If eight year-old me,

Fat, alone, sad, and scared,

Had been thin and restricting,

Would somebody have cared?

If eighteen year-old me,

Away from home that first time,

Had lost weight and not gained it,

Would they have noticed the signs?

If twenty-eight year-old me,

Purging regularly,

Had lost even more weight,

Would they have worried about me?

If thirty-five year-old me,

Had been thin, seeing my GP

Would he have advised weight loss,

Or diagnosed an ED?

If forty-eight year-old me,

Attending rheumatology,

Hadn’t been weight-shamed by that doctor,

Would I have relapsed so badly?

If fifty year old me,

Finally in recovery,

Had been thin, would I have already had decades,

not months, Eating Disorder free?

Awareness matters.


Fury, fibromyalgia, and the big fat Twitter storm

I woke this morning from a dream where I was manhandling a doctor who had looked at my body and laughed when I told him I had had an eating disorder. Screaming in his thin, male face, I grabbed him by his collar and wanted to smash the back of his head against a wall…

And in that instant knew why I’ve been “off” recently. Why I haven’t been eating properly over the last few days, ignoring my body’s requests for nourishment and instead feeding it either too much or too little beige food. I knew why I’ve been avoiding feelings over the last few weeks, as documented in my last post.

It’s because the feeling I’ve been avoiding is the one I’ve always been the most afraid of: anger.

So where is it from? The white-hot fury I allowed myself to feel in that dream. The lump in my throat as I type. What has caused it?

There’s my recent diagnosis. I have fibromyalgia. I finally have to face the fact that I’m not going to get better. There’s no cure. My constant pain, fatigue and other weird and wonderful symptoms will be with me for the rest of my life. Now I finally know what has been wrong for the last four years, I get to go through the difficult process of grieving the permanent loss of old, healthy me. The me who didn’t know what they had till they lost it. The me who wasted all those years of physical good health punishing themselves and their body with an eating disorder.

It’s a lot to take in. And anger seems like a perfectly natural response. But there’s still that part of me who is terrified of the emotion. And I’m certainly scared to publish a post this raw after all those decades of eating down and hiding my darker side from everyone in my life.

Because let’s face it, we’re all taught that girls are “sugar and spice and all things nice”. The image of a chubby little girl screaming into the abyss with uncontrolled fear and rage is unacceptable in our society. So I didn’t. I buried this and every other feeling with food instead. Because I felt like I never really fit in, but maybe I’d be tolerated as long I acted nice and played by the rules.

But where did playing by the rules get me? Living a lie, hating myself, alone, in mental and then physical pain? Looking back, the trade-off wasn’t worth it.

I don’t want to play by the rules any more. The rules aren’t fair. They change depending on who you are, how many privileges you hold, what you LOOK LIKE! As if that has any bearing on whether you are a worthy person or not. Especially as I’m learning that the more privileges a person has, the more reluctant they appear to be to look inside themselves and acknowledge the harm they cause.

Oh yes! The recent Twitter storm between its fat and eating disorder communities has forced me to face a lot of things I have been hiding from my whole life. It was yet another place where I wasn’t always quite comfortable in the community I had found. Another place where I felt the need to play nice to fit in. To bite my tongue and ignore the occasional red flags.

And then, in a flash, my online world was being torn apart. People my size and bigger being accused of bullying, lies, and aggression for daring to challenge the status quo. Being gaslit when they spoke about their experiences. Thin people – medical professionals no less, insisting on perpetuating the myth that they were there for those very same fat people, while simultaneously practising and teaching “o*sity medicine”, which is specifically designed to wipe fat people from the face of the earth.

It’s been ugly and upsetting and it’s forced me to question everything I thought I knew. While those who hold all the power have refused point blank to listen, or change, because they can. Because change is not to their benefit.

So I’ve had enough. I’m playing by my own rules from now on. If I need to scream and shout and be angry, I intend to try to do this. I’m not going to take those emotions out on myself any more, because there are way too many people ready and waiting to do that to me. Telling me those feelings aren’t justified, that it’s all in my head.

I know there are people who will be upset by this, but I have no choice but to deal with the fallout if I am going to be my authentic self, if I am going to try to help make this world a safer place for fat people like me.

So accept me as I am, an angry fat person. A person with unpleasant thoughts and feelings. A person who’s not always going to play nice. Or don’t accept me at all. I’m going to have to find the confidence and self-belief to live with that as best I can.

Because this is too important. Fat people exist, we’re not going anywhere, and the status quo is hurting us. We deserve better. We deserve to live our lives in safety. We deserve the same access to all spheres of life, to our basic human rights, as straight size people. Weight stigma is a legal form of discrimination. It’s even government sanctioned, FFS! All so that some multi-privileged middle-aged men can get even richer than they are now.

