2019: Diet culture, breaking rules and finding body positivity

Mental Health

I desperately want 2019 to be a revolution, the riddance of diet culture and fad diets in place of body confidence and the focus on the many benefits food has for our bodies. As a society, we’re fixated with our appearances and the number on the scale – easily forgetting that neither of those factors determine our worth.

Constantly striving for a perfection met by an Instagram filter that simply does not exist.

Eating Disorders manifest their way into millions of people’s lives and the turmoil we experience can only be described as a constant war against ourselves and what we know is right, whilst obeying the wrong and viewing our bodies (and food) as our biggest enemies. An epitome of darkness and never ending feelings of failure categorised by the voices in our head. Not just a diet, or a phase. Fighting against our bodies that have issued us with energy, advanced our first steps to waking or dancing, allowing us to hug and to learn.

Don’t miss out on 95% of your life just to weigh 5% less.

January can be a difficult time for those suffering from an Eating Disorder, following bouts of diet talk after Christmas indulgence. People around us committing to gym memberships or signing up to slimming world, engaging in fad diets or silly detoxes. It’s toxic and it’s harmful, but we most focus on ourselves and our own wellbeing. “New year, new me” shouldn’t be about depriving ourselves, it should be about reinventing ourselves, finding happiness and making memories.

The acceptance that we are enough, we are beautiful, capable and strong – irrespective of how we may feel or what we may be thinking at times.

So many of us (myself included) maintain a negative relationship with ourselves and the bodies that have housed us for the entirety of our lives. Unsatisfied if we haven’t reached our target weights or if our tummies stick out slightly.

Instead of this, shouldn’t we be focusing on more desirable factors? The fulfilment of the first bite of a crisp apple, or the first scoop of ice cream on a warm Summer’s day, as opposed to calories and guilt? I cannot accentuate enough that one day, we will grow older wishing to have fully experienced our lives, saying yes to a pizza date or stepping out of the comfort of a meal plan, regardless of how scary and uncomfortable at times. We’re supposed to live, not just merely survive, and that includes fighting our fears and challenging our thoughts.

I hope 2019 is a year filled with mental and physical growth, happiness and most importantly – acceptance in both the body and the mind. Being kind to ourselves is important, showing ourselves compassion is important and staying safe is important, too.

Helpful Instagram accounts:

Unbeknownst to me, I had previously been following a series of toxic accounts on social media. And I cannot express how much of a positive impact is met when replacing those accounts for positive, self-help accounts. The things we expose ourselves to can often have a big influence on our moods: both good and bad.

1) bodyposipanda

2) bodyposipower

3) recipesforselflove

4) ourmindfulbloom

5) catielynclcsw

6) thebalancebee

Hello 2019: Diet culture and recovery

Mental Health

Hello and a Happy New Year.

I wish everybody a year filled with happiness, kindness and self love. And I’m sending masses of strength and courage to those in need of it.

We can do this!

I believe the start of a new year isn’t an indication of diets or weight loss as displayed in the media. As explained by my Therapist: it’s a money making scheme and companies fail to acknowledge those with Eating Disorders when filling The World with possibly triggering content. Though, happiness and success isn’t sought by the number on a scale and it’s time we learned to measure our self worth differently and in a less harmful manor. I believe 2019 should be the end of diet culture and the encouragement of self love and body positivity.

Numbers are just numbers: They cannot highlight our personalities or make us better, kinder or more intelligent. But they can cause us to become miserable and obsessive if we let them. And the only numbers we should be focusing on are the numbers of hugs we’ve given, the number of animals we’ve passed by in the street or the number or times we’ve made somebody’s day brighter.

In a World with so many disordered, confusing rules and rituals surrounding food, this is a reminder that food is fuel and a necessity. The fuel for our happiness, our adventures, our abilities to learn and to hold treasurable conversations with our loved ones. The energy we need to thrive and flourish. Although it seems as though everybody around us is dieting in a bid to “shift Christmas weight”, it’s vital we focus on ourselves to prevent our health from declining.

It’s also important to distinguish the differences between diets and eating disorders.

  • Most people will announce that they’re dieting in a bid to fit in, but have no intentions of doing so. Or the diet will last a few days maximum before the dieter gets bored and gives up. And people dieting will not punish themselves, or determine their self worth on what they’ve eaten.
  • And, importantly, Eating Disorders are MENTAL illnesses with devastating impacts that cannot just switch off.

It’s important to put our needs into consideration and to distance ourselves from negativity. We’ll struggle to make progress (and to find happiness) if we constantly compare ourselves with others and what they’re doing.

