My daily life

Most days all I can think about is food, my weight, how “big” I look and calories. Often calorie amounts are constantly in  my head, like a constant reminder on your phone alerting you how much you’ve eaten or could eat in a day. If I don’t have an estimate of how much i’ve consumed I fear that i’m going to become fat and look and feel more disgusting.

Obeying the eating disorder thoughts brings more anxiety, worry and fixation. I day dream about glorious food that’s delicious but also filled with calories. I wish I could eat it all, I wish my brain would let me. I wish I could eat it, enjoy it and most of all not compensate somehow afterwards.

I worry about my body, especially when my heart feels funny, when I feel dizzy and weak and when my heart races and drops beats. I know what anorexia does to me is affecting me more and more physically and mentally.

I know I could miss out on life’s opportunities and even enjoyment for that matter, if I am not well enough to engage in regular life. I’m always feeling either dizzy, weak , anxious or exhausted. Exhausted from my eating disorder – the exhaustion it causes me physically and mentally.

I’ve tried to recover, twice..and my big fears always come along due to extreme hunger and “over eating” even though in reality my body needs calories. When I self recovered and even when I was recently in hospital, I felt like I was eating until I felt sick, too full – my abdomen swollen and “tight” feeling. My body is not used to food and being fed means my body freaks out.

At times when I would wake up in the morning and I could still feel food full up in my stomach and almost sitting in the back of my throat. I’d be furious at myself for either not getting rid of it via purging or for the eating at all.

A few days of allowing myself to eat whatever I want lead to extreme hunger, something I wasn’t used to after not eating properly in some time.  My brain and taste buds would suddenly remember sweets, chips, chocolate and cheese. The hunger I ignored for so long would arrive and would grow larger by day.

I fear eating properly, gaining weight, feeling fatter than I already do. I fear becoming a binge eater. I feel like I’m forced into this pro-recovery mindset when I’m the complete opposite.

I must pretend to be fine, I mustn’t let people down by falling apart. I tell no one.

This is my my life.

Men and Eating Disorders: The Silent Suffering

Currently, statistics show that up to 25% of individuals struggling with an eating disorder are male, with many medical professionals stating that this figure is underestimated and in fact larger.

Due to either personal reluctance to obtain help or stigma or poor awareness towards eating disorders in men (or a combination of these), many males struggle with an eating disorder undiagnosed. On top of that, there is evident misunderstanding from health practitioners when it comes to men and eating disorders.

Although men are more likely to experience binge eating disorder than other eating disorders, the rate of men with anorexia or bulimia is also increasing. The onset of eating disorders in females is typically during adolescent years, males tend to develop eating disorders at an older age. The average age of onset of an eating disorder in males is 17-26 compared to 15-18 in females.1  

EATING DISORDER RISK FACTORS FOR MEN

The typical risk factors for eating disorders are identical for both males and females. These of course include family pressures or stressful home life, low self esteem, perfectionism, weight/body related bullying and weight/food/body focus in the media.

Despite dieting being perceived as a less common risk factor for men compared to women, it’s evident that males in jobs or hobbies that involve focus on either appearance, strength and/or physical activity are more at risk.

In addition, the media and society’s general focus on body image and weight can also contribute to male eating disorders.

The risk factors for men include:

  • Men whose job requires a particular body “look” such as models, body builders,  actors or other entertainers
  • Male athletes especially those in sports which require either a particular physique or fitness level; such as gymnasts, football/rugby players, swimmers, jockeys, weightlifters, wrestlers and body builders. Male athletes with eating disorders may partake in unhealthy and potentially dangerous activities such as restrictive dieting, extreme or persistent exercise and exercise regimes and/or anabolic, protein, steroid abuse.
  • The media’s focus on appearance and body shape can also negatively influence men to want to achieve an unrealistic body type for their individual circumstance.
  • Pressure from friendship groups and/or other men around them to look a certain way.
  • Society / media pressure to constantly “workout” or go to the gym.

These unrealistic body expectations can include being a certain weight or body type, having a 6 pack or other prominent muscles etc. Some men may become obsessed with achieving a weight or body type  (through endeavouring to achieve either a high or low body weight, different muscle prominence and/or with involvement of protein and steroids). These expectations can evolve into disturbing, persistent behaviours that they engage in to reach that body type and this impacts physical and mental health.