So those people on Twitter hoping I’d just shut up and go away have failed. I’m not going anywhere.

If I have to live out the rest of my life fat and disabled, then I’m going to do the very best I can to make it count. And if that means unleashing my fury and not playing nice from time to time, so be it!

O***y Day, weight stigma, and triggers

Content warning: eating disorder and intrusive thoughts.

I’m going to start by saying how grateful and happy I am to have found the online ED recovery community. I have learned so much from being a part of it, and have been at times overwhelmed by the welcome and support I have received.

However, there have been just a couple of times when I have felt uneasy, and not quite able to pinpoint why. The last couple of days have clarified where those feelings came from.

Yesterday evening I listened to the first #TheBigEDChat, organised by some of my favourites on Twitter. The subject was Diet Culture and Weight. I’m not going to lie. The first 20 minutes were difficult and triggering, and I know I wasn’t the only one to feel that way.

Later on, I came across the #BeatWeightStigma campaign, highlighting the weight stigma in the UK’s biggest eating disorder charity. Horrified at their stance on o***y, I joined the cause.

But this was all fine. I’m used to comments from people, often well meaning, who do not understand the experience of those in bigger bodies, and I don’t let it get me down any more. I’m used to weight stigma in the medical community. I’m 7 or 8 years into my recovery journey now. And after all, I will never understand thin people’s experience fully either, because I haven’t lived it.

Then this morning I awoke to World O***y Day, and the second I looked at my phone, I saw an article from an ED charity about the similarities between eating disorders and o***y. It was all downhill from there. I had hit my tolerance limit. Here are my feelings, thoughts and actions from that point.

Disappointment and anger. I posted a couple of tweets. Then regretted them because I didn’t want to upset anyone. I stopped myself from deleting them, because I am entitled to my feelings. And because how I was feeling showed that weight stigma causes harm.

Today was my day off, but I had plans to meet my work colleagues for lunch. Without thinking about it, I skipped breakfast, falling back into old habits of “compensating” for food later on.

I went upstairs and showered. I looked in the mirror, hating what I saw. Body checking, I turned sideways to see how big my stomach looked. Of course it looked enormous. I wanted to slice it off; I’ve hated it my whole life.

I chose oversized clothes to hide that stomach from view. It was the only way I’d be able to leave the house when all I wanted to do was hide until I can lose some weight, make my body palatable to all those people pathologising it online. I don’t feel safe, I feel vulnerable. I want to cancel, but that would be letting them win.

I finish getting ready and start driving to the office. I notice intrusive thoughts I haven’t had in a long time (they always popped up when I was driving – the ones that told me to turn the steering wheel the wrong way).

I got stuck in some roadworks for ages. I am simultaneously furious and relieved. Because I am going to be very late, and because that means I will miss the food.

I arrive after everyone has eaten. I have a good time and enjoy chatting to everyone, mostly distracted from the thoughts I had earlier. I accept a slice of cake. I check social media a couple of times, relieved that no-one is upset about the tweets. I take some leftovers when I leave to have for dinner.

The entire journey home I am bombarded by thoughts about stopping to buy binge foods. I actually need a couple of things, but decide to shop tomorrow. It’s not safe to go into a supermarket today.

I get home and realise I am dehydrated. In my ED days, I used to avoid drinking sometimes so my stomach would look smaller. I hadn’t even noticed I had done it today.

So I’ve drunk a couple of glasses of water, had those leftovers, written this blog post, and chatted to a couple of friends. I’m finally feeling more like myself and less like old, ED me.

Because these were the thoughts of old ED me. Less powerful, and not acted on. But they are still there, lurking in the dark corners of my mind, waiting for those triggers so they can try to take hold again. And yet society, and even eating disorder charities want me to invite those triggers through intentional weight loss.

If my set point were lower, if I had recovered into a smaller body, I would receive nothing but praise for what I have accomplished. But it isn’t, and I haven’t. I am fat, so I have to accept that I will have to face weight stigma for the rest of my life.

Even so, I will not let the ED thoughts, diet culture or weight stigma win. I deserve recovery, just as everyone with an ED does.

Sending love and strength to everyone affected by today’s anti-fat rhetoric.

A BED Post blog special for EDAW 2022

Why eating disorder training for doctors is so important: a patient’s perspective

As I type this, Eating Disorder Awareness Week has not even started. Yet there are already arguments on social media about this year’s campaign, which aims to increase training on eating disorders in medical schools.

