About me

About me

Welcome to my blog – Pawprintlaur.

If you’ve stumbled across this page, you may well be wondering who I am (past being an avid tea drinker) and what my story is.

Four years ago I gained a triple distinction star (D*D*D*) qualification in my Level 3 Extended BTEC Diploma in Animal Care and Management. I spent two years studying before working as an Animal Technician for a year.

And following this, after 2 years out of education, I began my studies at Bangor University. I’m heading into my third year in September, and I study Zoology with Animal Behaviour (BSc Hons). My interests lie in the fields of animal behaviour, animal ethics and animal welfare, and I have a known soft spot for mammals. Goats And Giraffes in particular. Although, in addition to this, I believe that all animals are unique, fascinating and worthy of love, care and affection. Which partially explains why I am Vegan.

I plan to expand on my Veganism posts. So stay tuned!

I’ve been Vegan for 3.5 years. I transitioned in April 2016 after educating myself into the realities of the dairy industry, and because I wanted to do more for animal rights and ethics. It’s cliché, but I believe Veganism has always been embedded within me.

In my spare time, I enjoy dedicating both my love and commitment to animals. This summer, I spent a week in Spain volunteering at a Vegan Animal Sanctuary – Jacobs Ridge, which is located in Southern Spain.

I also regularly volunteer at a farm (Little Owl Farm) where I’ve been involved for 2.5 years. The farm quickly became my happy place and I’m proud to be the resident goat girl.

I also love to Dance. I began dancing at the age of four at my local dance studio, where I remained an enthusiastic member for 17 years. I have been involved in a collection of styles. Including: Ballroom, Latin, Ballet, Jazz and Contemporary.

I also love to raise awareness of Mental Health, following my past and present battles with Anorexia Nervosa, Anxiety and Depression. I regularly share my experiences and delve into my situations with the hopes of inspiring others to speak up too!

And, in addition to this, I raise awareness of Autism too. Which came about after receiving my diagnosis aged 19.

Thank you for visiting my blog and happy scrolling!

Lots of love, Laur xx

Diet culture and an insight into the Diet Industry

Mental Health

Diet culture is EVERYWHERE. It captivates our screens and brainwashes our minds, often without us realising just how much we’ve become affected by it.

Weight Watchers have recently created a food tracking app (Kurbo) for Children aged between 8-17. This appalls me, greatly. It breaks my heart to imagine a Child tracking an ice-cream they just ate and becoming fixated on numbers when they should be learning, growing and making lifelong memories.

Quite frankly, the diet industry encourages us to follow dietary habits that aren’t realistic or sustainable. Drop 5 pounds in a week, eat sugar-free gummy bears to suppress your hunger.

No.

In The US, Americans spend approximately $60 BILLION on diet products, annually.

$6.2 BILLION is the estimated amount the diet industry is worth, and has unfortunately been predicted to expand to $70 billion in upcoming years.

I sit and wonder what we could otherwise be investing such a large sum of money into. Adequate Mental Health funding? Building shelters for the homeless? It baffles me that money is used to, essentially, damage people’s lives when it could be used to enhance people’s futures.

I’ve been struggling with an Eating Disorder – Anorexia Nervosa for years. And only recently have I deleted my calorie counting app. From a personal perspective, the apps become addictive and competitive, and food quickly becomes the devil.

Why are we paying into such a damaging industry?

It’s all about supply and demand.

I’m no expert. But, I can conclude *from a personal perspective* that companies will only continue manufacturing and promoting their products so long as there is a demand for them. As long as people continue paying into the industry, it’ll only continue to thrive. Take food products, for example, if people stop buying a brand of chocolate (for example, vego) the company will stop producing them, because it’ll cost the company more to assemble them in comparison to the profit gained from consumers.

The diet industry rakes in billions of pounds annually because it negatively influences millions of vulnerable people. It’s a money making fad. It encourages Eating Disorders to develop, and if not an ED, definitely disordered eating. It targets people of all generations with promises that unrealistic ideas of “perfection” and “happiness” can be gained through following simple steps and through purchasing products that only exhibit laxative-like effects. People become addicted and, thus, more money is generated through the industries. It’s sustainable because people pay into companies, sometimes out of curiosity, which promote unhealthy products and lifestyles, often with the help of social media influencers and celebrities. Youngsters see their idols posting suppressive lollipops and feel obliged to follow the same principles.

