Tag Archives: exercise addiction recovery

Shouldn’t I Be Recovered By Now?!

Frustrated-Woman-Featured

In recovery, it is easy to become impatient with oneself about the time it is taking. We can often find ourselves wondering if it is not time that we are fully recovered already. Human beings seem to be particularly easy to agitate when quick results are not apparent.

However, recovery takes time. And by time, I mean it could take years. It could mean moving forwards bit by bit over a long period of time, overcoming obstacles at a slow but steady rate. It could mean overcoming many obstacles within the first six months but then finding that certain habits and thought patterns are lingering, and taking the next couple of years working on those leftover aspects of your eating disorder. It could mean mentally recovering within a year but physically recovering within three. It could mean physically recovering within a year but mentally recovering within five.

You have to be patient: patient with your body, and patient with your mind. You have to put all of your determination, dedication and perseverance into your recovery and realise that it is going to be exhausting and time-consuming for quite a long time, but the outcome is going to be worth it.

You may think that you are recovering too slowly and that you should be done with it by now, but you have to let the body and mind heal at its own pace. You can’t force yourself into remission. There is so much to work on, and undo, and repair from. Recovery is a delicate process, and it is a journey. Like with all journeys, it’s not just the destination that is important: it’s also what you learn and discover along the way that makes for a robust and stable remission.

After 18 months in recovery, I was pretty stable, but I still had lingering eating disorder thoughts and habits: counting calories, weighing food, a fear of white carbohydrates, unhealthy exercise habits, and an intense dislike of my body. It felt like these things were never going to go away because they were habits that were persisting even though I kept trying over and over again to challenge and overcome them. I felt like I was bashing my head against a brick wall. Then I tried knocking down the brick wall. I tried climbing over it. I tried driving a vehicle into it. I tried to find a way around it. Nothing seemed to be working, and I was giving up with it. I felt like my recovery had come to a dead end, and that I was going to progress no further.

Sometimes in that time period I felt like going back, because I wasn’t going forwards, and I wanted to be moving somewhere. However, I kept at it, and continued developing and growing in front of that brick wall. Then one day, I realised the wall wasn’t there any more. It sounds too good to be true, but that’s honestly what happened. I had been avoiding white pasta and rice, and continuously choosing wholemeal or wholegrain bread over white bread for a really long time, and had also been spending countless occasions forcing myself to eat white carbs when I suddenly realised that I was now eating them without any anxiety whatsoever. I can’t pinpoint when it changed for me. I just one day recognised that I had been eating white carbs without anxiety for a while, and wasn’t trying to avoid them any more.

The same thing happened with the other habits. One by one, they stopped becoming an issue. What once seemed like an impossible task became something that I had faced and overcome. I stopped weighing my food, I learned to use exercise in a healthy way, I accepted my body as it is naturally, and I stopped counting calories. I had tried so hard to force the wall down, but in the end, it came down in its own time, and the effort was in staying facing that wall rather than turning my back on it and walking back the way I had come.

Be gentle and kind and patient with yourself. You are recovering from something that is very complex, and very severe, and it is going to take time. Don’t pressure yourself or set a time limit as to when you think you should be recovered. Allow yourself all the time in the world. That time will help you.

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MinnieMaud: Is It the Only Way to Recover from a Restrictive Eating Disorder?

your eatopia

I have had quite a few people ask me if I believe that MinnieMaud is the only method of recovery that will result in remission. The answer to that question is not simple, so I have gone ahead and written over three thousand words on the topic.

MinnieMaud (MM) is the name of a recovery method with guidelines constructed by Gwyneth Olwyn, on her site Your Eatopia. Whilst MM has received much criticism, and is seen by some as controversial, many inpatient and outpatient facilities do enforce methods alike to MM, such as similar calorie requirements, and remaining sedentary. Other people find that they end up recovering in a way much like MM without having ever heard of that particular recovery method (for example Caroline, from The Fuck It Diet), and I would argue that that is because this type of recovery is normal and natural for the body.

