Beating ED, eating disorders, overcoming obstacles, Recovery, respect, Uncategorized, women in the workplace

Love Handles

In recovery, one of the hardest things that I have to deal with are comments about my weight. People often mean well, but these ‘observations’ sting, every time with a newfound pain. For me, a part of my eating disorder revolved around other’s opinions. Sure, I purged for myself – desperately clinging on to any form of control, trying to achieve the perfect body. But a massive part of my ED was about how others viewed me. Did they think I was skinny? Did they see the massive whale that I saw in the mirror? Often, if someone would ever compliment my body, I would grab my stomach or bingo wings and exclaim: “What, you think this is beautiful? You need your eyes checked.” Or, I would say nothing. Blush quietly and smile, while the voices in my head twisted their kind words into hateful thorns, pricking me until I bled out.

I have recently started a new job. It totally revolves around teamwork and camaraderie; we all help each other to get the job done quicker. However, last night, something shook me so badly that I am questioning whether to go back. Many of my colleagues are romanian, and they often speak to each other in their language. Last night, someone told me that while I was working, one of my male co-workers called me fat. “Look at that chubby one. So cute.”

Now, to many, that sounds almost like a compliment. ‘He meant it as a joke! Don’t be so sensitive’. But when you have an eating disorder, being called fat, however said, can be absolutely detrimental, both to mental and physical health. I was in the middle of my shift, and I felt like my heart had been shattered with a sledgehammer, the sharp pieces injecting themselves in my lungs, cutting my breath short. I had spent almost three years in fear of this kind of comment. It had finally grabbed me by the hair, pulling with all it’s might. As I carried on my shift, robotic smile sullenly plastered on my face, I realised. As we work, we often give each other small touches on the shoulder or arm to show that we are there for one another. But where does this stop? The male co-worker in question had been squeezing my ‘love handles’, the small area of fat that just spills over my jeans above my hips, every chance he could get. Waiting in line for our orders. Behind the bar, making drinks. As he walked past me. A couple of times, these touches even went below the belt. I put it down to a friendly touch, to let me know he was there. The same way that I touched the girls in the restaurant. But it wasn’t. This comment, paired with the inappropriate touches, could have meant a month of starving myself. I could have run to the toilet and stayed there, making myself puke until I was numb. Or, the suicidal thoughts could kick in. It only takes one comment to send one spiralling.

I talked to my co-workers, who both said that they had experienced the same thing. We all decided to go to the boss, who handled the situation very well. I received an apology, but he will never understand how this will affect me. My superviser couldn’t promise me that he will be fired. I might have to see this man every day until I leave, and leaving now is not an option. Simply, I need the money. Even thinking about seeing him again is putting a lump in my throat. Seeing his best friend, who may or may not know about the situation (they speak romanian, remember?), who may hate me because I got her friend, someone who has worked there for fifteen years, sacked? Honestly, I am shaking.               The manipulation and control of women in the workplace is still happening in this day and age. This fact makes me sick. What makes me even more sick is that if I didn’t have my ED, I would have let the inappropriate touches go. Dismissed them. It was the comment that spurred me into action, and for that I am lucky. However, I now have to go back into work, somewhere that I no longer feel comfortable. Because of one man. Because of a touch. Because of a comment.

These comments, especially in the workplace, have to stop. These touches do not represent camaraderie. They are not nice. We don’t ask for them. We don’t want them. But how can we stop them? I am lucky that I had my co-workers by my side. Many don’t.

It is nearly 2018. When is enough enough?

Beating ED, expectation vs reality, overcoming obstacles, thefatfeeling

The Sisterhood of the Denim Shorts

Summer. Grey clouds making way for clear blue skies. The soft, telltale hum of an ice cream van driving down the road. Hands that are constantly sticky, hot sands burning the bottoms of your feet as you run into silky waters. For some, the long awaited day of results. For others, an opportunity to finally breathe. For most, a time of relaxation and bliss.

