Health · mental health · Uncategorized

Being Fat and Having an Eating Disorder

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(If it’s not obvious, this post contains details of having an eating disorder. It includes mentions of vomit and poop. You’ve been warned.) It’s taken me a long time to write this post. I began it back in March. It’s not because I’ve been avoiding sharing my story. Those who follow me on twitter know I always share and will always try to help – it’s just this has been very difficult for me and sometimes, it’s hard to put feelings in to words.

 

Being fat with an Eating Disorder. You heard me. Yeah, that’s a thing. There seems to be a sort of perpetual notion that only skinny young girls can have eating disorders and that. Wrong. Anyone can have an eating disorder. Let’s talk about that.

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Like many people, I’ve been struggling with my weight for quite a long time. I hit a point once we moved in to the house I previously lived in, that my weight just kept climbing. I felt out of control. I found myself going to the shop to stock up on junk food. Sometimes I’d hide the rubbish from the food or hide food away because I was ashamed by how much crap I was eating. I knew it was messed up. I kept eating till I felt sick, then I would make myself sick – it wasn’t difficult, my body was already threatening to upchuck it. I didn’t care. I’d keep throwing up until it hurt and I was sure it was all gone. Over time, I learned various “tricks” that made the entire process easier which was a double edged sword because while it made the individual “session” less painful, it meant vomiting was easier and it only encouraged me to do it more. I wont share those “tricks” here for some obvious reasons… You get the idea. It was pretty grim.

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I knew I needed help. I realised I had a serious problem and if I didn’t do something, it would kill me in one way or another, be it from my rapid weight gain itself, choking on my own vomit, having a heart attack or organ failure. Something was going to go wrong. So, I decided to ask for help. I thought at this point it would get easier. I mean, I knew recovery would be hard work for sure, but I’d have medical professionals supporting me. Oh, my poor misguided soul.

I went and saw my GP and while I wasn’t 100% truthful as I was ashamed of my purging, she listened and then she did something I know realise is awful. She prescribed me diet pills. Those things that stop your body from absorbing fat and make you shit it out. Spoiler alert, they’re not as magic as they sound. They have you crapping out orange oil – if you’re lucky. If you’re not so lucky, they’ll have you leaking orange oil stuff out of your arse. I was not so lucky. As if I didn’t feel awkward enough in public at the time. Oh boy. And farting in the bath? Yeah. That happened. Exactly what you think. She said that it should persuade me to consume less fat. What it ACTUALLY did was have me crying and vomiting harder.

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I stopped taking those damn pills and was grateful for my arse no longer feeling like a slip and slide, but I still needed HELP. I was referred to a dietician and the lady was very nice and said that it wasn’t right for me right now and agreed I needed help beyond her scope of expertise. So, I looked up about eating disorder care in my area as my GP was adamant that there wasn’t any and it wasn’t suitable for me. I was determined to get the help I needed. I saw her, armed with the information I had at my disposal and finally got her to refer me after months of her basically insisting I was just being a normal greedy person. FINALLY! I would have a professional to help me take that first step towards recovery.

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Blue Morpho butterflies symbolise a change in fortune and the spirit seeking transformation in change. Very apt imagery, I thought.

So, after a little while, I got my first appointment through which was an assessment with a Nurse Therapist – I forget her exact title and a dietician at the local Mental Health hospital. I went in via the inpatient area without realising there was a different entrance. It was a pretty harrowing experience and confirmed my resolve, but added to my fear. I didn’t want to have to be there with them. I didn’t want to end up like that.

They were very kind to me, though the appointment was very tough. They actually had me come back a second time to finish it, which is apparently normal. They were appalled at the way my GP had handled my situation and were confident they could help me. On the second appointment, they told me my diagnosis (officially, an EDNOS/OSFED – Binge Eating Disorder with a bulimia sub-type) and the course of treatment. 20 sessions they said. I kind of snuffed at it. People don’t fit in to neat little boxes like that. I thought “there is no way I’ll be better after 20 sessions.” I had so little understanding back then. I was fairly sure they wouldn’t be able to help me but I hoped so much that they could.

