I felt that this Instagram post deserved its own place on the blog. I hope you find it useful.
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Twitter for more content.
I felt that this Instagram post deserved its own place on the blog. I hope you find it useful.
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Twitter for more content.
What feeling “fat” meant for me when I had an eating disorder:
1/ I felt physically bloated because:
2/ I was feeling ashamed, guilty and hating myself because I’d binged, purged or both, and was taking it out on my body.
3/ I was struggling to deal with difficult emotions completely unrelated to my eating disorder, such as struggling with criticism because of my perfectionism. Or sadness, or anger, or fear, or disappointment, or lonliness, or any other strong feeling.
So many people talk about feeling “fat”. But “fat” isn’t a feeling. And our bodies don’t change massively from hour to hour. So if you’re looking in the mirror, hating your body, and feeling “fat”, ask yourself what’s really going on.
Is it fullness or bloating, or are you blaming your body for something else?Because I can pretty much guarantee it’s not your body’s fault, and if it’s not, then changing your body won’t fix it.
And as for feeling “fat”, but not being fat, and not understanding why that’s an issue?
If fat wasn’t seen as a bad thing, you wouldn’t be feeling “fat” would you? If fat wasn’t seen as morally inferior, something to be feared, the worst thing you could possibly imagine, you wouldn’t be feeling “fat” at all.
And there you have it: fatphobia in action.
One eating disorder symptom, which isn’t talked about enough, is the belief that you’re not really ill, and definitely not ill enough to get treatment. And for many, including myself, the belief that you don’t deserve treatment, that you don’t deserve more than this existence, the half-life that comes with an eating disorder.
Even now, far along my recovery journey, I find myself thinking I wasn’t that ill. Things weren’t that bad. I’m just an imposter pretending I was ill to get attention. A narcissist, as one troll called me. After all, there were times when I didn’t binge much. There were times when I felt in control of my eating.
And then I think about those times, and realise they were the times when I was restricting heavily and cutting out foods groups. When I was barely eating during the day, then going out and drinking heavily at night. When I was making myself sick and overexercising. And I’m forced to admit that I wasn’t in control at all. I was just using different eating disorder behaviours to cope.
The only times when I used food less were my worst bouts of depression, when I mostly felt numb and so there were less emotions to control. SSRIs dull everything. Not just sadness and depression, but joy as well. And during my first episode, I didn’t have the physical or emotional energy for anything, including food and attending university, for a few months. Replacing the symptoms of one mental illness with those of another isn’t exactly an option I’d recommend.
I think back to the perfectionism. The constant shame and guilt. The self-loathing. The body checking I’m still trying to kick. The failure of all my relationships. The lies. The obsession with food that left so little room for anything else. The fear someone would find out how disgusting I was behind my carefully created facade. The secrecy. The physical pain of bingeing and purging. The compulsion to binge that screamed so loudly in my head that I just wanted it all to end.
I think back to the fact that I was diagnosed and referred to an eating disorder service, and they accepted me for treatment, and continued that treatment over more than two years.
Yes, I was ill enough. And if you’re asking yourself if you are? Or reading this believing you’re not, while doing and feeling the things I’ve described? Trust me, you’re ill enough. If you’re not getting help, it’s time to find some. Please speak to your GP, and see my resources page thebedpost.blog/resources for alternatives.
Allowing myself to feel,
To realise just how much you stole from me.
Peace, inner calm,
The strength to be myself.
The courage to admit just how terrified I was.
Sapping my self-esteem
Till I felt worthless, unworthy of any joy.
The feeling of dread
That they would all realise I was a fraud,
Not knowing what I was doing.
Seeming calm but completely out of control,
Wanting it to end,
But not knowing how.
Eating down the sadness,
Throwing up the fear,
Not knowing why
But knowing it was wrong.
Knowing they’d be horrified
If they ever knew.
Trapped in the cycle
Year after year.
So many years stolen.
