Guilt for eating. Guilt for restricting. Guilt over the pain I was causing, to myself, my body and those around me. Guilt for the time I was losing in this…
“One f*cking life of yours”.
I felt this, and yet the strength of Anorexia left me paralysed to making the changes the tiny scared person inside of me knew I needed, and desperately wanted to make.
Yet, I got better. I found ‘recovery’. I fight for it every single day.
I consistently build on that version of ‘better’. I struggle. I triumph. I cry. I laugh. I learn. I grieve. I talk.
Did I ever mention…recovery is on-going?
In my opinion, it’s never a place you get to with a trophy waiting at the end. Unlike with many physical conditions, often people don’t ever walk home with a slip of paper saying ‘all clear’.
Last week, I launched my website for my new business; Backing my Body (blog post to come on this!). So many kind, wonderful people from my past and in my present have offered words of encouragement, love and support for this new adventure of mine. I’m so lucky. Yet, alongside many other emotions, I feel this deep sense of guilt. A different guilt to the one felt when I was suffering. This is a new guilt…kind of like, survivors guilt?
Did I have more tools than others to help me get to this place?
Did I get offered more treatment? More support? Were more resources and time pumped into me and my recovery?
Did I have a solid support network? If I hadn’t, would I be in this position now?
Did I have the right ‘face’ for Anorexia? Did this mean I got offered things that others weren’t?
How is it fair that others are still struggling?
Did I just…get lucky?
I have wonderful friends, and I spoke to one of them about this very feeling. She’s wise, and she told me this (and now I’m going to tell you, incase you feel the guilt of recovery too).
My Eating Disorder was different to anyone else’s Eating Disorder. It may have the same name, but it’ll never have the same story.
Recovery isn’t about luck. We don’t get better by chance. We can help each other, but we can’t *do it* for it each other. For some of us, we’ll never know what made us better, what triggers our relapse, what keeps us stuck. There isn’t always answers, and there aren’t often reasons.
There isn’t a ‘FREE FROM your Eating Disorder’ pill.
Recovery is there for everyone, yet sadly some don’t find it. Maybe we’ll never really know why.
So what can we do?
Use our stories. Share our experiences. Listen. Learn. Talk. Lift each other up, and sit with each other when we’re down. Cheer for the triumphs and know that my fight will always be your fight.
Tomorrow, (May 17th, 2021) England opens up a little bit more after the 3rd lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic.
New laws mean we can sit indoor cafes/restaurants, attend in-person fitness classes, and spend time with people in our own homes (amongst other changes).
For many, yes.
Yet, for those suffering with an Eating Disorder (and many other mental and physical health conditions), easing restrictions means facing experiences, people and challenges that have (for a long time now) been largely un-faced.
It means shared meals. Unsolicited comments. Unpredictable events. Small steps back to the office. Pressures to have fun, to laugh, eat, drink, be with others and generally engage a little more in that complicated thing we all call ‘life’.
All things which can trigger and fuel an Eating Disorder after a long time in a safe, manageable cocoon.
So how can we, as FitPro’s, but also as kind and compassionate human beings in whatever walk of life, support and look out for someone (and each other) at this time, when things change A G A I N.
If someone says ‘No, thank you’ to a suggested plan, please don’t question, challenge or push. It might have taken them years to build up to going out for dinner, and after a long time away, this will likely need re-building. They’ll say “Yes” when they’re ready, and they’ll appreciate you for sitting tight and waiting in the meantime.
**In fact, if anyone (ever) says ‘No, thank you’ to anything NEVER question this. I’m learning about the big ol’ concept of boundaries in my personal life right now, and this is an example of one. Respect it. It’s there for a reason, we all have them and we all need to use them as/when necessary.**
Keep an eye on an increase in opportunities for in-person exercising. With more face-to-face class options available (and more fitness settings opening their doors again), pressures to exercise may increase, and urges to compulsively do so may soon follow. We’ll never be able to monitor or fully keep track of this (online or offline) but it’s important to be aware. Teach your class as a whole, but don’t forget to see each unique individual within it.
Bump (hopefully not literally) into a client in the street? Please don’t ask when they’ll be back in your class or comment that “I haven’t seen you in the studio since we un-locked! Are you not working out right now?!” You run the risk of putting pressure on them to return, and there may be many reasons why they haven’t. Lots of us want to continue online, for example, and returning to the studio’s isn’t top of the list. Acknowledge it’s nice to see them, and leave it at that.
Don’t automatically…hug. For COVID reasons (LOL) but also because touch is personal. Sometimes we don’t want to be squeezed or embraced. Sometimes we’re still learning how we feel within ourselves, without the need to bring in how we feel in the arms of someone else. Maybe, test the waters a bit first? See what Hugging Vibes someones giving off before you go IN.
