The problem with Illness Bingos

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These bingos have been floating around Instagram for years, they’ve only recently popped back up into the stories of those whom I follow. Maybe due to pandemic caused boredom.

I find these bingos problematic, on many counts. Both the physical health ones and the mental health ones. This isn’t an attack on anyone I’ve seen doing them or anyone creating them because I’m sure many people don’t realise the issues with them. It’s just a harmless piece of fun right? Maybe… to you. But there are some real issues associated with them that I’d like to discuss.

With both the physical and mental health bingos create some sort of sick competition as to whose the sickest. Who can score the most with symptoms, treatments and comorbidities. There has been this toxic competition going round certain parts of the spoonie community before and it’s simply not okay. A place that many come to for support and a sense of community. A place that many people come to in order to feel less alone. It’s supposed to be a safe space and not a source of ones own illness imposter syndrome.

This can be even more damaging with the mental health bingos. It’s already common with mental illnesses for people to believe they’re not sick enough for treatment. These bingos make that worse.

Mental health bingos can also be hugely triggering, especially eating disorder bingos which often give ideas for behaviours that can be used or use numbers.

It hurts my heart to see these in the recovery community, where someone’s followers are often highly vulnerable.

The thing with Instagram and especially stories is that it’s hard to avoid taking in this information. Unless someone puts a trigger warning on before doing the bingo and you can then choose to click off of the story.

I know how hard that is when we have limited energy and when we may not realise the trigger as it doesn’t trigger us. But if you want to engage in these bingos I believe it’s the safest way to do so.

 

It’s okay to gain weight in isolation

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I’ve seen many a meme about weight gain in isolation. Which although funny and I relate really isn’t okay. Why?

Because these memes make it seem as though weight gain is something undesirable during this time and can be triggering for people recovering from eating disorders such as myself. We’re already in an unprecedented situation which is quite stressful for many people, this in itself can make it much harder for people in recovery from eating disorders to maintain that recovery. Memes, jokes and TikToks about the weight we’re all going to gain in this time simply isn’t helpful and may be enough to tip someone over the edge.

So I thought I’d pop in here and say that it is okay to gain weight during this time. Partly to reassure myself but also to reassure others.

We are going through a collective trauma. It’s only natural to eat more. Eat more “junk food” I hate that term, all food is good food in moderation. And we may be unable to eat as much fresh food as we would like. So yes, when combined with a reduced activity level due to gyms being closed and a lack of motivation/energy because we’re going through a collective trauma we may gain weight during this time.

But that’s okay. We are not defined by our weight. When was the last time you chose your friends based on their weight?

Hopefully never. We are worth so much more than our outward appearance.

From a health perspective yes being obese can give rise to health complications. But our bodies all have a set point, and you are unlikely to go much above that during this time. Furthermore, any weight you have gained is likely to naturally come off once this is all over.

From a health perspective, giving into restrictive eating disorder tendencies is going to be more damaging. Studies have consistently shown that being underweight is more damaging than being slightly overweight and coping mechanisms such as purging can actually be really dangerous and affect your electrolyte levels as well as risk damaging your esophegous and teeth.

It is okay to gain weight. It is okay to stick to your meal plan even if you think your less active and don’t need it. It is okay to eat what you want. There is nothing wrong with that chocolate, those biscuits or those crisps.

All food is good food and you deserve to eat it. Be kind to yourself. Just getting through the day is enough.

 

Eating disorders are more than the stereotype often reinforced during this week.

It’s eating disorder awareness week,  and having suffered from an eating disorder myself I always like to acknowledge it in some way.  To be honest this year inspiration is running thin. What with my current job destroying my mental health and meaning those eating disordered thoughts are creeping back in and this ME flare up which is relentless could god forbid I could just phone up and call in sick when I’m still climbing. That internalised guilt is real as well as internalised ableism.

Anywho on with the post!

I’ve been in the eating disorder recovery community for years, own recovery My own recovery starting in the summer/autumn of 2013. I’ve been through many a EDAW and had to deal with those before and after pictures. Before I knew better, I may have even participated in this trend myself.

But I feel as though these pictures, this type of awareness misses the point. It caters to the middle class white skeletal female version of what an eating disorder is. It caters to and perpetuates the stereotype which is not at all relatable or a representative depiction of eating disorders  as a whole.

This image and reinforcement ignores the fact that anorexia isn’t the only eating disorder, as well as that anyone can get an eating disorder. Anyone of any race, size, socio-economic background.

Most dangerously these pictures continue the misconception that an eating disorder is just about weight. This is damaging on all counts but most importantly on the likelihood of and the success of treatment for the disorder. I know myself, only a tiny part of my eating disorder journey was spent underweight and less of that was spent emaciated. I did have anorexia and further through my recovery compulsive exercise and orthorexia but this isn’t the case for the majority of eating disorder sufferers. Many more have bulimia, binge eating disorder or OSFED who may never become underweight or may be overweight. This misconception is also damaging for those who are underweight or who will in the future end up under weight. It can make everyone think they’re recovered when ED recovery is about so much more than weight restoration. An eating disorder is a mental illness, thus to recover the mind needs to recover and this can often take years.