Here’s an idea: Restrict your intake to the recommended amount for that of a toddler. As magazines publish damaging articles of celebrities miraculous and speedy weight loss regimes, they fail to allude that 1200 is the recommended calorie intake for toddlers, not people developing into adulthood, or those already classified as adults.

We shouldn’t be aiming to suppress our hunger, as often encouraged in advertisements, on social media and magazine articles. Hunger is to be honoured. The ideology being that our bodies are similar to cars. Without fuel, cars would breakdown and refuse to run, and like us, they cannot run efficiently on little or no fuel. We should be working to respect our hunger cues whilst listening to our bodies and filling ourselves with an adequate amount of nutrition. Regardless of what you ate yesterday, it’s still crucial for you to eat today, whether you’ve exercised or not, you still need to eat.

Food is fuel.

Calories aren’t the devil; they’re units of energy, and our bodies embrace them to issue us with a sustainable level of energy for survival, happiness and life. We need calories to survive, and the more we restrict and deprive ourselves of an essential staple, the more our lives slip away before our eyes.

What ever happened to encouraging people strive for happiness and contentment in their bodies, and surrounding the nourishment served up at meal times? In today’s society, we’re fixated on changing ourselves and with each diet fad we follow, we step further away from accepting ourselves just the way we are. We feel a constant urge to shrink our bodies and our portion sizes without acknowledging the fact that this can be woefully detrimental to our physical and mental wellbeing.

Remember that the diet industry is a money making scheme. A fad. Their advertisements are targeted at the most vulnerable people. Their intentions stem far away from situating health, self love and confidence.

In a World filled with toxicity, diet culture and the consistency of words encouraging us to change ourselves, it’s vital that we fight against it and make progress in loving ourselves and becoming comfortable in our own skin.

The World needs more of us, not less. Our bodies require fuel, not suppressants.

Managing an Eating Disorder at Uni – Experiences And Tips from an Undergraduate

Mental Health

I became a Uni Student whilst under the grips of an Eating Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa.

I am still in recovery from this, every day is a challenge. But I’m determined to make positive changes towards reaching my goals towards health and happiness. 

I enlisted my Anorexia on my University application, alongside my Autism. I remained aware that I could face issues throughout my studies, and I feel comforted being able to share my story with my Tutors, and my friends – Who are surely, and gladly, becoming a second family to me.

Admittedly, I’ve faced my fair share of challenges and obstacles throughout my time at Uni. Managing an Eating Disorder and simultaneously trying to maintain recovery is hard work, possibly the toughest task I’ve had to endure.

I’ve fallen into new and destructive habits whilst trying to eliminate older ones. I often become engrossed heavily in my studies and fail to prioritise eating as much as receiving grade A’s. Anorexia is an incredibly sneaky, and conniving illness that will rear its head at any given opportunity. It’s important to be aware of this, and to prepare yourself for future setbacks/lapses.

Recovery is essentially a full time job, a choice that is constant, a process of rebuilding a healthy relationship with our bodies and our minds. It can be exhausting to balance this alongside our studies, and easy to fall under academic pressures. It can be difficult to maintain concentration whilst dealing with the constant, deliberating thoughts and anxieties surrounding food, numbers and body image.

But I’m currently awaiting enrolling for my third year, I’ve made it this far and I’m feeling motivated for September onwards. And I’m keen to share tips that have guided me through my time at uni so far.

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Ever.

Speaking up is incredibly difficult, yet rewarding. It takes a considerate amount of courage to express your struggles. Be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself and make your mental health a priority.

Don’t feel embarrassed about reaching out for support. Whether that’s to a friend, a tutor, or a medical professional. It doesn’t make you a bad person, just a normal one. I confide in my Tutors always and I’ve been left incredibly humbled and inspired by the understanding and support I continue to receive. Shame isn’t an issue; the biggest focus needs to be on your mental and physical wellbeing. Confide in somebody you love and trust. Nobody deserves to suffer alone or in silence, and I’ve learned that a problem shared is typically a problem halved.

Access professional support. Attending appointments can sometimes mean missing lectures. And that’s fine, because work can be caught up on, our health shouldn’t be put on the line and lecturers are always incredibly understanding regarding mental health. Don’t be worried about confiding in your GP about your struggles. Often, we require therapy to allow us to tackle the root of the problem, and that’s perfectly okay. We can’t have it figured out all of the time. Uni’s also have Mental Health Services available to students with people trained to deal with a variety of problems who can be contacted should you feel the need to do so. Again, there is no shame in this. Just bravery.