It is not my intention here to contribute to the arguments or criticise medical professionals. But I want to raise awareness of the impact training can have on patients with diagnosed or undiagnosed eating disorders, both positive and negative.

These are some of my personal experiences of medical appointments as an ob**e adult female with Binge Eating Disorder.

GP appointment, mid noughties. I told him that I was struggling with eating. I couldn’t seem to stop, I felt out of control, and my weight was increasing. He gave me a diet/healthy eating leaflet, and recommended I join a gym. I tried to explain that I had dieted before and knew what to eat – I had even studied nutrition at school. He told me to try again and cut out sugary snacks.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

Impact: I avoided the doctor and didn’t raise the issue again for years.

GP appointment, 2014. I spoke about how I had struggled with food for a long time, and couldn’t stop once I started eating sometimes. I told him how much weight I had lost on anti-depressants. He asked me questions and told me he thought I had Binge Eating Disorder. He referred me to the local Eating Disorders Service.

Impact: I received 2 years of specialist treatment, which started my recovery process.

Rheumatology appointment, 2019. The nurse took me into a room and told me to sit down so she can take my blood pressure. I didn’t realise that I was being asked to sit on a scale, and the nurse did not ask for my consent to weigh me. She asked me if I wanted to know my weight. I disclosed my eating disorder and asked not to be informed of my weight as this could be harmful. She noted this on my chart.

A few weeks later I received a letter from the consultant. It included my weight, and I realised that I had gained more than I realised. It also indirectly blamed my joint issues on that weight.

Impact: a relapse, with regular binges, which lasted for several months.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Follow up appointment, 2019. I let the nurse know what happened and declined to be weighed. She apologised and said she had not realised it would be in the letter. The rheumatologist made multiple comments indicating I should lose weight. I disclosed my eating disorder again. He made no comment.

I left the hospital in tears. I called the department to complain and requested a different consultant. I was told my case would be transferred.

Impact: I spent a further two years without treatment and in pain. My bingeing continued, although I continued to work towards recovery.

Telephone GP appointment, 2021, because I hadn’t heard from the hospital. I explained the story to the GP. She offered to refer me to another hospital, and took the time to ask how I was managing my eating disorder symptoms due to the pandemic, because this was a difficult time emotionally. We discussed my coping and support mechanisms and she told me to call if my symptoms worsened.

Impact: I felt heard, supported, and able to trust the GP.

Nurse appointment, 2021. A few months later I discovered I was eligible for the vaccine due to my BMI, so I called my GP Practice. I was told I needed to be weighed. I went in to see the nurse. I disclosed my eating disorder and she made sure that I couldn’t see my weight. She took the time to check I was managing and tell me how well I was doing during lockdown. When I asked what my BMI is, she didn’t tell, me, saying she would work out what it was after I left.

Impact: I felt supported and reassured that I would not be judged if I relapse, or for my body size.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Hospital appointment with a new rheumatologist, 2021. I was not weighed and treated in a weight neutral way. He offered me pain medication. The tests he referred me for showed that the previous rheumatologist had diagnosed me incorrectly.

Impact: no relapse and reduced pain due to the medication.

You may have noticed that I disclosed my eating disorder, or eating disorder behaviours, at every one of these appointments. Over the years, I have learned to make a point of disclosing. It is the quickest way for me to find out if I am in a safe space. And by this, I mean that it tells me whether the medical professional has received training in ED. Because that training ensures that my health, and not my size, becomes the primary focus. Because weight stigma is real, and it can trigger a relapse.

You will also see that the majority of experiences I have had were positive. There are many, many understanding healthcare professionals out there. But those two or three negative experiences had far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on my overall health. And they have left me feeling the need to protect myself and my mental health every time I visit a new healthcare professional.

This is why I stand behind BEAT’s campaign this Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Because if one more person is diagnosed before their ED becomes chronic, if one less person relapses because of a doctor’s thoughtless comments, I will consider it a success.

I waited over 30 years for a diagnosis. Recovery has taken 8 years. I don’t want anyone else to have to endure that. Increased training in medical school will help ensure that no-one will.

So please consider supporting this year’s campaign. Go to BEAT’s website and sign the petition. Follow the campaign on social media. Let’s make every medical appointment positive for people with ED.

I binged today. Here’s what I learned.

I say I’m in recovery from BED for a reason. It might be over four months since I last binged, I may be succeeding in my intuitive eating journey, but at times of stress, I still sometimes return to those thoughts and behaviours that sustained me since childhood.

Today was one of those times. I started the day doing stomach exercises, and since then have cried and eaten to the point of pain, stretching out those sore abs.