And…if anyone’s wondering…I am UP FOR A HUG. Just not a long, all-encompassing one, K? Those ones are just awkward AF.
(*and spritz yourself first plz).
Avoid appearance based comments. This applies ALWAYS. But especially now, as we’re likely to de-layer a bit (as summer hopefully arrives!) and we get the chance to take our coats and THOUSANDS of layers off inside. (*RIP the Wapping Wharf Steps…I hope to never return to you*). Talk about something/EVERYthing other than how someone ‘looks’. What’s important is how we f e e l.
Some people might not have worn certain gym wear in a while, and/or they might not have worked out in the company of others. Give people the space to ease themselves back in gently, I know you’ll make it a safe one.
Going back to the office? Leave your diet chat at the door. It was boring pre-pandemic and…
“YES Sheila we are eating our lunch at 11:15am and YES these are the same leggings we had on yesterday WHAT OF IT”.
Same goes for a fitness based setting. Avoid relating food to movement. Avoid openly commenting on your own food intake or movement patterns. The majority of the time (although seemingly harmless) often mindless comments aren’t helpful.
Remember you are not responsible for someone’s ‘whole’ health. If you’re a FitPro or someone in a profession where you might be looked up to or seen as having your sh*t together (in any way), people *may* approach you with a whole lotta ‘stuff’ going on inside their head. The amount of people doing this will likely have significant increased since you were last in the studio.
Hold them. Be with them. Advise them and guide them (if/when you can within your professional remit) but your priority is YOU and only you. Do what you can, but do NO MORE.
Remember, we can support but we can’t save. Make sure someones here for you too.
We got this. And we got each other. Promise.
We just go easy on both, and take our time with it ALL.
“I had flashbacks of punishing kitchen based workouts, secretive compulsive exercising, and an underlying dread of associating my tiny home with movement over rest.“
A year ago, I would NOT have exercised from home. With a history of an Eating Disorder this would have been dangerous territory for me. Having worked so hard to restore my relationship with exercise (surrounded by people in a safe IRL environment), the thought of doing this ‘alone’ in my home felt terrifying. I didn’t know if virtual companions were enough, and I feared the loss of safety through connection.
I had flashbacks of punishing kitchen based workouts, secretive compulsive exercising, and an underlying dread of associating my tiny home with movement over rest.
From March/April 2020 onwards, we’ve been inundated with messages (from ALL angles) telling us we have UNLIMITED, EASY ACCESS to engage in exercise whenever we want. Combine this with the increased diet culture rhetoric, and pressures to ‘do’, ‘look’ and ‘feel’ a certain way through each lockdown…it’s no wonder Eating Disorders are on the rise. Reminding myself (and others) that our bodies DO NOT want or need constant movement has become a regular ritual.
So. With home-based-workouts here to stay, how can you as a FitPro support someone online? (for those with an Eating Disorder history AND for those without).
Perhaps my experiences of the past year may help you.
My go-to strategy at the beginning of each lockdown was to put pen to paper and ask myself… “What do I normally do (movement wise) in a typical week?” Then, I made a commitment to myself that this was the MOST I was to do in a typical lockdown week. Being at home did NOT (and will never) mean I needed to do more, whatever anyone else tells (or sells!) me.
Remind your classes/clients that JUST because their laptops and leggings are more easily accessible, it doesn’t mean they have to utilise them whenever they have a spare minute. Books are nearby on the bookshelf, and Netflix is only a click away! Reiterate the need to continually check in with what their body is *really* asking for. Yes, we have the unlimited option to move our bodies, but perhaps we need a walk or a feet-up-phone-call today instead.
Working out suddenly became cheaper online. I could instantly get a lot more workout for my money. Class passes were everywhere, and doing less outside my home meant my bank balance grew (by approx. £1 a week LOL let’s not exaggerate). But inevitably, I had a bit more money to spend, and a few less things to spend it on.
For you as a FitPro, this is an incredible chance to grow your business in the safety and comfort of your own home (how LUXURIOUS is that *mini* lie in?!?!) However, please always remember that one class pass booking, or one single class booking is STILL one whole human choosing to spend a fraction of their day moving their body with YOU. You might be thousands of miles away from them, but they matter just as much as if they were stood beside you in your studio.
Sell your passes to them, but don’t guilt them into buying them.
I wanted to try new classes, and Lockdown gave me the chance to do this. I on/off attend a brilliant FitPro in London whose classes I wouldn’t really have been able to attend. (HIIIIII Elle @ https://www.keepitsimpelle.com)
Joining a new online classes may (for some) feel less daunting than attending in real life, meaning they’re more likely to give your offering a go (the reduced costs encourage this too). Lockdown has given many of us the brilliant opportunity to go out of our comfort zones, within the safety of their own home.