Try to avoid falling into comparative habits. It’s often glamorised at uni for students to engage in unhealthy behaviours, such as frequently under/overeating, skipping meals and not getting enough sleep. It’s not cool or an essential component of student life. It’s vital that you focus on yourself and your own recovery journey. Remember that recovery from an Eating Disorder requires eating more, to assist physical and mental repairs. 

Be patient with yourself. Healing takes time, and recovery is never going to be a linear, overnight process. Try not to spend time getting caught up in your bad days, but remember that they can only make us stronger and more able to face tougher days in the future. Nobody is defined by their struggles, or difficult days. Don’t feel bad for saying “no” or for giving yourself time to collect your thoughts and feelings. We all need space, we all need rest and we all need time.

Get yourself a set of close friends to confide in, and to keep you grounded when times are tough. Share as much or as little information as you’re comfortable with. It’s easy to isolate ourselves and to get caught up in the chaos of our own minds, but our friends can keep us distracted by giving us a happier focus by spending time together, or by simply being there to temporarily act as a barrier between ourselves and our struggles. I’m privileged to be surrounded with the most incredible support network both at uni and at home. This makes reaching out for help and advice increasingly easier. Whilst our tutors are not medical professionals, they can issue lifestyle advice and can sympathise with our feelings. And sometimes, that’s more than enough.

Speak to those around you about your triggers. This is an essential, necessary component of taking care of yourself. We shouldn’t have to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions where we’re surrounded with information and situations that we find triggering. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re finding something triggering or hard to deal with. Ie: conversations about diet talk/weight loss, calories or any other areas. From experience, people will be glad that you’ve been able to confide in them about it and will try harder to avoid given topics and scenarios. 

Plan meals and snacks in advance. If you’re anything like me, you can easily “forget” to eat (due to a lack of hunger cues, planning or an inability to go against anorexia) and other things can begin to take priority. It’s important to remember that eating is as important as your studies and the grades you receive. Eating is always important and necessary. Look through your timetable during the weekend and plan meal and snack times. This will help to reduce the anxiety surrounding the situation and will ensure that you have a comfortable plan in place. If you’re in the stage of recovery where intuitive eating is encouraged, go for it! But only if you can trust yourself to eat a sufficient amount of food throughout the day.

Set reminders/alarms on your phone to encourage you to eat. Again, this may help to reduce the anxiety surrounding the situation and will ensure that you issue yourself with essential eating time, which is easy to miss out on with busy uni schedules, appointments, meet ups with friends and a social life. I find that time passes quickly when I’m in the library revising, so I plan rest/comfort breaks to get myself together.

Ensure that you have plenty of distractions in place. I imagine that you’ll be busy with meeting assignment deadlines and partaking in extra reading, but remember to give yourself down time too. It’s a staple we all require in our day to day lives, and it should involve engaging in an activity that distracts you and helps you happy and calm. This can be anything from reading, doing something creative (drawing, baking etc) writing or spending time with friends.

And lastly…

Embrace the journey. Trust in yourself and the process and believe that you’ll get to a place where you wish to be. You’ve got this!

Social media is NOT real life

Mental Health

Whilst scrolling through Instagram, and other means of social media, it’s important to remember that social media isn’t real life.

As a society, we’ve become programmed into believing that the images we see upon our screens are a realistic perception of reality. When in hindsight, this isn’t merely the case.

I’m an advocate for mental health, positivity and I’m working on self-love. I aim to make my social media as honest as possible, an outlet where I document my journey (including the positives and negatives) But this comes with the understanding that the content we stumble across can often be misleading.

We often post content that suggests that we’re constantly living our best, happiest and healthiest lives. When the reality is – We have no idea what’s going on behind closed doors for others, and a person who may exhibit “perfection” (a mythological concept) could quite possibly be going through hell, secretly. The people who appear to be the happiest and most supported could well be battling Depression whilst incoherently feeling isolated, friendless and withdrawn. Those who seem all “put together” may slowly be falling apart. The reality being, nobody has it all figured out. Social media modifies our assumptions on others, whilst it simultaneously leads us to questioning the stages we’re at personally. We’re constantly competing to be our best selves, whilst shielding away our true selves and our feelings. And I believe we should be increasing our support networks, both virtually and in reality, and focusing our energies towards loving and appreciating ourselves for who we are.

But… Why?

Simple.