However, for a select few, summer is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Summer is a time of fear. The salty sea is riddled with scantily clad girls while tanned, slim bodies cover the sands. There are no baggy jumpers – shorts, crop tops and bralettes replace the acceptable, comfortable and safe uniform that a sufferer may wear. Missguided’s slogan reads: “The Official Babe Uniform”. They boast size 6 models flaunting high-waisted swimwear, tiny hotpants and barely there skirts. My ‘go to” summer outfit is not one of these options. Before I started suffering from an eating disorder, I always wanted to wear the ‘Babe uniform’, however, being the chubby kid, it was increasingly difficult. As I tried on a particularly small pair of denim hotpants, it dawned on me; Society would not allow me to wear such clothes. These shorts were meant for the slim, for the beauties that I saw in the adverts. They definitely weren’t meant for the whale that stared back at me. After I stopped eating and started visiting the toilet after every meal, I was so proud of my body. I had worked hard for it; so much blood, sweat, tears and vomit had gone into making it what it was: an uncomfortable, unnatural size 8. I say ‘unnatural’ because my skeleton is not made to be a size 8. At a healthy weight, I am destined to be a size 12. However, at the time, I simply couldn’t accept my destiny, my skeleton. I wasn’t happy with the way G-d made me. So I decided to change it. A year after the denim hot pants scene, I was sure that the ‘Babe Uniform’ was waiting; and I was ready for it. As I tried on a skimpy size 6 bikini, I realised that it was baggy. Baggy! A surge of relief, gratitude, pride and fear ran through me. I was a SIZE 6! I was a ‘babe’. Only, I wasn’t. I was just a very sick little girl. I was so intent on showing off my body, flaunting my easily visible ribs and taut stomach. I joined the tanned bodies on the beach. However, as I pulled my tight denim shorts over my thighs after a swim in the sea, I realised that I was entirely uncomfortable. My legs were rubbing against the material, my bikini totally soaking them. Apart from the physical discomfort, I felt like a prize pig being sold to the highest bidder. My entire bum was on show, and while I initially enjoyed the attention, the novelty soon wore off. Why are innocent young girls feeling pressured to look like 20-year-old women? I see the adverts for Missguided, Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, and they all present the same thing. The ‘Babe Uniform’. Then girls, aged 12-18, run to purchase the newest crochet bikini, adorned with a plunging neckline and stringy bottoms. Girls who haven’t even hit puberty, pressured to look like Kylie Jenner, who Instagrams herself in a sheer bra and knickers. She’s twenty years old. Girls of 12, sauntering along in their padded bras, their ‘cleavage’ pressed up against their crop tops, thanks to a religiously followed youtube tutorial labelled: ‘How to get boobs’. What I want to know is; why can’t kids just be kids? ‘A new age’ seemed nice, but as the adults were playing with their nice new iPhones, Youtube, Snapchat and Instagram formed. Technology surged along, and while the kids caught on, the older generation have no idea as to what goes on behind those shiny screens. So, back to my original argument. Summer is now upon us. In fact, it’s nearly over. And although I’m in recovery, I have still found summer painful. Feeling incredibly fat as I wear my flowery dress while my 11-year-old sister models my denim hot pants from the summer before. Seeing young girls soak up the sun as my stomach flips just watching them feel so comfortable. Slowly taking off my dress to reveal the bikini underneath, wondering if the yummy mummies can see my rolls of fat as they tan with impeccably taut skin, fake boobs brimming over their double D cups. How is it that I am bigger than them when they’ve had three children? Now that the end of summer is approaching, I think that I finally understand. It’s because I’m happy. These people spend all of their time worrying about their appearance. I wasted two years. No more.  I will not wear another pair of uncomfortable shorts, another crop top, when all they do is make me feel like a stranger in my own skin. Make me feel a shaking discomfort so huge that it almost claims my entire holiday.

Last year, I wore the ‘Babe Uniform’ because I could.

This year, I refuse to wear them. Because I can.


Beating ED

Lost girl, Found.

SINCE I was a child, I worried that I would never find myself. I’ve always felt a little lost, like I was simply imitating friends, family, celebrities; but I was failing. I could never looked like they did. Even when I tried so hard that I wound up in hospital, I could never measure up. ‘Peter Pan’ was my favourite book – I was part of the Lost Boys, and later, part of the eating disorder community. I fed off it, lived for the pity. Some people say that the denial stage is the hardest part of an eating disorder, however, I was different. I was so desperate for attention, for anyone to validate my body, my hard work, that at one point I actually wanted the disorder. It made me feel like a part of something, somewhere I wasn’t judged. After this period, guilt totally overtook me. I was so ashamed of myself. I just couldn’t get it right.

