Eating disorders come in one size: miserable

Eating disorders are not a diet, phase or a trend. And you don’t have to have a certain weight or size or be super skinny to have an eating disorder. You don’t have to look sick to have an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are a mental illness, and anyone, at any gender, age, size, weight, socioeconomic background etc can have an eating disorder.

There are however certain criteria, one of which is related to weight, to be diagnosed with anorexia. However there are other forms of eating disorders which are just as serious and need help, support and treatment to get better.

Weightloss is just a symptom of an eating disorder, or for some eating disorders, weight gain is a symptom. But they are mental illnesses and can not always be seen from the outside. Many are functional sufferers, meaning they can live life somewhat normally but still struggle and suffer in silence – don’t be one of them.

If you are struggling – you need to seek help.

You don’t need to get sicker. You don’t need to lose more weight. You don’t need to look sick.

If you are suffering and struggling with an eating disorder and an unhealthy relationship with food and your body, then you should seek help. You may think you can live life and be ok, but in the long term it won’t last. You are still missing out on life and not truly living if you are suffering at the same time.

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And i understand that many think that they can’t seek help if they don’t look sick, because they won’t be taken seriously. But if you go a professional who is actually knowledgable then you should be offered help – whether it is talking to a therapist, getting help from a dietitian, CBT training, inpatient or day patient care. Whatever is best for your health and situation.

Don’t go your whole life struggling and suffering. Know that there is help and you don’t need to suffer in silence.

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There are consequences – physical and mental – that can occur over time if you don’t seek help. Anorexia has one of the highest mortality rates of psychiatric illnesses. And binge eating is actually one of the most common eating disorders- and there is presumed to be a huge amount of people struggling and who never seek help, making the percentage higher than what is documented. (I have had many ask me about binge eating and bulimia, so i plan to write a post/masterpost about this topic. Many find it incredibly embarrassing, whether they have just developed binge eating or whether they have transitioned from anorexia to bulimia, it is an awful dark circle and people find it incredibly embarrassing to talk about or seek help for. But also because of the embarrassment, many suffer in silence for years).

Know that you do deserve help, support and treatment for your eating disorder. Don’t think that you have to wait until you look sick or get sicker – eating disorders are serious nonetheless. And you can’t live a truly happy life if you are struggling and sick at the same time.

 

Micromanaging your food and your body just gives you a false sense of control – in actuality you don’t have control at all, it is your eating disorder, your illness that has control. Instead you are just running from the actual problem and the guilt and anxiety that goes along with recovery and facing your eating disorder. But the only way to recover and get better is to face your eating disorder and your fears, and deal with the actual problem. (And with help, support and treatment you can get better ways to learn to do that, as well as get support so you don’t have to try to face your fears alone.)

And remember that just because you can eat doesn’t mean you are healthy or have a healthy relationship with food. If you feel that you have an unhealthy relationship with food, or you feel like food controls you or gives you guilt and anxiety, then you need to rethink your relationship with food.

Eating disorders come in one size… and that is miserable.

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Exercise addiction – my story & advice

If you love exercising it often requires more willpower to not exercise than it does to go workout.  Many would find this hard to believe. But just like with anything, if you love it you want to do more of it/have more of it… example if you find a new series you want to watch you might spend a whole day/week watching the series, for those who love exercise they want to do it as often as they can.

The important thing though is to find a balance with exercise. Because exercise is good and something everyone should be doing (of course, individual situations such as when you are sick, injured or in recovery then exercise would just do more harm than good. And in those types of situations exercise is not recommended.), but too much exercise might just lead to negative consequences such as lower immune system so you get colds more often, you can injure yourself if you don’t recover and get enough rest. But also exercise is a stressor, it stresses your muscles, nerves and your brain so if you are constantly exercising without giving your muscles and brain a time to rest you can go into “overdrive” and burnout with problems such as restless legs, insomnia, anxiety, depression, loss of appetite/eating too much, extreme fatigue etc

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In the past i suffered from exercise addiction. Some say that is not a real thing, but for me it was very real. I would purposely set my alarm for 5 or 6am in the morning, get up and stand/move and then for the rest of the day i would be standing, moving, walking, running, exercising until around 11pm or 12am when i would finally allow myself to lie down in my bed, and even then i would begin shaking my legs and moving, anything to not be still. I was terrified of being still, terrified of sitting. I genuinely thought that if i sat down i would gain weight and balloon up. I have had many arguments with my family as they couldn’t get me to sit down, i refused to travel or sit in the car longer than 30 minutes so would refuse to go anywhere that was longer than 30 minutes drive away. I refused to go to the cinema as it would mean sitting for 90-120 minutes, i never sat on public transport and not even when extremely tired would i rest. It was a compulsion, obsession and my exercise was done out of fear, anxiety and guilt, it was not something i liked doing but something i thought i had to do. Those years of compulsive exercise have lead to me having injuries in present time, both in my hip, knees and back as i used to stand in weird places to not get seen as well as hunching over alot as my back muscles couldn’t keep me straight, but also i did alot of walking and running in the wrong form of shoes which is something i deeply regret as i can get alot of pain in my knees and hips now a days from that.

