Tag Archive: how anorexia moves when you’re not watching it


Like a 1980s throw back, the pavements are scattered with joggers, clad in fresh neon Lycra. Gyms full of frantic activity. Personal Trainer’s, like tour reps, guiding uncomfortable newbies, as the gym stalwarts look on resentfully, impatient at having to queue for machines they’ve come to call their own.

people in gym

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Me: I resist the magnetic pull of these sports, though my head aches for the hot, dripping sweat of impossibly intense cardio regimes. With every advert for a new workout,  I remember the hours spent pounding the treadmill, ever harder, ever faster. The high of running on empty, breaking through pain. The cycling, competitive climbing, rowing, bench press, skipping, weights…

… and actually, I hated it. Although I’ve always been fit, at 5ft 2″, I’m not a natural sportswoman. Don’t get me wrong,  I used to enjoy a cycle, climbing, a good walk, but in those days, it was a pastime, not a regime.

Why then?  Why did I endlessly punish my body with ever-increasing levels of cruelty? Why ignore the aching, the fatigue, the pain?

Ask the Anorexia.

Without wishing to sound too extreme, I want to warn anyone who has been lured into fitness regimes and fad diets this January.  Being healthy is all well and good, but making it a mission can make YOU a slave.

I write as one of the many who ironically start out flexible and end up rigid.

My illness began with a gym membership, a health kick. I had given up smoking and just  wanted to stay healthy, get fitter. That’s ok right?

But as I was running faster, and swimming stronger, and lifting heavier; the illness was very slowly, very quietly, creeping up behind me.

I had started toning up, losing weight, shaping up. I pushed my regime. Then I noticed that I felt guilty if I ate something ‘unhealthy’. Before too long,  I couldn’t HAVE anything unhealthy UNLESS I’d worked out. I pushed myself harder. I lost weight. The numbers started going down. I pushed myself harder. Then I could only eat on gym days… Before I knew it, I was too thin to exercise. I had the frame of a seven year old girl.

But I was thirty.

And trapped.

Over a decade later, I am still flying round the same old cage. There isn’t a bar which I haven’t beaten and broken my wings on.  I know every trick and trait of my captor and yet I can’t break free.

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I hate the January burst of diets and slimming aids and gym memberships, and new

fitness plans. I avert my eyes and ignore the call…

I know that for most, it’s a positive thing. But I write to make the case that we all need to be careful that a hobby doesn’t become unhealthy. This is especially pertinent if you’re prone to perfectionism, highly competitive and have struggled with eating problems / body dysmorphia. It’s fine to get fit, but be aware that Anorexia and other EDs thrive on seemingly ‘good’ initiatives. Be aware that these illnesses are clever, and pervasive. They take your brain prisoner…

And if you’re reading this thinking you’re immune, think again; because eating disorders tiptoe past your rational mind. You can’t OUT THINK them.

If you’re worried someone is developing an eating disorder or becoming obsessive about their diet, TALK to them. Be gentle. Suggest they talk to a professional. Be aware that they might not believe they have a problem. It’s crucial that they know it’s not THEM that you appear to be so against, but the stranger who is controlling their behaviour.

If it’s your intention to change your habits for 2019, try not to buy into the media hype. The diet and exercise industry cannot and should not promise you a new and sparkling existence.

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The following post is something I already published on a different blog. Call me lazy, but sometimes I’ve simply explained something as well as I can. No point reinventing the wheel, right?

Anorexia is a shapeshifter of an illness, deceptive in more ways than amyone could imagine. Don’t be fooled by the media perspective. Although anorexia makes its victims LOOK the same, the ways in which it infects each person, the periods of infliction and the ways it gets into someone are never the same. 

As some readers may know, I’m in a ten bed specialist unit and each person here carries their very own strain of Anorexia. 

Ive always been a fan of analogy. What follows is the story of how the illness got to me…

A small, blue clad child stands in the grey playground; back turned from her playmates; tiny hands pressed tight against her eyes as she chants numbers in a voice higher than it is loud.

Behind her, a group of dishevelled children move with silent, exaggerated care; the thrill of tension bursting from concentrated rosebud lips and then, delicious stifled screams as the blue child swings round, sudden and bellowing and the clenched stealth and stillness break, pouring a cool, white rush of pure delight over each small figure, even as they fight to keep the tension in their form.

Grandmother’s Footsteps.

The aim of the game was for the players to manage to creep up behind the person who is ‘it’ without being seen to be moving. ‘It’ could turn around at any point and the other players would have to instantly freeze. Those who were still moving when ‘it’ turned around were immediately sent back to the starting line.

Why am I writing about an old playground favourite?

You may well ask.
And quite simply, it is what came to mind when a despairing loved one asked me how on earth it got to this point.
Perhaps Anorexia’s approach is different for an adolescent or college student, perhaps it walks with a different gait, I can’t really speak for others. I can barely even trace its steps towards me. What I do know is that the illness wears many masks and easily poses as the smallest giggling schoolgirl until you turn away, reassured that it isn’t getting any closer.

For a 31 year old woman, Anorexia began as a wonderfully refreshing experience of exercising after giving up smoking. It’s steps were light, triumphant and exciting. Continuing to feel healthy, my body began to tone up and I lost a few pounds.
It doesn’t hurt to cut out a few foods in the name of being healthy, right?
Less bread, less cheese, less meat, less pasta.
Next time I checked behind me, Anorexia was a few steps closer and although a part of me knew it, another part didn’t really believe it would be interested in me. I was too old for that sort of thing. I was too ‘sensible’, too grounded, too self aware.
I turned my back.

No red meat. Only a few mouthfuls of pasta or rice. No bread. No cheese.
I swung round. Anorexia froze. I couldn’t tell if it had moved or not.
No meat. No carbs. No dairy.
Low calorie fish, salad leaves, fruit and water.
And where once I thought 6 stone would never be possible, now I dream of 5 and a half.

And Anorexia is playing. Oh definitely. It’s creeping now and it’s not bothering to freeze and I’m not bothering to turn my back.

Its steps, so quiet and so disguised at the start, are heavy and quite careless.

I can no longeer stop them in their tracks by turning around. I can’t make the fearless freeze.

Now my mind is full of the footprints and although I know tracks can be covered over, I’m not sure how and so the game has become a dance. My shapeshifting partner, both a close friend and a worst enemy, simultaneously giving and stealing life. One moment its steps bring elation, the next, bottomless despair. One day I dance with fluid grace, the next with lead-soled boots.
One thing I do know is that in reality, Anorexia Nervosa is about as much of a game as Russian Roulette. It has a higher incidence of death than any other mental illness and has clamied countless lives over the years.  Treatment is more effective the earlier the illness is caught but getting GPs to to take it seriously can be a problem (though why this is still the case, I don’t know).  You would think that in today’s social climate, any hint of onset of Anorexia, Bulimia or any other ED would be treated as serious enough to warrant immediate intervention.