I have befriended a lot of toxic people over the years. Don’t misunderstand; I don’t blame any of them. It definitely wasn’t easy to be friends with me, and this post is not a slam at anyone, however, I feel it is important to talk about just how important friendships are when going through a tough time, and the correct ways to be there for someone with an eating disorder. From a very young age I had issues with my body, and I would have friends who embodied what I believed was the ‘perfect body’. After this point, I then befriended some who were so unbelievably self-involved that it took away from my own issues. I could sit for most of the day, listening to them chatter away about the most trivial subjects, trying to ignore the demons that raged inside me. My plan worked for a few years, and I was content with my supporting roles in my friendships.

MY life began to crumble before my very eyes. I started going to parties, boys were interested in me, I was hot. I was wanted. However, some preyed on my acute vulnerability. And those ‘some’ ruined a part of my life that I will never get back. I don’t think any of them really understand the effect that their words, their actions had on me. So I will explain in order to stimulate their feeble minds. And if they are too weak to read this, to weak to truly understand the carnage they caused, then they are more cowardly than I initially believed. This is not a ’13 Reasons Why’ complex. This not a book, not a fiction. I was strong enough to overcome it. Almost strong enough.

SOME of this group may believe that they are exempt, because they ‘stood up for me’. This is most definitely not the case. It mostly started with a whisper. My friend, a friend who I now know I should never have trusted, had told most of the group, and more, that I had an eating disorder, just a few short days after my diagnosis. I was totally broken, and had panic attack after panic attack. I thought that what felt like the world would know. Yet, it was my world. Due to her thoughtless actions, her desperate craving for attention, her need to claw her way into the spotlight, she caused my world to implode. This is step number 1 of friendship – you keep eachothers secrets until the last.  However, the true carnage started after I left the group.  I was sick of them, the way that they judged others, constantly bitched about people they thought were lesser than them. However, prior to leaving this group, they proceeded to bitch about me. For anyone who has experienced an eating disorder, you will understand that this the worst thing that could happen. I was desperate to be loved, to be viewed as beautiful. To them, I was nothing. Some preyed on my fragile state. They spoke words that were diabolical, next to the talk of animals. Truly, they behaved like animals. They asked if I smelt of sick when I was kissed, and said that I was too fat to be anorexic. More disgusting comments followed. The rest of the group sat and watched. This was not a joke, not a funny roast. This was the destruction of my little confidence, leaving me to sift through the ashes of my obliterated self-worth, only to find nothing. ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’ How wrong this is. In our day and age, cruelty does not end at school. We come home to social media; to whatsapp, facebook. We can constantly see what others are doing. You can never escape the words that others pin on you. Everything is out in the open. Even now, friends can make you feel shitty. We are made to feel that ‘feelings’ should be thought, not felt. Being left out still brings back the hurt I felt at one of the worst points in my life, and not being believed is still a hard emotion to deal with.

HOWEVER, I have made the best friendships of my life. Thanks to these people, I understand what a good friend really is. My true friends have always been there for me, never made me scared of my feelings. They always check on me when I’m not in school, or if I haven’t answered a message. Still now, I have friends who only message me if they want something, or if they feel bad, because I’m ‘the eating disorder girl’. These friends are not true. Yes, they are nice, or they believe they are, but their total selfishness, their happiness with their own lives can blind them from the truth – that they are hurting others with their actions. However, the people who have always been there without a second thought for themselves, who came to the hospital to see me even though they had bad experiences there, who could tell when I was upset instead of telling me of the plans I had missed. Who would cancel their stupid plans just to see me for ten minutes when I had no energy to even move from my bed. These are the true friends.

