I was very interested to find out about exercise bulimia, not least because I believe that I suffered from it for years. It’s reassuring to have a term for this kind of eating disordered experience. When I stopped showing the more conventional symptoms of bulimia, I thought I was better, but then I started engaging in exactly the kind of behaviours described in the article above. I exercised compulsively in my late twenties and early thirties, and my experience of exercise is still hijacked by my eating disorder. I find it very hard to exercise without making it into a sort of penance for eating. It’s a difficult condition to address because we tend to view exercise as being always beneficial.
This devastating article about boarding school trauma helped me to better understand my father. He was sent to a brutal Catholic boarding school and suffered from a lot of the symptoms described on the survivors website. He was a workaholic and terrified of abandonment. He struggled to maintain friendships outside of the immediate family circle and couldn’t give up the cigarettes that eventually killed him. He was sent to boarding school at eleven, which is older than most of the men featured in the article, but what makes my father’s case so horrible is the fact that he was abandoned by his mother at the age of five. I just can’t imagine the trauma of that second abandonment by his father’s family. On reflection, I’m surprised that my father managed to be as functional as he was in life.
I just took a big step in eating disorder recovery and got rid of the last of my “skinny clothes”. I’ve only ever been able to fit into these clothes during the times when I’ve been doing something extreme to reduce my weight. They’ve been lurking in my wardrobe for years, taunting me, whispering, “What a failure you are. If you only worked a bit harder, you could get into us again”. “Skinny clothes” is a euphemism really, it would be more honest to just call them my “eating disorder clothes”.
About a year ago I was getting really tired of the morning panic attacks and decided to dispose of all the clothes that were making me feel miserable about my body. I began the process of removing them, starting by bagging up the worst offenders and putting them out of sight for a few weeks, and then taking them to a charity shop when I felt ready.
Content note: post contains descriptions of eating disordered thoughts and feelings and discussion of my desire to lose weight.
My eating disorder has been getting worse ever since my father died. I manage not to act on the thoughts and feelings, at least most of the time, but they’re definitely getting more insistent. While I may be keeping the symptoms to a minimum, I’m obsessed with the idea of losing weight and feeling more sensitive to triggers than ever before.
A few weeks ago, on twitter, I came across this list of 20 Things that People with a Positive Body Image Know. I can’t see any links to research that this list might be based on, so I don’t know if the statements are evidenced anywhere or if it’s based on the opinions and experiences of its creator. While I don’t object to most of the individual statements on the list, the list as whole (and especially its title), initially made me feel defensive and quite angry. I was annoyed by the suggestion that I could ‘know’ my way out of my body image problems and experienced the list as a bit of an implicit criticism, as if my body image problems are the result of a lack of the right kind of “knowledge”.
Content note: descriptions of eating distressed behaviour
January can be a difficult time in the workplace for people with ED. It’s a time of year when colleagues are often more than usually preoccupied with weight and exercise. Several of my female colleagues are now on diets and talking about going to the gym, and one has been commenting on my body in a way that I find triggering – my weight fluctuates a bit and they always comment when they think I’ve lost some. Anyway, I thought this would be a good time to write a post about what my workplace experiences have taught me about our culture’s dysfunctional attitude to food and bodies.
In the US, the 19thOctober saw the celebration of Love Your Body Day – “a day when women of all sizes, colors, ages and abilities come together to celebrate self-acceptance and to promote positive body image”. As far as I’m aware this initiative hasn’t caught on in the UK where I live so it’s quite new to me.
When I had a look at the promotional material for the event, I was surprised by the surge of anger that I felt at this obviously well-intentioned initiative, which no doubt does some good, perhaps most of all in raising consciousness and getting women talking about the issues. I’ve written before in my journal about my problems with being instructed by feminists to “love my body” and I think this is a good opportunity to elaborate a bit more on those problems.
I spent some time today removing all the clothes that I suspect will trigger my eating disorder from my wardrobe and packing them away in a bag out of sight for the time being. I decided to do this following a hideous morning last week when I woke up with the ED turned up to 10 and tried on about 5 different outfits. I was starting to get really panicky and hysterical and wondering if I’d be able to leave the house and go to work at all. Fortunately my partner stayed calm and helped me through it and we found something tolerable. By reducing my clothing options to ones that are fairly safe, I’m hoping to prevent another morning of this kind. I’m also hoping that the weather will get colder soon because I would feel a lot more comfortable in sweaters at the moment, but it’s still a little warm for them.