Bearing this in mind, always remember you may have ‘movement newbies’ with you and it might be hard (actually…almost impossible) to read the virtual room. You might not even know they may never have done a class before, or this *type* of workout before. If your class requires experience, REMIND people of that. You can’t fix someones wall if they lob their Kettlebell through it. You can’t physically untangle someone out of a shoot through (if you know you know), and you can’t offer ice if someone bangs their head doing a burpee. So give them as much information as you can prior to the class, so they can safely give new experiences a try and/or make an informed decision about whether or not to attend.
Remember, we can’t stop people exercising, but we CAN empower them with the knowledge to make healthy choices and REMIND them that we are here to support these along the way.
Prompt people to check in with you if they have new or worsening injuries. For some, it might feel much easier to mention it to an instructor in real life, rather than making a fuss online and popping it in the chat box. Remind your clients that they are tiny humans in a tiny box on your screen and that if sumin’ is hurting or not working for them, it’s unlikely you’ll know (or have time to drop the rest of the class and give them your whole un-divided attention). Regularly give them this outlet and option in newsletters, class adverts and throughout your day to day marketing.
You are empowering them to take charge of their health, and highlighting that you are here to listen.
Always consider your language. Online. Offline. Diet culture rhetoric is UNNECESSARY, TRIGGERING, BORING and OUT-DATED. You’ve heard this from me before. You’ll hear this from me FOREVER!
We move to nourish, NOT to punish.
Do NOT be afraid to contact people if you are worried they are over exercising. This may be my last point, but it is BY NO MEANS the least important. Whether you’re concerned they’re coming too often to your classes (especially if you are aware they are attending others too) and/or engaging in your on-demand service, you CAN speak to them about this. This doesn’t have to be dramatic. It doesn’t have to be invasive. You could message them, you could ask for a quick phone call, or you can ping them an email. A simple “Hello! I’ve seen you’ve been enjoying many of my classes. I just wondered if you want to have a chat about how your weekly workouts look right now.” Or even “Hello, thanks so much for coming to my classes. I just wanted you to know that I’m ALL EARS if you want to chat about anything. This is a confidentual space and I’m here to listen”
WorkEDout have said this from the start, and we’ll say it until the end; you cannot stop someone exercising, but you can be that nurturing safe space, and a trusting voice that may make a tiny, yet significant difference.
To any FitPro I’ve engaged with over Zoom (that brilliant GODFORSAKEN love/hate place LOL), thank you so much for helping me survive the most triggering year since my recovery really started. Working out on my kitchen floor, and resting on my sofa have found a healthy balanced HARMONY, and my home continues to be a nourishing and safe place.
When I was first diagnosed, I told anyone who would listen (which wasn’t many!!) that I wasn’t… “supposed to get an eating disorder…it’s just not…like me?!”
My diagnosis of Anorexia was given almost immediately as I was lucky (?!) enough to be “lobbed” (my words aged 18) into mental health services from the second my parents took me to the GP. Many people fight FOR treatment. From the start..I fought AGAINST it. When I look back now, I realise how lucky I was to access the treatment I did, and so easily be offered the support I had. I was in denial at the time, but SO many don’t get this chance and I can’t even express my frustration at a system mostly based on chance.
Every 62 minutes someone dies as a direct result of an Eating Disorder. F*ck chance.
I’d studied Eating Disorders within my Psychology A-Level. I remember so clearly the textbook which described a ‘a girl on a diet’ and pictured an emancipated, young, white female staring vacantly out the window, protruding bones and brittle skin. From a Psychology textbook position, I WAS supposed to have an Eating Disorder.
I fit ‘The Aesthetic Bill’.
I doubt my GP was surprised when I turned up, my desperate mother saying….
“She’s just stopped eating”.
I was that girl in the textbook through n’ through. Therefore, it wasn’t just NHS food which was offered to me on a plate, my diagnosis was too.
But to me, I WASN’T supposed to have an Eating Disorder. I was a fairly confident child who turned into a vaguely gobby 18-year-old. My diet was primarily beige food, my fluid intake was mainly alcohol. My parents were loving, giving and if we’re gonna talk old fashioned ‘She wants for nuthin’!’.
I was privileged at school. Privileged at home. Trauma? Pain? Hardship? I barely knew the meaning of the words.
I felt comfortable in my body. As I aged that comfort turned to confidence. I sat happily in a bikini. I walked freely into a bar. I ate simply because I wanted to.