So few remain.
Time to make them count.
On 24th July, 2021, I wrote the post “I binged today. Here’s what I learned.”
At the time, it didn’t cross my mind that I’d go a whole year without a full-on, painful, BED-style binge.
Yet here we are, in August 2022, and I haven’t binged like that since. There were so many points where it could have, and previously would have happened, and yet somehow it hasn’t. And I’m not even sure why.
I’ve certainly come very close. I’ve planned binges, bought binge foods, then put them away. I’ve had days when I just wanted not to feel, to numb myself, but used other ways to cope. And I’ve had days when I’ve eaten past fullness, just to take the edge off.
I’ve had plenty of days when I’ve hated my body, wanted to shrink it, trade it in for one that works properly and doesn’t hurt. When I’ve blamed it when something went wrong. I spent every day at my parents’ home in oversized and black clothes because when I packed, I was taking my anxiety about travelling out on myself.
I’ve delayed eating until lunchtime, even dinnertime some days. I’ve eaten nothing but binge foods every meal for days at a time until my body has screamed for something green.
I’ve eaten mindlessly. I’ve gone for weeks at a time without moving my body. I’ve had days when I’ve eaten nothing at all thanks to migraine induced nausea, and days where I’ve done nothing but graze.
But what I haven’t done is fall into such a pit of self-loathing that my only response is to binge until my stomach is so bloated and painful I could cry.
Why am I telling you all this? Because recovery isn’t about being perfect. Aiming for perfection can contribute to an eating disorder in itself. No, recovery is messy. It’s one step at a time, then sometimes three back. It’s learning as you go along: learning from mistakes, as well as successes. And it can look different every single day.
You take each challenge, each new experience as it comes. Leaping into the unknown, sometimes curious, sometimes terrified, holding onto the knowledge that whatever you face it won’t be as bad as before, when you were in the depths of the disorder, unable to see a way out.
Then little by little, the good days start to outnumber the bad. You face challenges, and change, and upset, and disappointment, and don’t automatically default to those old eating disorder coping strategies: bingeing, purging or restriction.
And one day, seemingly from nowhere, you realise that the eating disorder is no longer in control. It’s not screaming anymore. It’s a whisper, sometimes so quiet you can barely hear it. Sometimes it’s not even there at all.
It’s been a year since I last binged. My eating disorder is no longer in control. I’m in recovery. And I couldn’t be more proud.
Follow me on Instagram and Twitter for more content.
TW: eating disorder feelings and behaviours.
I met him one drunken night in my favourite bar.
He was there to play a short acoustic set and afterwards, we got chatting. About music, life, the usual drunken things. I gave him my number and a few days later, he called and asked me out.
Not long after (maybe not long enough after), we moved in together. It was all going so well. Until it started to go wrong.
My grandfather passed away. He had been my safe person, the man I looked up to the most. And then I fell out with my father. In a matter of months, I had lost both of the male influences in my life.
Of course I didn’t process the loss. I tried to bury it instead. With alcohol, cigarettes, and of course, food. I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. Looking back, I’m not even sure if I’d got over my first bout of depression, or if I was in my second, whether it was grief, or the binge eating disorder taking over. I know I didn’t talk to him about it.
I gained weight, and became more reclusive. I made excuses not to go with him to his gigs, for nights out with friends, to visit his family, because that was my only chance to binge in secret. I was closed off, secretive, and sometimes resented his presence because it meant I couldn’t binge.
Of course this is a simplification of a complex relationship. But it was never going to work. I was living a lie, terrified he would find out who I really was and stop loving me.
Then one day he told me me had feelings for someone else. That she reminded him of me when we first met. And for the first time since I was a small child, the emotions came flooding out. I cried, I punched him, and I threw him out, unable to deal with what was happening.
