I don't know if I have an eating disorder, if so what should I do?

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I am 18 years old, 5"10 and approx 144 pounds. Since I was 6 I have thought I had a problem with my weight, my parents stopping me from wearing a bikini at this age probably contributed to this. As a child (from aged 6-13) I essentially had a beer belly so my parents took me to see doctors, dietians, nutritionists because they thought my body was allergic to something within my diet causing the beer belly affect. Turns out I was just fat. I used to take food from my kitchen and eat it in the toilet because I was embarrassed.

In the present day I try my best to follow a healthy diet and exercise regime which I started a bit over a year ago and which I've been able to lose 10 pounds because of. However, now that I've finally lost some weight the discomfort/unhappiness with my body has increased. I can't get changed in the same room as others and I refuse to wear a bikini or tight clothes (not that I could wear any of that before anyway). I am often disgusted with my body and have in the past tried diet pills/weight loss teas which have not worked. I have tried to make myself sick quite a few times due to feeling so unbelievably remorseful about overeating, however sometimes I am unable to be sick. Countless times I have cried about my body and not once have I spoken to my family about it. I can't. I love my family but they sometimes mock my 'healthy lifestyle' and they don't realise that when I'm alone I still binge and later feel revolted with myself, I have been feeling particularly stressed over the past few weeks and therefore this problem of overeating has got worse. I try to eat 1,200 calories a day because I still want to lose more weight, I want to be 9 and a half stone. I exercise approx 3-4 times a week doing intensive training to aid my weight loss.

I'm really scared I will never get rid of the mentality that I am so fat and I'm scared that I will never be happy with my body. Only recently I've considered that I may have an eating disorder as my body/dieting/food occupies my mind for hours a day but I don't know for certain. Any advice is welcome and thank you for taking the time to read what I have to say. 

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10 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi lovely. 

    Thanks for posting, it sounds like you're really struggling, and I'm sorry to hear that you've had such difficulties with body image and food.

    First of all, for your height and weight you are actually at the low end of healthy, which is great. A BMI of 20 is what the lowest should really be; it was only recently extended to include other ethnic groups (and in that 19 is the absolute minimum for healthy).

    One of the real starting points for my eating disorder was not being able to recognise my female figure developing.

    Because I started starve-binge from adolescence, I developed body dsymorphia alongside and constantly saw myself as signficantly larger than I actually was.

    There are a couple of pointers I can help you with; first if you want to keep your weight low, breakfast is medically proven to keep your weight low. So definitely have a good breakfast in the morning.

    Secondly, the main reason for bingeing is because your body is craving high energy foods (you will be experiencing this after a period of starvation).

    When you binge, you feel emotionally unstable, and want to remove everything, but actually that doesn't work because your food has already started digesting...

    To solve this problem, try eating small meals (with carbs, such as lentils, carrots/butternut squash etc.) at regular intervals.

    You should be aiming for 2000 calories a day, but try not to focus on the calories, just on the balance of what you are eating. If you are not particularly energetic you can probably get away with less, but if you are doing lots of exercise, you will definitely need more than 2000.  That's the amount you need per day just to keep you going!

    Diet pills are a con - if they worked then they would be available on the NHS on mass to tackle the country's obesity problem. The science jargon they indicate is a load of rubbish, companies will do anything to try and sell you stuff. Worse still they can cause heart arrhythmias.

    Laxatives are extremely dangerous. I nearly died. Don't take them, they mess with your potassium levels, and they really don't make you lose weight - only water which tricks you into thinking you've lost weight when you step on the scales.

    Sweety, you don't need to lose any weight.

    Please speak to a GP, or the big white wall and try and get some support. You are worth more than this.

    I'll try and write some more later in the week - or see some of my other responses for guidance.

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    • Posted

      Thank you so much for all your advice, I couldn't help breaking into tears at the end. I think I've just been bottling everything for so many years that it's scary knowing someone else knows and understands. The main thing stopping me from going to the GP is the thought that as a result I will have to tell my family about it (since I'm in my last year at school so I live at home). 
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  • Posted

    Hiya - because you are 18, your GP does not need to inform your parents.

    You can go in complete confidence.

    Your GP will only break your confidence if he/she believes you are endangering life or the life of someone else.

    At this stage I would recommend making a double appointment so that you have long enough to talk through your difficulties.  Is there anyone you do trust, that you can tell who you don't mind coming along with you.

    I know from experience it can be very difficult disclosing something as big as this, so even if you have a friend with you, that may help.

    It may also help if you write down what you would like to say beforehand.

    Your GP is the best place to get help first, because he/she can provide access to support.

    However there is support via the BigWhiteWall 24/7

    B-eat and young minds are also really helpful during working hours.

    And NHS 111 or your local crisis line will also be there if you are in desperation.

    Remember you are not alone.

    (Here to help!)

    One thing though...my eating disorder began when I was 11 - I kept it from my parents till I was 17, and by which time had become critically unwell.

