Recovery update: What’s the difference between “binge eating” and “overeating”?

When I first sat down to think about the above question, without trying to figure it out in the moment it was affecting me directly, I quickly came around to the opinion that its actually easier to separate the two out than I previously thought. In the moment this question is affecting you it can be hard to sit there and figure out “have I binged, or have I just overeaten a bit?‘. Feeling you’ve engaged in the first can lead to some serious guilt-tripping if you suffer from binge eating, and this question is one that at the beginning of recovery I really struggled to figure out. The immediate difference is that whilst binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder (obviously), overeating is not.

First though: why does it matter? As a recovering BED sufferer I like to keep an eye on how I’m doing. If I can identify that I am binge eating before it gets too far I can maybe reign it in. Furthermore, knowing the difference between binging, and just a little bit of over-indulging has really helped to reduce the guilt I felt when I was, say, going out for a big meal. Previously, eating an extra serving of something or a three course dinner would push me into worrying that I was binging. I’m sure many of you understand the “fuck it” mentality of binging: you feel you’ve started binging, you may as well carry on. Not being able to separate out the above things in my mind meant that I was binging more and more frequently. I was avoiding occasions where I would be going out for food, and generally missing out. So in summary, once I got the difference between binging/overeating I was able to:

  1. Pre-empt a binge by tuning in to how I was feeling around food.  As I practiced, this then helped me to avoid slipping deeper into binging.
  2. Minimise the guilt surrounding occasions where I’d maybe eat a bit more than normal, which eventually allowed me to relax around certain trigger foods and in turn begin to eat them without binging. I never actually thought this was possible, but I’m getting better at it.

Obviously, I am not a healthcare professional, and if you have an eating disorder then you need to find someone who is. This post is just something I wanted to share from my own experience, in-case it helps anyone out. Having been through ED I would encourage you to seek help before yours goes any further; you can do this by booking a doctor’s appointment, or by visiting a support website such as B-eat (link at the bottom of the page). Okay, now we can begin… Continue reading

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ED Recovery Update (I think this is no.3?!)

Its been a while since we took a look at this topic. That’s right, as I promised in my review of Brain Over Binge, it is time for a recovery update. And a lot has been going on.

From April through May I did not want to update you ladies and gents at all, because quite honestly it wasn’t going so well. And by not going well I mean that I didn’t manage to go more than 7 days without binging for a whole month. And a typical binge was becoming larger and larger, despite my eating normally during the day. And I had no idea what to do. There were no warning signs before I binged, they just happened in a matter of minutes. And other than the counsellor I was seeing, no-one knew. Because if you’re in a similar situation you will know it is god-damn embarrassing, even though if the situation was reversed I would want my friends/family to tell me what was going on so that I could help. But an eating disorder can feel like you have a logical and an illogical head sometimes, can’t it? Sometimes I wanted someone to ask, because starting that conversation myself always felt much too awkward, though I did try several times. My friends are amazing though, and even if we weren’t directly talking about it, it was nice to be around people I knew had my back, whatever was going on. They didn’t have to know for me to feel better when I was with them, and I know I am incredibly lucky with that.

After the last binge I had, I woke up the next day feeling my body wasn’t even mine anymore. I felt sluggish, puffy, three sizes too big for me, and incredibly down. I found it hard to leave the house that day, and I think that day was the hardest to pick myself up from out of all of the binges I have had, since the start of my teens. If we’re being honest here, I contemplated not getting up and carrying on, and instead just stopping fighting the binging- I could just binge all day and lay in bed. I could just accept I was going to be miserable forever, and give up. I’d been trying for so long I just didn’t have the energy. But if you learn anything through recovery from an eating disorder, its resilience (you learn some other stuff too, perhaps I should write a post on this?). Since that last binge – touch wood- I am on Day 35 of no binges. How come? Well, I became determined to try and go one month without binging- to begin with. I decided I could either give up, or try again and try harder. And so I’ve gone at it hell for leather. The biggest things I did though were these: I decided to genuinely only look at one day at a time, and I would count down 30 days, not up. Counting up the days I hadn’t binged made it feel like the days were going so slowly, and as if I was barely making any progress. I am generally not a patient person when it comes to myself, so it never went that well. Counting down, personally, made me feel better. I just took each day as it came, and made small improvements each day. It went slowly at first, and then suddenly I was at seven days again…and no binge. Then I was two times seven days, and on and on. Continue reading

You don’t have to go from ‘Zero’ to ‘Bo-Po’