IT is sometimes hard to see these friends in your life. I have had trouble with it, however, I can now see that true, real friendships are so important; to your health, emotionally and physically, and especially to your recovery. Recovery is not easy. Your body has been put through agony, starvation and exploitation. I have ruined my digestive system, and my immune system is ridiculously low. I have so much bloat that I look three months pregnant. Recovering from an eating disorder means training your body to eat again. It’s like running a marathon after not walking for a year. Your body has been put through hell and back again, but YOU WILL RECOVER. With true friends around you, friends who really care about you rather than your party status, who can handle the real you, these are the friends that you need. You need friends who can occasionally put you first, because the next year will most definitely not be easy for you. Friends who understand this will be your rocks; I know that I’m so grateful for my true ones.

I will lay out a few ground rules for friends and family who are dealing with an eating disorder/depression, as I know it’s not easy for you either, but if you’re willing to try, to wholly be there for your friend, you will make a massive difference to their recovery.

  1. Never comment on weight. Weight is an extremely fragile subject, as bloating will be constant (there is a post on bloating and how to deal with it here: #BeatTheBloat). When they bring up weight, dieting or simply ‘feeling fat’, don’t fuel the fire. Simply remind them that they are doing well in their recovery, and that you’re there for them.
  2. People in recovery may have issues with their health, specifically regarding the way that they retain and digest food. It is truly exhausting; my acid reflux caused my chest and stomach to burn after every piece of food ingested, and I have constant headaches due to the water retained by my body. Don’t leave them out of plans. They may feel exhausted or uncomfortable, especially if it is a situation where they have to eat. I urge you, be patient. Let them know you are there for them; visit them when they are in bed, even if it’s for ten minutes. Offer to take some food off their plates when out. Encourage them to try.
  3. Little milestones are important to recovery. Even if these seem tiny; they ate a cube of cheese, or ate in-front of certain people, it is imperative to their journey. Praise them, for if they are telling you, it must be important to them. Tell them how proud you are.
  4. Try to notice them. I know this sounds funny, for of course you notice them; they are your friend! What I mean is notice them when they’re upset or low. It will not be easy for them, and there are times when they will feel totally demoralised. Just a small text letting them know that you are there is truly enough. They might not answer, but they will know and appreciate it.
  5. Physical touch is important. Sometimes, words can only penetrate a darkness skin deep, when it goes on for miles. Touch can bring someone out of this. Just a hug, a squeeze on the shoulder can let them know that you’re there when they emerge from their dark cloud.

IF you feel you cannot be there for them, please, tell them. They won’t mind, but don’t pretend to be there if you can’t. They will understand.

TO those still in recovery; we can do this. Reach out to your friends, and shed your old skin, along with the fake friends that you surrounded yourself with simply for flattery. Show your true friends that you care, and that you appreciate them. They’ll know. Don’t become the lost being you once were, because if you haven’t already, you will find yourself. You will recover, and this will end.

Allow yourself to be happy; you deserve it.

You have fight left in you, all you have to do is find it. 


Beating ED, Recovery

200 + 5 = Anorexia + Bulimia

I looked down at the outfit that I had tried on. I was standing in the New Look changing rooms, too scared to leave my cubicle for fear of catching a glimpse of my body in the daunting full-length mirror. I was wearing jeans and a crop top, an ensemble that had been picked out by my best friend. My stomach seemed to be spilling over and out of the flimsy button that held all of the fat in, and the top that I was wearing showed my bingo wings for the world to see. My thighs wobbled even when I wasn’t moving. “You ready, Liv?” She asked, knocking on the door. She had been waiting for me for about ten minutes. “Um, I don’t think this one’s right for me.” I said, quickly stripping down, throwing on my baggy jumper and loose-fitting skirt and opening the cubicle door. She was wearing a gorgeous black bodysuit with a black skirt, something I couldn’t wear. “Buy it!” I said over-enthusiastically.

We were getting ready for our first real party, and my nerves were through the roof. I had organised for the whole family to leave us alone until 1AM, and had invited what I thought was half the world; really, it was only about forty people. I had been to get the alcohol the day before, not with an older friend, but with my dad. With beers and wine coolers aligned perfectly on the table in our living room and expensive artwork moved into the garage, I was ready. Well, I was definitely ready to pop my party cherry, but my newly minted boyfriend was coming to London for the occasion, and I needed to impress. After all, if I couldn’t get validation of my beauty, was I even beautiful at all?