Of course, I was a female growing up in the 20/21st century. Barbie had been our childhood BESTIE. Diet culture later became our friend. But the constant diets I’d put myself on were a label and nothing more. I never significantly changed my food intake. It was just what we did as girls. As teenagers. As women. We knew no different, and we wanted no more. Underneath it all, I still liked my body. I still nurtured my mind, and I still LIVED my life.
But cause significant self harm through starvation? No. That wasn’t ‘supposed’ to be me. On paper…there was no *need* for me to develop an Eating Disorder.
10 years on from my diagnosis and I’m still (and always will be) in recovery from an Eating Disorder which completely changed my life. Caught me un-aware. Made me do things I never thought I would do, say things I never thought I would say, and be someone I never knew I would be. It’s completely changed me as a person, and changed my whole understanding of WHO suffers and WHY.
There’s so much I want you to know about Eating Disorders. But I really need you to know that none of us are immune. It’s not an illness that just affects ‘others’.
The emancipated girl in the textbook? It could be me. You. Your brother. Your friend. Your sister. Your daughter. Your Grandfather. Your Mother. ANY OF US. ALL OF US.
Eating disorders don’t have a face. They don’t have a name. They don’t have an image. They don’t have an age. They don’t have a preference for whose door they knock on, and they don’t arrive with a list of reasons for their visit.
It’s not about what you look like. It’s not about what you do on a Saturday afternoon. It’s not about how many diets you’ve been on. It’s not about how much or how little you like your body. It’s not about how much money you have. It’s not about how good your school is. It’s not about who your friends are, or how much your family love you. It’s not about your trauma, your past. It’s not about your likes, or dislikes.
People used to say to me…
“But why won’t you just eat? You’ve got so much to live for! A job…a safe home…friends…family…an exciting future Leah!?”
Trust me. It didn’t matter. And knowing this made my shame greater.
Remember. Don’t always question…
“But why her?” “Why me?” “Why him?”
Sometimes there is no “why”. There doesn’t have to be one. And there may never be one.
It’s not supposed to be any of us. But it could be all of us.
All my writing is experienced based and I can only speak from my own illness and recovery. Thanks for being here 🙂
Learning to trust someone with an Eating Disorder again:
‘You step back. You grit your teeth, and you support them in taking teeny tiny risky steps which have the potential to go wrong’
I committed (or perhaps surrendered) fully to my recovery on the 10th June 2016. I’d hit rock bottom. Literally. A gentle fall landed me on my *actual* bottom, and my emancipated body couldn’t protect my brittle bones.
I’ll never forget the desperate tiny ‘me’ crawling around Superdrug, searching for heat packs to sooth my cracked pelvis. I was too scared to call a doctor.
I look back now, and I wonder HOW I let that happen. HOW did I not give up? Give in? Or allow people to take the pain away from me, and help me heal. I’ll never be able to explain the power of an eating disorder. But if broken bones and no painkillers felt easier than eating, it goes some way to explain the strength of this illness.
Years later, and whenever I see my Mum she says to me…
“Please look after yourself, I do worry about you”.
I roll my eyes.
“Oh Mum for f*ck sake I’m fine!”
*(If there’s one thing an eating disorder brings to a family…it’s the acceptance of swearing in every other sentence FYI)*
But when I really think about it. Of COURSE she’s worried. I’m 28 years old and she still finds it hard to trust I have the ability to look after myself. I lost that trust and it’ll take years to re-gain.
So how can you learn to trust someone in eating disorder recovery? (The early recovery, the later recovery, and every other recovery in between).
I hope these insights help you.
Don’t be scared of the salad. I’ll never forget the first time I chose a salad when I went for dinner with my Mum. The fear in her eyes was stronger than the double gin in my tonic. It can be terrifying to see someone eating/drinking/acting in ways they did in the midst of their eating disorder. I lived on salads with a side of Diet Coke (and that was on a ‘good’ day!) SO. Initially in recovery these were two things I HAD to avoid, and two things people were in TUNE to look out for.
But don’t always see someones consumption of these as a weakness.
There is a time and a place for them in recovery. Sometimes, trigger foods, going on the same walks they used to drag their body on and watching programmes they used to get diet tips off can all be signs of strength within recovery. Eating the foods. Walking the routes. Watching the programmes. CHOOSING as opposed to HAVING to do them is an important part of the process. It isn’t always about relapse. It can be about power over the eating disorder and turning the tables on WHO’S in charge. So, quietly monitor their salad intake, and consider their Diet Coke consumption. But allow them the chance to try making their OWN choices. They’ve been denied this for so long.