Body Positivity (Bo-Po) appears to be a major goal for all of us. We should all be able to feel more comfortable in our skin, I 100% agree. But making the jump from body-hate to body–love? Difficult. And so I have a suggestion for you…

Now, today – just as a little disclaimer- I’m not getting into the whole “Is praising X/Y/Z body type healthy/dangerous?!” thing. Anybody can have underlying health issues, at any size. Yes, some body types are more susceptible to certain diseases- but your doctor will be able to run tests to ascertain if you have such conditions. Moreover, I think we’re all able to identify little signs that tell us if something is wrong inside our body, for ourselves. If you struggle to walk for long periods of time, your bones feel weak, you get dizzy etc. then they’re sure-fire signs something is wrong.  Guess what? I had those feelings when both over and under weight. Those feelings can happen in any body type, and for a range of reasons. Equally, feeling full of energy, strong, and mentally content can happen with any body type. Skinny or lean doesn’t automatically equal healthy. So, let’s get back to discussing Bo-Po- because who doesn’t want to be a god/goddess? Or rather, a-hem, accept that they already are?

HOWEVER.

I’ve already said that Bo-Po is a major goal, and that’s just it: its something you have to work at, and that takes time. I am personally not positive about my own body. I am working on it. Because it can be a very hard thing to achieve if you’ve had any mental disorder surrounding appearance- hell, its hard for anyone.

I am here today telling you that you don’t need to go straight to Bo-Po. I know, shocking. I’ve found that the best starting point for me has been body neutrality. So, not looking at my body and making nasty comments on it, basically. Or, if they come letting them go- just letting them slide through my mind and not responding, the same way a cloud gets moved along in the sky. I’m not (usually) going to chase a cloud, because I have better things to do. Similarly, I am not going to obsesses over these thoughts. I may think “I wonder where that thought comes from? How true is it? Hm…I know it isn’t true, and its coming from my feeling X/Y/Z about A/B/C”. And then I move on. I’m neither viewing my body with extreme love, or hatred, but rather a “meh, this is how I look, don’t really have an opinion on this, lets get on with my day and being awesome”. This has two major advantages:

  1. Before you can rebuild you need to remove. I am removing the bad thoughts slowly, moving through body neutral, and into (eventually) Bo-Po.
  2. I am not placing undue focus on my body, as I feel that for me desperately trying to find things I love about it would create another problem. Instead I am focusing on things outside of how I look.

Body neutrality is basically a stepping-stone that I am finding very, very helpful. In a way, it remind me of what children do (the time we’re usually least conscious about our bodies): they look at their body and see…a body! Then they go run around or dress up the dog or climb a tree.

And do you know what? “Bad body days” still happen, but since letting myself off of the Bo-Po hook and being neutral I’m suddenly discovering something: removing the pressure has made it easier to sometimes be body positive. Yesterday I looked in the mirror and thought “wow your thighs are getting big…”. And then, instead of going “meh”, came the: “yeah, that’s because you squat with 30kg now- its strength you’ve got there” – before I could stop it. I automatically turned what I initially perceived as a negative, into a positive.

My point is this: you don’t have to go from hatred to love overnight. It takes those people on IG who are Bo-Po Warriors a long time to get there, and its a mental battle. Take it a step at the time. For some, neutrality is more comfortable. You can always just go from there, or even stay there.

 

 

 

 

Fear Foods: My Final Hurdle.

The other day I had a hot chocolate with whipped cream. I cannot remember the last time I did this. Actually, no, I can: I was probably about twelve, and we were on a family holiday to Scotland, and we’d gone on the chair lifts to the top of Ben Nevis. That was eight years ago, if I’m remembering my age correctly.

For a while now I’ve been stuck somewhere between being very nearly recovered from the issues I have with food. I am at a healthy weight. Physically I am not cold all the time, my nails aren’t brittle, my hair and skin aren’t dull, I have energy, I don’t get bruises on my back and hips from lying on the floor to do yoga or workout in the gym. I am for all intents and purposes physically on top form. I eat a well balanced, healthy diet- yet I’m still effectively scared of eating some foods. These are fear foods, and I’ve been chipping away at them for a long, long time now. They are my last hurdle in my mental recovery. I never used to be able to eat toast with butter. Now, I do it all the time. I never used to add salt, or ketchup, or brown sauce. Now I do. I’d rather not have eaten baked beans, regular potato, rice, or noodles about a year ago, or I’d have eaten them extremely sparingly- now, I eat them with ease. Without trying to find a “healthier” alternative. Because let’s be honest, they’re already pretty damn healthy. Those are the fear foods that I’ve found easiest. Mainly because, they are savoury foods. I struggle much more with sweet foods. Continue reading

