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.

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:

Treatment Options for Recovering from an Eating Disorder by Kara Masterson

(image: Pexels)

Treatment for an eating disorder depends on the type of disorder you are suffering from (such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder) and can vary with each individual. In most cases, treatment will include therapy, education about nutrition, and monitoring. There may also be medications prescribed that can help address a disorder as well as treatment for any health concerns that may have been caused by the disorder. 

Therapy for Eating Disorders 

The first step in treating an eating disorder is therapy sessions that may last just a few weeks or many years, depending on the severity of your illness. Therapy is designed to help you develop a good eating pattern and exchange unhealthy habits for healthy ones. Therapy will also help you understand how eating is connected to your mood as well as how to cope with stressful situations. You will be given the chance to develop problem-solving skills that are more constructive and that can better serve you going forward.

There are three types of therapy used to treat eating disorders and you may enter one, two, or all three of these types to manage your disorder. They include: 

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy – this therapy focuses on behaviour, thoughts, and feelings as well as how to recognise and change distorted thoughts 
  • Family therapy – this therapy is designed to help your family help you establish healthy eating patterns as well as how to cope with a loved one who is living with an eating disorder 
  • Group cognitive-behavioural therapy – therapy conducted with others who are dealing with the same type of eating disorder in order to address thoughts, feelings, and behaviours 

Nutrition Program 

Another part of your therapy will include a nutrition program. You may work with a registered dietitian or other nutritional experts to help you better understand your disorder. They will create a program designed to help you work toward a healthy weight, practice meal planning, and take steps to avoid dieting or binge eating. As part of the treatment options for eating disorders, they will also help you recognise how your eating disorder negatively impacts your nutrition and health while helping you establish a realistic eating pattern you’ll be able to follow. 

Eating Disorder Medications 

There is no medication that can cure an eating disorder, but there are medications that are used in conjunction with therapy that may lead to better success. Antidepressants are the most commonly used, especially if your eating disorder includes binge eating or purging. Another drug that is sometimes used for binge eating disorders is Vyvanse which is thought to help impulsive behaviours that can lead to bingeing. 

Suffering from an eating disorder can be debilitating and it is an illness that is not only difficult for the person suffering from but also their loved ones who feel helpless. There are treatments available and it is critical that you get help for your eating disorder as soon as possible- reach out for support.

This article was written by freelance writer Kara Masterson

Identifying the Source of your Eating Disorder and Finding Recovery by Anita Ginsburg

(image: Mindful Eats Nutrition Counselling)

Few of us follow a healthy eating plan all the time. While you should try your best to keep a healthy diet, due to mental ill health and/or life trauma, some people go on to develop eating disorders as a result (such as anorexia and bulimia). 

There are a wide range of eating disorders that sprout from a wide range of mental, emotional, and environmental issues. If you have an eating disorder, it is important to get to the root of the psychological aspect and take steps to move towards recovery.

Here are some things you can do.

Keep a Journal

You may have already tried using a food journal to track everything you eat, your calories, your macros, your weight, your water intake, exercise, or any combination of the above. Unfortunately, many people feel that this type of journal causes them to obsess over what they’re eating. This can actually be detrimental to recovery unless carefully supervised by a doctor or therapist. 

However, journalling can still be helpful. Instead of focusing on calories or other factors in your food, take a look at yourself and how you feel about your food instead. For example, you might notice trends in your eating habits. Are there some foods or meals you’re avoiding altogether? Why? You can write about how you felt before, during, and after eating. This could include how you felt physically—hunger, pain—or emotionally. Finally, you might notice certain triggers that affect your eating habits.

With this information, you can get a good idea of whats going on, what might be causing the disorder, and what to do to help your mental health. Your journal should feel safe and supportive in your journey towards good health again.

Avoid parts of food journalling that make you feel unsafe. You may need to talk with your therapist to find a good balance.