And (easier said than done) we must distract ourselves from the things going on around us that we find harmful. Acknowledge our struggles, reach out, find happy distractions and focus on the now. January can be exceptionally toxic for those with Eating Disorders and the increase in diet talk, but year after year we survive and become stronger for doing so!

2019 creates an opportunity to work on ourselves by welcoming positivity and surrounding ourselves with people who truly make our souls shine. A new year indicates a clean slate, 365 days to stay safe and well, not to push ourselves to extremes because of a diet fad.

The concept of a new year can add unnecessary pressure to our lives in the sense that we must be doing certain things or feeling certain emotions in order to fit in. But it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be overwhelmed and it’s okay to struggle.

Life is up and down, a combination of good and bad. The World is filled with enough toxicity, the least we can give ourself is kindness and understanding.

Let’s be kind to ourselves and others, whilst learning to find peace and contentment with ourselves and our bodies.

Anorexia and University – Studying and recovering

University

I want to talk about battling Anorexia whilst at University.

Initially, it was something I wanted to keep hidden from those around me. But then I figured it was pointless (and ridiculous) attempting to shy away from a huge aspect of my life. I’m no longer ashamed or embarrassed of the things I am going through.

It’s common for Students to develop mental illnesses whilst at University due to many different reasons. Not because they’re weak willed, lazy or unable to cope. However, I had been diagnosed several years beforehand so I had the advantage of developing my own coping mechanisms in order to help me manage my personal situation.

The pressure of studying, meeting deadlines and achieving “the best” grades. Being away from home, finding feelings of loneliness and increased anxiety levels when faced with a new situation. There are lots of factors which can trigger somebody becoming unwell.

I’m not a typical student, you could say. I don’t order pizzas and I tend to avoid eating out, or doing anything other than sticking to my *very* strict eating regime. I can spend lengths of time breaking down in my room due to my horrific body image or intense feelings of guilt. I have difficulties concentrating in lectures due to exhaustion and a tendency to reflect upon my darkest thoughts. Having an Eating Disorder does restrict you in many ways past eating and it tends to alienate you from those in your presence.

I turn to my Anorexia as a means of coping, a form of punishment, particularly when things go wrong. Such as receiving a slightly lower grade than I anticipated, fall-outs with friends, exam pressure and so on. Reminder: regardless of whatever happens I still need to eat.

I made it a goal of mine to allow those around me to know about my struggles, to avoid any awkwardness if I were to be asked to go out to eat or to avoid questions about my “abnormal” eating patterns. Opening up isn’t easy, I often worry about judgement or the fear of abandonment, worrying people will no longer wish to be associated with me. But, thankfully, the love and understanding I have received has been incredible and I am exceptionally thankful and filled with gratitude for that.

Battling Anorexia is a continuous, daily enervating task which takes significant amounts of strength, courage and determination. Even whilst studying something you’re truly passionate about, it doesn’t (unfortunately) ridden your illnesses. I’ve found it almost impossible to stick to a regular eating pattern due to my forever changing timetable and my other commitments, only motivating me to try harder (and to challenge my disordered thoughts) in second year.

Recovery and education are just as important as each other.

Waking up every morning to fight the demons which left you exhausted and agitated the day before….

That is bravery.

Eating Disorder recovery is often perceived as eating and being given a meal plan, when in reality, it’s often including battling excruciatingly painful and loud thoughts, relearning what a healthier relationship with food is, past diet culture, restriction and calorie counting. Alongside finding body acceptance, tackling the voice that continuously nags at you for not being “good enough or thin enough”.

Managing this on top of studying, a social life, volunteering and hobbies is still something I am learning to apply to myself. It takes a remarkable amount of power in order to do so. Ensuring I am busy enough to spend less time dwelling on my thoughts, but also finding the time to eat, even when I don’t particularly want to.

On my down days, I have the confidence to confide in those I trust as a reminder that I am not alone.

My marvellous dance teacher, and friend, Lucy has always been somebody I’ve felt able to speak to when I’ve needed somebody to listen. A very kind-hearted, beautiful person who inspires me daily with her strength, hard work and determination. Providing me with love, understanding and acceptance. Alongside two of my lovely tutors who have assisted, and advised me in countless ways.

Battling any Eating Disorder isn’t a quick fix. Or something that happens magically overnight. It takes years and years to recover, with every individual sufferer having their own unique recovery journeys, some people may never reach a full recovery due to the nature of the illness. But it’s key that baby steps are taken daily to challenge thoughts, behaviours and rituals.

I highly encourage everybody struggling to open up to those you trust. A tutor, a friend, or a family member. It helps to lift a huge weight from your shoulders and it acts as a constant reminder that you are not in this battle alone.