Where am I right now with atypical anorexia?

Hey folks

So, I thought I’d give an update about where I’m at with an eating disorder that I’ve been really trying to avoid over the past 15 months whilst on this significant weight loss journey.

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For those who haven’t come across my blog before, firstly welcome! I’ve lost about 160lbs since February last year and I’m now just a matter of a few pounds away from my BMI being in the healthy range. In fact, if my excess skin was removed (and I have a LOT!), my ‘real’ weight is probably already securely well within in the healthy range. However, finding myself within the anorexic grip is impacting my heart and kidneys so things aren’t great.

Although I’m having twice-weekly psychotherapy which is just incredible for dealing with some issues around being a carer to my son (and wow do I have the best therapist!), we know that I need some intensive support to avoid ending up in an eating disorder unit or medical unit. I don’t ‘do’ hospitals at the best of times and certainly not right now with Covid. I found a place in London but they said my eating and the weight loss aren’t stable enough to access their evening programme of meal support and therapy. They feel that I need their day support to get this under control…. but I couldn’t do that until late August / early September. Referrals to eating disorder services on the NHS are an all-time high so whilst I sent an email to my GP surgery last week about being referred, I would think that support will very likely be limited unless they wanted to admit me (which I don’t want!). .. but we’ll see. I was thinking this morning that another private option would be finding a dietician with expertise around eating disorders and there’s someone not too far from me who sounds experienced and personable. But when I see my therapist later on today, he may have some news about support from another professional he works alongside.

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I’ll be really honest here. I’m really scared about where I’m at and it feels like the eating disorder has a very tight grip on me as my calories have lowered from before (it’s gone under 400 calories in the past few days). It’s not that I don’t want to eat more. I do! I look at restaurant menus and think ‘yum” whilst simultaneously mentally calculating how many calories are in the photos and how it’d be so ‘wrong’ to eat it. And it’s not the case that I won’t try to eat more. The anorexic voice is loud, making it that I can’t eat more. Eating disorders are complex, very complex, but I know that whilst I went through this 10 years ago, I had many years enjoying food, enjoying socialising so I have to hold onto the hope that I’ll beat this… but I’m struggling to hold onto the hope right now.

You know guys, let’s see what support can be put in place and perhaps maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to blog one day with excitement that I managed to go over X number of calories in the same way that I’ve celebrated moments over the past year like no longer being morbidly obese or getting into those jeans. I’m sure there’ll be many positive posts ahead as life is good and I need to get things back on track.

I’ll be back either tomorrow or Saturday but hope you all have a good day

Love Erika xx

Coming out of lockdown… coming out to comments about weight loss – HELP!

Hey folks

My mid-week post coming a day early as it’d just be good to ‘chat’!

You know, I guess there are parts of this post that could also relate to those who’ve perhaps put on weight during the last year. Much of my life has gone remote with seeing clients online where just my shoulders and head are on show. I feel SO protected like this! I like the fact that others can’t see what lies beneath and I guess I could get very comfortable with being here…. perhaps a bit too comfortable. Virtually everyone I have seen face-to-face are either clients who see me as a one-off anyway or just random strangers if I’m out walking.

I shared last week that I’ve already had comments in the past 10 days from people who have seen me before (i.e. a pharmacy assistant and a builder) and have exclaimed “HOW much weight have you lost?” the moment they’ve laid eyes on me. The thing is that I know (or I guess) that such comments are very well intended and come from a really good place so I certainly don’t begrudge them. Even if I didn’t find myself currently battling an eating disorder, I think I’d feel some sense of awkwardness. Do I like compliments? Sometimes but not about my body. But when the two people have then gone on to ask how I’ve lost it, the last thing I want to say is “Well, you know, I’m battling atypical anorexia right now and I’m actually very poorly and my heart and kidneys aren’t doing great but, apart from that, yeah, just eating less and moving more“! People don’t need to know the truth and I don’t need to tell them. 3 friends, other than professionals, know what’s going on for me. But I feel that that once I crack the anorexic grip that’s dictating how many calories I’m eating, I will be in a better place. My understanding of eating and health have actually improved since the start of this journey. My mind has really changed in many good ways so I’m feeling positive that the weight isn’t going to go back on.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be back to a voluntary job I’ve done for 3 years (but they haven’t seen me since I was 158 lbs heavier last year), I’m bound to see family and I genuinely can’t wait to see friends. Yes, I want to reconnect with people but, you know, it would just be great if they could skate over the whole weight loss thing. But the reality is that I’m just pounds away from losing half my original body weight in 15 months and perhaps they think that I’d love a compliment! No!!!!! Please just ask how I am. Please just ask what I’ve been up to. Please just give me the choice about whether I even mention the whole body shape / weight thing… which I’m very unlikely to! But being able to blog about all of this and talking to my therapist (whom I’ve never met in the flesh since the world went remote last spring) over the next few weeks will be an enormous help. Just articulating how it leaves me feeling and processing that.