Consult a Therapist

As mentioned above, a therapist can be very helpful in helping you provide insight and guidance in overcoming your eating disorder. If you can, try to find a therapist who specialises in eating disorders. They can help you identify emotional or environmental issues that may be triggering your eating disorder. Additionally, they will likely be able to recommend certain steps to help you break unhealthy eating habits. Not every tip or idea will work for everyone, so you and your therapist will have to work together to identify what works for you, what doesn’t, and what is counter-productive.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you don’t already know what category your eating disorder falls under, your doctor may be able to advise you. They will look at factors like your medical history, family history, and associated factors. The doctor might recommend certain types of testing or procedures to learn more about your eating habits- including blood tests and your BMI. They may also recommend certain diet changes or plans to help you reach healthier eating habits and improve your mental wellbeing.

Explore Treatment Options

As you learn more about your situation, you can look into possible treatment options for eating disorders that could help you to deal with and overcome the problem. Nutritional guidance, weight management programs, and support groups are common ways of helping people to recovery.

Eating disorders can cause many difficulties especially when you are feeling low or your mental health is declining. That is why its so important to find out the source of your eating disorder so it can be effectively treated and overcome. Learn all you can, consult professionals, and if it is available for you, join an eating disorder treatment program to achieve your goals back to health.

This article was written by freelance writer Anita Ginsburg

We are 4! On Be Ur Own Light’s Fourth Blog Anniversary by Eleanor

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Its Today- 1st March 2020 and Be Ur Own Light is 4 years old! (cue the streamers!)

I still remember starting this blog as an outlet for my fears, thoughts and emotions dealing with my bipolar and anxiety. The blog started as a way to tell my friends and family how I was feeling and has evolved into working with guest bloggers and now brands/ partners on sponsored wellness posts too! Writing the blog and sharing thoughts has been so therapeutic and it has taken me on  a journey that I could not have imagined.

In November 2019, I published my first book Bring me to Light with Trigger Publishing which is the book of my life story with bipolar disorder, anxiety and my life in general (travelling, going to drama school, starting a career as a writer). The blog has also grown so much this year and is currently nominated in the Mental Health Blog Awards for Blogger of the Year, thank you to our nominee!

Additionally, Vuelio awarded us as a Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog for the second year running and interviewed me (Eleanor) about working as a blogger!  Thanks also to Feedspot.com and My Therapy App for listing us in their mental health blog lists too for social anxiety and bipolar!

This year, I have written about World Bipolar Day for the Centre of Mental Health, about my search for EMDR therapy on the NHS, living with depression in winter, about writing my book and new life changes (getting married) and 2020 new year round up with hopes for the future. We also promoted mental health campaigns such as Shout UK text line (founded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and Meghan),  Christmas 4 CAMHS, Time to Talk Day and Mental Health Awareness Week. Additionally, I spoke in Essex with my Dad about our joint story with bipolar for the Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat and we also spoke at Limmud Conference in Birmingham!

This winter I did some interviews for the book which can be seen on the Book tab above and also received some lovely reviews. It was amazing to appear in Happiful Magazine’s bonus wellness Mag this January (edited by campaigner Natasha Devon) and to write for Glamour and Bipolar UK. I also enjoyed being interviewed for the Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle! Hopefully at some point I will do podcasts about it too and more interviews.

From March 2019-2020, the blog has attracted wonderful and talented guest bloggers wanting to spread their messages about mental health and wellness.

We have also worked with the following brands on sponsored and gifted posts and hope to work with many more this next year :  YuLife, Nutra Tea, Essential Olie, Loveitcoverit on mental health apps, I-sopod floatation tanks, Core Wellness Maryland, Wellbeing Escapes Holidays.

My guest bloggers have written about their recovery and living with mental illnesses, as well as advice on how to improve your mental health. There a posts for whether you are going through a divorce, a bereavement, are stressed or have anxiety. We also had posts with people’s first hand experiences of mental illness including a brave post about being a sibling of someone with mental illness and one of living with an eating disorder. Furthermore, Be Ur Own Light has also covered World Mental Health Day and Time to Talk Day this year, featuring personal mental health stories as a way to raise awareness and fight misconceptions.

We have also covered new books coming out, a mental health fashion brand and a song about social anxiety, as well as posts about different therapies to help you.