We’re afraid of the judgement gained through sharing the realities of our lives and our situations. Sharing a personal post could lead to being branded as a weirdo, which is obviously up there with the WORST things in the world next to receiving no likes, being unfriended and unfollowed. I encourage everybody to be honest on social media. Share your situation, share your story, reach out for support. From experience, people will be inspired by your journey, will be supportive and be encouraged to share theirs too! 

Photo editing

Images are posed, planned and often edited to counteract an unrealistic standard of typical every day life. App stores are compiled with a variety of editing apps and within a split second, we can achieve our dream bodies, remove evidence of acne and filter out our imperfections and insecurities. Instagram captures the “perfect” and most memorable moments in people’s lives, without the recognition that people behind their screens are often struggling. Struggling with self acceptance, low self esteem, and a collection of other issues. This only leads to vulnerable people falling into comparative habits.

”Why can’t I look like _____” 

“____ is dieting, so OBVIOUSLY this means that I should be, too”. 

We see images of people on holidays, sitting in 50°c heat in stunning locations with an ice-cream in one hand and a margarita in the other and quickly assume that this person is happy and privileged. The image instantly receives over 300 likes, and with this lies the judgement that this person is doing well. Again, we can’t assume this based on images and minimal background knowledge. Which is another reason why I advocate kindness, ALWAYS. Kindness is free, spread it everywhere you go!

With modern day technology, it’s easy to manipulate images to boost our egos and to increase the engagement we receive on Instagram, and the likes we rally up on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. It’s all about angles. People pose to attitudinise thigh gaps (which, by the way, are genetically based features and definitely not the route to happiness and fulfilment) and toned abs, only catch glimpses of forced smiles, moments spent in the gym and spend minutes allowing their breakfast to run cold in order to catch a picturesque glimpse of it whilst it’s laid out beautifully, rather than focusing on the nourishment and satisfaction gained from eating.

Social media isn’t real life. Its a virtual, fictional reality which can often, unfortunately, bring more damage than necessary. The only people we should be aiming to outdo is ourselves. We cannot distinguish a “norm” between the reality we know and edited versions of our own, and edited people’s lives.

The lives we see on our screens aren’t fully being lived, the mirrored images displayed right in front of our eyes simply don’t exist. And I believe it’s important to consider this when flicking through social media news feeds. A realisation being: The people you see on Instagram don’t look like the people on Instagram.

Self- love, starts with self

We all have our quirks, our insecurities, our struggles and our downfalls. All of which we shouldn’t be ashamed of. Nor should we feel obliged to hide away. Nobody has a perfect life, we’re a generation constantly in a state of self improvement and growth, and part of the process is sitting back and acknowledging that we’re Human.

You’re loved, valid and important. Even with your downfalls, your insecurities and when you make mistakes. And mostly importantly, beautiful.

And your worth can never be defined by social media.

Helplines

Helplines

Here you can find a series of Mental Health helplines. The helplines provide support for those in need, and can be reached via phone (text/call) or email.

BEAT:

0808 801 0677

0808 801 0711 (Youthline)

0808 801 0811 (Studentline)

Website: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

MIND:

0300 123 3393

86463 (Texting details)

Website: https://www.mind.org.uk

THE SAMARITANS:

116 123

jo@samaritans.org

Website: https://www.samaritans.org

PAPYRUS:

0800 068 4141

0778 620 9697 (Texting details)

pat@papyrus-uk.org

Website: https://papyrus-uk.org

Self harming – Where I’m at, healthier coping mechanisms and hope!

Mental Health

I’ve been in a constant turmoil against self harming. A behaviour I began engaging in years ago.

4 years ago, my Teacher voiced her concerns regarding myself and my behaviours. She checked my arms daily for evidence of self harm. As did my Mum, Therapist and everybody involved in my care. I felt hopeless and embarrassed and I wished for nothing more than to disappear. I shrugged things off at first, I denied allegations that I had engaged in hurting myself and often lied about how my injuries occurred. I hated lying, but lies become bigger lies and the truth eventually unfolds.

I now feel hopeful and motivated for a future free from self harm, whilst assisting those who struggle with the same.

The mental torment I endured left me feeling agitated and drained. My mindset encouraged destructive coping mechanisms to handle the things I struggled to express verbally, and to tolerate the torment occurring frequently inside my mind. I felt an epitome of sadness. The minds works in often surreal ways, and I believe that the negativity and hurt we face can only strengthen us for a brighter future.