I’ll be back on Friday (I’ll try not to forget this week!) about where I am with my eating disorder. My therapist told me on Monday that there is a plan to offer me some additional support with another professional which will run alongside the work I’m doing with him. I have to say that even over the past few days, my calorie ‘limit’ has gone down further…. I won’t go into details right now and in fact I’m waiting to hear a bit more myself about this potential support but I’ll give you an honest update on Friday about where things are at.

Right, off shortly to watch the first semi-final of Eurovision 2021!

Take care all

Erika xx

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

When the weight loss thing went wrong

Hey guys

Well, I say it ‘went wrong’ but I need to hold onto the hope that I can get back on track.

For anyone stumbling across my blog for the first time, hello 🙂 So, I’ve lost more than 150 lbs so far and, for the vast majority of the past year, I’ve brought a really healthy mind, focusing on just the next tiny goal . And that can be tricky to do with a history of anorexia and bulimia but, for the most part, I was doing okay.

I was recently diagnosed with atypical anorexia because I meet all the anorexia criteria except I’m not underweight and things have got a bit serious. So, as I mentioned on Monday, I thought I’d reflect on what happened. What was the point where my healthy attitude changed and I started getting obsessive about every calorie I was eating?

Back in December, I started to get some vague idea about restricting my calories and I was desperate not to go back to this mental place from 10 years ago when I ended up on no more than 250 calories a day. From February until December ’20, I had a very rough idea about how many calories I was eating but I didn’t want to count every single one. I was losing weight eating sensible portions and working out. But I think it’s the moment when I found myself drawn into a mindset of weighing and calculating absolutely everything. At that point, it became all about the calories and a desperation to see the figure on the scales change. And I guess this coincided with some pressures here at home. There’s some serious stuff that I can’t control but eating is something that I can…..well, you know.

Since then, I’ve just started feeling uncomfortable about what I’m eating, feeling as if I’m eating too much. As I mentioned on Friday’s post, the little I’m eating is starting to hugely impact my body and my doctor is very concerned. She’s mentioned about referring me to the eating disorder service although she needs my consent but I have spent the past couple of days looking into some private options too that could more easily fit around my life. Goodness, as a business owner, taking time out is hard and, yes, I know I have to prioritise my own health but doing it in reality is hard. Anyway, one place got back to me today and we’re currently scheduling a conversation to chat things through, such as what they offer, if they feel they can help me. Yes, I’m recognising that I do need help but giving up control feels scary.

If anyone’s losing weight and signs of eating disorders are creeping in, I’d really encourage you to seek help straightaway. In no time at all, we can end up in this place where we feel stuck and the earlier that help is sought, the easier it may be to unstick ourselves. To be honest, I wish all this stuff with the anorexia would just go away as I want to pretend it’s not happening. I think the next few weeks and months are going to be a rollercoaster but, as ever, I’ll be open with you and perhaps I can get back on track and enjoy all that life has to offer. ‘cos life is good! And, especially post-Covid, I want to be jetting off for weekends away!

Take care

Erika xx

When does a strict diet tip over into being an eating disorder?

Hey folks

There really seems to be a fine line between the two. A close friend has expressed concern that I’m in the grip of an eating disorder having lost a lot of weight this year and knowing that I had what would now be called ‘atypical anorexia’ in 2011-12. You can read about this (here). So, am I just super focused…or is something else going on?

