Tag Archives: eating disorder

Constant thoughts of food? It could be linked to your diet.

One statement I hear regularly in my eating disorder clinics is “I feel like I’m going mad, all I think about is food”. Now whilst an eating disorder is a mental health illness it is not a sign of madness. However you can feel so consumed by your thoughts of food that it feel that way. Why? Well let’s have a look at some of the symptoms of being underweight….

Back in 1941 there was a landmark study conducted by Ancel Keys called the Minnesota experiment. The aim of this study was to get information on how to refeed those starving from famine conditions. 32 men completed the study, 12 of these were studied for 8 weeks to assess their baseline intake before the trial began. Then they were all starved for 24 weeks, with their intake reduced from 3,200kcals to just 1,600kcals/day served in 2 meals. which led to a 25% loss of body weight.  Now take a note of the number of calories, yes these men would have been more active and lived a different lifestyle but 1,600kcals led to them being starved. Many of the diets that are advertised today are much lower in calories that this, so are they really healthy for our bodies? 

Fascinatingly the men showed a lot of the symptoms we see in people suffered from an eating disorder. They become obsessed with food. Some read cookery book and stared at pictures of food. Cheating become a huge issue with them trying to find extra snacks. One man became psychotic, having vivid dreams of eating flesh and threatened to kill Keys, he was dismissed and after a few days these dreams and thoughts went away. This to me highlights the affect being a low weight can have on your thoughts and mental health. If you have an eating disorder and are a low weight that pre-occupation you have with food can totally be related to your body being undernourished. It is not you going loopy, it is the impact of being malnourished.

These men displayed a biological drive to eat, their hunger was increased and felt out of control. Keys ended up having to have each men chaperoned to stop them eating other snacks when not in the hospital. Our bodies are built to live and to live we need food. So they will do all they can to get us to eat. When you restrict your intake it makes perfect sense you will hungrier than before, stronger signals are being sent out and the body is going into amber alert. So that pre-occupation with food is actually a normal, biological sign that your body is working and doing it’s job.

The good news is, upon being re-fed, for most men, these symptoms disappeared. They were refer back to their usual weight and felt a lot better. Their thoughts, mood and emotional state improved alongside their physical healthy. Some of these men were interviewed in 2003 and they reported being glad they took part in the study, but there being some lingering after-effects. Some were worried about food deprivation for years afterwards. This can also be seen sometimes in recovery from an eating disorder, which is why  it is important to focus on recovery happening in stages and being a continual work in progress. 

If any of this has hit home to you and you feel like you need some support, do get in contact with me, see your GP for advice  or check out the B-eat website who have a helping and a list of eating disorder specialists. Taking that first step can be the hardest but with good support around you, recovery really is possible.

 

 

Having an Eating Disorder over Christmas.

I love Christmas and all the build up that goes with it, I’m like a small child with the excitment of it. For me it is special celebration. However through my work in eating disorders I know what a hard time it can be for some. 

Christmas brings with it a lot of socialising, which can mean a lot of different meals. Eating in restaurants, buffet events, and more alcohol than usual. Then we have all the delicious, but high calorie festive foods: mince pies, christmas cake and pudding, stollen, pannetone, yule log, pastry items, cheese, nuts and those tubs of chocolates. All of this can cause someone with an eating disorder a lot of anxiety and that is before we get to the Christmas meal itself.

Dietitian UK: Surviving christmas with an eating disorder

I know I will freak out over buffet food but I really want to go, what can I do?

How can I eat in front of other people?

Should I cut my intake down the rest of the day if I am eating out?

How much can I drink and how does it affect my calories?

The 25th December. A special day, spent eating, drinking and being around people you may not see all the time. In our family we end up having 2-3 Christmas days as we visit my side of the family and hubby’s side to celebrate with them too. So it could end up being 3 Christmas meals. Suddenly you are in an environment where you may eat at different times, have higher calorie foods at meals that you haven’t eaten for a while and are eating with different people. 

Will everyone be looking at me and watching what I eat?

If the Christmas meal is late what do I do about sticking to my usual meal plan?

How much should I have at that meal, will it be more calories than  I am used to?

What will this do to my weight?

I don’t want to spoil the meal/day for everyone but how what do I do if I am not coping?