When Self-Care Goes Bad…

I am 100% a supporter of self-care. I think it is more than a great idea- it is an essential idea. BUT, as with most things relating to our health , I think it can easily become a tiny bit skewed. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has seen “self-care” being rebranded at times as something that you have to do in a certain way. Or something where you can be told that you’re doing it wrong, because it isn’t really “caring” for your body- even though the idea of caring for yourself encompasses so much more than your physical frame. Sometimes we feel the pressure to do something, well, more “self-carey” than what we know deep down would relax us. Thanks to social media we have the image that self-care should be a certain way, or link to self-improvement.  Continue reading

Practicising Self-Care: Where Do You Start?

Self care is a concept that I have been trying my hardest to incorporate into my life on a daily basis for about two months (nearly three) now. And it’s something that we tend to conveniently “forget” to do. We have so many other things to get done in a day, that this basic and health-giving concept is left behind. It’s at the bottom of our To Do List: if I complete my essay, then I’ll watch a DVD and have an early night. If I finish the cleaning then I’ll let myself sit down with a book. If I complete X number of reps at the gym, then I can chill out this afternoon. If I manage to answer all of my emails, then I can put a face pack on and have a bubble bath. For me, it went beyond even this: I don’t have time to use the hand dryer- I’ll just dry my hands on my jeans. I know I’m tired, but I need to get up at 6:30 am to do yoga. If it means more washing up, then I’d rather cook my porridge in the microwave instead of the hob, even though I prefer the latter. I won’t wash my hair tonight because I’m going to the gym tomorrow and will have to wash it anyway, I’ll just dry shampoo it. Self-care was something that sounded flimsy, and like it was for wimps. Or so I told myself, because since implementing it in my day to day life, I feel both physically, emotionally, and mentally stronger.

We neglect ourselves on such basic levels, don’t act as if we have time to look after ourselves. We’re an after thought. An inconvenience to look after when we have so much to do. To be honest, this was how I was brought up. Or rather, how I learnt. My mum does exactly this: she wasn’t a bad role model in any other sense. She didn’t talk about diets in front of me when I was five, she has a career, puts amazing food on the table, taught me to cook, work out finances, spell etc. But the one way she was (and still is) a bad role model, is this: she neglects to care for herself (and if you’re reading this mum, it isn’t like I haven’t told you this to your face either. Now go get a cup of tea and sit down for a bit). It’s a habit that so many of us pick up at some point in our lives, and it can be hard to get rid of.

Which is why, down below, I have some of the very simplest ways to practice self-care, things you probably neglect to do everyday, but just send the message to yourself that you actually matter, and then some bigger acts of self-care as we move down the list. Remember, these are just starting points: your self-care is something specific to you, and so to really feel the benefit you need to figure out what relaxes and makes you feel cared for.