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In the UK, the acronym SCOFF is used by medical practitioners to screen for the presence of possible eating disorders. Answering ‘yes’ to at least two of these questions would suggest possible anorexia or bulimia so here’s me being honest in answering each one:

1. Do you make yourself Sick because you feel uncomfortably full? No.

2. Do you worry you have lost Control over how much you eat? No.

3. Have you recently lost more than One stone in a three month period? One stone is the equivalent of 14lbs so yes…but my starting weight was very high? At the same time, I’ve lost more than the recommended 1-2 lbs a week and I’m jumping on the scales probably far more than is recommended.

4. Do you believe yourself to be Fat when others say you are too thin? No…as I’m still in the obese range. I feel far bigger than my clothes size would suggest but can’t that be the case for many people going through a transformation? Does the mind need time to catch up with what’s going on with the body?

5. Would you say that Food dominates your life? Yes! All day, every day. I wake up thinking about food, I think about how to avoid situations where others, like my husband, will expect me to eat more that I want to, I take ages to go to sleep because I’m thinking about calories and, well, my Google history is full of food-related searches. So, this is a resounding yes.

So, okay, I can say ‘yes’ to two of these.

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When I was ill in 2011-12, the mental health team said that I had all the features of anorexia as I’d gone from a BMI of 43 to 27 very quickly….but I was still actually overweight. They could see that day-to-day life was consumed with all things food-related and almost this obsession about losing that next pound on the scales. They could also see how my heart QT’s interval was becoming prolonged with regular heart tracings. The term ‘atypical anorexia’, which was added when the DSM-5 was published in 2013, basically means that the criteria for anorexia is met except that the person can be ‘normal’ weight or even overweight. So, I think it’s safe to say that this would have been my diagnosis at the time if it existed.

As some of you know, I do have a lot of pressure at home as I’m carer to one of my adult children and so, whilst I’m always the one with a huge, beaming smile, I know there’s a lot of sadness going on right now. So, am I struggling to sometimes eat enough because I’m tired and perhaps struggling as a carer or have I turned to being rather strict because eating and losing weight is something that I can control in life? I’ve decided to pursue some therapy to explore this so I’m hoping that will start in the next few weeks. But returning to my original question ‘When does a strict diet tip over into being an eating disorder?’, I guess this can happen when thoughts about food and losing weight permeate into almost every aspect of life. I’m having days when I feel almost scared of eating so I know I need to challenge my thinking around food to stay well. So, in answering this question, I’m going to have to get back to you. I’ve always been (and I’ll continue to be) open with you.

I hope you have a super weekend. I’m seeing my parents this weekend which is the first time for about 7 months due to Covid so I can’t wait. And I’ll be back on Monday with my next weigh-in

Love Erika xx

Trying to avoid the anorexic thinking…

Hey folks

Mmm, so you may see that my BMI is in the obese range and then be puzzling about why I’m talking about anorexic behaviour. After all, I’m not underweight. However, I’ve posted before that about 9 years ago, I became trapped in the anorexic behaviour where my daily intake was capped at a mere 250 calories a day, I ended up with heart problems after losing about 8 stone very quickly and I was very close to being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Yes, it’s possible to adopt anorexic behaviour whatever your weight….and become so poorly.

So, I’m just a bit aware that some of those past thoughts are creeping in again and I’m getting panicky about certain things like:

  • being so rigid about eating only between midday and 8pm. I’ve had a couple of days where I’ve almost gone without dinner as eating past 8pm would be ‘wrong’
  • starting to count calories very strictly. I’ve deliberately stayed away from calorie counting up to now as, 9 years ago, I’d count every half a calorie. Yes! Every half calorie!
  • seeing some foods as ‘bad’
  • jumping on the scales again…again…and again
  • starting to think about how I can avoid meals

But I think it’s good that I’m recognising these thoughts as I can take action and tell myself:

  • Erika, you’re allowed to eat outside that 8 hour window. Just do it when you need to.
  • Erika, you know what’s a sensible portion. You don’t need to count calories as the weight is coming off so you’re doing great. You’re doing something right.
  • Erika, food isn’t bad. You’re allowed to eat anything but you just to need to learn about moderation so that one piece of chocolate doesn’t mean the family size bar! When you’re ready, you can start to reintroduce more foods so that you know when to stop and don’t feel bad about having treats.
  • Erika, you need to be eating enough. Be kind to yourself! Missing out meals will affect your energy levels, especially when gearing up for London Marathon day.