WARNING SIGNS

Warning signs in males can include excessive exercise, preoccupation with either body weight, body shape, food intake and/or muscle prominence, excessive weight-lifting, banning or restricting certain foods and food groups, restricting calories, excessive use of anabolics, protein products or steroids.

Outdated societal pressures call upon men to be strong and keep in emotions and when they are struggling they’re expected to keep pushing on and not be vocal about their issues. Now if a male has an eating disorder that’s undiagnosed but keeps hearing about how these women are eating disordered for certain reasons that are related to them being women, they may not be able to put two and two together and often they just assume it’s something he shouldn’t talk about and that it’s something that only happens to women so that can’t be what they’re struggling with currently. However, that is not the case at all. Eating disorders in men are very real, valid and prevalent.

WHAT NEXT?

Just like by writing this, I want and hope that the stigma of having what many people regard incorrectly as a “female illness”, reluctance  to seeking professional help, and an unwillingness to seem “weak” is replaced by adequate awareness and recognition of male eating disorders. On top of this, it needs to be recognised how eating disorders in men are often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed by medical practitioners and that needs to be fixed.

Eating disorder treatment (such as psychological services, nutritional advice and support groups) are effective in treating both men and women, and the outlook for recovery is equally as possible.

If you suspect that you or a male in your life is experiencing an eating disorder or warped attitudes towards body image, food or weight, please consider the resources available at: https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/

Chatting to your GP or other physician or just a friend or family member you are close to is also a good idea if you’re concerned about your relationship with food, weight or exercise.

It’s not weak to reach out.

You don’t have to be underweight to still have anorexia!

Once you’ve been diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, you still have it unless your symptom manifestation changes. Yep, that’s right, you can be a healthy weight and still keep the Anorexia Nervosa diagnosis you were given at a low weight as there is such thing as “remission” and “relapse”.


For example, partial remission: After full criteria for anorexia nervosa were previously met, Criterion A (low body weight) has not been met for a sustained period, but either Criterion B (intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat or behavior that interferes with weight gain) or Criterion C (disturbances in self-perception of weight and shape) is still met.


In full remission: After full criteria for anorexia nervosa were previously met, none of the criteria have been met for a sustained period of time.


That means, someone in partial remission can be weight restored but still meet the other criteria for their standing Anorexia Nervosa diagnosis.


Being weight restored while still struggling doesn’t mean your diagnosis isn’t Anorexia Nervosa anymore – it just means you’ve undergone weight restoration and/or there is another factor causing your “healthy” weight.


If someone with an Anorexia Nervosa diagnosis is a “healthy weight” but is still engaging in their disordered behaviours and meet the other criteria of Anorexia Nervosa, they’re still Anorexic!


The definition of Anorexia Nervosa:


A. Restriction of energy intake relative to requirements, leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health. Significantly low weight is defined as a weight that is less than minimally normal or, for children and adolescents, less than that minimally expected.


B. Intense fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat, or persistent behavior that interferes with weight gain, even thought at a significantly low weight.


C. Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or persistent lack of recognition of the seriousness of the current low body weight.


Coding Note


Restricting Type: During the last 3 months, the individual has not engaged in recurrent episodes of binge eating or purging behavior. This subtype describes presentations in which weight loss is accomplished primarily through dieting, fasting, and/or excessive exercise.


Binge-eating/purging type: During the last 3 months, the individual has engaged in recurrent episodes of binge eating or purging behavior.


THEREFORE, since Criteria B & C are still met, THE INDIVIDUAL IS STILL ANOREXIC REGARDLESS OF WEIGHT RESTORATION.


The information regarding partial and full remission is directly from the DSM-V book.

‘Positive’ body image when you have a birth defect

This will be more of a ‘personal’ blog entry as of course it will mainly involve my own experience with body image and how my experience with it is vastly different to that of a regular person.

For the purposes of this blog post, and to be polite I will refer to my body as ‘atypical’. I’d use other terms but out of respect for other people who may have a deformity, birth defect or physical abnormality I will stick with atypical.

