Eating Disorder/Bulimia Nervosa Update
In this post I share some of the details about my recovery from Bulimia, my experiences, lessons and tips for recovering. Thanks for supporting so far <3
Not sure if I mentioned this in my previous post but since April 2016 I vowed to stick to my recovery from Bulimia Nervosa (link to my Instagram post below summarising my experience). This meant that I would not purge, not engage in vigorous exercise in an attempt to lose weight. If I did end up binge-eating “bad” food, then I would keep it down and resist the urge to overeat next time.
I have to say, it has been the hardest struggle that I have ever had to face. Not only did I gain a huge amount of weight in the space of a month, but I suffered from ridiculous amounts of bloating. I sort of still suffer from bloating from time to time, but not as often or as intense as before.
I gained around 10-12 kg in the space of around 9 weeks… Yeah that was shit scary. My thighs, cheeks, bum, waist and upper arms “ballooned” (or so I thought). Being relatively slim from the ages of 14-21 and now having to face huge body weight changes was and is still very tough.
I remember at the time I was revising with a friend for my final uni exams and I had to keep going to the loo. We both were beginning to think that I was diabetic because in the space of an hour it was at least six times! My body was changing fast!
However, despite all that, despite all the helpless sighs after I had to throw away all my old tops and trousers that no longer fit, and hearing comments from others (including family) with regards to my weight, I stuck through it.
“… I now have curves and my underwear actually fits.”
Reading many many blogs about Bulimia recovery (see link at the end) was really beneficial in helping me understand what on earth my body was going through. I learned that it is really unlikely for me to gain fat in the first month of recovery and that the best explanation for the extreme weight gain was due to water; suffering from the self-induced vomiting that went on for years meant that I was extremely dehydrated, and so by not purging, the cells in my body were retaining lots of water which = weight gain. I also learned that a year into recovery would be enough to restore my body’s natural weight baseline. So that was very reassuring.
Another thing that helped was something my CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) therapist had given me was an ABC chart (see link below) in order to help me understand my triggers (e.g. self-scrutiny, stress, negative comments made by others, certain food) and thoughts (e.g. “I look fat in this”) and to challenge them with evidence. The goal for my attempt at therapy was to eventually change my feelings about my triggers. In action, this chart really helped me especially when I used to go out in restaurants. I really struggled as everyone around me would order food without hesitation but I would always be calculating calories and fat contents before I chose a dish. Eating would be even more difficult, simply sitting comfortably after eating a meal was a major trigger for me. Over time, however, I was able to overcome this anxiety.
Most importantly, prayer and practising meditation through mindfulness really helped to ease my nerves and anxiety.
Something I wish I knew when all of my issues with eating and body image began was that our bodies are always changing, especially during your teens. Sometimes we really want to fit into society’s idea of the ideal female body but every single body is different. We all have a different makeup, different DNA, therefore, going against our natural body weight can sometimes be destructive especially if you are trying to lose weight. Not only that, several organs within the body can be harmed in the process such as your thyroid gland (controls metabolism and many other metabolic processes with the body) as well as the gallbladder.
Vomiting can also affect your teeth and the lining in your esophagus as acid can cause it to become very sore. Hair and nails can also become brittle and your skin can often look flushed and puffy especially if you suffer from binge-purge bulimia. Moreover, I remember that I had stopped sweating completely for several years not knowing that this was not normal. I realised this when I began my recovery and I started sweating again. My body was going through rehab. I still suffer from some of those side-effects to this day however this is something that I just have to deal with in my own time.
The hard part of recovery overall can be not recognising the shape of your body when you look at it in the mirror and also having to buy clothes a size or two bigger. For years I was adamant to stay a UK size 10 and tried my best to not go over that size. But breaking that cycle was so freeing and buying clothes over-sized was not so bad after all as it can be quite trendy and equally as comfortable.
The good thing is that I do not feel “fat”, which was my fear, I am just a little plumper than before, I now have curves and my underwear actually fits. I also feel more womanly rather than prepubescent as a result of my emerging curves.
Another benefit to all this is that my social anxiety improved. I guess my constant self-scrutiny made me hyper-aware of myself meaning that I thought others were too. I remember just not even wanting to keep in touch with friends because of how anxious I was around them. And lets not even speak about how hard taking public transport was. Standing in a packed central line was horrendous and honestly made it much worse.
I now find it easier to focus on myself and my breathing more rather than those around me in a social situation. Speaking in front of a crowd does not overwhelm me as much as it used to. However, my general anxiety in terms of panic or sensitivity to the environment has increased. I’m not so sure why, but I am attributing that to hormonal regulation as my hormones were pretty messed up due to 8 years of Bulimia. It could also be that I might be more self-conscious now that I am being noticed due to the weight gain and I look a little “fuller”. Nonetheless, I know that this too will pass by time.
I began writing this in 2016 and really struggled to be open as I know that a lot of friends and family will be aware of some of these issues for the first time. If you know of anyone who is suffering then please share this on.
This is something I will try and update continuously as it would be great to track my progress. Also, for those struggling with body image issues or eating disorders, I hope this post gives you some reassurance. You can recover <3
The link below is the site that I read. It really helped me and gave me the reassurance as to what would be happening to my body throughout my recovery:
Bulimia Recovery Testimony:
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As today is World Mental Health Day I thought I'd come here to say my bit. I was around 13-14 years old when I first noticed that I started feeling a bit off; I became extremely moody, angry and self- conscious. Soon after I started feeling satisfaction out of counting calories and missing meals. This then snowballed into something I never anticipated. I then struggled with it for the next 8 years. I also found it extremely hard to deal with stress, I struggled when I started my GCSEs and A-Levels as I thought I couldn't pass the exams, I also felt the same when I started my first term at university. The stress would then trigger depressive episodes where I'd isolate myself from everyone. Luckily for me, my family and friends pushed me to tell my GP about what I was feeling. I was then referred for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) where I met a therapist weekly for an hour. She provided me with the tools to gain confidence, self-worth and really love myself. I then carried this on for several years on and off whenever I felt motivated to recover. In the end, I did it Alhamdulillah (all praise to God). I didn't ever think I'd be where I am now. Throughout my struggles I found it really helpful to open up and ask for help when I needed it. Little did I know that many, many, many people also struggled with eating disorders, anxiety, depression and others. Unfortunately, I also found that as a south-asian opening up about mental health issues is STILL a taboo subject. Which is strange since 1 in 3 people currently suffer from a mental illness so if anything, it must be spoken about more than it already is. Anyway, the point of me telling you all this is that you never really know what the next person is struggling with. I hope opening up inspires others to do so. To share their stories and to inspire others to seek help. If you are suffering then please let someone know, there is a lot of support out there be it in schools, universities or from the NHS. You are not alone!! x #mentalhealthawareness #worldmentalhealthday ♥♥♥