And when he left, music left, too. In a way, literally, because he took my favourite albums, but also because I couldn’t bear to listen. I didn’t want to hear any of his songs, nor any songs that reminded me of him, of our failed relationship, of how angry and sad I was. The feelings were too raw. I buried them the only way I knew how: my eating disorder morphed into bulimia, I was chain smoking, and I started going out drinking again.
Later, I met someone else. Someone who wasn’t into music. And I forgot the part of me that loved it, this backdrop to my earlier life. I forgot the small child who loved to dance and sang in school plays in that time before she hated herself too much to intentionally attract attention. I forgot the teenager who chose her university based on its music scene. And so, even in my single years since, I’ve never returned to music.
Then a couple of days ago, I heard one of my favourite songs from the time I was married. From an album he had taken with him, that I haven’t heard in the decades since. And in that strange way music does, it triggered the gut-wrenching grief I couldn’t face at the time.
These feelings are some of the hardest I’ve had to face through recovery. They are physically painful. They are suffocating, all-consuming. I’m finally starting to understand why it’s called heartbreak. The pain in my chest, the heaviness in my stomach that won’t stop…
For the first time in a very long time, I am battling the urge to make myself sick.
And I am beginning to realise that maybe I was remembering it wrong. Maybe it wasn’t the dieting that led to the bulimia back then. It was the grief, the sadness, and the pain. The restricting and the purging were my physical responses to the emotional pain I was in. I was trying to lift the deadweight in my chest, literally force it out so I didn’t have to feel like that anymore.
I buried the pain so deep I didn’t remember what it felt like. I buried it so deep it took two whole decades and years of work towards recovery to resurface.
And now there is no way out but through. But I have to believe that this pain means I am finally close to full recovery. I am trying to accept it, lean into it, and learn the lessons it is teaching me, even though it is so very hard to do.
It’s time to let go.
This week, Richard Osman opened up about what he referred to as food addiction, and it got me thinking: am I a sugar addict?
There have been times is my life when I’ve wondered if I’m addicted to sugar. Pretty much every binge I’ve ever had contained at least a sweet component, anything from cereal or bread and jam to cakes, chocolate and ice cream. And there are so many “experts” who claim that sugar addiction is real.
The thing is, I followed the conventional advice and tried to “detox” time and time again, and yet I still craved, still binged, still hated and punished myself for my inability to control myself around sweet foods. Even after diagnosis and treatment for Binge Eating Disorder, I still didn’t feel safe around sugar. I continued to binge on sweet foods.
By this point I had finally managed to give up smoking, and I had been a heavy and committed smoker for a very long time. The addictive properties of nicotine are well documented. Yet in a matter of weeks, the cigarette cravings paled into insignificance compared to the all-consuming need to binge on sweet foods.
I went online looking for a solution, and this is where I first saw the term intuitive eating. I learned more about the concept of restriction causing cravings, and finally things started to make sense.
I had been inadvertently taught that sugar was bad from an early age. I remembered my mother telling me how she’d been annoyed at my Nan for putting sugar in my tea. And at my granddad for sending me home with bags of treats.
Don’t get me wrong, we had sweet food at home. But there were comments if I tried to eat too much. And then there was the pre-Christmas diet. Of course, I didn’t really know back then that money was tight and my mother was trying to stretch it further. So I internalised a different message.
And yet some of my fondest memories of childhood involved sweet food. Baking with my mother on weekends. Her teaching me to make pastry and cakes. Going to the sweet shop with my granddad and being allowed an ice-cream cone to eat on the way back. My great aunt’s home baked cherry cakes when she looked after us in the school holidays.
Sugar became a source of comfort, yet forbidden. It made me feel good, yet bad. And it became wrapped up in those emotions and more as my bingeing took hold.
But was I addicted? I haven’t been able to find anything conclusive to indicate that sugar is physically addictive in the same way that nicotine and opiates are. And when I look at the physical impact of bingeing, it wasn’t about a “sugar high” for me. I didn’t want to feel anything. I was trying to stuff down my emotions. And usually after a binge I felt awful, in physical pain and full of self-loathing.