As I see it, the main goals are:

– To eat minimums, and respond to any additional hunger and cravings
– To not engage in exercise
– To eat whatever you want, whenever you want
– To not weigh yourself (be blind-weighed if needed)
– To accept your body, and anyone else’s body, at whatever size it is naturally, and not try to control your weight, as your body does that for you (weight set point theory)

To the present me, these aren’t particularly controversial ideas, but with diet culture being so prominent in our society, I can see why some find it hard to accept, and in the past, I myself was one of those people doing furious amounts of further research and questioning what I read when I first came across Your Eatopia. I looked all over the internet. I asked other people about it. I relentlessly emailed Gwyneth about my doubts (and she always took the time to reply). I didn’t agree with all of it (and arguably I still don’t agree with some of the content of her blog posts), but I knew deep down that so much of the information was making sense to me. A lot of the posts were talking about things I had experienced during recovery and up until that point had had no idea what it was that was happening to my body. Reading the articles gave me a great deal of relief in finally having a logical explanation for the processes that my body was going through. So much of it clicked into place for me, and in hindsight seemed obvious.

I believe that during recovery it is crucial to eat “minimums”. When it comes to these “minimums”, I find it so important that people should follow them because if you let there be a grey area during recovery, it will be easier for the eating disorder to wedge its way into those cracks and convince you that you require less calories than other people (and less, and less, until you realise you have relapsed). It is necessary for everyone to stick to the “minimums” for at least most of their recovery journey, until they are stable and responsible enough to listen intuitively to their hunger. When this happens, things are slightly different, as appetites naturally vary from person to person. For example, my hunger generally leads me to on average 2800 calories, whereas someone else’s hunger may lead them to on average 3200 calories, and someone else may find themselves eating on average 2900. For older people, calorie requirements are often a bit lower (this is also taken into account with the “minimums”). Gwyn says that minimums are for life, and I interpret that to mean around minimums are for life, leaving room for natural variation. Eating minimums during the recovery process and then eating a slightly lower amount intuitively will not result in more than needed weight gain, as your body will burn off excess calories, or use them for the essential repair of the body. In fact, you are almost certain to experience extreme hunger at some point during recovery, and it is pivotal that you respond to it.

As for exercise, in recovery it is just as crucial not to engage in it as it is to eat minimums. To me this seems extremely obvious now (hindsight is 20/20 after all), but apparently not so to some professionals, and more understandably, those in recovery. If you have a broken leg, you would rest it until it was healed. To walk on it would not only prevent the healing of it, but it would make it much worse. This also applies to a damaged body. Not only that, but physical activity is a massively used and abused technique of the eating disorder’s to burn calories and exercise control (excuse the pun). The eating disorder is also an expert at convincing you during recovery (a vulnerable time) that exercise is healthy and needed, and that you can use it in a responsible way. It is very easy to fall into the trap of denial when it comes to this topic, and this was my biggest issue when it came to my own recovery journey. Just like calorie requirements, in remission it is different. In remission you are in a place where you can make an informed choice to engage in exercise or not, but you should always be extremely aware that you are walking a fine line, and it does make relapse more likely. If you feel you are stable and responsible enough to handle exercise without any problems, then it is your decision to go ahead, but also your job to always remain vigilant and to address and resolve any thoughts or behaviours that could pop up as soon as they do (if they do).

In recovery, I believe that no food should be the enemy, and if it is, this just accentuates an unhealthy relationship with food. I do not believe that there should be any forbidden foods, and I do not believe a distinction should be made between “good” and “bad” foods. I believe that all food is good food, and I also do not subscribe to labelling foods as “healthy” or “unhealthy”. I believe that if we stop associating foods with emotions and morality, we will be able to listen to our bodies and remain healthy by responding to it. From a personal point of view, that is working extremely well. During the beginning of recovery I was very hungry, and I also craved a lot of “unhealthy” food. Looking back, that seems perfectly rational: my body was starved and in need of a high amount of energy, and it also needed foods that it had been restricted from. “Unhealthy” foods not only provide lots of energy, but are rich in fats, carbs, and sugar, which were what my body had been restricted from for a very long time. As my body healed, my cravings and hunger settled down. As someone who is now fully recovered and does not see food as being a matter of morality or emotion, I listen and respond to my body and find that it leads me to a balanced diet. Sometimes I crave cheese. Sometimes I crave bread. Sometimes I crave cereal. Sometimes I crave ice cream. Sometimes I crave apples. Sometimes I crave broccoli. Sometimes I crave chocolate. Sometimes I crave bacon. Ectetera etcetera. I crave a variety of foods, at a variety of times. I trust my body fully to lead me to what I need to eat, and it seems to be working very well in leading me to eat a varied and balanced diet.

