Body Image and Eating Disorder Advice
I started to lose weight in year 11. I never expected it to become extreme, I just simply wanted to lose a bit of ‘puppy fat’. I got comments from people saying ‘Wow Ben you’re looking really good now’. Comments such as this gave me motivation to carry on because these comments made me feel so good about myself…. Who doesn’t when they get told they’re looking good? I thought that if I lost more weight, the comments would continue.
In actual fact, within months, the comments turned the other way and people were starting to come up to me saying ‘You’ve lost too much weight Ben, you need to stop’. Within 10 months, I’d gone from being a happy go lucky lad, to being lay in a hospital bed, hooked up to a nose tube, with a group of doctors around me telling me that I was suffering with anorexia nervosa. I had lost all the fight in me to conquer the demons inside my head, and this hurt many people including my family and friends.
For 7 years, I lived a life that I thought would never get better. I genuinely thought I was the only male who suffered from mental health problems – men don’t get mental health problems apparently? During this time, I relapsed several times – taking 2 steps forward, 2 steps back. Everybody (including myself before suffering from anorexia) thinks that people recover from anorexia once they’ve got back to a healthy weight. Everybody is wrong! The hardest part of the battle is dealing with them demons in your mind, telling you not to eat or telling you that you’re fat, when everybody around you is telling you the total opposite. The illness becomes your best friend, but also you worst enemy.
If someone said to me ‘if you could turn back time to go back and not go through these 7 years of hell, would you?’. My answer to them would be ‘No’. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without going through what I have been through. I am such a mentally stronger person now. No challenge put in front of me phases me. But I still have my struggle every now and again. Life is not perfect and the Anorexia hasn’t gone away, but what’s different now to 7 years ago, is that I AM in control now, not the anorexia.
Ben Robinson – Recovery of Anorexia Nervosa
Men AND Women can get eating disorders
There’s this big misconception that only women can get eating disorders – MEN CAN TOO. Anybody is susceptible to developing an eating disorder if they are surrounded by any stresses/worries such as bereavement, relationship problems, stress at school (exams, bullying). If you are a man or woman, please understand that you CAN get treatment for your eating disorder. You CAN beat your eating disorder. You CAN recover.
Go to your GP
Your first point of contact in the healthcare system is normally your GP. Now I know that this may be daunting for you, either because you may be scared to open up to somebody about how you are feeling or feel you may be ‘judged’. But this is the first and biggest step in your road to recovery to take. Your GP will not judge you, but they will sit, listen to you and help guide you to the correct services that will be able to provide support to you with your relationship with food, weight restoration etc.
Supported by your family & friends
Telling anyone about what you might be feeling is scary, especially your family and friends. But being honest with the people who love/care with you, is a massive support boost for you. Your eating disorder will try to make you push your family and friends away because it knows that the more isolated you are, the less chance of recovery you’ve got.
You’re family/friends may react in different ways to you telling them how you’re feeling. Some may cry, some may hug you; some may even break down themselves. But at the end of the day, you’ve made a huge step in asking for help, and they need to respect that. So if they don’t, go to another friend or family member and speak to them. You need the support here and now, so don’t waste time worrying about that one persons reaction to your news.
Your family and friends may worry about saying the wrong thing to you – they probably will down the line somewhere. But understand that everybody is human and they may not know that some things they say, upset you. But you have got to help them understand! Speak to them and point out the comments that upset you and explain how in the future, they could say it differently.
Accessing a support network
As said above already, your GP can signpost you to specialist services who can offer and provide you with support. But there is other support systems out there who can also provide intense support. Charities including BEAT, which is the UK’s national charity for eating disorders. They provide helplines, support groups etc, who can support you through your eating disorder.
Speaking to someone who knows how you feel, will give you that bit of light at the end of the tunnel and show you that recovery is possible.
You are not on your own!
When I was struggling with my eating disorder, I felt like I was the only person going through what I was going through at the time. I felt nobody understood how I was feeling and often got frustrated with myself because I thought ‘What’s the point in carrying on?’. However, let me tell you now…… there are thousands of people out there, including myself, who have suffered from an eating disorder but also come out of recovery and live a HAPPY life. Listening to ‘success’ stories often inspire you even though every person’s journey through recovery is different. You see how they once felt, is how you’re feeling now and shows you that you can overcome your demons.