How To Know If You Have An Eating Disorder and What To Do Next by Rachelle Wilber

(image: Unsplash)

An estimated 45 million people in the United States (and many millions globally) go on a diet each year to try and shed extra pounds. While exercising and eating healthfully is important, obsessing over losing weight can turn into an eating disorder.

Eating disorders present in a variety of different forms such as bulimia, anorexia, and/or binge eating. Staying aware of the symptoms of an eating disorder and what you should do should you develop one can help you stay healthy.

Different Types of Eating Disorders

Though problems with food can manifest in different ways, there are three main types of eating disorders.

  • Bulimia: Those with bulimia typically eat large amounts of food and then purge the food afterward by vomiting or using laxatives
  • Anorexia: Those with anorexia avoid eating or eat extremely small amounts of food
  • Binge eating: Those with binge eating may eat large amounts of food in a short amount of time

Look for Common Symptoms of Eating Disorders

One of the best ways to determine if you have an eating disorder is by watching for symptoms in your own habits and behavior. These symptoms may also be noticed by your friends, family, or other loved ones. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • Having a fear of gaining weight or growing fat
  • Withdrawing from activities with family and friends
  • Becoming secretive and lying about it
  • Experiencing anxiety and depression
  • Feeling an intense fear of certain foods, such as foods that are sweet or have high levels of fat
  • Obsessing over the number of calories and food eaten
  • Avoiding situations that involve food
  • Attempting to lose weight by purging, using laxatives or over-exercising
  • Weighing yourself daily or multiple times per day

If you suspect you have an eating disorder, know that you aren’t alone and that help is available. Be proud that you are taking the first step and seeking help. It may be helpful to identify ways that you are not feeling in control in your life and the way you feel around food.

Keeping a journal of these feelings is a great way to learn more about your habits and identify the feelings that triggered your eating disorder. Next, talk with your insurance company (if in the US) or NHS/ privately if in UK and seek out a reputable doctor for eating disorder treatment. There are many specialists, counsellors, and rehabilitation centers available who are highly experienced in helping people recover from their disorder. Please note that the NHS may have waiting lists but seeking help is so important to find recovery.

Having an eating disorder often means you feel a lot of shame about yourself and your eating habits. Talking with a doctor and/or therapist can help you let go of this shame so you can love yourself and take the first steps on your road to healing.

This article was written by freelance writer Rachelle Wilber.

Mental Health, Low Self Esteem, Body Image and Fashion.

(image: Freestocks at unsplash)

Fashion is a powerful force. It has the ability to make people feel confident, empowered, or at its worst horrible about themselves. It can have a positive impact on mental health and self-esteem if you find something pieces that make you feel good about yourselves. On the other hand, fashion can also have a negative impact on self-esteem and mental health if you’re constantly exposed to images and messages that make you feel inferior or unhappy with who you are. Especially with the inward turn of the pandemic, its hard for people to feel happy and confident about themselves.

The Psychology of Fashion

Fashion is a multi-billion-dollar industry and a big part of many people’s daily lives. It’s a subculture that’s easy to invest in. And, like any other trend, fashion comes and goes, so you’re always in control of how much you invest in it. The psychology of fashion reveals the different aspects of how fashion impacts people’s self-esteem. From the way people perceive others based on the way they’re dressed, to how people present themselves to the world by choosing outfits, fashion has a strong psychological effect on everyone.

Body Image

Our bodies are such an important part of life, and it’s normal to have some insecurities about them. Still, as you grow older, many people struggle with body dysmorphia or an unhealthy obsession with one’s appearance. Constant exposure to images of other people’s bodies that are unrealistic and unattainable can be harmful to your self-esteem, especially in young people who are still forming their self-image. This can lead to eating disorders, body dysmorphia, low self esteem and depression and anxiety. Looking at images of gorgeous models wearing clothes you can’t afford or fit in can makes you feel left out or confused. It’s fun to keep up with trends, but try to avoid getting stuck in a rut of hype culture.

(image: Hannah Morgan at Unsplash)

So what should I do?