It was time to get out the emotion wheel and figure out what’s going on. I try to use each relapse as a learning exercise. Here’s what I learned today.

I looked at the wheel and realised my emotions today were in the dislike area.

Why these feelings? I thought back and yesterday I caught sight of myself in a shop mirror and felt disgusted, repelled. How had I let myself put on so much weight? I realised I had been feeling this way about my body all week. Yes, I have been more bloated than usual (the joys of IBS), but I was wearing a dress I bought 2 years ago, so the facts didn’t add up.

Then I realised how far I had been out of my comfort zone all week. I had a hospital appointment on Monday in a department where I had experienced weight stigma. Even getting there involved driving the furthest I have in a year.

On Tuesday I met a dozen colleagues indoors for lunch. No masks, no social distancing. For the first time in 18 months. I have been extremely careful during the pandemic, only meeting others outdoors or with masks. Recently I have struggled to leave the house at times, so this was a massive step. This was followed by a face to face meeting I had been dreading. Again, indoors and without masks.

Wednesday and Thursday included more difficult meetings. Plus a glut of new referrals. And all this through a heatwave, which meant less sleep and a reduced appetite all week.

In other words, this week provided the perfect storm for a binge. Increased stress and anxiety, less sleep, lower food intake, and all the extra energy used by getting ready and actually leaving the house. No wonder I was bloated. No wonder I was extra hungry. No wonder I reverted to default mode and took it out on myself.

Thankfully there aren’t many weeks like these for me. But the reason I’m recording it is to remind myself how far I have come. This is only my second binge this year, and both times I was able to pinpoint why and get straight back on course.

If you’re reading this and you’ve binged too, please believe me when I say it’s OK. You don’t need to punish or hate yourself, or feel ashamed. Look at it with curiosity. What was the binge trying to tell you? What can you learn from it? Take that forward with you to help you next time.

Recovery isn’t linear. It’s messy sometimes. But that’s OK, because most worthwhile things are. And I’m here to tell you that recovery is so, so worthwhile.

A fortnight of fatphobia

These last couple of weeks the anti-ob***y rhetoric seems to have hit an all time high. First the UK Government announced it’s going to start weighing children in school. Then a group of dentists in New Zealand published a highly suspect study about their miraculous new device designed to keep fat peoples jaws’ closed.

Both of these developments completely ignore the science. Both of them are potentially extremely harmful and could, directly or indirectly, lead to the deaths of the people they are intended to “cure”. Both by leading to eating disorders, the second through the risk of choking. Both place the blame for obesity squarely on parents, or the obese themselves, while ignoring the 100+ other factors which play a part.

Fat people like me live in a world where we are judged by everyone around us, from the mainstream media, to healthcare professionals, strangers in the street and online, to our loved ones. We are labelled as greedy, unhealthy, lazy, a drain on the NHS, a scourge on society. If we would just lose weight and fit into society’s neat little boxes of what good human beings look like, all would be right with the world.

Except that’s not possible. There is NO truly effective permanent method of weight loss. No, not even bariatric surgery. Diets fail 95-98% of the time, not because fat people are greedy, but because human bodies are hardwired to stop us from losing weight. But that never makes the international headlines. Presumably because no-one stands to profit from that.

For decades I blamed myself every time my weight trended upwards. I thought it was my fault, that I had no self control, no discipline, that I needed to exercise more, keep purging, just stop bingeing. Why couldn’t I be happy living on lettuce? Why wouldn’t my body do what I wanted it to? Why couldn’t I shame or hate myself thin? Because I was deeply ashamed, and I truly hated myself.

Then I started treatment. The first thing the Eating Disorder Team taught me about was the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. I didn’t understand. It explained what I was going through, and yet contradicted everything I had been told since I was a small child. It meant that in order to heal, I had to stop restricting. I had to stop starving myself all day to counteract my binges, because that was actually causing my binges?

In order to recover, I have had to unlearn everything that society has taught me about dieting and ob***y, and accept the weight I have gained in the process. But the rest of society hasn’t unlearned those lessons yet. Every day I have to make a conscious decision to prioritise my mental health over society’s expectations of me and my body.

Not a day goes by when I don’t wish I were thinner. Because the world was built for thin people. Because the demand for thinness is all-pervasive; there is no hiding from it. But my determination never to go back to that dark place, to live my live free of constant thoughts about food to the exclusion of all else, just to allow myself to be happy, stops me from restarting that destructive cycle.

I dream of a time when universal acceptance and equality exists. When stereotypes and stigma in all their forms are a thing of the past. Until then, I know there will be fortnights like this one. That they will be hard to deal with. But also that I have been through worse, and I will get through them too, bruised, but still intact.