“There can’t be a rainbow without a little rain”.

It’s essential to take things day by day. Accept the stage you’re at, regardless of how agonising, and reach out for support. Understand that you’re not a failure for slipping into old habits, and you can never be defined by your struggles. If you begin to feel overwhelmed or become flooded with urges, don’t be afraid to reach out.

Thankfully, after years of therapy with various teams and specialists, and many self help guides (some helpful, some questionable) I am well on my way with stopping self harming for good. I cannot remember the last time I hurt myself intentionally, and I’m proud of my progress. I’m doing well! It’s not an overnight process, healing takes time and lots of gruelling perseverance. But my episodes are occurring less frequently and I’m determined to replace my self harming behaviours for those that promote self care and land me closer to happiness.

“Laura, if you carry on this way you’ll have lifelong scars. Is that what you want?” Of course not. But when I feel compelled to hurt myself, future prospects are the last thing on my mind.

I may have lifelong scars, but I’m working on bettering myself with the strength I am constantly developing to override every destructive urge I face. I am not my thoughts, my experiences cannot define me.

Although I remain encouraged by those who speak up about their issues -past and present- I am also well aware of the stigma surrounding self harm. Unfortunately, the subject is still broadly misunderstood and this can make reaching out for support increasingly more difficult. People believe you can “just stop” hurting yourself, when the process becomes addictive and difficult to stop. Habituation has to occur, negative behaviours need to be replaced for positive ones. The behaviour enlisted as a coping mechanism and a way to release negative thoughts, feelings and emotions rather than a form of attention seeking.

I’ve touched upon self harm in precious blog posts, which can be reached here

The truth is, lots of people who self harm feel compelled to hide themselves away due to the fear of being judged, the worries over being questioned and ridiculed. This shouldn’t be the case, and we should be working towards a more accepting and understanding society. People cope in different ways, and although it can be upsetting to see, it’s important to stem away from judgement.

We cannot be certain of what a person is going through. Choose kindness. Instead of staring, share a smile. Instead of assuming, consider asking the person how they’re feeling. It takes a considerate level of strength to show your scars in public, believe me. I used to feel compelled to hide my scars away, but I’ve come to realise that my scars do not define me. They symbolise the battles I’ve won.

I believe that distractions are the key to refraining from self harming, but I cannot speak for everybody. I also appreciate that techniques may not always work as they often require focus and patience, which can be difficult to obtain with racing, loud thoughts. I’ve been in situations countless times where distractions have felt impossible to comprehend. I’ve lacked the concentration to settle with a book and recommended distractions often failed to work in my favour.

Self harming behaviours cannot be mended solely by holding ice or by the encouragement to paint our nails. The root of the problem must be dealt with in order for people to make sufficient progress.

Our minds can easily manipulate us into believing that harming ourselves is the only way out.

Honestly? Things WILL get better. It’s cliché, but it’s true.

To access support/guidance:

If you’re struggling with self harming, please seek support. In my experience, this can be reached through accessing your GP and asking for a referral to local services, such as The CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) or CAMHS.

MIND: 0300 123 3393 or text: 86463

The Samaritans: 116 123

Good bye scales, hello freedom?

Mental Health

Very recently, I braved the decision to ditch my scales. A step forward in recovery.

I have successfully managed TWO WHOLE WEEKS without weighing myself. Crazy, right? I’d been weighing myself obsessively (up to 5 times a day) for numerous years and I bravely opted for the choice to follow my heart and not my head.

The praiseful messages I receive encourage me greatly to continue on my path. Although my decision often feels wrong, those around me assist me in thinking otherwise.

Good bye scales, hello freedom…?

Or at least, I hope.

It’s still very early stages. My mind has been filled with increased anxiety levels, worries and unkind thoughts. I’ve unfortunately slipped into alternate behaviours, and have spent mornings shaking and crying because of the rocketing urges and discomfort levels I feel with relation to the number.

Distractions are the key.

I’ve created a list of distractions to turn to when my Anorexia rears it’s nasty head. Distractions differ between individuals. I personally benefit from writing and spending time with animals. Oh, and repeatedly watching Mamma Mia!

But realistically, my current intake will not increase my weight. And even so, this would be okay. Weight gain should never be demonised. It is important and I understand that I cannot narrowly avoid it forever. (I aim to blog about the importance of being a healthy weight once I’ve reached the milestone myself and have educated myself further on the matter).

