Films and documentaries about eating disorders

Hey guys

I thought I’d tell you about 5 films and documentaries I’ve watched in recent weeks (some of them having watched many times before). Whether you may / do have an eating disorder, whether you know someone with an eating disorder or just want to gain some insight, these are definitely worth a watch.

1. Kate’s Secret (1986) – available on YouTube

This film depicts a 30-something year old mum and wife struggling with bulimia and, in my experience as someone who ended up in hospital due to bulimia, really shows this eating disorder in its true sense. Also, I find that most films focus on teenagers so seeing adults affected is really welcomed. The film stars Meredith Baxter (from Family Ties fame), Ben Masters and Ed Asner (who’s just an iconic actor!).

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2. The Karen Carpenter Story (1989) – available on YouTube

I was SO excited to meet Cynthia Gibb who plays Karen in this film a couple of years ago. In fact, she told us about the challenges of making the film and the extraordinarily tight control that the Carpenter family had over its production. But it tells the true story about the singer who found fame with her brother but died in 1983 due to complications linked to anorexia. One day, I’d love to go to a Carpenters convention in the US because I know the lyrics of virtually every song and I’d love to visit Downey, California where she lived.

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3. Thin (2006) – available on YouTube

This documentary follows the lives of 4 teenagers and women receiving treatment at the Renfrew Centre, Florida. Really complex individual stories (well, I guess eating disorders are complicated in themselves) and it’s rather sad when you google what happened to some of the participants but it’s an interesting watch.

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4. Dying to be Perfect : The Ellen Hart Pena Story (1996) – available on YouTube

This depicts the true story of US athlete Ellen Hart Pena who became anorexic and bulimic, sparked by a suggestion that her sporting performance might improve if she lost some weight but there also appeared to be other contributory factors. Why do I like this one? I guess I have this long held belief that I’m never good enough, that I’m never perfect enough (yes, I know there’s no such thing as perfect) so I can relate to Ellen. But accepting that I may be ‘okay’ is work in progress. In fact, my therapist said recently that he sees university students placing immense pressure on themselves to be perfect, failure not being an option, desperately to achieve 100%. But, in the UK, you can get a first class degree if you achieve around 70% overall. You don’t have to be 100% to be successful.

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5. Louis Theroux: Talking to Anorexia (2017)

I like Louis! He’s this quiet almost unassuming British documentary maker who doesn’t shy away from asking the difficult questions but I love his observations (he did a brilliant one about death based in the US). But in this documentary, he’s on the ward of a couple of eating disorder wards in London and he also visits a lady who’s struggled with anorexia for decades. Just a quiet watch but helpful at least for me.

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But other films and documentaries include Perfect Body, Sharing the Secret, Dying to Dance, Hunger Point, To Be Fat Like Me, Emma Wants to Live (this is tragically sad), Feed, My Skinny Sister, When Friendship Kills, For the Love of Nancy, Starving in Suburbia and The Best Little Girl in the World. All these films have girls and women as their central characters and, of course, we know that boys and men struggle too and I think it would be helpful to see a guy as a central character. Saying that, the BBC recently showed a documentary by English cricket Freddie Flintoff about his battle with bulimia and he also featured other men. And in fact, reflecting on the characters in these films, nearly every person is white. Let’s have more diversity please!

But on a different serious note, something has just jumped out at me and you may say “duh” when I tell you what it is. Several of these film titles contain the words perfect and dying. Thing is, I know that eating disorders are dangerous (whilst feeling so good and control at the same time) but seeing the above words in black and white has just hit me a bit today. Can only be a good thing?

So, I’ll be back on Monday with my next weigh-in. In fact, on Monday afternoon just after when I usually blog, I’ve an online meeting scheduled with an eating disorder clinic about potentially accessing support so I’ll update you about how it goes later on in the week.

Well, hope you all have a good weekend and if you know of any other eating disorder films or documentaries, please do let me know

Love Erika xx

Overcoming emotional eating

I wonder if you can relate to any of the following:

  • turning to the snack cupboard when feeling upset
  • eating to deal with stress
  • eating because you’re feeling bored

Emotional eating relates to when food is eaten to manage emotions and if you can relate to this, you’re truly not alone. When I was bulimic and even ended up in an eating disorder unit for 6 weeks because of it, I would consume 1,000s of calories in a very short amount of time. It would usually be food that was high in fat and easy to swallow, and just seemed to fill a hole. I mean, filling that emotional space inside me with food provided that immediate ‘fix’ and felt easier than talking.

So, I guess I thought I’d share my advice purely as someone who’s truly been there:

First, learn to recognise if you are an emotional eater. Once you know, you can then start to move away from it but accepting this can be a hard step in itself, can’t it?

Second, explore what’s leading to it. As I alluded to above, there’s something going on beneath. It may be that you’re unhappy with relationships, your past, the way you see yourself, how life is panning out for you, depression and a host of other reasons. But perhaps grab a journal and write ‘from your heart’ to explore what’s at the crux of how you’re feeling.