Take positive risks. You step back. You grit your teeth, and you support them in taking teeny tiny risky steps which have the potential to go wrong, cause harm and/or lapse/relapse…but also have the potential for personal growth. Do they want to re-engage with fitness? Maybe they want to try a new job? Move into a new home? Live alone? Go on a holiday? I know my family were terrified when I chose to to re-engage with exercise after years of being in an un-healthy relationship with it. But they supported my choice, and it turned out to be one of the best I ever made.
Encourage a WRAP plan (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). It’s a bible. A passport. The most valuable document you’ll both ever own. If someone has entrusted you with a copy of their WRAP plan, be assured that if you need it, it’s there and you can use it. It’s a contract. Between you and for you. Aiding trust, encouraging you to be a part of their recovery.
Try not to suffocate. This feels hard. I know because I also have loved ones with an eating disorder, and I have to remind myself not to suffocate them too! Remember, you cannot heal them, but you can HELP them heal. Support. Listen. Cry. Laugh. But don’t try and do it *for* them. My recovery strengthened the second I was at the forefront of it. Be a cheerleader, but you cheer and they lead.
Trust yourself. They will lapse. They will struggle. They will make unwise, unhealthy choices along the way. They will get worse. They will get better. The illness is a cycle, and the recovery is too. That cycle might take months or years but if you trust that one day they’ll break it, they’ll trust in that too. So cycle with us. Alongside us. Cheer the good times. Cry the bad times. And be there for all those times in between.
I always think of recovery in my two hands. In my right hand is me. In my left hand is all those who love me and everything which promotes and supports my recovery. I need both hands and I need them to work together. If you’re reading this, and you’re in someones right hand. Thank you. They trust you, and they’re working on you trusting them too.
All my writing is experienced based.
*Although I advocate for positive risk taking in eating disorder recovery, please do speak to someone if your loved one is taking dangerous and potentially deadly risks with their health and well-being.*
I have an Eating Disorder. Here’s what I need YOU, as a FitPro, to do”
1.Consider my immediate risk.
Carly had no obvious way of knowing this, and you likely won’t either.
Because you can’t always SEE an Eating Disorder and you certainly can’t tell someone’s health from their size or how they look. So be kind to yourself with this initial step. Gather the information you can, listen to your intuition and if something is telling you…
‘This person needs more immediate support than I can offer now’
…don’t be afraid to go and find that support for them.
I didn’t need this when I approached Carly, but if I had, I would have thanked her in the future for finding it (even if I’d struggled to accept my need for this at the time. Remember, Eating Disorders can be a secretive illness so seeking out and/or accepting help isn’t often at the top of someone’s list).
2. It’s okay to be scared and not know what to do.
Carly and I have spoken about this a lot (we’ve spoken about EVERYTHING a lot actually!). But we’ve certainly mused over her initial reaction to my Eating Disorder disclosure. I don’t remember her coming across as scared, worried or shocked but she’s since told me she was, in parts. However her face didn’t show it, and to me this was invaluable.
I turned up with a pen and paper (big ol’ LOL to this!) wanting to know… ‘The Right Exercise Regime For Me’.
Of course, there wasn’t one (and my use of the word ‘regime’ demonstrated how I felt about it at the time), but Carly was proactive in bringing me right back to the start.
How did I like to move my body? What exercise did I enjoy? What made me feel like exercise was some sort of punishment?
She didn’t know *exactly* what she was doing. I certainly didn’t know what I was doing. But we talked openly and honestly over coffee and cake (please don’t feel like you can’t eat in front of someone with an Eating Disorder history…we won’t be offended (!) ..more on this another time!) and that was the best thing we could do TOGETHER.
The only plan I had for that first meeting with Carly was a time and a place. I had no idea what I was going to say, or how I was going to say it. But I can’t explain the feeling of relief I felt when I told her my story and she listened.
It was the best thing she could have done. You don’t have to pretend to understand. I lived with it, and even I will never fully understand. My eating disorder had kept me silent for so long, the most liberating thing Carly enabled me to do was speak about it.
Hold that space for someone. I promise you, you don’t have to fill it.
4. Don’t forget ‘me’
My fear around telling Carly about my anorexia was that she would treat me differently in her classes. I didn’t want ‘special adjustments’, I didn’t want concerned looks, I didn’t want to feel like I couldn’t do what everyone else was doing. I was in recovery from an Eating Disorder, but `I was not my Eating Disorder.
I needed and wanted her to look out for me. That’s why I told her in the first place. But I didn’t need or want her to single me out.
Through rejecting diet culture within her classes, Carly helped disempower the Eating Disorders grip on my relationship with movement, and empowered the recovering ‘me’.
Keep your eye out, but don’t keep your eye on someone with an Eating Disorder.