You can’t ignore fashion and societal trends- but it’s important to not let fashion (or what is popular to wear) become something that defines who you are. It’s a fun accessory, something you should do for enjoyment, creativity, and confidence. For people who have found themselves struggling with their mental health due to the psychological effects on body image, it’s important to seek help. Talk to your friends and family members, or seek professional help if you need it. There are many ways to find happiness in style- whether you’re into vintage clothing, a specific designer, or a particular style like athleisure. You can read blogs with good recommendations, and wear things that you love, like that pair of perfect trainers or Men’s Off-White Hoodies. There’s something for everyone, and it’s important to have fun with it!

Fashion and societal expectations of how one should look can have a big impact on mental health, so it’s important to be mindful of it. It is also hard to be bombarded with negative messages on body image via social media. The body positive movement has sprung up because of this narrative- showing curvier models and embracing your flaws as beautiful.

There are also many ways to wear your favourite clothes in a way that makes you feel good about yourself, without negatively impacting your mental health. Focus on what makes you feel like the best version of yourself!

This article was written by a freelance writer and contains do follow links.

New #ChangetheStory Campaign by Hope Virgo and The Hearts Minds and Genes Coalition shows rise in Eating Disorder Stereotypes.

(image: Change the Story Campaign)

#ChangeTheStory and Anybody and Everybody is a new campaign launched this month by The Hearts Minds and Genes Coalition which is chaired by Multi-Award winning campaigner and Author, Hope Virgo. Hope is a friend of mine who has campaigned for years for help for those with eating disorders and she is a force to be reckoned with and an amazing woman!

Eating disorders are serious, biologically based mental illnesses deserving of equal clinical and research funding to that given to other complex diseases. They want to ensure that no-one with an eating disorder need experience shame or guilt, and everybody should have timely access to specialist services.

Author and Multi-Award winning campaigner, Hope Virgo who chairs the coalition says;“When we think of eating disorders we often immediately think of a white teenage, emaciated girl and fail to realise that eating disorders are so often hidden in plain sight amongst all ages, genders races, ethnicities, body shapes and weights, sexual orientations and socio-economic statuses. The campaign is working to remove the stigma and misunderstanding that surrounds these illnesses, ensuring that nobody should experience shame or guilt for suffering from an eating disorder and to make sure that everybody has prompt access to specialist services.”

(image on Twitter: Change the Story campaign, Hope Virgo and FEAST outside the Houses of Parliament)

Eating disorders are not new illnesses, but there has been a massive rise in cases during the pandemic. Unacceptable delays before treatment means we are also seeing a rise in avoidable chronic long-term illness and loss of life. We need to ensure that we are no longer hiding behind the global pandemic but ensuring that the right support is in place for everyone because no one should be dying of an eating disorder in 2022. They are working to remove the stigma and misunderstanding that surrounds these illnesses, ensuring that nobody should experience shame or guilt for suffering from a biologically based illness and everybody should have timely access to specialist services.

To raise awareness of the campaign they have created a video supported by Instagram. For a long time, people have used Instagram to challenge stereotypes about body size, share their journeys with overcoming body image issues, and celebrate different body types. 

 Renee McGregor, leading Sports and Eating disorder specialist dietitian said;“We need to change the images, narrative and practices presently associated with eating disorders in order to ensure that no further lives are lost to this illness in 2022 or beyond.” 

Suzanne Baker, CarerRepresentative for F.E.A.S.T. (www.feast-ed.org)in the UK, said;“timely access to sustained, specialist treatment is key to recovery from an eating disorder at any age or stage. Currently too many people are not able to access this treatment often due to misconceptions about what an eating disorder ‘looks’ like. There is no one look – eating disorders are serious biologically influenced illnesses and are often hidden in plain sight.

Dr Agnes Ayton, chair of the Eating Disorders Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “No one chooses to have an eating disorder. An eating disorder can affect anyone at any age and can be caused by a range of factors including genes, mental or physical health conditions and social pressure. The stigma around having an eating disorder prevents many people from asking for help when they need it. No one should feel embarrassed to ask for help. An eating disorder can have very serious long-term effects on the body, but with treatment, people can fully recover. Raising awareness of this issue is an important first step in helping people to get the help they need. If you think you may have an eating disorder, speak to your GP who can refer you to a specialist counsellor, psychiatrist or psychologist. You can also visit the NHS Choices website to find out what additional support is available, including confidential helplines.”

Gerome Breen, Professor of Psychiatric Genetics at King’s College London says: “Research and its dissemination are essential to dispelling the unhelpful myths and stigma that surround eating disorders and compound their long-lasting and devastating impacts. By understanding more about why and how eating disorders develop we can improve society’s conceptualisation of these conditions and hopefully enable more people to seek and receive the support they need.”