Instead of posting images that focus on weight I believe we should take weight out of the equation and think about warning signs and symptoms of an eating disorder instead.

These can include:

  • Being preoccupied with weight/shape
  • Being preoccupied with food
  • Denying themselves food
  • Secrecy
  • Going to the bathroom straight after a meal
  • Constantly making excuses as to why they’re not eating
  • Not eating in public
  • Hiding food
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Wearing different clothing than usual – i.e more baggy
  • Overexercising or exercising with the wrong motivations in mind.
  • Hoarding food
  • Taking laxatives/diuretics

There are many others, but these are just a few from the top of my head.  I personally use a traffic light system to maintain my own recovery. Green – alls good. Amber – I’m showing a few personal warning signs but not really acting on them. Red – I’m acting on my disordered thoughts. I find this really helps me keep check on myself.

I hope this helps raise some awareness and explain some of the issues with focusing on just one aspect of a very complex set of mental illnesses!

“You Look Well”

Hello again readers of my blog. Today I’m writing about the “You look well” or “You look healthy” or any other variation of the two comment that people quite often make.

The comment that many people with eating disorders find triggering, they find to be one their head twists to mean “Your fat” “You’ve gained weight.” or “Your getting a litttle chubby.”

But that is by no means true and not what is meant when loved ones comment these things. The “You look well” comment is meant as a compliment not as anything else your eating disorder may convince you so I urge everyone to see it as a compliment.

I myself got variations of the “You look well” comment on two occasions yesterday and I could have let it really trigger me, especially seeing as that morning I had stepped on the scales to see a ridiculous weight gain in the space of a week. But there’s no need to let it trigger you or set it back in any way. Fight against that voice in your head and think about it rationally and logically.

Looking well is a good thing. It’s a compliment.

Lets put this into context with my case from yesterday. I got the comment from my dad and my aunt. The last time my dad saw me was nearly 2 months ago now. I was borderline underweight in terms of BMI, so underweight in terms of where my body likes to sit. I was majorly stressed about possibly having ovarian cancer, had no appetite and wasn’t feeling all that great. The last time I saw my aunt was nearly 3 months ago now, I was feeling ill with probably endo pain and again slightly stressing over possibly having ovarian cancer and under my body’s natural set point range.

It is a damn good thing that they think I look well! It shows I am healthy, well to some extent healthier than I was back then. And asides from the physical aspect of it, because there is a very minimal physical change in my health in terms of symptoms. We should want to look healthy. And healthy doesn’t necessarily mean skinny. For most of us healthy does mean having a bit of extra body fat and not being at the minimum possible healthy weight for our height.

I feel as though especially as a vegan. I would rather look healthy than not, just to help in some small way to promote the lifestyle rather than turn people away from it.

So fight those eating disorder voices. Because looking well or looking healthy are all good things and in no way means you need to start restricting again!

Is there really an “Obesity epidemic?”

Okay today I am coing to you about Obesity. Yes that big scary work signifying somehwere no one wants to be as in todays society it is shameful.

I’ve been doing soe observations and I would not say that there is an “Obesity epidemic.” I do not agree with the fat that 58% of english adults are overweight or obsese. Okay maybe clinically in accordance with having a BMI of above 24.9 but that doesnt take into account many things. Bone structure, set point, muscle mass.

It is quite easy to be clinically overweight or obsese but actually at a perfectly healthy weight for your body.  I honestly don’t get why there’s such a fuss about this so called “Obesity epidemic.” I am aware obesity is a problem where it is impacting on peoples health and costing the NHS extortionate amounts of money but from my obsrvations of the general population whilst out and about I don’t belive it is as big as the media makes it seem.

So why is there such a huge fuss over it? I honestly feel it is just diet culture and money aking by the big dieting businesses. It’s all diet culture. That’s whats to blame.

Anorexia and me: A battle of wills

It’s when you look at yourself in the mirror and realise you’re no longer that skinny anorexic. The one people said was too thin, the one people offered food and you turned away. The one who got questioned about why you wearn’t eating.

The one people worried about.

It’s when you look at yourself in the mirror and realise that you are something much worse. An obese pig. No your bigger than a pig. You’re a whale. An obese one at that.

You look pregnant. You’re out of control.

You tried to eat properly for four days but now you realise you can’t. You can’t eat properly because in four  days you’ve already become fat.

OBEASE

You realise starvation is your only option.

You want to recover… but anorexia is all consuming. You can’t get better. You must starve.

A Safety Net?

I’ve come to some realisations over the last few days:

  1. I dont really want to recover from my eatig disorder.
  2. And that is because it is a safety net to me.

Now let me explain….

I feel safe in my eating disorder, in restriction. I feel like no one can hurt me and no one can control me. It is just me and I feel powerful in abstaining from food. I know this sounds really silly but it’s true and thats why I am the way I am. That’s why Im holding on instead of making a real attemt to recover despite starvation making me increasingly cold, tired and lightheaded.