5. Consider yourself a Very Special Person (VSP)
Someone will have chosen to speak to you for a reason. Maybe you made them feel safe. Maybe you made them feel empowered. Maybe you just made them feel like it was okay to speak about one of the most secretive mental illnesses in our society.
But don’t forget you will never be fully responsible for the human being in front of you. Be aware of staying within your professional remit, and be aware not to ‘take this on’.
Others cannot heal us, they can simply help us heal.
Everything I write and speak about is purely experienced based. Please stay within your professional remit at all times and refer on when necessary.
Supporting clients with Eating Disorders at Christmas: ‘Feed your business, whilst nourishing those who invest in it’
For all of us, it’s Christmas…
OH JOY TO THE WORLD!
Yet for some, it’s Christmas with an Eating Disorder…
”Get me OFF this world!”
From a personal perspective, December & January were the worst months to live with anorexia. It was when I restricted to extremes, and wholeheartedly exercised for punishment.
YOU, and your role as a fitness professional is so important, especially at this time.
So how CAN you support your clients in a fitness setting at Christmas? (Whether or not they have an Eating Disorder).
Remind your clients this is JUST another month, in the run up to JUST another day. The more you normalise this time of year, the less pressure those with eating disorders will feel to restrict and/or exercise more.
Be careful with your language. I always say this, but it’s even more important right now, as we’re plagued with guilt over our food choices, and pressure over movement. We can’t get away from this in many places. So make your space an extra safe one.
Choosing to bring chocolates and Prosecco to class? DELICIOUS… but best not to pressurise or question the members of your class who CHOOSE not to consume them. This may be an eating disorder based choice, but it’s one they need to do to feel safe. Eating a single chocolate when you have an Eating Disorder can dictate and trigger your WHOLE DAY and may result in a decrease in daily overall food consumption.
To you it’s “just a chocolate at Christmas”. To them it’s so much more.
Are others in your class upping the diet culture Christmas chat? Validate what they’re saying (we’ve ALL grown up listening and embedding this sh*t into our rhetoric) before gently reminding them this isn’t what you or your classes are about. Doing this not only helps those with ED’s. It helps ALL OF US change the ‘norm’. If more of us do this, the better chance we have of creating a NEW NORM.
Think about the Christmas/New Year ‘offers’ you create. 12% of gym members join in January and most have gone by February. Question why this is. Movement is a gift you can offer all year, not just in the months the patriarchy tells us to. Feed your business while nourishing those that invest in it.
If you’re worried. Concerned. Have a gut feeling you just want to…reach out. Do it! (Look out for a blog post in January delving more into this!) A simple “Are you okay?” might be followed by a quick, sharp “Yes I’m fine”. But it might also be the 3 words someone needs to hear more than ever.
You can’t change this for them. But you can be there with them.
Sometimes, investing in you (online and offline) won’t be about the workout. It won’t even be about the movement. It’ll be about leaving a likely tense environment at home to move with people who don’t know the pain of what’s going on. Perhaps they’ve screamed at their partner over a crumpet that morning. Or lied to their mother in despair the night before. See them. Hear them. But also just ‘be’ with them and hold that space for them.
Go easy on yourself too. There are SO MANY possible triggers for those with ED’s it’s INEVITABLE you’ll be unsure. Trust me, you can’t get it wrong. You can only learn from the times when something doesn’t feel quite…right.
I’m so grateful you’re here. We’re so lucky to have you here!
One thing you could do for me this Christmas?
Spend the tiny time it takes you to open and eat your advent chocolate to think of one way you can create ‘safety’ for you clients this Christmas.
Thank you! From me. And from them.
*This is purely experienced based. Please refer or speak to professionals if you have concerns over a client and always remain within your professional remit.
A year since a coffee chat turned into a clear cut (ISH!?) campaign.
So! What have we learnt so far?!
1. We don’t know everything. We’ll NEVER know everything. We’re learning alongside all the wonderful people who interact, engage, listen and respond to workEDout. Everytime we open a seemingly brief conversation, it opens up MANY more and for this we’re so grateful. Our experiences AND your experiences…that’s how we learn, right?
2. People want to talk. People want to listen. People WANT TO LEARN. Professionals. Sufferers. PT’s. Clients. Friends. Strangers. This conversation has been quiet or non-existent for SO long, yet give people ‘permission’ and a means to communicate…and many will!
3. Campaign co-founders need coffee.
4. Campaign co-founders need cake.
5. Campaign co-founders CONSISTENTLY NEED BOTH COFFEE AND CAKE.
6. My recovery is on-going. My recovery will always be on-going. My relationship with food, exercise and body image continues to change and grow, and I hope that workEDout and our story reflects and brings more understanding to those changes. For us, for me and for you!