(image on Twitter: Jeremy Hunt MP with Hope Virgo)

You can help by posting a selfie to support this campaign with the hashtag #changethestory.

Watch the video here to discover more about the campaign:

From Denial, To Acceptance and Recovery: My Mental Health and Eating Disorder Journey by Emily J. Johnson

(image: Jasmin Chew at Pexels)

Trigger warning: discusses eating disorders and OCD

It has taken me almost thirty-five years to acknowledge that I have struggled with mental illness myself. I’ve spent a lifetime in denial. It wasn’t until writing my memoir Pushing Through The Cracks in 2021 that I observed my life objectively. I witnessed the experiences I’d gathered since childhood and how they had shaped me into the woman I am today.   A woman of strength, but also one diagnosed with a mental health disorder – Binge eating disorder. A label I neither wanted nor could accept. Not until now.

This isn’t my first experience with mental illness. In my teens, my life was in turmoil. After my parents’ unexpected divorce, my mother remarried a gambler with a volatile temper within two years. My father moved to Australia, and with the upheaval of my home life and the onslaught of puberty, I felt lost. My body was changing, and I’d become uncomfortable with my new shape. What began as a diet to slim my blossoming body developed into anorexia. In the 1980s, treatment was non-existent, at least for me. Instead, my GP gave me a telling-off and threatened to put me in a hospital and force-feed me via a drip. His threats petrified me, and I gradually increased my food intake again. It took me two years to recover. Ultimately, my anorexia was untreated, so it left me with a legacy of disordered thoughts about my body and food throughout my adult life.

A few years after my father’s death in my mid-thirties, I became fixated on turning electrical items off – the cooker, iron, hair straighteners, television – anything that was plugged in. I would touch the switches whilst talking out loud to myself, repeatedly, trying to confirm they were in the ‘off’ position. I knew they were off, but somehow, I couldn’t accept that they were off. Additional obsessions snuck in gradually. I began checking the fridge door was closed, then every door and window in my home. What started as checking became an arduous set routine every night to ensure the doors and windows were locked multiple times. I was terrified someone was going to break in. Checking the doors eased that terror, temporarily.

It continued for several months, and I couldn’t stop the thoughts no matter how hard I tried. I moved back to the UK in 2010 and it appeared the huge disruption to my life interrupted the intrusive thoughts and checking behaviours, and they stopped. As the mother of a child with severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), I now recognise what I experienced back in my thirties may well have been OCD.

Fast forward to my late forties, a divorce behind me, and a period of depression to follow, I remarried and began a new life with a blended family. But within a couple of years, both of my sons and my new husband began struggling with their mental health. Mental illness filled our once happy home with depression, anxiety, alcoholism, OCD, and gambling, and it turned my entire world upside down whilst I tried to care for them all. I was under immense stress and turned to something to help me cope – food.

It began with me ‘rewarding’ myself with chocolate bars late at night when everyone else had settled. Over time, the ‘reward’ became a buffet of junk — mostly heavily processed carbs and sugar. All eaten quickly, in secret, and shrouded in shame. Within a few months, I was eating around 5000 calories during a night-time binge. In-between the binges were days of restricted food intake. I gained a large amount of weight, which I hated myself for. The self-loathing was overwhelming.

I realised I had a problem in late 2019 and went to my GP, who referred me to an eating disorder clinic. They diagnosed me with Binge eating disorder (BED), and I began a recovery programme, which I stuck to until the Covid pandemic interrupted my sessions, and I threw in the towel. As a result, I slipped back into bingeing again when life overwhelmed me.

In 2021, I self-referred myself back to the ED clinic. I’m still on a waiting list, however, I’ve taken steps to get support and am in recovery now. I am 24 days binge-free at the time of writing this, which feels like such a huge personal triumph after a long period of relapse.

I think the toughest part for me has been accepting that I had a mental health disorder. I also felt overwhelming guilt that I had perhaps somehow genetically gifted my son’s mental illness to each of them. It’s taken me a long time to accept my diagnosis and our family’s situation. But from that place of acceptance, I have finally found peace….and recovery.



