As we veer between possible lockdown scenarios and the overwhelming realisation that this ‘new’ normal is actually going to be our normal for a while, it’s easy to feel anxious. Not even just anxious though, panicking and desperate to exercise control over anything we can in light of a pandemic we can’t control.
As someone who struggled in secret with an eating disorder for many years, I have to be careful over what I talk about with certain people, due to potential triggers. If someone mentions a new diet and exercise regime they’ve discovered in lockdown that can lose masses of weight, I’ve learnt to take a deep breath and remove myself from the situation politely – rather than revert to old habits and start researching how I can lose ten stone in ten days. I learnt that, and many other helpful tools through nearly two years of travelling. It sounds easy, to have that ability to walk away from conversations, but I never used to have it. Sometimes, it can be an addiction to listen and engage with people or conversation that is unhealthily stimulating for you. But just as I learned to get up and leave an environment in which I was uncomfortable, I can now do that with conversations.
Now that I’m back from my travels around the world, I’ve had a chance to reflect on lessons I learned on how to manage my eating disorder far from home. And I’m also reflecting on meetingPhil,who spoke to me openly about his experience suffering from bulimia as a male. And if you are struggling, please do look upMINDandBEATas places of resource and comfort, or speak to your doctor. Together, we can support each other.
I think it’s a lot easier said than done, but take it from someone who’s been there – if you can take a step back, a second out to remember how strong, how powerfulyour body is, you begin to think a lot less about the aesthetics. Whilst travelling I ate a lot of the local market food all day, and lost muscle mass, but I just hiked for two hours – isn’t that remarkable? Whilst in lockdown, I’ve raided my fridge – but does craving sugar make me a bad person? No. We take our magnificent bodies for granted. They wake us up, digest our food, clear our body of waste, give us the ability to have babies, create babies, enjoy pleasure, grow, live, move freely. We owe it to ourselves to help our body do its job – by nourishing it and loving it. Every day is a living miracle we’re alive – be kind to you.
The incredible, healing power of communication. I owe you – you know who you are – for the conversations. Whilst travelling, South America, India, South East Asia – I had them with all of you, and they helped me in ways I can never explain. Being in lockdown, when I’ve had an occasional blip about my diet, I’ve got back in touch with the people I had these conversations with and they’ve supported me. Distorted thoughts about eating are common in both females and males – more than I realised. You’ll know deep down if the person you’re speaking to cares about your story – and if they can simply either be a shoulder to cry on (post covid) or if they can relate and remind you it gets easier. I won’t name you here, but I thank you.
Yes, doing exactly the opposite of what your mind tells you to do. When I was travelling, despite the little niggles about deep-fried local food, when was I ever going to have that opportunity again? To eat the unhealthiest food ever, after the best night, with wonderful people you’ve met that day from all over the world. The same relates to today in the pandemic. We’ve all adapted to lockdown and a change in our normal routine in different ways – and that’s not an excuse to beat yourself up. Enjoy the moment. Rejoice in it and eat what will make you feel a little better. When I was in Thailand, I started panicking because I had eaten so much Pad Thai. Similarly, during lockdown, I’ve been noshing on a lot of chocolate and sometimes I’ve felt guilty – but I wanted it and I enjoyed it. Remember, we’ve got one chance at life. Do I want to spend it crying at my weight? It’s difficult, but I’ve had to slowly let go of caring.
When I felt unfit travelling, I found hikes and walked. Not only are you seeing the country from a different perspective, you’ll feel a lot better after. Now I’m home, the greatest hike in North West London is probably to the local coffee shop, but it doesn’t matter – that’s still a nice way of getting outside for some fresh air. It also means if you’re feeling unfit or uncomfortable, you can get some steps under your belt without pushing it.
I never used to be the type of person who can just work out a little bit: I used to get into this All-Or-Nothing attitude. Whilst travelling, I wasn’t exercising in the slightest – which was fine. Apart from the day I panicked about the fact I had put on weight and massively overdid it and almost collapsed. I learnt from that, and during lockdown I’ve been building a steady schedule of exercise. I’ve found some great workouts online – shout out to Head Talks’ speaker Alice Liveing– and her free workouts have been a lifesaver, really focusing on strength and what your body can do – not what it can’t. As a result, I’ve felt the best I’ve felt in a long time.
Of course, there are ALWAYS helplines available.BEATis the UK’s Eating Disorder charity – they offer helplines and advice online. You’ve also gotMINDthat provides information and helpful tips about different mental health disorders on their website, and I findSHOUTa great service – simply text them on 85258 and a volunteer will respond. They’re not councillors, but they’re a great source of help. You’ve got apps likeWYSAandWOEBOT,apps providing you with an AI chat to vent and work through negative emotions combined with helpful CBT and Meditative techniques to help you through. Also, the most obvious but not always the most used – family and friends. Sometimes you need to share this with people who know you well.
Good luck, you’ve got this.