But there is a seductive power in the forbidden. Human beings have always wanted what they are told they can’t have. Countless legends have been built around it. Wars have been waged over it. And society is very clear that sugar is bad for you and should be restricted, if not avoided altogether. So it makes sense that’s what I wanted. Savoury food never held that same power over me because that was “allowed”.
And this is why I think that intuitive eating is the key to full recovery for me. It is the only thing I have ever tried that has loosened sugar’s grip on me. It is a long and very gradual process, but I am reaching the point where snacks are left in the cupboard, where I can open a packet of biscuits without finishing them, where I am discovering that there are some sweet foods I don’t even like very much.
It is by removing its power that I am healing, not through detox. By allowing sugar unconditionally, not through abstinence. And there is an increasing body of research in support of this.
So am I addicted to sugar? No, I don’t think so. But I have definitely felt like I was at times. And so I am not discounting food addiction as a concept entirely. And I am all for everyone expressing themselves and their difficulties in the way that they feel best describes them.
Richard Osman has done a brave and wonderful thing in sharing a little of his story this week, and I am sure there are many who feel less alone as a result.
I thought I’d learnt to trust you
That love would set me free
But how could that be possible
When I was hiding an ED?
Concealing frequent binges
Fat, disgusting, greedy me
How could anybody love this?
A woman hiding an ED
My dirty little secret
I couldn’t let anyone see
The fat pig living inside me
So I kept hiding my ED
I said I’d leant to trust you
I was lying to you and me
Because I couldn’t really trust you
If I was hiding an ED
Was it you I never trusted?
Or was the lack of trust in me
Too scared of being vulnerable
To stop hiding my ED
Our relationship never stood a chance
How could you truly ever know me
When I hid all that self loathing
With my binge stashes and ED
No, you never really knew me
And there’s no-one to blame but me
I couldn’t bring myself to trust you
Enough to tell you about my ED
So now I’m speaking loud and proud
About you, my ED and me
In the hope that someone listening
Trusts someone enough to disclose their ED
If you’re worried about your relationship with food, don’t suffer in silence. Please tell someone close and your GP.
This week marks a year since I finally had THAT conversation with my mother. The one where I finally told her the secret I had kept for forty years…
I told my parents about my diagnosis of BED a few years ago, when I started treatment. We had a few conversations about what it involved, and they did their best to understand. The conversations mostly focused around practicalities – my need to eat regular meals and snacks, for example, so they understood why my eating habits had changed.
I remember my dad struggling, and confusing my treatment with a conventional weight loss diet. I remember my mum thinking that time I ate 2 mince pies late one evening was a binge, and trying to explain to her that a binge was way, way more than that. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure they will ever truly understand. It’s taken me decades to, and I was the one with the illness. But at least they finally knew I had BED, and was trying to get better.
What we never discussed was when it all started, and that I had kept my shameful secret from them since I was eight years old. Why not? Well, for one, they never asked. But mostly, I didn’t want to upset them. I didn’t want them to blame themselves. I had no idea whether they had even noticed. But that’s traditionally the way my family functioned. A lot went unsaid back when I was a child.
By this time last year, I was finally ready to open up. I had been campaigning against mental health stigma for a while. I wanted to be more open about BED, my most shameful and secret diagnosis. It was the one which carried the most stigma, the least spoken about, the most misunderstood, the one I could find very little about online, and therefore the one it was most important to speak out about.
And this was about to happen. BEAT had decided to make BED the focus of eating disorder awareness week 2021. I was contributing my lived experience towards the campaign and in the process of deciding whether to share my story publicly as part of it. But the idea of my parents finding out accidentally if I did? It was too much to bear.
So on this week a year ago, I finally told my mother that when I was around eight years old, I started stealing food from the pantry. Food I hoped wouldn’t be noticed. And that these behaviours and more continued for the rest of my childhood, all through my adulthood, until I finally had treatment and started working towards recovery in my forties.