Not weighing yourself in recovery seems to me to be the most obvious one of all. So many people with eating disorders attach such great significance to the number that the association is not reversible, and so to weigh oneself opens oneself up to a massive trigger every single time one hops on the scales. The scale is something that does not need to exist in your life. It is an object infused with so many negative emotions that I would highly advise you to take a hammer to it in your garden (it seems to be quite therapeutic for some). However, you may need to be weighed for health reasons. I suggest being blind-weighed by your doctor, or by a partner/friend/family member. They could give you a thumbs up for progress, a neutral thumb for no change, and a thumbs down for weight loss. This gives you an idea of where you are and what you need to change or continue doing without giving you the specific number which is not going to help you in any shape or form.

Lastly, we come to accepting your body, and other people’s bodies, at whatever weight they are at naturally. People come in all different shapes and sizes, and that is the way of the world. Each body has its own weight range – its set point – at which it is at its healthiest and happiest, and each individual is different. To be healthy, and to be happy, you have to let your body gain to whatever that weight is. To try and control it and maintain a weight that is not your set point would be to restrict and to focus on intake all day every day (and that is not being recovered). Our weight is not as in our control as we think it is, or would like it to be. It is our bodies that decide what weight we should be, and we can either accept that or spend our entire lives fighting it (which many people tragically do). Some people are naturally slim. Some people are naturally voluptuous. Some people are naturally chubby. Some people are naturally muscular. Some people are pear-shaped, some are an hourglass, some are an apple shape, and some are other various fruit/veg/inanimate object shapes (still finding these nicknames for body shapes slightly odd). You should never judge or ridicule someone for their body’s weight, shape, or size, and neither should you do that to your own body. Body acceptance, for both ourselves and others, is an extremely important step that needs to be made by everyone in our society. I don’t think people can recover without finding it within themselves to make peace with their body. I don’t expect people to love their bodies (I certainly don’t love mine) but to accept it and move on from hating it and berating it and focusing on it is a crucial part of recovery.

There you have my in-depth opinions and reasoning for why I believe that the key points of MM are needed for recovery.

Do I believe that you can fully recover without those things? No. I do think that you can make a great deal of progress using other methods of recovery. For the first six months of my recovery I adopted the “eating healthy and exercising” method. It helped me a great deal: I was eating enough and eating a far more varied diet, which brought me back from being very, very sick, to being sick. What I noticed from those six months was a vast improvement in the functioning of my brain. Before, my cognitive abilities were impaired, I had severe brain fog, my moods were horrendous, and the only word I can really describe my state at the time is “insane”. I was not behaving in a rational way, and I was not able to think straight. I was not able to make logical decisions, and my brain was just not working correctly at all. Eating an adequate amount really helped with that, and I was able to regain my cognitive abilities, and some of my former self. However, I was far from recovered and I knew that, but I didn’t know how to move forward until I came across FYourED, which then led me to Your Eatopia. I read the information and advice given out there, which gave me a way to continue moving forwards on my journey to living an ED-free life. I don’t think continuing to focus on intake (whether calories or macros, or even just food types without being so specific) and exercising during the recovery process will ever lead to a full recovery, because there are still so many rules and restrictions, which the ED both creates and thrives on. Whilst people without the genetic predisposition to develop an eating disorder are able to try diets, go through phases of exercise frequently to try and lose weight, and engage in acts and thoughts pressed upon us by our diet culture, those with restrictive eating disorders do not have the luxury of doing so, as it will most likely cause a relapse at some point. I believe that to attain a full recovery, diet culture must be tossed out in the trash as well as your ED.

Without the help and encouragement from the wonderful community on the forums on Your Eatopia, and without my own determination to fully recover from my eating disorder, and without the extremely extensive and valuable support network that I have in my life, I don’t think I would have been able to recover, especially not using MM. Most of it was down to being so resolute in my decision not to go back to where I had been, but I had the privilege of having a family that tried as hard as possible to provide me with support when I needed it, but also left me to recover how I saw best without question (and this was the most important part for me). I also had the privilege of my many fantastic friends who all were rooting for me, who stuck by me throughout the entire journey, and who also let me rant and vent whenever I needed to. I also have friends with eating disorders and met other friends through recovery who were also recovering, who were invaluable to me, as we walked the journey to freedom together, and propped each other up when it was needed. I also had a partner throughout the first six months of recovery, who was essential in providing motivation, and in some ways built the foundation of my journey. Our relationship, in both its triumphs and failures, became one of my main inspirations and was always a reminder to keep on moving forwards, so that I may never repeat the mistakes I made again.