My experience with body image and how I perceive my physical appearance, unlike other people, isn’t solely due to my mental perception of my body. It is also due to a very real and obvious birth defect. My body does look different, and not in a “diverse” way. It is different in the sense that I have a birth abnormality, my body isn’t like others.

My liver and part of my transverse colon remain on the outside of my body, covered with full thickness skin grafts. I have a very obvious abdominal “bump” as well as scoliosis that leaves me with a limp and visible curved spine. Ever since I could understand other people’s words and behaviour, I have battled with negative experiences with people commenting on or even touching my body in a way that left me feeling insulted, upset and scared.

With all these negative experiences involving other people’s reaction to my body in tow, as a child and during adolescence when I heard the words “love your body” or “body positivity” I would recoil in anger with “how could I love MY body?”. How could I love a body that prevented me from keeping a pregnancy, let alone look good? Or love a body that some people obviously took issue with?

As the Butterfly Foundation (https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/understand-eating-disorders/body-image/) states: “Behaviours in which you engage as a result of your body image encompass your behavioural body image. When a person is dissatisfied with the way they look, they may isolate themselves because they feel bad about their appearance or employ destructive behaviours (e.g. excessive exercising, disordered eating) as a means to change appearance.” – it’s no wonder I developed an eating disorder, especially since for me, there has always been a dissatisfaction with my body for how it is, with the added reactions of people within society.

I cannot remember how many nights while still in school that I cried about these experiences, it got to the point I wouldn’t leave the house without some sort of object like either a stuffed animal or a handbag to carry over my tummy bump so that I’d possibly be allowed to go out in public without someone mentioning it.

The Body Positivity Movement allegedly works towards being accepting of your own body and that of others — but you’d be absolutely kidding yourself if you think that “positivity” currently extends to people with birth defects. Bodies such as mine are never apart of the body positivity movement, instead, people like me are really only raised in either abortion arguments, offensive memes, “inspiration porn” or other debates that aren’t necessarily about bringing positivity to our existence, let alone our bodies.

That’s why I want to change people’s outlook on body positivity and direct to what it’s really about – functioning. Body image resources do not include people with physical abnormalities, and quite frankly, these resources are not a one size fits all fix. Why? It’s due to the fact that they really only talk about physical appearance and expect people to be all “yippee” with how their body is just by reading a few lines of “stretch marks are tiger stripes”.

It’s true, I probably never will say I love my body. Ever. However, I do love what it does for ME and what it’s gotten me through. It gets me up in the morning, it’s allowed to me to pursue my educational goals in life and meet wonderful people.

I have to remember my body at age 23 is the same body that got me through abdominal surgery at birth, resuscitation at birth, major spinal surgery at age 2 and half, that got me through pneumonia and in recent times allowed me to complete my law degree.

Since I will never view my abdominal defect in a relatively positive way physically, I will acknowledge that a) this is my lot in life and to take it as it is and b) without my body how it is, I wouldn’t be able to experience life. As unfortunate as it may feel at times having a birth defect, it’s a rather all or nothing way of life, without being how I am today, I wouldn’t be even writing this post — and I’d certainly rather live with my liver on the outside than not be here at all. Most people aren’t afforded such an ultimatum.

My own condensed “lite” version of body positivity, that gets me through each day, is centred on function. I cannot function properly if i’m nutritionally depriving myself – my brain and body cannot. Although my eating disorder definitely involves trying to control my appearance in some way, since I cannot control my birth defect, I lose such control when I lose my function. I want to hopefully be able to live life to the extent that’s possible for me. That is my goal: to function to the best of my ability.

What I can only leave everyone as with is my simple message. Your body exists for you and you only. No one else. It functions purely to keep YOU alive. Your body doesn’t exist to please others or amount to another person’s expectations. It’s appearance is only one facet. Appearance can be negatively impacted due to injury, illness or other conditions at any moment and all you are left with will be trying to function and survive.

It’s main purpose is for survival, so perhaps it’s time to reciprocate the care our bodies subconsciously provide us rather than trying to destroy it for a goal, aesthetic, comfort or result you’ll never achieve and if you do achieve it somewhat, it’ll likely be at a price. I’m not a great predictor but it’ll likely be how your body functions that will be impacted, and if not that, your happiness.