It turns out, I had done an excellent job of hiding it. She had no idea. We had a frank and open conversation about it, and some events from my childhood. I was able to tell her that she wasn’t to blame. That I was just trying to cope in the only way I knew how. Because she did ask the question I’m sure most parents ask: is it my fault?
It wasn’t an easy conversation. It took an immense amount of strength to finally say these things out loud. And it took an emotional toll to process it. But the only thing I regret about that conversation is that it didn’t happen years earlier. Because that conversation was one of the most pivotal moments of my life to date.
From that point, I could be honest, open, and loud about my struggles with BED. I could try to help break down the secrecy, help others realise they’re not alone. Because I felt so, so alone for so long. I could help people realise that what they were doing isn’t wrong or shameful, it’s an illness which can be treated. I could show people that recovery is possible. I could spread hope. And soon after, the BED Post blog was born.
And if someone you know has told you they have BED and you can’t work out why you didn’t notice the signs? This is why: my mother never knew because I didn’t want her to. The same with my father, my sister, my friends, and the men I have had relationships with, including my ex-husband. I became very good at keeping people at arms length. At hiding binges, and the evidence of binges.
There’s still a misconception that eating disorders are just attention seeking. I’m telling this story to show that the opposite is true. You don’t keep something secret for decades if you’re looking for attention.
BED is an incredibly lonely illness. But it doesn’t need to be. With more awareness and understanding, with less shame and stigma, with more training, research and evidence-based treatment, people’s lives could be changed for the better. People wouldn’t wait 40 years to have THAT conversation. Or never have it at all.
There’s a secret I’ve been keeping since my twenties. A particular time when my ED voice was at its loudest. It’s this time I go back to whenever I question whether having an ED was really so bad, or whether I was ever really ill at all. In this blog, I am sharing it for the first time.
It was a bad time for me. My marriage had ended, I’d gone down the “revenge body” route. Started a very restrictive diet. Hired a personal trainer. My body rebelled, of course, and I started bingeing again. Then the purging kicked in, too, and became a regular thing.
I was getting so many compliments. Interest from men. My career was going from strength to strength. I was sticking two fingers up at my ex. Look how well I was doing without him! In public. Behind closed doors was a different story. Looking back, I was very far from well.
After a couple of years, I had a virus of some kind. I remember I developed jaundice. I thought: I’ll see the doctor tomorrow if I’m no better. But the next day I felt OK, so I thought nothing more of it.
Then I started getting really bad stomach ache late at night, particularly if I’d eaten anything rich or binged. The pain was so bad it would wake me up. I would lie awake in agony. The only thing that helped was making myself sick, then I was able to get a few more hours of sleep.
I looked up my symptoms online. They pointed to a stomach ulcer, caused by the virus I had had. It didn’t seem too bad. It was helping me manage my weight. The pain seemed like a reasonable price to pay for being at my thinnest. It was just the universe punishing me for being so greedy.
And there we have it: I believed this internal dialogue. I chose what I thought was a stomach ulcer and the risk of all the potential medical complications over weight gain. I put my fear of getting fat again ahead of seeing a doctor and making sure there was nothing sinister going on. And I truly didn’t realise that there was anything wrong with that decision. Of course the pain was worth it, everyone would make the same choice…
Some time later I was prescribed antibiotics for another issue. They cleared up my stomach pain, too. I was devastated.
Looking back, what I feel is relief and gratitude. I had a lucky escape. It marked the beginning of the end of my regular purging. I would continue to binge, and occasionally purge, for many more years, but I never knowingly risked my life in this way again.
And yet, a few months back, my father mentioned that time when I was so fit and healthy. He had no way of knowing what was really going on.
The world needs to stop worshipping thinness, prizing it above all else, equating it to health. Because it’s not always healthy. Sometimes it’s very unhealthy indeed.