Eventually with the help of treatment and my family i learnt that sitting and resting was ok and i began to get better at resting. But then i began working out again and due to school related anxiety and stress i began to abuse exercise again and it wasnt something i did consciously… it just happened. It went from 30 minutes running to eventually doing 1,5-2 hours of cardio everyday as i thought that was the only thing that counted as exercise. Eventually from 2013 when i began to strength train i have worked on that golden balance with exercise. Trying to find what works for me and what i have now realised is that balance varies over time…. sometimes in my life going to the gym 6 times a week is balance that works, other times 3-4 times a week is balance as i have other more important things in my life. Sometimes balance with exercise is just leaving the house, going out for a walk and other times it is running and doing crossfit style workouts. It all depends on my life situation. But also remembering to always listen to my body… to do what i enjoy and what I want to do. It is easy to scroll through social media and see all these people doing tough workouts and working out daily and forget to realise that that is presumably their job… to film their workouts, share their workouts and just be an online workout inspiration. Whereas i have school, school assignments and other things in my life that take up my time. But also everyone is different, i have injuries that prevent me from doing squats or heavy deadlifts, but i can do other forms of exercise instead i don’t need to squat just because it seems like everyone else is doing squats.

Finding balance with exercise is hard and it takes time. It is all about listening to your body asking yourself if you really want to exercise. And if you do, what form of exercise… maybe it is just yoga, maybe it is running, maybe it is HIIT, maybe it is stretch or swimming… it can vary. You DONT have to go to the gym or have a really tough sweat session to call it a workout.

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What saddens me is to see people who are in the same situation i was a few years ago. To see people who never seem to rest, always at the gym, always tired, always working out…. i just want to reach out to them and tell them that it is ok to rest, it is ok to skip a workout. Nothing bad will happen if you don’t workout for a few days or a week or two. Your muscles won’t break down and disappear, you won’t suddenly gain 5kg fat, and yes… you can still eat even if you don’t workout.

Many don’t see overexercising as a problem because one of the biggest problems in society is that people DON’T exercise enough. Now  a days people are far too still, they sit almost 24/7 and eat too much processed food, and that is an epidemic with many health problems. And it is only a small percent of people who are overexercising, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem that needs help. What i have also noticed is that all the health recommendation and all the news about needing to walk 10 000 steps a day, get up every 60 minutes, move, walk, sit less…. all of that information is being followed by the people who already workout… by the people who are already active and suddenly they are trying to fit in more steps, more workouts and more movement into their already active lifestyle, while those who actually need to follow the advice don’t. It’s tough when there are 2 such extremes and both are problematic.

In the future i want to help both those who over exercise and need to learn to rest as well as those who don’t move at all and need to find a sport they enjoy doing and get more active!

If you are struggling with overexercising or want to know more about my story, below are some links to previous posts which you can read.

How i stopped overexercising (written in 2012, so i have made alot of changes and different mindset since then!)

Masterpost of exercising and exercising in recovery. How to find balance with exercise.

The importance of rest and my exercise addiction

Resting doesn’t mean you are fat or lazy – answer

Links about over exercising

 

If you need any advice you can always comment below and i can try my best to help 🙂

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Overcoming social anxiety as a vegan

If you are not a vegan then this post might not apply to you, but if you have social anxiety it might help for when you are eating out or meeting people and have to eat. Whether it because you have to eat at certain times due to your food schedule or maybe you have celiac or IBS and that makes it complicated when you go out to eat so you just avoid the whole situation. But that isnt always the best…. I never let my veganism stop me from socialising. If i go to a party or place where the chances of there being vegan food is small then i bring my own food or eat beforehand, and sometimes such as when studying with friends ill bake something vegan which we can all eat.
But also when first meeting new people im learning to be ok with just saying “i dont eat animal products” and not dancing around the subject such as saying… “no, i dont eat that…. no not that either… ” “oh there was butter on that… no i cant eat that either”. When in all honesty ive learned its better to just say “im vegan or i dont eat animal products” and then its up to the person how they react and respond. Whether they are judgemental or curious or begin debating with you. But know what you believe in and dont feel ashamed about it either. Just like if you have any other allergies or intolerances.  Social anxiety can suck and its not easy to be “different” when you have social anxiety and that is something i know can stop people from going vegan. So i thought that this post from Soycrates was very good to read. (And there is alot more on veganism HERE and about the environment HERE
Note… no, i am not trying to make or force any of you to go vegan. Everyone makes their choices and if you arent vegan and dont plan to be vegan then maybe this post isnt for you… but i know i have many vegan readers so maybe this is helpful to them 🙂 
 