Third, find ways of responding to the underlying reason. Yes, you can turn to food if you’re unhappy about what’s happening between you and your friends or turn to food if you’re stressed about work. But food is almost like something you can paper over the cracks with as a temporary fix….but the crack is still there. There may be huge issues at work or with relationships but it’s about dealing with those head on if possible rather than turn to food. Sometimes, we can’t change things…but keep reading! You’ll see why ❤

Fourth, develop a better relationship with food. For decades, I developed a numbness when I ate. I wasn’t aware of what I was eating. The food just kept going in without touching the sides. But I’m now mindful about eating and if I get peckish when I don’t think I should be, I drink water in case I’m actually thirsty or tell myself to wait 30 minutes to see if I’m still hungry. I now take my time eating a meal and really consider every forkful. I’ve heard of some people finding it helps to put the fork down between mouthfuls.

Last week was the first time in 6 months where I almost slipped in my new lifestyle because I’ve a lot of stress here at home being a carer. I don’t know how long our son will be alive for so, yes, I can’t tell you how much I’m hurting right now. But I gave myself a good talking to. You see, I can’t control what’s happening here at home but I can control how I’m looking after myself. There’s no point me feeling rubbish about our situation here AND feeling rubbish that I ate food I didn’t really want. It’s okay to not always be smiley but talk. Talk about how you’re feeling. Find kinder ways of dealing with emotions. I’m discovering that walking for miles really clears my head but more about that another time…

I’ll be back Monday with my next weigh-in, guys, as well as news of some upcoming blogs. Hope you have a lovely weekend.

Love Erika xx

Overcoming bulimia

Hey folks

So, although I’ll be back on here Monday after my weekly weigh-in, I thought I’d share some really personal experiences with you. You see, I struggled with bulimia from the age of around 10-24 although it was the latter years when it became far more serious. Why am I sharing this with you? Well, I hope it helps one person out there and gives hope that recovery is possible.

In brief, bulimia really robbed me of many years of happiness. Especially from age 18-24, nearly everyday was spent planning how I could binge, doing the bingeing and then purging the thousands of calories I’d consumed. It was almost like there was very little room for anything else so it’s quite miraculous that I got married during this time (and am still extremely happily married) but having an eating disorder is almost like a full-time job. I found that there were certain things I would binge on, namely food that didn’t take much chewing and food that was cheap. So, most things were very sweet like mini chocolate rolls that I could eat within seconds. Anything that would fill this hole inside of me. And, of course, bingeing is hugely private so if I was out and about, I’d go into places where no-one could see me, even if it was dark and I could have been in danger. I remember on a family holiday to Hong Kong, I left the hotel room very late at night just to binge. I remember when I was still in education and had a Saturday job, I binged once in the stockroom on chocolate without being caught out. I would have to plan the shops where I’d get the food so that I wouldn’t be recognised by staff as there ‘yet again’. Bingeing happened nearly every single day.

I couldn’t make myself sick but I abused laxatives. So many laxatives. I’m not going to go into detail but I became very used to stomach cramps and dealing with the inevitable. How my heart survived, I don’t know. One pharmacy actually refused to sell me laxatives as it’d spotted that I’d been in there recently. People would comment how ill I looked all the time. Dark black circles under my eyes. Cold hands. Very pale skin. My social life was almost non-existent.

And then I got a high powered job in London that just exasperated my bulimia. I turned to a private London hospital for outpatient treatment and I attended the day hospital for about 2 weeks. My parents thought I was going to work every day as I didn’t want to tell them. But then the staff could see how I needed more intense care and I found myself being admitted to its eating disorder unit where suddenly everything was controlled. My meals. My ability to purge. My time. But actually this is where I started to work on what lead me to binge and to finally open up to things I’d wanted to mask. Things I’d wanted to push down inside of me through binging. It’s too easy to block emotions but actually recovery happened when I faced what had happened to me when I was very young. Without processing this in a healthy way through therapy, I could still be struggling with it. After this 6 week inpatient stay, I then attended the day hospital again for 4 weeks before being discharged. So, it’s thanks to Nightingale Hospital, Marylebone in London whose programme of therapy got me through it.

Since then, I haven’t binged once. Yay! There have been times when I’ve been tempted to take laxatives but I know that laxatives and other forms of purging can be fatal. Actually, when you look up laxatives, they’re not that effective anyway. in terms of weight loss. An eating disorder is only the symptom of something being wrong and whilst facing the most horrendous experiences can feel like an insurmountable mountain, I feel it’s the only way for sustained recovery.

So, if you’re struggling, I’d encourage you to reach out. Help is there, whether it’s from your doctor, school counsellor, eating disorder charity, family, friends or anyone else who will really hear you and help you take the next step.

Next week, I’ll share with you my experience of anorexic behaviour that almost took my life 9 years ago and, in all honestly, this restrictive thinking is probably what I’m finding hardest not to slip back into whilst on this weight loss journey – but I’ll leave that for next time!

I’ll be back on Monday so have a great Sunday everyone

Love Erika xx