I’m actually sitting writing this in my coat and I’m still cold, which is crazy really.

Was I lying to myself all along?

I pretended I was recovered, said I was recovered. But now, falling into a relapse and not knowing what to do I realise I never was recovered.

Even at my most recovered, even when I was happy. I still had those eating disordred thoughts. I still wouldnt touch pick and mix because god knows how many calories I’d be consuming. I still would have never dared to eat a pint of Ben and Jerrys. Thats atleast 1000 calories in icecream. Why would anyone who doesn’t want to get fat do that? 

Or atleast thats how my eating disorder feels about things and always has done. I’ve now realised I’m never going to get out of this rut alone. And alone I am. I have one friend who I’m not really sure is a friend anymore. It’s a one sided relationship. If she needs me I’m always there, I always offer my support. But when I need her… she’s never there.

To add that to a family who seems like they couldn’t care less with the one exception of my mum when I’m “too skinny.” Why would I recover? What good reason is there for it?

I’m not worth happiness because no one likes me, if no one likes me I must be a horrible person. And to add to that if mum only cares when I’m too skinny I must stay too skinny and get even skinnier because I have a desperate craving for love. To just be cared for just for once. For someone to hold me close and tell me it’ll all be okay. For people to notice how much I’m hurting on the inside…

Whats ridiculous is I know my thoughts are irrational, or atleast part of me does most of the time. I know 3800 calories across the week won’t have made me gain weight… but when I feel the fat on me… it’s hard to believe the rational part of my head. Problem is I bloat really easily and that makes everything about 1000x worse. I have ribs just about showing on my left side but then lower down I look pregnant. And my hips are huge. Like naturally, the bone, I want to get rid of it completley. I hate my figure.

I hate my womanly figure. And I’m not saying that because I have gender dysphora, because I identify as male. I don’t identify as male. Nor do I identify as female all the time. But thats not what this is about.

It’s about feeling alone. Not being accepted. And yes my sexuality and gender identity do not help these matters, but they are not the main issue. I had no gender identity issues when my eating disorder started, and sexuality wise, well it depends upon when my eating disorder started.  Was it at 7 when I first thought I was fat? Or 10 when I started skipping lunches, stopped having seconds of school dinners on fridays. Maybe it was  at 13 when I drank two bottles of water for lunch to fill me up because I got bullied for being fat? Or maybe it was when I was 15? When I actually started losing noticable amounts of weight.

Who knows really? I guess it’s open to interpretation.

All I know is that I never did really recover. I had no therapy so it’s no wonder really. And now here I am, stuck in a rut. Drowning.

Weight Gain is not always negative nor is it always fat.

Getting back on the blogging train and am going to write about weight gain after my nan made my put on my prom dress just after I ate 2 1/2 biscuits. 

So being the number fixated person I am and the fact that since Christmas I have gained a stone in weight I have had a very bad body image and there have been a few little slip – ups as far as my eating disorder is concerned.  It really started to get worse after I reached 9 stone. 126lb. 57.27kg. Heavier than I’ve ever been from memory. Ok it argues that I may have been heavier at some stage or that weight at some stage and just didn’t know about it because I do not always have access to scales. We currently have none at home and often during my eating disorder they broke. Also even if 56kg was my heaviest I was 13 then! Yes I may not have grown much since being 13 but I’m 16 now so logically I am going to be heavier. All of this freaking out and near relapse was basically over nothing. 9 months into recovery. A number on the scale still being the thing that fuels my eating disorder. Now you could just say. Don’t weigh yourself! It really isn’t that easy and those with eating disorders would now that especially those who at least used to be good and used to, or maybe still do; enjoy maths. The scales call me. I feel bad if I don’t step on them at every given opportunity. Slowly I am working through that though and it is getting easier.

What isn’t getting easier however is dealing with the number on the scale. Now my fears had just proved to be wrong. I have not gained pure fat since Christmas and actually some of that weight is for the best. OK I need more muscle so I can climb as hard as I couldImage while lighter and maybe some hard technique training but I don’t live to be a good climber because face it I’ve been climbing since September 2012 of course I’m not the best 16 year old climber there is. I know tons of people better than me, some even younger. If I lived just to climb better than everyone then I might aswell be dead.

As the bolded part of this post states. I had to try on my prom dress. The thought of that. Panic attack inducing alright. I was convinced I would have to restrict severely in order to fit into it again. Too my surprise it fit and yes if I don’t wear heals it will have to be taken in so it sits properly round my waist and I don’t trip over it. (Wouldn’t that be embarrassing!) Yes my hips, bum and thighs are bigger and I have gained some fat. Not an overwhelming amount though. I would even go as far as saying my body needs what I’m eating. Yes my weight will not stabilize but I abused my body for 6 years and rarely stated the minimums stated on youreatopia. That and the fact I exercised A LOT during the weight gain phase scared all I would gain was fat without. So yes I may overshoot and yes I may still be gaining weight and yes my prom dress may not fit me come June. Is that really a big problem though? Does it really matter? The answer to that would be no. As long as I’m healthy and happy at the end of it all. That is the only thing that matters.