    I had lost so much as a result of my eating disorder. I didn't think I'd be taken seriously if I asked for help at 11, and then kept putting it off because there was a music course, or a holiday, or an exam. In the end if I hadn't told, my organs might have failed.

    It was HORRIBLE telling my mum, but once I did I had their support. It was like an extra blanket.

    So, it may be a painful process for you, but it is really worth it in the long run.


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    • Posted

      Honestly I am so grateful for all your feedback. The BigWhiteWall apparently is not offered in my local area but I will seriously consider making an appointment with my doctor and I'll be sure to try out your other recommended support networks. 

      I just want to change my mentality so that I don't feel so distracted by the constant worry/hate of my body, for me personally I feel like I can achieve this by losing a bit more weight (as I'm clearly not underweight at the moment) but I could be wrong and I suppose I will have to ask my GP about it. 

      Thank you for sharing your own experiences with me. I'll try my best to pluck up the courage to tell someone, even if its not a family member but a friend.  


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  • Posted

    Oh no! That's such a shame. Maybe mention getting a referral to the BWW to you doctor. It's not fair that it's not offered everywhere. sad You could try a few London postcodes and see if they work...?

    Hopefully getting help will deal with some of the issues that are causing disordered thinking. You mentioned that losing a bit of weight will get you underweight.

    Why do you need to be underweight? Actually being underweight is just as harmful as being overweight - where you are now is healthy.

    Healthy is good. 

    We often have our views distorted about what is normal and what is healthy due to what the media think is healthy.

    If the doctors had control of the papers and magazines, perhaps society would be a lot better off! 

    I know it's not as straightforward as altering your mindset, but your weight is healthy, and losing weight is a bad thing.

    One tip that works for me is a positive mirror. I stick cut outs and postit notes onto a pretty cardboard box I made (and tin foil for the mirror) with things I like about me, image and personality. I remind myself of the goals I have in life and my motivations.

    It's quite fun to make too.

    Life can be stressful so reminding yourself of how awesome you are is really positive.

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    • Posted

      Yes I will definitely try some other postcodes and hope that works!

      By the underweight comment I just meant that as I'm considered a healthy weight it may not be harmful for me to lose a bit more, but hopefully without becoming underweight. Then again seeing as my goal about a year ago was to get to 10 stone and now I'm near that weight I'm still not happy maybe it's just a vicious cyle of wanting to lose more and more. 

      I love your idea about the postit notes and I'm glad it's worked well for you, definitely something I can try out when I'm feeling particularly down. 

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    • Posted

      Glad you like the idea.

      It definitely sounds like you need motivational goals.

      Working through an eating disorder is often about problem solving. So, sometimes you need to work out what is causing your difficulties, what is causing particular behaviours and using other coping strategies to remove that risk.

      Weighing myself is a trigger, (I'm not recovered btw, but I'm getting there), so for ages I was doing blind weigh-ins (I trust my dietician a LOT) but now I'm having to start taking some responsibility as my treatment is going to end in March.

      It triggers me, because it becomes a vicious cycle.

      There are two solutions, I can not weigh myself at all, or I can weigh myself in moderation with all the tools I've learned about weight and sit with the difficult emotions (it's worth googling mindfulness if you're not overrun by loads of other stuff).

      Learning to sit with challenging feelings is really difficult - I feel really anxious when I'm eating, like I'm going against my eating disorder. You can run away from that feeling, but it's always going to be there if you avoid it - or you can confront it and push through it, and eventually it'll get easier.

      Motivational goals really help - one of my goals was to go back to gymnastics. 

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    • Posted

      I've always subconsciously associated an eating disorder with being extremely underweight or extremely overweight. I know the statistics say otherwise but I suppose that's why I never considered myself to have one. I'm just worried that I won't be taken seriously by my family/friends because I'm not one of those extremes. 

      I think I need some time to come to terms with it myself because I still don't want to admit it. I never understood the importance of a GP in this situation but you've really helped me and I will take all of your advice on board. Thank you for inspiring and motivating me to do something rather than just be alone trying to deal with these issues. 

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    • Posted

      Glad I can be of help. Your issue is not uncommon. Anorexia nervosa is the least common of all eating disorders, yet it is what everyone perceives an eating disorder to be when a person indicates that's what their problem is.

      I get it, because that's exactly how I felt.

      You need to come to terms with this, but please get help. People who get help in the first few couple of years of their eating disorder are the most likely to make a full recovery.

      The earlier you get help the better! Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.

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  • Posted

    It sounds like you're at the beginning of an eating disorder. It starts off how you've described. You start cutting more foods out, start to up the exercise. Like you say, at first it feels hard to purge but then you learn which foods are best for it. It's great that you've caught it early. I think you should perhaps see a counsellor to talk about it and be aware of your faulty food thoughts. I don't believe there is anything wrong in getting to 9 1/2 stone as long as it stops there and you get there slowly instead a quick fix which will end up as an addiction. The best cycle you've broken is the secrecy. Keeping it to yourself only feeds it. I hope you're ok
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