I believe that scales should only be used for medical purposes, which is why I’m putting all my faith and trust in my team to allow them to continue to monitor my weight. It’s hard to let go. And it’s very easy to become obsessive, and to slip into disordered or competitive rituals, but I know that my current feelings will pass, similar to a storm.

I highly encourage EVERYBODY (not just Eating Disorder sufferers) to ditch the scales. Freedom awaits. Life is incredibly short and way too precious to spend time fixated on numbers – The numbers in our clothing labels, on the scales and on food packaging labels. In the long run, they are massively irrelevant and only curb our happiness, alongside successfully destroying our mentality.

The number on the scales simply highlights our relationship with gravity. It cannot measure our worth or our intelligence. 

We should all be encouraging each other to practice self love and to appreciate our bodies regardless of them not always meeting societies ideal expectations. I can list multiple factors that are extensively worse than cellulite, pimples and tummy rolls. Photoshop has forcibly wormed its way into our minds and disallowed us to focus on the things that really matter.

Our weight naturally fluctuates throughout the day, as a result of various activities and alterations in hormone levels. Weighing ourselves daily contradicts the definition of health, and leans more towards obsession. Eating and drinking adds to our weight, but this is only temporary. Bloating occurs, this doesn’t equate to weight gain, this demonstrates the movement of the digestive muscles after eating, or symbolises that our periods are due.

It can be hard to understand healthy habits with mixed messages frequently submerged in the media, and often in our own minds and disordered thoughts. With instagram and magazines often filled with posed and filtered images, laxative disguised “hunger curbing” lollipops and fad diets. It can be difficult to avoid comparative habits and ways of thinking.

You may be wondering, how I suddenly opted to ditch the scales.

I’m fighting for the days I no longer think about the number on the scale. The days the number can be altered to the number of animals I save.

The decision wasn’t lighthearted. The number became my focus for years, and I figured it was time for a happier one. I felt a sudden burst of positivity one morning after listening to one of my favourite podcasts. This took at least 6 years to occur. I remembered that habits cannot change unless we are willing to face our fears, and so that’s what I did.

I realised that the number never satisfied me. Even after significant decreases in my weight, I only ever felt the urge to lose more weight. But this incidentally brought the loss of happiness, freedom and health.

The choice to ditch my scales equated to “short term pain for long term gain”. Ie: I currently have to endure high discomfort levels, but this will only lead to a positive outcome.

It’s been 2 weeks since I last focused my energies on a number. And I remain encouraged that time will pass, my strength will increase and I will continue to flourish.

Anorexia recovery – Eating, comparison and being brave

Mental Health

For the past few years, I’ve fallen very much, unwillingly, into comparative habits. This can be detrimental in Anorexia Recovery.

If my friends aren’t eating, why should I?

I MUST be greedy.

Why am I eating if the people around me aren’t? So…much…guilt.

It’s a constant turmoil.

I very recently stumbled across a highly informative blog post by Tabitha Farrar, which highlights mutual recovery worries and concerns. Even an incredible podcast, which can be reached here

I’ve found that Eating Disorders have a tendency to possess a competitive nature in an assortment of ways. The constant fixation on what others are doing and saying can be exhausting.

My friends are dieting, does this mean I should?

My Mum hasn’t eaten Lunch, I guess I shouldn’t either.

I understand that I can become preoccupied with what others around me are eating, and I remain positive that I’m not alone in this, but I’m learning to reverse that focus onto myself to assist me in my journey.

My Therapist issued me with advice, in which I’d like to share. Individuals in recovery from Eating Disorders have significantly different needs in comparison to those around us. We need more food to assist the repairing of the bodies we’ve destroyed for prolonged periods. We have distinctively different needs in comparison to others. We’re in a calorie deficit, our bodies struggle to function with minimal nutrition. Our periods end, our organs begin shutting down and we encounter abnormal blood test results. (Note, symptoms vary within individuals!)

Rewind back 4 years ago, my Therapist challenged me to eating in College. To this day, I still struggle immensely with eating away from home, it typically feels disorganised and unnecessary. But I’m working on it. I was tasked with eating a cereal bar. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. My friend informed me that she hadn’t eaten and I simply couldn’t comprehend eating if she hadn’t, because it obviously “wasn’t” important. I had to constantly remind myself that she’d go home and eat, she wouldn’t restrict calories like I would or engage in unhealthy coping techniques.

