Anorexia is a serious condition and can, at it’s worst, be life threatening. If you are trying to recover from anorexia or you have a friend who is suffering from it then you should seek advice from an actual professional doctor.
Sadly though there are a lot of people who are suffering from mental illnesses of all descriptions and not enough doctors to see them all, especially here in the UK. For more serious cases there is also a shortage of beds in NHS hospitals.
The ineptitude of our government should not be a reason why you can’t work towards getting better though. The battle to overcome a mental illness has to be fought in your own head. The following might help you be able to work towards getting better but as I said at the start of you can please get help from a professional. I am at the end of the day an idiot with a laptop, I have experience with this kind of thing but I am in no way, shape or form a professional.
I’m a big believer in the cognitive approach to psychology and I think that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be used to treat a wide range of issues, eating disorders being one of them.
Within CBT you have what is known as an ABC model which looks like this:
A: Activating event
B: Beliefs caused by the event
C: the Consequences of that belief.
If you’ve seen the word triggered thrown about on the internet this is where it comes from as the activating (triggering) event can cause a destructive cycle.
Now lets take the ABC model and apply it to anorexia.
A: Someone you live with says “You’re eating us out of house an home”
B: You think ‘oh that person must think I’m fat, maybe they all think I’m fat, I had better skip dinner tonight and watch what I eat over the next couple of days’
C: you eat the absolute minimum for the next week.
Ok so C is the behaviour we want to change yet we are struggling to do so. A is really what we would like to change but it just isn’t going to happen as we can’t control other people (Yet, anyway, I’m working on something) so we have to change B.
Your belief is your interpretation of the triggering event. If you manually stop that negative belief in your head and replace it with a positive belief then you will change the consequence of the triggering event (if that makes sense?) so for instance:
A: Someone you live with says “You’re eating us out of house and home”
B: You think ‘no I’m not, I’m eating enough to give me the energy to do what I need to do. The lazy b****** probably hasn’t gone shopping yet’
C: You dismiss their idiotic statement as cover that they haven’t gone shopping yet. You either offer to help them with the shopping or call them a lazy b****** and carry on with whatever you were doing before you were so rudely interrupted.
With practise and time you will automatically replace your belief in the first model with that of the second model. Then you will see the frequency of the negative consequence of that triggering event diminish until the triggering event no longer effects you.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. There will be days where stuff and people just really really get on your nerves and you won’t be able to do it. That’s a part of “recovery” though. Just try to apply your ABC model to things in the real world and you will see the patterns in the way you react to things.
Little & Often (and safe foods)
Ok, so lets say that your end goal is to be able to sit down and eat three big, nutritional meals per day. If you go out and instantly try to do that you will fail. Sorry it will just happen.
Start small and bland, especially if you haven’t eaten for a while as your body will struggle to digest a large amount of rich food. You’ll feel really bloated and gross which sucks or you’ll just bring it back up which believe me no one wants to see. Pastas and toast are meant to be really good as they are easy to digest and I found that Birdseye potato waffles are amazing if I’m going through a rough patch.
Lets stick with toast though. Lets say you have half a slice of toast at 9am which makes you feel full up but not unwell then you have the other half at 12 then another half at 3 then another at 6. Ok, it’s not much on paper but it is getting your body used to food again and is giving you a little nutrition. After a while that half a slice won’t be filling you up and you will want a whole slice every few hours. Keep adding to that over time and it will soon get you to a place you want to be
This isn’t one I’ve tried but it seems to help a lot of people. Some people when ill will keep a track of their food and calorie intake. They have a number in mind that they want to stay under. In recovery all you want to do is swap that around. Lets say “Ok I want to eat about 1500 calories today as I can do stuff with the energy I have taken from that”. With that number in mind you can work your way towards that throughout the day. Use it as a positive goal then try to raise that number as it gets easier for you.
One for the Girls
Stop reading celebrity and health/lifestyle magazines. Seriously. It’s like click bait but on paper. They want people to panic that they haven’t got the ‘perfect’ summer body and that peanuts cause saggy boobs or whatever because they want to sell a magazine. It sounds dumb but we are inspired by the media we read. That’s why I have a thing for old cars as most of the media I read is about old cars. Old cars are safer though, they won’t put me in hospital on a feeding tube they will just financially cripple me, which is much more appealing.
This isn’t for everyone as some people really obsess over planning their life around food which is unhealthy but if you can try to plan ahead what you are going to eat. “I’m going to work today. Cool, I could take a packed lunch or maybe get something at the Subway over the road”
Make food a part of your schedule. This is super helpful alongside the calorie diary as you can plan out how you are going to achieve your goals throughout the day.
Some people do obsess over this kind of thing though and it becomes more of a hindrance than a help. Maybe do this one with a friend or family member so they can make sure it doesn’t become an obsession.
Thanks for reading and as always be sure to follow me on Twittube and Faceagram!