For many years I was actually scared of Christmas, when I was living with an eating disorder. It’s still not my favourite time of year – forced jollity and images of impossibly happy families on TV advertising. Just not the reality for so many. But now it’s a time of year that will pass rather than something to be feared.
My Life Was Really Governed By The Scales
When I was living with an eating disorder Christmas was a time of year I absolutely dreaded. The entire month of December was punctuated with social events. Each one involving excessive amounts of food and drink. Normal routines were disrupted.
My life, back then, was governed by what the scales told me every morning. They told me if I was going to have a good day or if I’d spend the day anxious and stressed out because I’d put on an ounce or two.
On a regular day I’d be plotting my strategy from the moment I woke to the moment my head hit the pillow. How many calories in, how many calories could I burn through excessive exercise? Would I need to take laxatives just before going to bed? My eating disorder controlled every thought and waking moment.
Feast And Be Merry With An Eating Disorder!
But when Christmas came along my routines were thrown into turmoil. I was expected to socialise – which usually meant food and drink. My exercise classes and the swimming pool were closed over the days of the year I needed them most.
One year, the day before Christmas Eve I ended up in A&E having had an accident with a knife and frozen beefburger at 5am – don’t ask! Arriving home mid-morning with my hand in a sling and stitches, I sent my husband off to work. I couldn’t get him out of the house fast enough so that I could get changed into my running gear and out for an 8-mile run on icy lanes….
Living with an eating disorder meant I had to be in control. This meant that I was the one catering most of the time at Christmas. From dinner on the big day, drinks parties, friends for supper and a party on New Year’s Eve. I returned to work in January exhausted and burnt out.
The best Christmases we spent were those skiing – we both loved it. It was my kind of heaven spending all day in the mountains burning off calories, munching lettuce leaves at lunchtime while all around me filled themselves with pasta. Then not content with skiing all day I had to book accommodation with a swimming pool so that I could hurtle up and down swimming at least a mile before dinner.
What You Need To Know About Eating Disorders
Eating Disorders are not about food, they are serious Mental Health Disorders. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of ANY mental health condition. Around 1.25M people in Britain suffer from an eating disorder. This is a conservative number, based on those who seek treatment. Eating disorders do not discriminate in terms of age or gender. The populist view that an eating disorder is only likely to affect a teenage girl is wrong and outdated.
Several high-profile male celebrities have talked about their own living with an eating disorder: Freddie Flintoff, Christopher Ecclestone, Ed Sheeran for example.
Older people who have never suffered from disordered eating in earlier years, can also be diagnosed with an eating disorder.
What I’ve Been Up To This Year
Last weekend I took a step back to those dark times. I’ve enrolled to take part in a study to see if there’s a genetic link in people who suffer from eating disorders. Completing the online survey, answering questions about my experience was tough. But if this research proves useful in any way, I’m pleased to be part of it.
I’ve been a guest on podcasts and on radio this year talking about living with an eating disorder. Because I think it’s important to keep the conversation going. On Marlow FM the phone/text and inbox for the station were inundated with people grateful we were talking about eating disorders.
I’ve written to and received replies from my MP, about how the Government needs to consider those living with an eating disorder in its messaging about obesity.
Why 2020 Is A Nightmare For Eating Disorders
This year has been so tough for everyone but for those living with an eating disorder it’s been especially hard:
Isolation – when you have more time on your own, there’s more opportunity for your negative thoughts to spiral out of control and for those suffering to get further entrenched in disordered eating;
Food Supplies – in March supermarkets struggled to maintain supplies of all items. If you’re shopping and can’t get a particular brand or product most people would shrug and buy an alternative. Anyone suffering from an eating disorder will know the panic and indecision that sets in. Routine is a huge part of an eating disorder.
Exercise – gyms and fitness facilities closing was another sweat inducing nightmare for anyone suffering from an eating disorder. Not helped by the shortage of fitness equipment available to buy online.
What Can You Do To Help?
Beat – the leading eating disorder charity in the UK found a huge increase in those seeking its services this year, as vulnerable people reached out for help. Lockdown also meant many local support and regular counselling services were put on hold.
Last year Beat helped 28,000 people who contacted them. Just knowing that someone is on the end of the phone, who understands that living with an eating disorder is so devastating is powerful. Over Christmas alone they supported 455 callers. But they would like to be able to support more people crisis with an eating disorder over Christmas.
I’m helping Beat by giving £10 from every gift voucher I sell until 21st December. I know the pain of living with an eating disorder, I lived with it for 23 years. My family went through that pain with me. If I can do anything to prevent anyone suffering and to get the help they need it’s worth it. Find out more about my gift vouchers here or click on the image below.