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The world got a little brighter. It took 6 months before I had my actual first appointment to start therapy as part of my treatment. They had directed me to a book called Overcoming Binge Eating which turned out to be basically like the actual treatment program.. But by the time I had that first actual treatment appointment, I’d managed to basically stop purging. I’d still do it on an odd occasion but it was no longer ritualistic. It was significant. I thought maybe it meant I was basically better and no longer needed the therapy. I was wrong. So wrong. I learned so much during my treatment and just how messed up things were but with the understanding came the ability to make changes and get better.

I’d be lying if I said it was easy. It was tough. SO tough. I even gained more weight which really freaked me the hickedy heck out, but she explained that my body was levelling itself back out again after the abuse and sure enough, the weight I’d gained during that period dropped back off as I kept up my treatment and the things we had implemented. One thing was making me eat every 3-4 hours. I struggled so much with that. I also learned that binging means different things to different people. To some, two biscuits is a binge. It was wholly about my mental state, not what I was actually consuming. I learned to stop considering some things as acceptable and others as unacceptable. I stopped seeing my binges as binges and my entire mindset changed.

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I found peace and acceptance within myself. I finished my treatment – which in all honesty, was terrifying. I’d have only myself to hold me accountable. To point out when my thinking was going down the wrong path. I had a “check in” after completing treatment to see how I was getting on and if there was anything I needed to ask etc before they discharged me. That was a year and a half ago now. I’m in recovery. A place I wasn’t sure I’d ever make it to – but I did.

It’s still tough, sometimes it’s really damn hard and those invasive thoughts do pop up; but they’re just thoughts. It’s up to me what I do with them. My eating disorder gave me the illusion of control, when really, it controlled me. It dictated my actions. What I ate. When I starved myself. When I made myself vomit. What I did. Now, that little “voice” pipes up sometimes, but I choose what I do and how I react to it. Sometimes it makes really convincing arguments and on some rare days it even manages to convince me, but it’s no longer dictating my entire life. I remember what I learned and implement some of the things I’d done in therapy if need be.

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I’m in a far better place now. It’s a weight off my shoulders. It’s liberating. I didn’t magically lose weight. I also didn’t gain weight (beyond the aforementioned part of my treatment). I’m fat. I’m 280lbs. Give or take. Weight fluctuates based on hormones, water retention, whether you had a shit today or not. It’s important to remember that and not obsess over the scales like I used to. Weighing myself several times a day. I was 296lbs at my heaviest) Now I’m in a better mindset, weigh myself much less often – rarely, in fact, have better tools to deal with my thoughts, have a deeper understanding of myself and a more significant respect and feelings of love for my body. With that love and acceptance, more positive changes can be made. Am I still vulnerable? Yes. Am I going to fight it anyway? Hell yes. I’m Liz, I’m fat, and I’m in recovery from an eating disorder.

I debated whether or not to go in to more detail or not in this post, but it’s already 1,500 words long apparently, so I’ll leave it on that note; but know that you’re not alone and it’s okay to seek help. Even healthy weight people can struggle to get treatment for eating disorders as it’s something still so misunderstood – but know that you ARE worth it. If you are ready to heal, seek recovery. Keep pushing. I’m so glad I kept pushing and got help. It changed my life for the better.

Stay safe. All my love x

body · disability · Health · Life · self-care · Uncategorized

Have you heard of Flotation?

Have you heard of flotation? I don’t mean those big inflatable pool-floaty things or those foam pool noodles or rectangles you use to help you to learn how to swim. Turns out, floatation actually has nothing to do with swimming at all. Shows like Stranger Things brought a little more attention to floatation, but many people still haven’t heard of it or know what it does, so I had a chat with Mark Smethurst – The owner of a flotation therapy center in my little town of Stafford (the first one that opened in the West Midlands, actually!) to find out about the center and what flotation is actually all about. Spoiler alert: It’s fascinating, and I think everyone should give it a go!

