The lies about "being in shape"

*This blog talks about eating disorders, please be aware of potential triggers.

Three weeks ago I was in the “best shape” I have ever been in…

But in reality I was losing control of my life and everything in it. My grasp on what were healthy habits and what were dangerous habits was slowly slipping away from me and that was quite scary. To feel my body deteriorating but hearing people around me commending me for being healthy when actually I was being restrictive. When pictures of me  made it look like I was just going to the gym more than usual but that came with only eating one meal a day and feeling awful when I ate more. I want us to be able to look out for our friends and loved ones and be able to pick up on when these things just aren’t right, when the habits aren’t healthy and the mentality behind it is impacting their mental health. I am so guilty of encouraging bad habits in other people by going along with jokes but the amount of people that are suffering without knowing it is very discouraging to see. 

My disordered habits come along with other mental health problems and thankfully I have people to encourage me to seek the help I need, so this blog isn’t about me. This blog is about the thousands of people out there who hide their eating disorders and restrictive habits behind “diet culture” and “cleansing their bodies” when in fact we should be encouraging them to open up about what is really going on. These problems might seem small now but they can spiral which I hope can be prevented. 

Here are a few tips that could be helpful when spotting signs in your friends:       

  1. Do all their jokes come along with a comment about hating their body? I would just talk to them about this, and if it really is just a joke then this conversation will assure you of that but if there is something more concerning going on then this gives them a time to talk about it.

  2. Is exercise something they do because they want to or because they think they need to lose weight? If their opinion about their body is making them overwork themselves then it could be helpful for you to try to make them realise this. Alternatively if you feel that is not your place then you could try to make sure your friend is nourishing themselves enough to cope with that amount of exercise.

  3. Is your friend lying about skipping meals and how much they are eating? Don’t get upset about it or talk to them in an accusatory way because that will make them defensive and you have to remember, this is hurting them and it isn’t a thing that they can just choose to do or not to do. You may want to lead them to some help that they can get or discuss their options with them but if they are very opposed to facing the idea of needing help, you could talk to someone in school (if you go to school or college) who will be able to intervene.

  4. Someone’s weight or appearance does not judge whether they are suffering with an eating disorder or not. In no way can you tell that someone does not have an eating disorder because of the way they look and you should not brush aside the worrying habits or comments from friends that you do not deem the “right body shape to have an eating disorder”.

  5. Some people are really good at hiding it and are really great (a bit of an ironic word in this context) at hiding their insecurities. Just because someone seems very confident to you and doesn’t fit the stereotype of a person with a mental health problem or even a person struggling, doesn’t mean they are not. In some ways these people need you to reach out the most when it seems like no one else is noticing them.

Also, just because you know people who are struggling more than you doesn’t mean you don’t deserve help too. It doesn’t mean that your problem is invalid and (this may sound weird so bare with me) it is never too early to get help. I say this because I found myself several times saying that “it wasn’t bad enough yet” or “I’m not light enough to get help” or even more concerningly “I’m not actually underweight yet so no one will give me help”. These all came from a place of feeling like my problems were worth less than everyone else’s. But as one of my friends said, these are the thoughts that get you to a place that could have been prevented if you had gotten help earlier. In no way am I saying getting help is easy because it is one of the hardest things I have ever done to have to go back again and again trying to find a way to make me better, but it is so worth it. By building a support network around you and trying to rid yourself of the toxic culture that perpetuates these habits and makes them seem ok, you can help yourself so much more than you think.

-Lucy, 16.

Overshadowed

*This blog talks about eating disorders, please be aware of potential triggers.

On the night of the 24th February I watched “overshadowed” on Iplayer and this story is based on true events about a girl who slowly begins to get “overshadowed” by the “demon” I call it inside of her, which is metaphorically the voice in her head that tells her she’s is fat, she needs to do excruciating exercises to lose weight, skip meals, to slowly deteriorate.

At first, I thought the “demon” was a normal character in the television programme, that was just a bully, you know telling her to lose weight etc. But I guess that is the beauty of how the TV programme portrayed “the demon”. As a character that is innate in the protagonists life, so vivid that the protagonist believes that she is real. Or even she is turning into “the demon”.

This show touched me in so many way it was surreal. I sat there in silence, curling up into a little ball just fixated on the girl and “the demon” and how the girl suddenly came to a breaking point. Because I know how she felt, I know how how that breaking point feels like. Having experience with problems with body image and eating, it felt like she was portraying my life at me, like she was telling me the damage, the hurt I was doing to myself and what I could do to others.

I never knew (and I still am quite unsure) what caused this but when I was little (so about 6 maybe 7 years old) I always threw up my food after lunchtime. I didn’t like the noise, the people around me, I felt so suffocated that it all just came rushing out. Sometimes even before I went into the canteen, I was already sick. My teachers tried everything: having everyone sit in silence and eat their lunch, making me eat my lunch in a separate room, sending me home to eat my lunch, but nothing worked. I just never ate lunch and still to this present day, I very rarely eat lunch. And if I do, it is usually just a banana. Or breakfast biscuits because those are really yummy :)

My body insecurity occurred around Year 11. I notice that I didn’t like how my body was, I always pointed out everything that I hated about it and always tried to find ways to improve my body. I worked out at the gym vigorously, doing yoga and dancing. But I still didn’t like how my body was. Exams were approaching and the stress got to me as well as my insecurity and I guess I was overshadowed by the voices in my head saying that I wasn’t good enough, I was fat and I must be a particular weight.

And I hit breaking point. I deliberately skipped meals such as breakfast (the most important meal of the day), lunch and I only would eat dinner. I went to the gym on an empty stomach and didn’t eat until 5pm. Bearing in mind I went to the gym around 6am in the morning. I noticed that I began to feel more tired as usual and I was always feeling dizzy and that I had to maintain this horrible, sick routine due to “the demon” because I was being overshadowed.

I began to count calories in Summer 2018. I began to do that because I thought me tracking how much calories I ate meant that I could still lose weight as well as have the accurate amount of calories I am supposed to have. But this wasn’t the case, it began to become a vicious cycle

of me always being conscious of what I was eating and checking the back of boxes and cartons and check how many calories were in everything. And I began to avoid mirrors because I felt sick at the sight of my body, felt sick at looking at the fat on my body and I began to feel frustrated. Because I was doing everything by the books. Gym? Check. Counting calories? Check. But what about my mental health? Did I really check how that was doing?

I have always avoided getting help because I feel like I don’t need it or that I am afraid of my family of knowing my body insecurity. I never really like talking about what is going on inside my head because I feel like my problems are miniscule compared to the plethora of issues in this society so I hide behind the voices overshadowing me.

But this TV show has made me see that what I am experiencing now isn’t okay. And what I need is to fight this “demon” and conquer this daily battle I am going through. I am trying. And I will win.

~ Atlanta Montague, 17 member of YMHM