Should I have dessert?

This year, I have spent time with each of my clients talking through their plans for the build up to Christmas. It’s been a real challenge for some with meals out with work colleagues and planning the Christmas Day itself. However everyone has a plan in place and I hope everyone will be able to relax a little and enjoy the moment.

Dietitian UK: Surviving Christmas with an eating disorder 2

Here are my top tips:

  1. Preparation is key. Try to get as much information about what is going to be happening in advance. If you take some of that element of surprise out of the equation you will reduce  the anxiety somewhat.
  2. Ask others around you for support. Let someone know that you may find this meal/event tricky and if so this will be your signal and give them ideas of what they can do to help. Maybe they can distract you with conversation or use a few motivational phrases to boost your confidence. 
  3. If people do not know about your eating disorder then they are unlikely to be watching you. If they are watching you then it is probably out of sheer intrigue. You could try smiling at them to show things are ok (even if they are not). Remember that this is a moment for you to enjoy and you don’t want to let little things get in the way of your recovery.
  4. Plan out which days you will be eating differently over the festive time. Then also plan out a list of foods you want to allow yourself to eat. When are you going to do this? Can you swap a normal snack for a mince pie? One of my clients worked out a mini mince pie was not that different to her usual cereal bar so that was an easy way to build a mince pie into her meal plan. Try not to let yourself miss out.
  5. The meal itself can be overwhelming. It is one meal out of 21 in a week. It is 1 day out of a week. If you eat an extra 700kcals that day, it only equates to an extra 100kcals every day that week – not enough to cause any effect on your weight. You need to eat an extra 250-500kcals everyday for your weight to increase, and even that is not enough for some people.
  6. The 80/20 rule – stick to your meal plan 80% of the time and you can come off your meal plan and relax more around food 20% of the time. It is a normal and healthful way of eating – for example think how people eat in a more structured way during the week but eat differently at weekends.
  7. Keep some meals on that big day safe and normal. It may be you can have a normal breakfast and morning snack but then you have a large lunch with dessert. Listen to your body and your wise thoughts. Check out those feelings of fullness – are they related to your emotional fullness, your anxiety or your physical fullness? Use your knowledge and common sense to decide what else you need to eat for the rest of the day. 
  8. Restricting, purging or exercising after a big meal is not the answer. It may help you feel better initially but it won’t help your recovery in the long term. Find ways to distract yourself – crafty things can be good, get a mindfulness colouring book (all the rage right now it seems!), phone a friend, hang out with that family member you haven’t seen in ages, suggest a gentle post-meal walk with people. 

Relax a little.

Enjoy the moment so you can look back and be proud of you.

Keep recovery in mind and keep going one meal at a time.

If you need any support get in touch and we can set up a face to face or Skype consultation.

Dietitian UK: Surviving Christmas with an eating disorder 3

Binge Eating Tips

One of the problems with binge eating is that people get stuck in a vicious cycle where concern over shape and weight leads to dieting and restriction
of food, this then leads to binge-eating which makes the person feel worse and so the cycle restarts

Routined Eating

Get into a routine of eating regular meals and snacks. Erratic eating confuses the body and can mean you can’t recognise hunger and fullness signals, so you need to re-train yourself. Leave no more than 4 hours between eating and do your best not to eat outside of your meal routine.

Dietitian UK: Binge Eating Cycle

Go Slow:

Concentrate when eating, try to eat at a sensible speed, sit down when eating and make times for meals.

Analyse the binges:

Keep a food diary and review it regularly – are you missing any meals or snacks. If binges are happening, is there a pattern, for example is it in the evenings after dinner when you are bored?

Limit binge foods:

Limit binge foods in your house, car and desk drawer! The less access you have to then the less likely you are to binge.

Keep Busy:

Plan activities into your day and evening to keep your mind and hands occupied. Binges can occur due to boredom, loneliness, tiredness, anxiety and stress.

Distraction Power:

Distraction is one of the best techniques for preventing a binge. Write down a list of activities you can do that don’t include food: taking a shower, exercising, visiting a friend, playing music, reading a book etc… use these when the urge to binge creeps up on you.

This post was written for Slimsticks, see the original post here.