7. Running a campaign with someone else is better than running it alone. When one is short of time, the other takes time. When one is tired of life, the other gives them life! When one talks too much…the other tells them “enough”. It. Just. Works… and we’re just happier for it!
8. The best plan is no plan. The best structure is YOUR structure. The best pressure is no pressure. Who knows where workEDout will go, who knew where workEDout would go (Russian TV FFS?!?!)
We’ve always said…if we can reach one person. Make them feel heard, understood and/or able to speak out to someone they trust and say…
“I’ve got this thing I want to share with you”
…workEDout has, and will continue to achieve what it set out to do. From when I first shared my story with Carly in a chocolate shop nearly two years ago…to when we first shared our story with you (now a whole year ago!)..we just want to say a big ol’ THANKS really!
Are you ready for year two? No doubt…it’ll be unprecedented…(Ok. Seriously I’ll stop using that word now).
So, I’ve signed up to do my Level 3 Personal Training qualification.
How on EARTH did I get here? (Apart from MANY hospital based treacle tarts and MANY pleas to the ‘sane’ members of society…that I was in fact…also sane)
Well. This will be a summary. That can’t be called a summary. Because, it likely won’t be short.
I didn’t think I’d ever be in recovery from my eating disorder. At first, I didn’t think I’d survive it at all, but after my final admission I was able to regain aspects of my physical health, allowing me the first real opportunity to work on my mind, once discharged. Currently, eating disorder units tend to base their admissions/discharges on weight, meaning people often leave the hospital with their mind and body in two very different places.
I really saw it as my last chance. If I didn’t die from it, I genuinely believed I would spend my life in and out of hospital, and the longer I lived with it, the more ingrained it became. It was my identity, and I wholeheartedly lived up to being ‘the anorexic’. It gave me purpose in my otherwise empty life.
While regaining physical health is essential to recovery, it’s one piece of an intricate puzzle and with my ‘new larger’ body I’d never felt so disconnected from it. I had no idea what it needed. No idea what it liked. No idea of the person within it. I just knew I was mostly a miserable sarcastic b****. That part of me…remains!
My recovery care plan had been full of prescriptions, charts and graphs. I had been ‘mapped’ to an agreed weight (which was still not where my body needed or wanted to be), and now I’d reached it and been discharged, I felt like the connection between my body and mind had never been more disjointed.
I didn’t even hate my body before, but I really felt like I did now.
I moved back to Bristol in September 2017. It was my last chance at a ‘new life’.
Since I was 18, this was all I’d done. Move, start again, re-learn, get sick, be admitted, be discharged, move, start again… I was a revolving door patient…maybe it was the £600 a night room I was lucky enough to have been given or maybe recovery was just something I’d never see.
I started trying to re-integrate things back into my life that I hadn’t attempted before. Exercise was high on my list. Millennials exercise and drink coffee right!? I wanted in!
Yet, exercise was the most dangerous re-integration of them all (and combined with coffee…it turned into the most expensive!!)
All exercise had ever been to me was punishment. It was punishing at school when I was forced to go swimming on my first period when I didn’t have a clue how to ‘work’ a tampon. Punishing when I was taught how each piece of gym equipment could help me burn the exact amount of calories to sweat off those ‘break-time sausage sandwiches’. Punishing when I was plagued with gym adverts at the start of University reminding me that a membership would help me fight off the inevitable ‘Freshers Flump’. Punishing in the grips of my eating disorder when it complimented starvation in the quest for thinness.
Therefore, when a friend suggested I attended a Discoaerobics class with her, I was understandably reluctant, and thought to myself ‘OH HERE WE GO AGAIN!’
What was the point? My mind had never been able to experience exercise in any sort of positive way, and in my opinion, for my own safety, I was better off without it altogether. Yet, I hadn’t initially told any of my ‘new’ friends about my past, so in an attempt to fit in I went along.
I’ll never forget that first class. I’ll never forget the alien feeling of moving my body because it felt good, rather than moving it in an attempt to manipulate my weight. In fact, I didn’t even think about my weight. For that whole 45 minutes, it didn’t matter.
For once, I didn’t feel small and insignificant. For once, I didn’t want to feel small.
The only thing that mattered was that my body was functional enough to allow me to move safely. It felt…freeing. When most people my age were stumbling home from their Friday night at 4am with a doner (shout out to Harriett who doesn’t “do doner”), I was on a high from dancing around a room for 45 minutes and being home and in bed by 8pm. I didn’t care. I felt blissfully happy!
