Atypical anorexia: the dietitian is pushing me….

Hello guys,

You know, the specialist eating disorder dietitian I’m working with has a wonderful ability to really listen to me, bring humour to our sessions, really involve me in the treatment around my preferences, etc. …. whilst also giving me ‘The Look’ and being direct with me which is just what I need.

I have to say that I’m finding it hard to keep pushing up the calories and I’m starting to hit a brick wall having got the calories up from a daily limit of 375 to 950. I mean, that’s a huge jump and she said that we need to do it in a way that feels doable but stops me from losing weight, especially as some of my weight will be due to excess skin after losing 170 lbs. What is exciting in many ways is that I’m actually learning about food, going for unprocessed foods (or at least those with minimal processing) and making smart choices. When I overcame atypical anorexia 10 years ago, I was under threat of being hospitalised under the Mental Health Act and it shocked me into suddenly eating more… but I had no idea about what I should be eating. This time is different. This time, I’m eating new foods, I’m not bingeing, I’m feeling some overall sense of balance. I’ve also signed up today to do a course about nutrition and health that should take me about 2 months to do via distance learning as I want to embrace a much healthier approach going forward.

— ❤ —

This is what my current food plan from her is, knowing that I’m not a breakfast person:

Lunch: chicken, watercress, spinach and rocket in a salad or sandwich on wholemeal followed by 0% fat Greek yogurt and blueberries

Afternoon snack: a Graze or Nak’d snack bar (which are made from wholefoods)

Dinner: a ready meal (which I always go low-cal anyway) followed by an apple and a 20g portion of cheese (but I’m not to go for the ‘diet’ or lighter version as she wants me to up the calories)

— ❤ —

This is EVERY day and it feels like so much to eat but she has also asked me to start building in 100 ml of Kefir every day which I bought last night and will try later on today. It’s the 1,000 calorie hurdle that feels daunting but, between her and my therapist, I know I’m in safe hands.

Just waiting for blood test results so it’ll help to see if my kidneys are still being impacted by the restricting. But despite the anorexia there, I’m really trying to focus on looking after me a bit more. I’m picking up new glasses next week, ears are being syringed in 2 weeks, hair is being dyed tomorrow, home-administered smear/pap test has been ordered and I’m considering speaking to a GP about the suspected small hernia. Self-care is something I’ve always struggled with to be honest…. perhaps linking to whether I feel worthy of self-kindness. Body confidence is wavering and so the thought of people ‘seeing me’ or needing to prod me feels really scary but perhaps if I can get my calories to more than double what they were, I can do this too! But I thought these were rather enlightening photos to show how my body has really changed from June 2020 (having already lost about 50 lbs) to January 2021 and then to 2 photos taken very recently:

Hope you have a lovely weekend everyone and I’ll be back on Monday. No extreme adventures planned for this weekend but I’ll be out with the paintbrush overhauling a bedroom which is equally fun!

Love Erika xx

Making time to stay well…

Hey folks

A short post today but this image popped up on my social media this morning and, goodness, I needed to see this…

As a businesswoman, my diary is packed over the next few months. And whilst part of me knows that I need to take out some time for myself to get professional help with cracking the restrictive eating of atypical anorexia, there’s that part of me that can’t possibly let other people down. Yet if I was an employee, I’d be talking to my line manager right now about needing to go on sick leave. I need to look beyond today and see the bigger picture of the future on many different levels.

I had a meeting with a specialist psychologist last night about some very individualised support and she shared her significant concern about how many calories I’m eating, And I think it’s finally dawning on me that I’m perhaps more unwell than I previously thought. That’s hard to admit but perhaps it’s a necessary step before I fully realise that the next step has to be recovery….

Much to think about today….

Love Erika xx

Atypical anorexia. Are you ready to recover?

Hey guys

I guess today’s post is to help me think through the concept of recovery from atypical anorexia although it can probably be applied to many other situations, not just eating disorders.

The thing is…. my current situation isn’t really about the food. Sure, the thought of food, how to avoid it, how I’m going to knock off another pound consumes almost every waking moment but things like eating disorders, alcoholism, self-harm and OCD are just the outward behavioural signs of inner turmoil.

As I’ve eluded before, I ‘get’ the logic about my situation as it links to being a carer. Focusing intently on my weight loss takes up a lot of mental space and helps me avoid focusing on the harder things. So, it serves a purpose. What I’m going to do is to look at the pros and cons of recovery. Even as I write that, I’m thinking “Erika, why wouldn’t you want to recover?!!!!” but let’s see how I get on with these lists.