When I started to blog, I promised that I’d be very open with you and, you know, I think writing this is really cathartic. Hopefully it’ll help others who have a history of eating disorder thoughts and just see those behaviours creeping in.

Have a lovely weekend and I’ll be back on Monday

Love Erika xx

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lbs or kgs? No, us Brits talk about weight in stones!

What are stones?

At least historically, the people of the UK and Ireland have talked about their weight in stones and I’ve only just found out that very few countries to do this. In fact, when I started this blog a few weeks ago, my challenge was to lose 10 stone and you may be thinking, Erika, what on earth are stones? That’s a good question!

Well, 1 stone equals 14lbs so rather than say how we weigh 280lbs, we would usually say how we weigh 20 stone. However, I see on Facebook groups that the universal language of weight loss appears to be lbs so that’s why my blog name changed. I thought that losing 150lbs felt like a more round number than aiming to lose 140lbs!

Anyway, there’s a reason why I’m telling you about this. You see, at my weekly weigh-in on Monday, I was at 283lbs. And when I get to see 279lbs on the scales, this is going to be SUCH a momentous weigh-in as it’ll mean that I’m under 20 stone! I’ll be 19 stone 13lbs and well on my way to success.

What music gets you up dancing?

In Monday’s blog, I asked what music gets you up dancing and burning away those calories. As promised, here’s my list of the songs that get me up but these are 10 of many:

  • Wake Me Up Before You Go Go (Wham)
  • 1999 (Prince)
  • I’m Still Standing (Elton John)
  • I’m So Excited (The Pointer Sisters)…….I LOVE this!
  • Fame (Irena Cara)
  • Footloose theme tune
  • Shake It Off (Taylor Swift)
  • (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher (Jackie Wilson)
  • 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton)
  • Reach (S Club 7)

And finally, eating disorders

My blog tagline is about not falling into the traps of eating disorder behaviour which can be hard when embarking on a weight loss journey. Now that we’re getting to know each other a bit more, over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be telling you about my struggles with bulimia in my 20s (which ended up with 6 weeks spent in an eating disorder unit as an inpatient) and then being very ill with anorexic behaviour 9 years ago in my late 30s that lead to very serious heart problems. But it won’t be all doom and gloom. You see, I’m celebrating right now as I’m losing weight healthily for the first time free of my ED history which I hope helps at least one person out there. There is hope!

Okay guys, next blog will be my weigh-in on Monday…..although I might sneak in an extra one over the weekend!

Love Erika xx

I need to lose 150lbs

The first post on a new blog is rather scary! There’s so much I want to tell you but we’ve got lots of time to get to know each other, haven’t we! I mean, losing 150lbs (about 10 stone) isn’t going to be a goal that I can accomplish in the next month so I’m going to be blogging for quite some time.

First, I need to confess something – I THINK it’s 150lbs I need to lose. I was too scared to get on the scales on my own so I lifted a very large angel high-backed chair with me so that I could glance at the scales and think “Well, at least I’m not X amount”. I’d love to know if I’m only one who gets on scales with furniture, pets or children! I’ve been Googling the weight of the chair and it’s coming up 28lbs (over 12.5 kg) so I think I have an idea about my true weight but I need to shift some more weight more before I get on ‘naked’, without anything clinging to me or held above my head!

I must tell you that I have a history of bulimia and anorexia and so it’s vitally important that I do this in a really healthy way, a more sustainable way than in the past. 9 years ago, I was very ill with anorexia and put my heart at risk. I was obsessing about minimal calories over 6 months and was almost sectioned under the UK Mental Health Act due its physical toll. But more on that another time.

The last thing to share right now is that I started this journey on 14 February (absolutely no link to being Valentine’s Day). I wanted to make sure that I was beginning this journey healthily before blogging and I wanted to see if I could sustain healthy eating for more than 3 weeks (usually the point in a diet when I reach for the candy and biscuits!). But, with 2.5 months gone, I think I’m now ready do share my 150lbs weight loss with you which will be on top of however much weight I’ve already lost.

And I promise to be open, very open with you. I’ll tell you about some exercise I’m starting and what I’m eating. And, in my next blog, I’ll tell you what the scales said!

Love Erika xx