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Thank you to my amazing guest bloggers (non sponsored) March 2019-2020 for your fantastic content:   

Ashley Smith- How Massage Therapy helps Anxiety Disorders

Emily Bartels- 5 tips for a mental health emergency plan

Dale Vernor- Understanding PTSD by Gender 

Tan at Booknerd Tan- How audio books and walking has helped anxiety

Emma Sturgis- Loving yourself, tips for a body positive life

EM Training Solutions- How to maintain mental health at work

David Morin- On social anxiety and talking to others

Lyle Murphy- How equine therapy can help those with mental health issues

Charlie Waller Memorial Trust- Best of Musicals event

A Time to Change Hypnotherapy-  Hypnotherapy for self esteem

Nu View Treatment Center- The connection between anxiety and substance abuse

Shout UK- Royal family launches mental health text line

Mental Health Foundation – Mental Health Awareness Week  May 2019 Body Image

Emerson Blake- Coping with the stress of becoming a single parent

The Worsley Centre- A guide to therapies and finding the right one for you

Byron Donovan at Grey Matter – How I recovered from depression to form a fashion brand 

Luci Larkin at Wooley and Co Law- How to reduce stress and maintain mental health during a divorce

Nat Juchems- How to keep your loved ones memory alive after bereavement

Emily Ilett- on her book ‘The Girl who Lost her Shadow’

Mark Simmonds- an interview about his book ‘Breakdown and Repair’ with Trigger Publishing

Curtis Dean- 5 facts about music for stress relief

Robert Tropp- How quitting illegal drugs helps anxiety in the long term

Aaron James- the difference between psychotherapy and counselling

Dr Justine Curry- 4 ways to help a friend with bipolar disorder

Christmas 4 CAMHS campaign for children in childrens mental health wards

Ani O- 4 ways to ease the fear of doctors appointments

Katherine Myers- Ways that spending time outdoors can improve your mental health

Anita- 5 ways to lift you out the slump of seasonal depression

Chloe Walker- taking care of your child’s mental health

CBT Toronto- how to deal with social anxiety and depression

Katy- a true story with anorexia and OCD

Vanessa Hill- Life changing habits to bring into the new year

Rachel Leycroft- Expressing social anxiety through songwriting

Shira- Living with a sibling with mental illness: the meaning of normal

Capillus- 10 signs you may have an anxiety disorder

Brooke Chaplan- When therapy isn’t enough 

Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat 2020 

Mike Segall- Time to Talk Day- 9 years undiagnosed, my story with bipolar disorder

Jasveer Atwal- Living with PCOS and managing mental health

Leigh Adley at Set Your Mind Free- How CBT helps children with anxiety

Lizzie Weakley- How to heal and move forward when you have an eating disorder

Sofie- Living with an eating disorder

Thank you so much to all of you and I am excited to see what 2020-21 brings for the blog!

Be Ur Own Light continues to be read globally and I love receiving your messages about the blogs and finding new writers too.

Heres to a 2020 of positive mental health, of fighting the stigma against mental illness and creating a positive and supportive community here. 

Happy 4th birthday Be Ur Own Light!  ❤ May this be an enlightening year of growth for us.

 

Love and Light always,

Eleanor    

xxx

Living with an Eating Disorder: Guest blog by Sofie

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(image: Pinterest)

This is a first person, brave and honest account by Sofie of her feelings about her eating disorder, which are her personal views. Trigger warning: please be careful as this discusses eating disorders and real emotions around them. We promote healing and recovery, where possible. So here’s Sofie….

    

I miss it every day! My first thought as I wake up in the morning and my last before I drift off for the night. It is a visceral longing. That’s the burden of an eating disorder. It’s an imposter that invites itself into your life and fulfills a need. It seemingly bestows upon you new abilities and strips you of weaknesses. However, with every freedom that it grants, there is a toll to pay.

My story doesn’t begin with a girl unhappy with her body, not many eating disorder stories do. My story starts with a girl lost within her own life. A girl who longed to feel she had a purpose and a direction — a child who yearned to feel an ounce of control. Anorexia gave me that control.