Now that I was tentatively nourishing my body, I was able to continue attending Discoaerobics and feel the benefits that joyful movement brought. Before, sweat had always been a sign of calories leaving my body. Now it felt…different, this ‘new’ sweat felt…exhilarating…exciting…addictive…
This addiction made me want more, and Carly’s other classes provided me with this option. Yet, I knew this was dangerous, I knew I was dipping my toe into triggering territory. Having come so far, and risked so much, I wasn’t prepared to jeopardize my shaky recovery.
So I made the decision to open up about my anorexia. If exercise was something I wanted in my life, I had to be honest with the person I was going to engage in it with. I had to lay my cards on the chocolate shop table and openly admit I had never know how to safety and intuitively move my body.
“What do you like doing?” She had asked me.
I honestly had no idea.
I’d never before considered what I might like, as all my movement had been dictated to me through others, through the lens of diet culture. It had always been a means to an end.
Carly never judged me. She never claimed to understand, but more than she’ll ever know…she really did. She never made me feel like I couldn’t do what everyone else in the class could do, just because she knew I had a mind that had wanted to punish, and a body that had long been punished.
Her classes brought me friends, community, an Oat Flat White addiction, (I’M A MILLENIAL!) laughter, understanding…connection…to each other and our mutual experience, but also a connection between my own body and mind. The exact link I’d needed all along; the one which finally enabled me to understand, respect and listen to my body for the very first time.
It wasn’t about what we did; it was about how we felt…what we needed. It wasn’t about punishing our bodies; it was about listening to them.
It didn’t matter where we’d come from…what we did outside of those classes. We could have been anyone, from anywhere. In those moments, we were just happy little humans, revelling in our own low brow humour, lack of counting abilities, and collective endorphins.
This post was meant to be about why I want to be a PT. I’m laughing…because I’m not even sure (in all these words!) if I’ve actually fulfilled that aim. I suppose I’ll sum it up, probably leave you confused and exhausted (if you’ve even survived this far) and equipped with the reminder to never again read one of my blog posts. But hey, I wrote this for me too.
In my 7-year battle with anorexia, I had worked to heal my body; I had worked to heal my mind. But I had never created a connection between the two. Carly’s belief in me, combined with the ethos behind her classes, the incredible community we’re a part of, and the joyful, intuitive movement we engage in, did this for me and it changed the face of my recovery.
Why do I want to be a PT?
Because maybe…just maybe… I could give this to someone else too.
When we were told we had to isolate ourselves, avoid family and friends, social gatherings and social connections; there was a collective sense of fear and distress amongst us.
We’re humans. We’ve evolved into social beings. Some require it more than others, but essentially it is at the core of our humanity, and we need each other for psychological survival.
However, in the midst of my eating disorder, isolation was what I strived for. I needed it. By being isolated, I could allow my eating disorder in.
My anorexia thrived off loneliness and segregation in an attempt to be my only, and my best friend. I avoided friends, family, eating with others, exercising with others…any form of community or gathering I actively opted out of.
I needed to feed my eating disorder, rather than feed myself.
As a result, social distancing is something I am very used to.
In contrast, in recovery it’s the people and the connections that I have made that helped me recover, and keep me well.
I had to go out of my comfort zone and put myself in situations, which at the time felt impossible. Eating with others, allowing others to make meals for me, opening up to others about my struggles with exercise…essentially I had to let people in, so I could get anorexia out. I had to stop trusting the illness, and start trusting the people who really loved and cared about me, and ultimately put trust in myself.
Since being both in recovery and in the best physical and mental health I have ever been in, I’ve always had these people around me. Checking in, being aware, and making sure that the choices and the life I am living is mine and not anorexia’s.
Yet, I’ve had this niggling fear that my recovery, and my happiness is based on those around me, on the life I’ve created and the people in my life that make me happy, and want me to be well. I’ve actively avoided considering whether my recovery is based on external factors, rather than my internal being. I’m safe eating with others and exercising with others. I can let them take control, allow them to look out for me, and keep me safe.
Suddenly, for the first time since being unwell, I am alone again.
I don’t have these people in close proximity. I don’t have many of the things that I believe are the scaffolds of my recovery. The external factors have temporarily gone, and I finally have to sit with my internal ones.
Am I well because of my friends? My family? Those that love and care about me?
Am I well because of the things I am passionate about?
Am I well because I surround myself with people who are good for me?
Am I well because of the life I have created?
People come, people go, situations change, time passes…ultimately external factors are out of my control, and I know I can’t base my recovery on them. Perhaps this is where my fear lies.
So, am I well because of something deeper? Something internal. Something which is stable and permanent, and has longevity.
I feared a time like this. I never wanted to be alone again.
But as this goes on, and the dust settles and we all find a new level of norm. I’m realising I actually need this time. I can’t base my recovery on others, on situations, on factors outside of my control.