Emily J. Johnson is the author of Pushing Through The Cracks, her memoir of her family’s struggles with mental health. She lives in the UK and this is her first blog on this subject!

Try These Simple Depression Meals When Life Gets Hard by Kara Reynolds

(image: Unsplash)

Being an adult is exhausting.  We’re expected to work, build a career, keep a house, feed ourselves, socialize…the list goes on and on.  When you have kids, that list doesn’t get any shorter — instead, it expands to include keeping small humans alive, healthy, entertained and happy.  Becoming a mom is supposed to be one of the most magical parts of your life, but what they don’t tell you is that it can also be the hardest. Mom life is hard. There’s no point in sugar-coating it.

When that massive list of things that you’re expected to do becomes overwhelming, here are some simple depression meals that can help you eat healthily and keep everyone fed without putting in too much effort or relying on takeout. 

Nutrients That Impact Depression Symptoms

Depression is one of those things that we tend to only talk about in reference to other people, but it’s more common than you might think.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO). around 5% of the global population suffers from depression or around 280 million people. There are a lot of different ways to manage your depression symptoms, all of which should be overseen by a medical professional, but there are some small changes that you can make at home that might have a positive impact.  This includes changing the foods that you eat.

Research has shown that some specific nutrients might help manage depression symptoms include; 

  • Amino acids like tryptophan (found in turkey and chocolate)
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids (found in oily fish)
  • Selenium
  • Iron
  • Iodine

Switching your diet around to ensure that you’re including these nutrients can help make the job of managing your depression symptoms a little easier. Here are some of my favourite depression meals for those nights when nothing else seems to be helping but you’ve still got a house of little humans to feed.

Charcuterie 

If you were a kid in the 90s, you probably grew up having Lunchables for lunch during the week. They were quick, easy and had most of the nutrients a growing kid might need to get through the day — if you were content to subsist on crackers, deli meat and sometimes cheese. Okay, so they weren’t the healthiest option, but if you make them fancy, put them on a plank of wood and call them charcuterie, they’re one of my favourite depression meals. 

The nice thing about charcuterie is that there is no wrong way to do it.  Pick your favourite meats, crackers, dips, fruits and veggies, and arrange them on a plate or tray.  Then pick and choose what you want to eat. It’s simple, it’s fun, and it’s a great way to make sure that everyone is getting fed when all you have the energy to do is assemble things on a plate.

Fish

Fish might seem like a lot of hassle, but it doesn’t have to be.  It’s also a great option for depression meals because it tends to be high in magnesium which is another nutrient that can help with managing depression symptoms. 

This simple sheet pan haddock bake is a great way to get your nutrients without making a  big mess in the kitchen.   It’s 5 ingredients — haddock, crackers, butter, garlic salt and lemon — and five steps — and one of those steps is preheating the oven and I’m not even sure that counts. If you’re not a fan of haddock, swap it out for your favourite fish. 

Stir Fry

Stir fry is easily one of my favorite meals.  It’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s fast, and you can make it with whatever you have in the kitchen.  Start by picking your protein. Then, pick your stir fry veggies — these can be fresh, canned or frozen. Fry them up in the oil of your choice, top with your sauce, and serve over rice. 

The key to a good stir fry, regardless of your chosen ingredients, is the sauce.  My go-to stir fry sauce only requires a handful of ingredients, most of which you probably already have in your kitchen.: 

  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar.

Mix and pour, and you’ve got the tastiest stir fry sauce this side of your favourite Chinese restaurant. 

Peanut Butter & Jelly (Jam)

It sounds basic, but that’s because it is.  Peanut butter — and other nut butters, if you have a peanut allergy in the house — are full of healthy proteins and other nutrients that will help you feel full longer.  Pair it with some natural fruit preserves and your favourite whole wheat or multigrain bread and you’ve got a halfway healthy meal that takes almost no time or effort to prepare. 

You can always spice up your PB&J if you have more spoons.  If you’ve got more of a sweet tooth you can add sliced bananas, honey, or even marshmallow fluff.  The possibilities are endless. 

Be Kind To Yourself

As long as you’re eating, it doesn’t really matter what you eat for dinner — but making healthier choices can help to make you feel better in the long run.  Try a couple of my favourite depression meals and see if they make it into your regular meal schedule.

Above all else, be kind to yourself. 


This article was written by Kara Reynolds, editor at Momish.