I settled on a black peplum top with black leggings. As my friends and I anxiously waited, I readjusted my outfit for the third time. I felt huge. I had quickly emptied my stomach of the five meagre almonds that I had eaten that day, only minutes before the trickles of friends became a gush of unwanted guests, and the drink hit my empty stomach minutes after I had ingested my first shot. Before long, the party was in full swing. I was happy. Everyone was complimenting me on my body, and I could feel the stares from all sides. I was loving it, basking in the attention like I was Pharaoh bathing in the River Nile. The party was a success! The next day, I even found that my ‘goal’ jeans were too big on me, and I had a celebratory piece of chocolate, before spitting it out and making myself sick for the third time that morning. I kept telling myself that I was in control, that I could stop whenever I liked. I had been Bulimic for a month.

The next two months were hell on earth. I would purge five times a day, after only consuming around 200 calories per day. My throat hurt all the time, and I was constantly tired and dizzy. I couldn’t focus. I was putting on an act, a mask, pretending that my happy exterior was reflecting my interior. Although I was getting unhealthily skinny, the compliments kept coming. Wherever I went, whatever I did. Even my teachers would look twice when I came down the corridor, and would remark in disbelief: “Wow, Olivia! You look amazing! How did you do it?” I would shrug and smile, knowing that these small remarks were only fuelling the fire, adding coal to the already blazing heat. Now that I look back, even a wolf whistle in the street would cause me to purge. I just wanted to be beautiful. I wanted to achieve what I saw as beautiful.

I kept telling myself that I was fine, that I was in control. I now see that Bulimia and Anorexia were controlling me.

One Friday Night, I retreated to the toilet, only to burst into tears. I think that I was so exhausted, so emotionally drained, so desperate to let go of the ‘golden girl act’ that I’d adopted over the past months. So I let my mum comfort me, and after what felt like hours of probing, I painfully admitted that I was making myself sick. My parents, however, laughed. I later found that they were worried that it was something worse, and believed me when I said that I had stopped. I didn’t. I pushed and pushed until someone found me, the small, broken sparrow that I was. I had lost a stone for every two weeks. My school found out, and told my parents. Only then was I taken seriously.

I was referred to CAMHs in December 2015, and started treatment in January 2016.

I could look at my experience with my ED as a time that I want to forget, as a memory that I want to erase forever. However, I’ve realised that my experience has shaped who I am, and how I view situations and my relationship with God. I know that He would not give me a challenge that I could not overcome, or a path that I could not cross. God was always the second pair of footprints in the sand, however, when I was experiencing the worst point in my life, his footprints were no longer there. I was angry, shocked that he could leave me at the time when I needed him the most. However, after reflecting, I realised that he was carrying me to the finish line. I am, slowly but surely, getting to the finish line, and I know that when I reach it, my friends and family will be there to welcome me.

Hold out, because you can do this. Believe in your own courage, because your inner strength will surprise you. I know mine has!

“If you can dream it, you can do it” ~ Walt Disney



Beating ED, Recovery

The Land Flowing With Milk and Honey

In the summer of 2015 I decided that I would take the plunge. I was going to go on Israel tour.

Israel tour is a basic entitlement for any Jewish kid who had finished their GCSES, and I was no exception. Everyone I knew was going or had gone; the young(ish) couple that we had invited for lunch would reminisce over their ‘glory days’, remembering their time on the trip that changed their lives, and friends would gush over when they would have time to shop after our exams.

I, on the other hand, would sit in my room, anxiety running through my veins. I could hardly leave the house without breaking down.

I had had trouble with separation anxiety for some time; at most sleepovers my poor mother would get a call from the worried parents, stating that I was inconsolable, and needed picking up. So my wonderful mum would turn up to each house in her pyjamas to find me red-eyed and reeling.

