?
Try these tips the next time you’re craving something sugary or sweet – and want to break out of this vicious cycle.
Substitute with healthy snacks
Keep a variety of healthy snacks in the fridge and pantry. This will make it so much easier to avoid grabbing the naughty food in times of need. If you can’t get enough of dry chips, why not snack on some cucumber and carrot? The crunching sound makes it feel like you’re eating chips, without the extra calories.
Don’t buy fatty snacks
The best way to avoid eating bad food starts in the supermarket. If you have enough willpower to avoid buying the food yourself, then it’s not likely that you’ll eat it anyway. If you find yourself feeling excited at the prospect of the chocolate and chips aisle, then it’s best to avoid it altogether. Take another route around the supermarket, and only buy the things you actually need.
Make a shopping list
A shopping list will help you stick to what you know, and avoid walking aimlessly around the aisles looking for your next sugary fix. Keep the shopping list short and sweet, and you’ll avoid making unnecessary purchases later on.
Don’t eat after 8pm
You can change the time according to your nightly routine, but it’s best not to eat late at night since the food is stored as fat. Keep yourself occupied and most importantly keep your mind occupied – since this (and not your stomach) is telling you that you’re hungry.
Invite a friend over, hang out with your family, or even read a book and watch your favourite program on television.
Ask yourself these questions
The next time you find yourself heading over to the fridge or pantry, ask yourself these questions before digging in:
- Do I need this?
- Am I really hungry?
- Can I only have just a bit?
You will often find that the answer to these questions are usually no. But if the answer is sometimes a yes, snack or fruit or nuts which are a much healthier alternative.
Drink water and green tea
Try a glass of water the next time you’re feeling the urge to snack on something sweet late at night, and in most cases this will curb any cravings. Your stomach will feel full, and probably won’t be able to eat anything else if you tried. If that doesn’t work, enjoy some green tea instead.
Green tea is packed with so many vitamins and nutrients that actually keep your body busy, and taste great as well!
Image via iStock