The pros of recovery

  • I can become physically healthy again. I hope this is possible as I know that my organs are starting to be affected but I could possibly prevent them from at least deteriorating further
  • I can reclaim the mental space this is taking up
  • I can then refocus on adopting healthy eating patterns and fully embrace how I’ve lost over 160 lbs
  • I can stop panicking at the thought of meeting up with friends over meals as I love being with people!
  • I can take on the physical demands of things I’ve been looking forward to (which I don’t feel I can right now) like abseiling, adrenalin-filled rib boat experiences, etc.
  • I can get on with the therapeutic work that I’m mentally partly trying to avoid

The cons of recovery

  • It’s scary! If I don’t have this intent focus on all things food-related, I’m more likely to think about the painful stuff
  • I’m worried about increasing my calories in case I then can’t stop eating
  • If I can’t stop eating, I could put on all the weight
  • I don’t know how to recover

So, let’s challenge those cons:

It’s scary! If I don’t have this intent focus on all things food-related, I’m more likely to think about the painful stuff

Yes, it is scary and that’s understandable Erika. Thing is that those feelings about being a carer need to be processed and masking them isn’t going to make them go away. Talking about this stuff might be really hard but you’ve an amazing psychotherapist in place who you know you can tell anything to. Just think back to what it’s like when your mind feels free and you don’t feel trapped. You can do it, girl!

I’m worried about increasing my calories in case I then can’t stop eating

Isn’t that understandable?! You’ve lost all this weight, you’ve got a new body (including the excess skin but, meh, a small niggle). But you’ve also been doing the Noom program for 4 months and actually, despite the anorexia, you’ve been learning lots about healthy eating even if you’ve not been able to put it into practice. You’ve actually got a mental tool kit of strategies to now use. Yes, when you recovered from atypical anorexia 10 years ago, you did then put on a lot of weight but this time feels different. Apart from the carer issues, you’re in a good space overall.

If I can’t stop eating, I could put on all the weight

Check out what you wrote above, Erika. You can choose a healthy range to stay between which allows for normal fluctuations. You’ve already set this up as your body weight is 2 lbs away from being in the healthy range but you’d like to lose another 9 lbs overall so that you have some wriggle room.

I don’t know how to recover

And you don’t have to know. ‘Just eat more’ might sound SO simple but you don’t have to do this alone. You know that things have been escalated by your therapist and GP because of their concerns over physical risk so you need to pass over the control. You can’t do this any more. Keep an open mind. Listen to the eating disorder service people who have their area of expertise and work ‘with’ them. Don’t see support as something being done ‘to’ you but work with them like you’ve done with other professionals in the past. They’re just part of Team Erika and will want you to rediscover your true self.

— ❤ —

Gosh, that felt quite intense to write but I hope the above helps at least one person reading this, whatever their situation. In fact, the structure of pros, cons and how to challenge cons is perhaps a format for a range of ‘What shall I do?’ situations. I’m going to record myself reading the above in the next couple of days and then play it back… because I’ll then be able to hear an external voice talking to me which can feel very different to the inner one. Well, let’s see how that goes.

I’ll be back on Friday or Saturday but, until then, take care

Love Erika xx

Battling the anorexic mind…

Hey

I have an almighty battle going on in my head today….. the anorexic voice that’s been dominant recently and has taken me down to a maximum of 440 calories a day…. but also the ‘parent voice’ that’s bringing me some kindness.

I was thinking last night that the thing which helped me overcome eating disorders in the past was when something outweighed the need to hang onto the ED behaviours….. something that became more important than holding on a coping mechanism that was dangerous yet also brought a sense of feeling in control and on a high.

Today, I’ve had two amazing pieces of news (an incredible meeting that’s going to raise my professional profile nationally and even internationally) and I’ve been accepted onto a course that will enable me to train as a psychotherapist eventually. In fact, they say that good things come in 3s and I’ve bought some tickets for tonight’s Euromillions lottery!! So, there are lots of positive things happening and I really want to be well enough to enjoy all of this because despite struggling being a carer, there are some amazing developments coming. The future looks really positive …. and I don’t want to be ill. It’s late afternoon here and I’ve pushed myself to eat 410 calories so far which is about 300 more than I’d normally eat so far at this time of the day…. and I really want to eat dinner but then it’ll take me over the 440 calorie limit. Going over 440 is probably going to feel emotionally tough but I guess that’s to be expected. My comfort zone feels like a safe place to stay but, as one of two people in real life who know what’s happening, a guy said to me yesterday that there will come a point where the anorexia will cause me to collapse because it’s not sustainable. I might think I’m well, I might think there’s no reason to change what I’m doing but I’m heading towards a medical crisis where matters will be taken out of my hands. And, yes, part of me can see this because of the heart palpitations and dizziness. But it’s an all-consuming battle in my head, disguised by the smile that I’m rather adept to showing others…

So, I’m going to try to go over 440. I feel scared but I need to try. And I’ll report back here on Monday at my next weigh in

Hope you have a good weekend

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