I know that I’m not the only vegan who has ever had to deal with social anxiety. I see posts about it on the daily, and occasionally I’ll hear people talking about wanting to go vegan but having the fear of social interactions limiting them from taking that crucial step. Part of it may be because we know the stereotypical image of veganism: to announce you’re vegan in public is to be the punch line of the “How can you tell if someone is vegan?” joke (which isn’t a very good joke in the first place, but it still has an effect on us). With social anxiety, calling attention to your veganism can often feel like an invitation for others to see you as an elitist, a wuss, a snob, picky, over-emotional, or any of the other derogatory associations that those who dislike veganism might make. People with social anxiety make it through the day by flying as low on the social radar as possible. Having a set of moral beliefs that change your lifestyle does place you just a little higher on the “necessary social interaction” ladder. But veganism and social anxiety do not have to violently clash, and in fact the social interactions we have to make to sustain veganism could actually build a bridge towards further success in overcoming social anxiety. Here’s a list of tips for those trying to juggle a motivation to live ethically with a fear of social situations:
  • When ordering food, it may not be necessary to use the word “vegan” to make sure you’re getting animal-free food: asking your servers different questions, like “is this dairy free?” (when the only possible animal product in what you are ordering is dairy, such as some smoothies) or “does this have animal products?” or “What are the allergens in this?” can sometimes do the job equally well, or better. Your server may have never heard of the term “vegan”, your server may have strong sympathies for people trying to eat-out with allergies, it may stress to them the stronger importance of ordering animal-free food. This way, you don’t have to worry that they started freaking out or judging you for being “vegan”, and you still get your plant-based meal. This tip is for those with especially strong social anxiety, or those who live in areas where veganism is extremely unpopular.

 

  • When at a social gathering and someone offers you non-vegan food, a quick smile and a no thanks are enough: a “thanks, but I can’t eat that”, or “thanks, but I’m vegan” is the easiest way out of a sticky situation. This time it might be necessary to mention that you won’t eat it (on ethical grounds), otherwise they may further prod you to try it, leaving you scrambling to try and subtly explain why you’re not interested. People appreciate short and to-the-point, and if you’re among good friends just remember that even though they may not understand veganism fully, they likely respect you enough not to make open judgements or immediately tease you. Offering to bring your own snacks can help avoid these situations. Some party hosts may react negatively knowing that they didn’t bring anything you can eat or you can’t seem to eat anything at their party. Be open with them: let them know it doesn’t bother you, or let them know the onus to bring vegan food was your responsibility, not theirs.

 

  • Keep in mind that you may have a social encounter with a vegan, vegetarian, or sympathizer without even knowing it: I used to dance around the subject of veganism, trying to be as coy and indirect about it as possible, until I stopped by a smoothie bar and meekly asked, “Does this, um… have… milk… in it?” to which the woman working there smiled and informed me of the wide range of animal-free options on the menu. She further asked whether I was vegan or not and was beaming at my response of “yes”, sharing similar sentiments herself. Here I was, trying not to offend a vegan by asking if they had anything vegan on the menu. Even if not everyone you meet will be a vegan, the image of veganism and its popularity is changing and increasing each year. People everywhere are becoming more knowledgeable and open to the idea of animal-free living.

 

  • If someone asks you questions about why you are vegan: 1. take a deep breath, straighten up your posture, and smile. Slouching, frowning, shallow breathing, these are bodily signs that psychologically force us further and further into anxious, defensive, uncomfortable and undesirable mindsets. In essence: fake confidence about being asked about veganism, and eventually you’ll have that confidence. 2. Be totally honest. Even if you think they’ll think it’s dumb to be vegan “for the animals”, “for ethics”, “for the environment”, say it anyway – if you lie (like saying it’s about health or just a fad because you think they’ll be okay with that) and they ask further about the lie, you’ll be stuck again scrambling for some way out of the conversation. If you stick to what you know, you’ll have more control over the flow of conversation than you otherwise would have. Stick to easy-to-explain concepts and try not to imagine that your conversational partner is automatically rejecting everything you say. Social anxiety has a nasty habit of making the individual believe everything they say is being ridiculed, and with veganism so widely ridiculed in popular culture we can feel doubly so.