It gave me the power to defy human nature. It gave me a harsh look that proved I was oozing with discipline. Each bone like a spear warding off feelings and disappointments. I was never clueless as to why I starved myself. I never thought I was on a diet gone wrong. I wept many tears over the fact that my death-defying mission for control had made me so susceptible to vanity and left me a slave to the numbers on a scale, but how else was I to measure my discipline?

I miss it every day! I forget the aches, the pains, the fights, the hopelessness. I long for the feeling of achievement and forget the complete and utter sense of THIS IS NOT ENOUGH. STILL, I AM NOT ENOUGH. I long to go back almost every moment. To flee the life I have, to rewind and go back. For me, disappointment is much harder to face without the false comfort of the hunger, without the excuse of the failing body and protective blanket of a hazy mind.

So am I in recovery? I don’t know. I feel a sense of helplessness in my recovery like I have been dragged here by circumstance, and for now, my situation doesn’t sit comfortably with me. However, I know what I have to tell myself when it stings that my body no longer hurts: I can’t be a nice person while starving. I replay in my mind countless occasions where I behaved more like an animal than a human. I so desired to be successful, but I never wished to be a monster.

So, for now, this realisation is the guard I wear against the intrusive longing. It isn’t a bulletproof armour. The thoughts still wound, but for now, I am still standing, and I don’t need to judge the situation further than that.

And so, the greatest gift any therapy has given me is the clarity to place my love of others above my hatred of myself.

I can live a healthier life as a gift to those I love, who don’t deserve to be tortured by my demons. I must try and look after myself for my family and friends.

 

This blog was written by guest blogger Sofie, to discuss the truth around living with an eating disorder. If you are worried someone you love has an eating disorder, you can contact charities including Beat and speak to a GP or psychiatrist.

How to find a way forward and heal when you have an Eating Disorder: Guest blog by Lizzie Weakley

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(image: Unsplash.com)

Overcoming and managing an eating disorder is often a challenging process. It requires a lot of self-motivation and determination, as well as a healthy and robust support network. However, it will be worth it in the end because you will be able to heal yourself and move forward. Many people may not know where to start when it comes to moving on, but there are many general tips that will apply to most situations. For example, it can be helpful to create new and healthy habits, maintain a positive mindset, and plan for a better future.

Creating New Habits

Many people find it helpful to create new habits after recovering. You should recognise what your triggers are and try to avoid them or learn new coping mechanisms. You might also want to learn more about proper nutrition and how to properly care for your body.

Often, eating disorders can cause negative health effects, and it can be beneficial to adopt a better lifestyle in order to safeguard your future health. You might want to look into working with a nutritionist who will be able to guide you in the right direction. Also, if you feel yourself losing control at any point, you should speak with your doctor right away and potentially consider inpatient eating disorder treatment before things get out of hand.

Maintaining a Positive Mindset

Many people with eating disorders may think negatively about themselves. It is important to avoid this so that you don’t relapse. Instead of dwelling on things you don’t like, if you are able, you might want to focus on your positive attributes. For example, if you enjoy helping others, you might want to consider doing volunteer work. Working with the elderly, under-privileged, and animals can be an excellent way to show you that you have self-worth and purpose, and you will be making a huge difference in the world.

If you are struggling with your mindset and are too unwell to do this, thats OK. Look after yourself and see your medical team.

 

Planning a Better Future

It can be easy to sometimes get caught up in the past and eating disorder thought patterns. However, you might find it helpful to focus more on the present and the future than the past. You could think about all the things you would like to experience and achieve and make a list of attainable goals. Investing in yourself and your future will give you something to look forward to and will motivate you to push forward.

Also, creating a better life for yourself can help to protect you from relapsing because you won’t want to throw away everything you have worked so hard for.

Overall, moving past an eating disorder can take some time. It is important to be kind to yourself and optimistic. Taking the aforementioned tips into consideration and working with professionals, such as a psychiatrist, therapist and nutritionist can help you along the way. They can provide you with beneficial insight that you need to succeed and can help to ensure you are making positive decisions.

 

This guest post was written by freelance writer Lizzie Weakley,