The food stands as the building blocks essential for regaining our concentration, protecting our organs and obtaining energy. We must focus our energies on recovery and allowing our bodies (And minds) to habituate to increased food quantities.

It’s important to remember that food is our medicine, the key to our mental and physical healing. No two people eat the same. Skipping meals and snacks simply to match up to our peers only encourages the disordered voices whilst ensuring that we remain compacted within our unhealthy coping mechanisms and ways of thinking. Eating doesn’t equate to greed, increasing calories doesn’t highlight excessiveness.

Other people’s eating habits are NOT an invitation for us to alter our own, it’s vital that we work hard and cooperate with our negative and competitive feelings in order to more forward. We all have different eating habits, we eat at different times and enjoy different foods. This isn’t a matter to be ashamed about, diversity is one of life’s many wonderful factors, it keeps us different and unique.

There’s bravery in reaching for a snack or preparing a meal when those around you state how far from hungry they feel or how little they’ve eaten throughout the day. That takes strength and a considerate amount of determination.

I personally struggle to eat if those around me aren’t. I feel extremely reluctant to eat and then become more anxious if it’s gone past a “safe time”. But our bodies aren’t clocks, they appreciate food all-round. It heightens the guilt I feel surrounding eating and the anorexic voice in my head persuades me to give in. I easily feel greedy and insignificant, especially given my lack of hunger cues. But an essential component of my healing journey consists of prioritising my needs and my thoughts, aswell as acknowledging why I may struggle while working to alter that.

People without Eating Disorders don’t typically have set eating/meal times, and even if a meal or snack is skipped, no disordered thoughts will lure their nastiness. And if they skip a meal (usually due to time constraints/preoccupation or other commitments, not on purpose), this generally DOESNT have implications on the other meals of the day, compensative behaviours will not be used and a recommended amount of calories (ENERGY!!) will still be reached.

Ideally, others will make up for the food they’ve missed throughout the day and may prefer larger meals as opposed to “little and often”. But I imagine no two days of eating are the same for anybody, people may eat more on some days than on others. And vice versa. It all balances out. I would find this unmanageable and daunting, and eating irregularly quickly leads to lightheadedness and fainting episodes. One day I’ll be free from a structured meal plan, but today is not that day.

We must remember to focus on ourselves and our needs, whilst acknowledging that this isn’t selfish, but a necessary component in becoming a step closer to health and happiness. Food is fuel, and although eating may feel like a constant job, it is our medicine.

Anorexia Recovery – Ditching the scales, freedom away from numbers

Mental Health

The morning approached, it was 6:30am.

Already, I encountered deliberating thoughts about eating. I pondered whether I should, or whether I shouldn’t. And I’m beginning to believe that this may be a constant, lifelong battle for me.

With every day, I cannot determine how my thoughts will challenge me throughout the day. Some days will be easier than others, and some will be spent fighting with the grit of my teeth and my upmost strength and determination.

I cried, I rationalised and sat anxiously with my thoughts. I felt defeated, and frankly, nourishment felt more like a punishment. I often wonder why I am 22-years-old becoming tearful over food and fixated on numbers. I curiously think about life of the latter, freedom with food and perhaps, body acceptance?

Rewind a few hours later, I felt empowered and encouraged. I desperately wanted to alter my mindset and to challenge my toughest thoughts. Admittedly, my breakfast simply consisted of giving in to my disordered thoughts. I decided enough was enough, I had the rest of the day to build myself up and to tackle more habits. I simply couldn’t carry on waiting to be saved whilst putting in minimal effort to save myself.

Anorexia Recovery compromises of more than just regaining a “normal” relationship with food, but also about challenging other behaviours and rituals that extend beyond food. I stood up, heart racing and thoughts pondering, and reached up for my scales. The scales have dominated my life and my way of thinking for 6+ years and I first weighed myself at the mere age of 4. And until today, I kept this hidden. I’d been weighing myself multiple times a day, every day for years, and it began feeling exhausting and it held the equivalence of a heavy load on my shoulders. Anorexia is conniving and encourages sneaky behaviours and rituals. I no longer wanted to be sneaky, I wanted to be brave. Yesterday I owned up, and the support I received was not only remarkable, but incredibly reassuring.

I nervously threw my scales away, with much hesitation and questioning on my part, although ready to say good bye to a dark chapter in my life, determined to bring in a happier one. Anorexia screamed at me no, and insulted me greatly, but I wholeheartedly knew it was the best decision in the long term. A step forward in recovery and regaining my health, happiness and sparkle.