 

  • Don’t feel like you have to be the “perfect vegan spokesperson” whenever someone brings up the topic: it’s stressful knowing that you are probably the only vegan a lot of your acquaintances might ever meet, and as such you sort of embody what veganism is in their eyes. You are the vegan emissary, and it’s a tough job. But you don’t always have to be on the job – if someone asks you about veganism and you don’t feel like you can be the top notch educational ethical guru, just talk about how veganism makes you feel, how veganism changed your life. Talk about why veganism makes you happy rather than why others should follow suit. This doesn’t make you a “bad vegan emissary” because it might turn out that they’ll hear why veganism makes you happy and want to try it out themselves.

 

  • Even if you screw up, nobody will remember it forever: if your voice goes all high pitched and sniffly when you talk about slaughterhouses, if you have to send back a meal because they put cheese all over it, if you stutter when someone asks about veganism, it’s easy to feel like, “Well, I fucked up, I have cursed veganism for a thousand years. I have brought a plague unto our tofu fields and a pox on our plant-based pizzas. I have made myself and veganism look silly and now everyone will laugh at me whenever they see me”. But social anxiety has a hand in making us feel that way. When the fact is, most people, if they don’t forgive mistakes, easily forget mistakes. The person most likely to dwell on our mistakes… is us. Not them. Even if this rational thought doesn’t automatically get us out of the thick of social anxiety, it can help us calm down in our worst moments.

 

  • It’s okay to have social anxiety, and it’s great to be vegan. Never blame yourself for having anxiety and never give up fighting for veganism. We can’t change the world in one day, we can’t change ourselves in one day. But every day we put in a little more effort, with a little more support, and we do see results.

Dealing with anxiety and panic attacks 

I may have recovered from my eating disorders and depression but I still suffer from anxiety and panic attacks from time to time. I know that I am not the only one who suffers from them so i thought I would write some of my tips on how to cope when you feel yourself getting anxious or a panic attack. Of course what works for each person is individual but maybe it will help!

When I get anxiety it can often be caused by over thinking, So then trying to not think as much or get stuck in my head and thoughts I do something that will distract me from my thoughts.  If I’m at home that can be cleaning,making food or going for a walk or calling someone. Even playing candy crush can help or some type of mind game that makes me think and concentrate.

Also, finding out what caused the anxiety. Was it worry or stress or just a sudden anxious feeling? If the anxiety was caused by over thinking and worrying then remind yourself that worrying won’t make anything better. Worrying will just make you suffer twice. Trying to think about what caused the anxiety and what you can do to stop it can help you feel less anxious in the future.

My second tip is to just sit and breathe. Even if I know what caused the anxiety and know I shouldn’t worry or feel anxious it doesn’t always help, So then I try to find somewhere quiet and alone and just sit and breathe for a while. Sometimes I count and keep counting until I feel more calm again, other times I sit and analyse items such as pick one item in the room and describe it in my mind. It’s a way of distracting myself and stopping the thoughts that will send me into panic mode. 

And as already mentioned above, calling someone can help or sitting and talking to someone. Also going for walks. I personally can’t workout at the gym if I’m anxious as I am far too much in my own head and thoughts and instead if I’m at the gym and start feeling anxious I almost always have to leave because I can’t focus on my workout and just forget proper form and what exercises as well as I lose motivation to actually workout if I’m starting to get an anxiety or panic attack. But walking helps and it can help me to think more clearly!

Writing or drawing can also be helpful or doing something with your hands and something that requires focus will get you out of your own mind and thoughts !

Know that the anxiety will pass, maybe it will linger and you will feel that uncomfortable feeling for a while but the strongest peak of those feelings don’t last long and the important thing is to just sort of “ground yourself” with different techniques so that you can deal with those feelings and not do something reckless or something you will regret.

I don’t personally believe I will recover from my anxiety disorder (not clinically diagnosed so just anxiety I guess! Never self diagnose so really I should go to a doctor!), however I can learn to cope and deal with the feelings in my own way. Do know that there is professional help if you need it and don’t be ashamed to reach out for help!

I’ve found that the more I’m honest about these bad days and struggles the easier it is to cope. Hiding when I’m struggling or have anxiety won’t help and just adds guilt or shame when I shouldn’t feel that way! 

If you have any advice or tips on dealing with anxiety, comment below!