  1. Dry your hands properly when you wash them. On a towel, with a dryer- just not hurriedly on your jeans.
  2. Pay attention to your body: if you need to pee, go pee. If you have a headache, take paracetamol. If you’re tired, then get an early night. Simple things, but things we all (admit it) ignore.
  3. Don’t let your phone be the first thing you reach for in the morning. Get up and out of bed, brush your teeth, get dressed, get your head into the zone for the day (coffee and breakfast usually required for this), then turn the phone on.
  4. Dress Up. I don’t care if your favourite outfit is a pair of jeans and comfy t-shirt, or a dress with cool heels-give yourself permission to wear it more often.
  5. Take time preparing your food, eat well, eat slowly- but also eat what you like. I find making my porridge in a pan so much more relaxing than whacking it in the microwave. And for ages I felt like getting this made faster and having “extra time” would help me feel less stressed. Right? Wrong. Taking time to prepare my food is a sign that I am worth spending time on, and it calms me first thing. Taking the time to actually taste the food too, experience each and every flavour I  haphazardly threw in there, really calms me down. As to eating what you like: we should all try and eat foods that are good for us. But we also have choices. Hate blueberries, but love strawberries? Then don’t force yourself to eat the former, just because you may have read they’re better for you. They are both healthy choices, but if you get more enjoyment from strawberries, stick with them.
  6. Don’t force yourself to do something that deep down you know isn’t beneficial. Like me and yoga at 6:30am. Deep down, I knew that half an hour more in bed would have been better for me.
  7. When you take time to relax, do something you actually want to do. Time enjoyed is never time wasted. If you’d feel more relaxed after sitting and watching a funny film, or reading, than if you did an “extra” workout, then do the former instead of the latter.
  8. Take time each day to relax, every day. Say ‘Right, from 6pm (or whatever your chosen time is) I will not do any more work; I will do things I enjoy’. Even if you can’t spend the whole evening in this state, at least take an hour.
  9. Meditate. Even for just two minutes. You don’t even need a video, or an app. Simply sit comfortably, and drawn your attention you your breathing. Take a deep breath in, then slowly let it out. And repeat. Bring your attention to the top of your head, and then move down your body in a wave, imagining that you are breathing in to any areas where there is tension, and then moving on. When you reach your toes, focus on breathing again, and then bring your attention back to the room, feeling (hopefully) a bit more refreshed.
  10. Give yourself a foot massage. I have to admit, I have recently come to adore doing this. I can’t go more than a few days without giving myself a foot massage now. Our feet are areas we neglect so much- especially if, like me, you walk everywhere at uni, gym it, and rarely cut your toenails.
  11. Make yourself a meal you really fancy. Make something you really enjoy eating. Sweet potato wedges, ketchup, salmon, and some kind of veg or hot salad is up my street, or something spicy, I know spinach and ricotta pancakes/pasta is up my mum’s, and cheese and biscuits is right up my flatmate’s. Whatever it is, take your time preparing it, put care and attention into it. Then savour and enjoy every mouthful.
  12. Take yourself for coffee. Pick your favourite coffee shop, and go lose yourself there with a of cup of something for an hour or so.
  13. Buy yourself a treat, that is food. Do a solo brunch/lunch trip. Buy a slice of cake when you go for that coffee. Whatever floats your boat. When I head home at Easter I shall be treating myself to fish and chips- because no where makes it like the village chippy.
  14. Buy yourself a treat that isn’t food: head to your favourite shop and pick something out. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. I head to Paperchase for a few postcards to put on my wall, or LUSH for a bath bomb, a bright lipstick if you like getting creative with makeup, or somewhere I can get a facepack/new porridge bowl/mug.
  15. Take a bubble bath. Get as many bubbles in there as you can- go buy a new bubble bath. Or a bath bomb. Push the boat out. Light candles if you want- and your landlord doesn’t suspect you might try to burn the house down (I think ours does; our contract specifies no candles…)
  16. Take a whole day out. Set aside a day, and spend it on you. And you alone. That isn’t to say don’t meet up with friends on this day, but choose to do that- don’t do things you feel obliged to. Anyone who works: you would book a day off to attend a wedding/funeral/christening, and show those attending that you care about them. Show yourself you give a shit, and either plan this for a day like a Sunday, or use one day’s holiday.
  17. Step away from things that make you feel inferior. It could be accounts you follow on IG that have you constantly comparing yourself to things you can never have (yes, you can tone up- but can you grow 6 inches and change your bone structure so that you hips are narrower and get you still have a thigh gap? No.), or that Pinterest board that’s filled with uninspiring “inspiration”. Or maybe that YouTuber who makes you feel like you should be in the gym every.single.day- and although you aren’t a PT and they are, that doesn’t make you feel any better.
  18. Be honest, with yourself and others. This can be hard at first. But if something isn’t working out, then you need to say so. It’s better for the people involved, and for yourself.
  19. Learn how to say no. If someone asks you out, to some kind of social event you would rather watch paint dry than go to, then say no. If someone wants you to do something you really don’t have time to do, say no. There’s a lot to be said for saying yes: it can open up new doors, and lead to exciting opportunities. But saying no sometimes will also ensure you’re still sane enough to enjoy those things you say yes to, and extend help to others when they really need it.
  20. Get rid of people you hate. I make it sound simple I know, but sometimes we have people hanging around in our lives who have been there way too long (I did not mean that to sound as sinister as it does). If there are people around you that feel as though they’re draining your energy, and every time you speak respond with something negative, then you don’t need them in your life.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and it gives you some ideas- but there are plenty of things you might do that I’ve missed out. If you have any particularly great ones, then stick them in the comments below…

      "If you’re into health and fitness, then why don’t you have abs?"

      Oh my god Em, you cant just ask people why they don’t have abs! (I really hope you all got that joke, or this could be awkward). Yet I ask myself this question on a regular basis. I will make no secret of the fact that a six pack is something I would love to possess. Like sports cars, jewellery, and designer handbags, it’s become somewhat of a status symbol in the health and fitness community. I have a friend who has River Island bags but desperately wants a Louis Vuitton; I have a toned stomach, but want my abs to pop. It indicates to the entire world (well, when you wear a crop top) the extent of your dedication, hard work, and self-discipline. Or does it? And why the hell do I need the rest of the world to know about my dedication, hard work, and self discipline?

