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Eating Disorder Awareness Week: blog post two

March 2, 2022

By Alison Beckett, Medical Negligence Solicitor

Eating disorders are devastating mental illnesses that affect 1 in 50 people in the UK. Recovery is possible, but we rely on our GPs to spot early warning signs that may have nothing to do with a person’s weight or appearance.

Their role is crucial. Their responsibility is huge.

But how much training does the average GP receive on eating disorders?

Less than two hours! Less than two hours in their entire medical degree. As well as this, a fifth of UK medical schools don’t provide any training on eating disorders at all.

Coming to terms with an eating disorder

It’s only very recently that I’ve allowed myself to admit and come to terms with having an eating disorder.

At around the age of seventeen, social media was really starting to take off. This changed everything for me. The negative thoughts about myself started to creep in more and more. I restricted my eating without even realising it. I strived to be like the Instagram models.

I knew full well that the images weren’t real, I wasn’t that naïve, but I still thought that if I ate like them, if I exercised like them then I could be like them.

Nothing really happened overnight but over the course of a few years, I gradually found myself doing cardio for 14 days in a row without a day off. I refused to eat certain foods because I considered them to be ‘bad’, I wouldn’t eat the same carbohydrate in the same day (If I ever allowed myself to eat any). Doing all of that never made me any happier, in fact, it made me more self-conscious.

The worst part for me was that I was in a restrict/binge cycle. I would restrict so much with food that I would find myself binging, feeling guilty and the cycle would start all over again.

Doctors told me an eating disorder could prevent me from having children

I can remember being told by doctors that I would struggle to have children.

After visiting the GP, as you’re supposed to do, sadly, they didn’t give advice regarding healthy eating/lifestyle. Instead, they just diagnosed me with an eating disorder and off I went.

I feel like more really needs to be done by health professionals to catch the early warning signs of an eating disorder. This is also to prevent mental health disorders and physical illness too.

Thankfully, I did become pregnant.

It’s something I feared the most and throughout pregnancy I really did struggle with my mental health. It’s really upsetting for me because it’s a time that so many people enjoy. Whilst I knew I was going to get bigger and that there was a reason for this, my head just couldn’t process it.

Luckily, though, I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful girl and this started my journey to acceptance.

Taking a leap of faith and challenging some of my thoughts

I took a leap of faith and hired a personal trainer who had suffered with anorexia too. It made me feel like she understood how difficult it would be to challenge some of my thoughts.

She taught me that my body needs a lot more than 1,500 calories to survive. She taught me to change how I viewed foods as good and bad and that all foods are equal, perhaps some more nutrient dense, but that we should enjoy them because life is to be enjoyed.

I still exercise but it’s certainly more of a healthy relationship now.

I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover but I try to challenge myself to do one thing a week that is out of my comfort zone. I now incorporate the foods I enjoy into every day so that I don’t miss out on anything. If my family want a takeaway then I say yes, even if I have those negative thoughts, I’m still able to push past that and challenge myself anyway.

Sharing my eating disorder experience helped me

By taking advice from someone who was in my position, it really helped me.

Talking about it isn’t a weakness, either. A lot of people suffer with an ED and there is no single definition. It can be different for everyone. I realised that I’m stronger by speaking to someone because I’m able to tackle my thoughts head on.

If you need support, research into whether your place of work, college or school, or where you spend the majority of your time, have trained mental health professionals. Here at Fletchers, we have a team of dedicated Mental Health Champions.

They’re trained to listen, empathise and signpost those who need support to professional third-party. They do not offer advice, but instead, provide a safe space for those who need to be heard in a non-judgemental environment.

You can also find resources and links to support on Beat or contact your local NHS services.

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