I’ve anxiously sat through feelings and urges during the day and have become ridden with guilt and uncertainty. I cannot move forward with the constant fixation and obsession on numbers, and I believe only my medical professionals need to know. I’ve been underweight for years, and I believe focusing on numbers only heightened the anxieties I have surrounding weight gain and reaching a healthy weight/BMI.

The number on the scale dictates my relationship with gravity, it can never determine my worth, intelligence or sparkle.

I’m learning to define myself by the number of animals I help, the milestones I’ve achieved and the strength I’ve gained. It’s going to be a long journey, but one I’m dedicated to.

I’m more than just a number. I’m a person with goals and aspirations, strength and determination. And I’m ready to move forward.

A weighted life perspective

Mental Health

We live in a World where weight gain has been, and continues to be, demonised. An increase in the scale number quickly equates to feelings of low self worth, inadequacy and failure. We attempt to remain small, whilst measuring our worth in kilograms and not so much smiles, achievements and memories. I understand the satisfaction gained from the decreasing scale number, believe me. But I can assure you that it brings minimal comfort, I was never fully “happy” until I faced death. A reduction in weight was never enough to counteract the thoughts and feelings I battled internally.

I despise weight related comments. Before opening up about my Anorexia battle, I regularly received praiseful words on my malnourished body, told that I had a “perfect figure”, I was asked for diet advice and the methods I used to lose a large proportion of weight in not so little time. And in doing so, this made it significantly harder for me to acknowledge that the actions and behaviours I constantly engaged in were wrong. Please be mindful of chosen words.

It’s impossible to pass a day without talk of dieting and weight loss. Celebrities promoting silly appetite suppressants and highlighting unrealistic diets to vulnerable followers for a sum of money. Of course, healthy weight loss is crucial for those who are medically overweight. And I believe this should be supported to avoid the usage of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Ie: Starvation, bingeing and purging. However, we’re indefinitely becoming a brainwashed society and I’m yet to meet an individual who is confident in their body. I’d like to see a drastic change in this, for new and current generations. More emphasis on body acceptance, less on methods to change your body and more ways to gain a healthier mindset.

There is very little talk in mainstream media regarding positive, and essential weight gain, which can be extremely discouraging. I often receive compliments on my current body, and this isn’t okay, being small isn’t a compliment or a goal, but being healthy IS. This frame has been gained through years of starvation and neglect, not nourishment, love and acceptance. The media is filled with praise, complementing people for weight loss and body transformations and I’m yet to see encouraging comments congratulating individuals on weight gain.

Benefits of weight gain:

  1. Energy
  2. The ability to rationalise thoughts and decision making
  3. Increased concentration maintenance
  4. Reduction in tiredness/lethargy
  5. A step closer to health and happiness!

Weight gain isn’t always a negative. For some, it’s essential. For those recovering from Eating Disorders, for those who battle Cancer and often become reliant on supplement drinks following unintentional weight loss and for those with speedy metabolisms (To list a few). People require it to return back to a healthy state, both physically and mentally, and may require more food and it’s a factor that simply isn’t highlighted enough. It can encourage thought rationalisation and provide energy whilst helping to maintain lengthy concentration periods.

An increase in weight can be the beginning of a new chapter for some, one that is exciting and memorable. The lease of life, the regaining of energy, life and freedom. Our world is forever evolving, with new and exhilarating developments in different areas. It’s time to step aside from the misleading idea that weight gain equates to fat. And even so, that “fat” is a bad thing. Quite frankly, fat is essential, it stores energy, supports brain function and protects our organs. It doesn’t make us ugly or uncharismatic, it makes us Human.

As somebody recovering from Anorexia Nervosa, weight gain is an essential component. With this being said, Eating Disorders are NOT primarily weight focused, you can suffer at ANY weight. Without this, there would be a significant restriction on my life, and I wouldn’t be fully committing to recovery. I would face a lifetime of remaining critically underweight and unwell, in a child-like body that simply cannot function properly, or issue me with an appropriate amount of energy. Without the weight gain, I would still be collapsing unexpectedly, growing fine hairs on my body to stay warm and losing large clumps of my hair. This shouldn’t be glamorised or used as an achievable goal, but support should be issued to help people to manage their situation.

Thus, in a world where the majority are losing weight and promoting fad diets, it’s important to be kind. To prioritise our own needs, our own health and our own happiness.