      Here is the danger of my constantly reaching for a six pack: I forget what I already have. I forget that I’ve toned up my legs and arms and butt beyond recognition. More importantly, I forget the actions I can now perform that allow me to have made those changes: I’ve increased the weight I can lift, my stamina has improved, I can now do a chaturanga, I can do a handful of press ups at one time, I have nearly completed the 30 days of yoga challenge, I can complete a spinning class dripping in sweat but feeling less like I’m about to pass out. And even if those abdominal muscles aren’t popping out left right and centre, I have one powerful, Pilates formed core. Although abs may indicate hours spent honing your body to something the Ancient Greeks would have loved to replicate in marble, I put effort into my body too. I workout 5-6 days per week, for 30 minutes or more, I walk pretty much everywhere, I eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and 90% cooked completely from scratch.

      One thing that prevents me from forming said six pack is probably my refusal to throw myself into it completely. I have a personality that becomes obsessive regarding my body pretty easily. As a result, I refuse to follow a certain diet (be it paleo, clean, raw till 4), or certain instagram accounts posting “fitspo” that seems more like it promotes torture. I am all for challenging yourself, pushing yourself to achieve new things- but some of the things I see have the same vein as “thinspo”. Here’s my point: health and fitness is a mental thing as well. Is it healthy to worry about missing a workout, or dwelling on something you ate two days ago that “wasn’t clean”/”didn’t fit my macros”? No. It isn’t. Is it something I struggle with? Yes, it is. Recently I went on a day trip that involved getting up at 6am, following a waitressing trial shift that ended at 10:30pm the previous evening, and then arriving home at 11pm. I arrived home at 11pm post day trip too. I didn’t workout that day. I spend most of the day trying to prevent my mind whining about how I could have gotten up at 5am, or even workout when I got in. I ate ice cream, and my mind just went “Well, now we’re f***ked.”. It didn’t help that Magnums don’t taste as good as they used to. But guess what? One day doesn’t make that much of a difference. And I had the best day. It was worth the not working out. Which brings me to this…

      Health and fitness should be enjoyable. I enjoy working out. Pilates makes me feel beautiful, lifting my dumbbells makes me feel strong, yoga makes me feel chilled out, I will never stop hating many forms of cardio- but I feel like I’ve achieved something when I complete it. If I was spending 2 hours in a gym in search of a particular physique, would I still enjoy working out? No. If I was pushing myself to the point of exhaustion? No. I adore my veggies, nut butters, fish, and salads- but never eating brownies, burgers, or sweet potato fries? Always trying to eat “perfectly”? That’s no life. Some days I might need a lie in, or want to sing along to Hairspray from my couch wrapped in a blanket, or to eat a brownie, or maybe I want to party until 4am. Some days I really feel the fitness vibe, I’m awake at 6:30am buzzing to workout, and I desperately want a salad with mackerel and sweet potato and freshly grilled veggies. Health and fitness should contribute towards happiness, not be a stumbling block. An article that really helped me to understand this was one by Nia Shanks, which talks about letting go of perfection and finding a grey area with regards to binge eating. You can read it here: http://www.niashanks.com/20-tips-binge-eating/. She introduced me to the Voltaire quote that has become one of my favourites: “Perfect is the enemy of good”. I am a perfectionist: it allows me to excel in academic practices, and to keep my room tidy. It can also be a pain in the arse when it comes to health and fitness.

      So, your health and fitness journey should be just that: a journey. It should be about becoming happy with yourself and in your own skin and life. Yes, push yourself, and yes, do work towards being healthy. BUT! Don’t tie your happiness to a certain appearance orientated goal, because I can guarantee that once you reach it that goal will shift. Think of your health as a mental, emotional, and physical thing, and try not to sacrifice one for another. I can be way too hard on myself regarding my physical health, and can neglect giving my body a much needed break- but am gradually coming around to focusing on how fitness makes me feel. Maybe one day I will have a six pack, but right now I’m aiming to achieve actions, such as being able to perform a crow pose, and not a certain aesthetic- e.g. the toned arms and abs that come with a crow pose. Because being able to balance on my hands, hovering with my feet up next to my elbows, is a way cooler party trick than pulling up my top to reveal abs…