I think everyone should employ this notion that body positivity and body image should be centred around function and appreciating what your body CAN do, not what it can’t do (ie.  expecting your body to fit into sizes of clothing that are too small for your true body type). When we accept our bodies for how they are and what they do for us (whether grudgingly or otherwise) we gradually negate the incessant focus on the unachievable and instead replace unrealistic goals with just getting on with life.

Screw resolutions! They’re toxic!

It’s that damn time of year again…of course it’s all masqueraded under the guise of ~new years resolutions~, but we are bombarded with an insulting amount of  weight-focused nonsense left, right and centre. Magazine articles, news stories and TV shows all dedicated to crash diets, excessive exercise, body-shaming and an incessant focus on weight.

The media drill into our heads that sugar is dangerous, bread is unhealthy and that eating a treat of any sort is strictly forbidden. Frankly, it is absolutely not sustainable to completely ban a food, let alone several foods, by telling people they can never have a treat, all that does is create unnecessary and harmful guilt every time someone “caves in” as the media describes it.

Enjoying a treat or two isn’t “caving in”, it’s just living life and getting on with life by fuelling your body with something nice. It is hard as it is for those of us with eating disorders and it’s very confronting.

Anorexia is enough to deal with, I don’t need articles and other people to tell me about foods being bad or fatty or evil or that you need to exercise for over an hour to burn off one item from Mcdonalds or shockingly enough, A MUFFIN. I don’t need to be told that people just eat junk and don’t exercise and that’s why they “get fat”.

When I hear this stuff, i’m then left feeling guilty for not being able to exercise due to my lungs and then i’m left with fear that maybe the amount i’ve eaten is “fattening”. It’s absolutely disturbing. In desperation i’ve even paced up and down my hallway for as long as I could after reading one of those “burn this food off by doing this” articles.

The media say the opposite of what my dietician says but the scary thing is that a lot of people believe the media’s view of weight and nutrition over medical professionals so it’s even harder to escape it, even with the TV turned off. Even members of my family have been sucked in over and over again.

Speaking of the TV being turned off, one of the best ways to combat this toxic media portrayal of food, body shape and weight is to avoid viewing it. I’m hypocritical when I say this, as I often dive into viewing triggering things, but the best thing to do is to simply turn off the tv show, the news show or close the magazine as soon as it refers to anything close to shaming bodies, food or weight in a way that is not constructive, healthy or positive.

New year is for new beginnings, not new toxic eating behaviours.

 

 

Happy New Year.

Happy New Year everyone, I hope you had a good celebration. I have maintained my sobriety and i’m quite proud of myself.

I’ve also made some good progress with my eating. The tube is now out and i’m working through my meal plan. It’s confronting, especially now that weight gain is evident but i’m trying my best. I’m trying to discover more delicious things so that I’m able to try and enjoy what i’m eating as meal plans can feel like a really onerous routine otherwise.

I cannot believe these images are almost 3 weeks apart. 1013332

I’m enjoying makeup application again and you can start to see that health is returning to me somewhat.

I got my first tattoos last week. I got the NEDA symbol and my motto “keep moving forward”.

132737

I have a GP appointment today where i’ll get my mental health care plan sorted out so that I can regularly see a dietitian, psychiatrist and psychologist.

 

Wrapped up: December

This month, hospital had become my home and I regret saying this but it made me feel safe. I feel humiliated that everyone knew that I was in hospital and why. I was starting to get comfortable with living away, protected from the real world.

This week in particular, I felt as though it was foreign when I went to the  supermarket and clothing shops. I was used to spending almost 2 weeks with doctors, nurses, family and 4 walls.

While other people my age go out on a Friday night, I feel immense guilt about allowing myself a 40 calorie hot chocolate.

People read my blog and follow my instagram because I’m anorexic and my whole accounts centre around my eating disorder.

Everything triggers me, food is still scary. How am I meant to get better? I don’t know who I am without anorexia. I don’t even know if it’s possible to be my old self again, who I was over 3 years ago. Will I ever wake up and be glad I’m here? Will I ever enjoy pizza again? Will I ever go out at night again and enjoy myself?

Who will I be without my eating disorder? I’m scared of what the future has in store for me.