After the years of constant anxiety, I decided that I needed to take matters in to my own hands; thus resulting in the holistic therapist. We had heard of her from her online testimonials, and despite my initial nervousness, I was ready. After five sessions, I was replenished, ready to face the music. Well, the evening camp songs that inevitably awaited me. A full two weeks later, my bags were packed. I knew three girls in my tour group; two were thick as thieves, and one ditched me before we had even arrived. Regardless, I kissed my parents goodbye (behind the car, to save myself from endless embarrassment), and hopped on the bus, grabbing the last empty seat. I sat next to a nice guy, and we talked about school and other such small talk necessity. When we arrived at the airport, I was already bored, but it was there that I met my best friend. She was, unfortunately, on the other tour, but she introduced me to her friends, and we hit it off. I contemplated grabbing their yellow-coloured t-shirts from the poor, unassuming girl who was sitting to my left, but decided against it; I felt that I should keep my inner psycho quiet until I knew what their parents did for a living. However, after three hours of bliss, I was inevitably given my assigned seat on the plane. The goodbyes began. “Hopefully see you there, Liv! You’ll be fine, safe flight!” I left them, taking the first new steps to a group of thirty-odd people that knew nothing of Olivia Dowell.

Fast forward one week, and I was having the time of my life. I had overcome my awkward shyness, and had actually talked to people. I felt confident, basking in my newly found status: The One Who Makes Friends Easily. I was fearless.

I remember one night, after befriending a lovely group of South Africans, we decided to sneak past the security guard and into the soothing waters of the Kineret. We all had our towels on with bikinis underneath, and as the girls ran into the water, I couldn’t help but notice their taught bodies. I looked down at mine. Definitely not taught. I looked like a beached whale amongst mermaids.

Over the days that followed, I trained myself to eat less and less. As everyone took a plate, I would take half, and leave most of it. When people offered me a snack, I would take one bite, then put the rest in my pocket, dumping it all in the nearest toilet. I couldn’t see any improvements, though I had to ask one of the guys to borrow a belt because my shorts were falling down.

When our three and a half weeks were almost over, I had 1) kissed a boy, 2) abseiled in Eilat and 3) gained an eating disorder. I was basically starving myself, though at the time I was just ‘getting skinny’ like planned. As I ran into my Mum’s arms, she gave me a bone-crushing hug. “There’s nothing of you!” she exclaimed, pinching at my tiny waist; and she was right. As my stomach started to expand due to my mum’s delicious home-cooking, the compliments came swarming in. “Wow, Liv, you look fab! … How did you loose all that weight?” I was getting attention from everyone. Life was perfect. Until the weight that I had so carefully shed threatened to reappear. When the food simply begged to be devoured, I decided that there was only one way to stay skinny. I needed to make myself sick.

The first few times that I tried, I barely got my fingers half way down my throat, but as time passed, I became the expert in my field. After reading that tomato skins stay whole in your system, I ate three before each purge, and drank at least one glass of orange juice. As the acid rose up from my stomach, causing my stomach lining to disintegrate and shredding my esophagus, so did my confidence. However, my love for my new body was an entirely conditional love; a love that was actually based on hate. It didn’t matter how many compliments I received, how much attention I got; I was never happy.

It was all a sham, all a game. A game that nearly cost me my future. A game that so many are still playing. I, however, am not. I am burning the game, setting it on fire, and dancing on it’s ashes. The game was programmed so that I would loose, Game Over. However, my happiness is slowly and surely rebuilding, growing daily. I have realised that there is no manual; no matter how many times you try to play right, the game always beats you. I am learning how to fall in love with my new body, a body that changes every day. A body that, admittedly, is paying me back for the years of abuse that it has put up with. One of the hardest points of recovery is learning how to cope with the small weight gain, which, when it comes, feels like the end of the world. The ED vinyl that was stuck on the record player for so long threatens to make an appearance, and you brace yourself for the worst, for the relapse that you prayed would never happen. You can, however, take the needle off of the record. Breathe. Know that you don’t have to go back there, back into that mindset. Take a minute, an hour, a second to stop the record player from playing. Although the ED mindset is bulletproof, you will, in the near future, have so many other records that you won’t even see it on the shelf. You can do this. We all can.

Step off the roller coaster, and take a ride on the Ferris Wheel instead; I can assure you, it’s much less bumpy. It will allow you to take a look at the blue sky ahead, and thank G-d for the life that he’s given to you.