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Time to Float‘s location was a little bit surreal to me, as it turns out, it’s actually in the building of an old radio station that I used to volunteer for. I’m good at getting lost, so thankfully, it means I know exactly where the place is! (Which is at 146 Marston Road, Stafford, ST16 3BT, if you decide you'[d like to give it a go!)

So what actually is flotation? It’s basically a less scary way of talking about a sensory deprivation pod. It doesn’t make you awaken latent crazy powers like TV may have you believe, but it can do a lot of other things for you; but I’ll go in to that shortly. First I’m going to tell you a little about this particular flotation center.

As I mentioned, Time to Float was the first flotation therapy location to open in the West Midlands. Flotation is gaining more traction in the world and when you understand what it can do, it’s easy to see why! The location is a small one in the Northern Quarter of Stafford county town (which has some lovely places to visit in general) and delightfully cosy with warm and welcome staff who are happy to have a good natter with you or just let you do your thing.

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So, what do you do, and what can it do for you?

Well, I won’t go in to too many details of what happens when you get there, but basically you fill out a health form, have a little tour and have the place explained to you and this introduction is tailored to you based on your responses to the health form if you have certain medical issues.

In the room is a flotation pod (it’s actually about the size of a Mercedes A Class) and a shower and a few other bits and bobs that will be explained to you before you start, and they’ll only leave you once you’re comfortable! You have a shower and get in this big-ass pod of water and literally sit back and float, thanks to the 800lbs of epsom salt! Now, its advised you close the pod and turn off the light but you can have the light on if you want or prop the pod open or whatever you like.

The water in the pod is heated to body temperature, as is the air, which is circulated to keep the flow of oxygen. Thanks to the 800lbs of epsom salt (which leave your skin feeling so soft, and you don’t look like a prune when you get out either!), you just float in the water effortlessly. (The pod water is filtered four times after each use and the room cleaned, plus the salts are a natural disinfectant too, if that concerns you at all!) Apparently, it’s so relaxing, many people simply fall asleep half way through, which is totally okay! In fact, sleeping for a short while in the pod can have the effect of several hours of really blissful sleep. The salt has a sort of anti-gravity effect, resulting in a feeling of weightlessness; this also helps muscles to get complete rest (and breakdown lactic acid) and for your skeleton to re-align in its natural position. This effect, combined with the high levels of magnesium thanks to the salt (which is also anti-inflammatory) mean floatation can actually help a huge variety of ailments and chronic illnesses, including chronic pain, sleep disorders, mental health issues, or even just being sore from a workout.

Music lulls you away and will also slowly bring you back to reality after your hour is up. You get out, shower to wash all the salt away and get changed and then there is a little recovery room with a hair dryer and mirrors and some skincare products if you wish to use them. Then it’s back through to the main area where they will give you all the water you can drink and let you chill for as long as you like. They’re happy to talk about your float or just leave you to it. Whatever you’d prefer to do basically.

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There’s way more I could go in to, but this post is already getting a little lengthy. However, chances are, if you suffer from any ailment, floatation can probably help as an alternative therapy – keep in mind though, it’s not a magic cure, nor does it claim to be! However, as someone with chronic illnesses, I couldn’t resist looking in to it and the science checks out. Though you’re welcome to do your own research or contact the center for a chat if you want to learn more. If you choose to book, they have a Float More program they can tell you about too. (that link will take you to referral by me, but if you go in person or talk on the phone or social media, be sure to give me a cheeky little mention)

Even if you feel pretty well in yourself, floatation can really have a great effect as it helps encourage production of endorphins and a reduction of cortisol, so it may just be good for some self-care or a slice of zen. I think that it’s certainly worth a go. If anything can help my pain without having to dose up on medication, that’s always good.

You can find out more via the Time to Float website or catch them on twitter @timetofloatuk. Have you ever tried floatation? Or do you want to give it a go now? I’m interested to hear what you think!