This meant that I had something that so many people lack in recovery: a strong support network. and a normal life to go back to once I reached remission. Some people do not have that to look forward to. Some people do not have the support of others. This can mean that recovery is a hell of a lot harder, and sometimes that can mean that the guidelines of MM are unattainable at this point in their lives. It can mean that they are not ready to embark on that journey, which is incredibly difficult and requires a sometimes overwhelming amount of dedication that some people are not able to give right now. It can mean that the anxiety and guilt that comes with recovery is too overbearing without having people close by to help with those negative emotions and experiences. Some people do not feel strong enough to oppose diet culture and the people who subscribe to it. All of these are valid reasons for not wanting to follow MM or a similar method, or not wanting to choose recovery at all (although I would still encourage you to try, because you have no idea how strong and courageous you actually are when the ED constantly tries to overpower you).

I am also aware that some people use the guidelines as just that: guidelines, and I think that is okay too if you feel confident in doing so (although I will always condone following them pretty rigidly as that is the stance I have chosen to take as I am so aware of that “grey area” that I talked about earlier).

In conclusion, I agree with the MM guidelines, and I agree with the general ideas and opinions that Gwyneth is trying to get across. However, I do not agree with everything Gwyneth writes about, and there are lots of things that she says on Your Eatopia that I am unsure of because I have not done further research on them. I prefer not to identify with MM as a singular recovery method (although it seems I have become one of the key spokespersons for MM, on Tumblr at least). This is because I would like to move away a little from just the specific recovery method and would prefer to take on an approach more like Caroline (The Fuck It Diet), where I am not just talking about the recovery method, but also a way of life. However, the two need to still be separated as recovery is more black and white whereas remission has room for experimentation. I also think that those general ideas are for anyone, anywhere, not just those with eating disorders, and as I said, a way of life. It means that I am stuck between being black and white (MM-style) for those who are in recovery from restricting eating disorders, and my own opinions about being less rigid but still vigilant in remission, and also being an advocate for the general guidelines as a way of life for those without eating disorders as well.

I believe that the guidelines at the beginning of this post are needed to reach a full recovery. The label of “MinnieMaud” does not have to be slapped on it, but I personally found my way through Your Eatopia, and through “MinnieMaud”. It provided me with a way to regain my life, and I know it has saved countless others. So whether you recovered by finding those guidelines through Your Eatopia, or whether those guidelines just happened to you throughout your recovery process because you recognised they were part of recovery, I believe they are of paramount importance to reaching remission.

The Portrayal of Anorexia Nervosa in the Media (and the General Lack of Representation of Any Other Eating Disorder)

Magazines

There was a time, a couple of years ago, when I expressed interest in a photoshoot that was going to show people of various shapes and sizes in bikinis or “tasteful white underwear”, to accompany an article on the recovery of eating disorders. As a B-eat media contact, I receive emails about research projects, articles, and surveys to do with eating disorders that I could possibly help out with, which is when I stumbled across this article and the request for those who had recovered or were in recovery to contact the journalist who was to be writing the article.

I expressed my interest, and the journalist and freelance writer who was to write the article responded. She explained that the aim of the article was to have a positive and influential impact on the way eating disorders are viewed in the UK. She wanted to eradicate the myth that a full recovery isn’t possible, and also to present a healthy image of women’s bodies. She expressed that she was aware that the media usually sensationalises eating disorders, and portrays the subject is a very negative light, without ever looking at the recovery journey and people who have achieved remission. She wanted the article to inspire those in the grips of an eating disorder. To me this sounded like an excellent idea until I read with unease that my present weight and clothes size was expected to be included in the article, as was a “before” and “after” photograph.  It stated within the email that she was not looking for a shocking image, but if that was the case, why on earth was there any need for a “before” photograph at all, showing me when I was sick?

If the intent was to raise awareness for non-disordered people, and inspiration for those who have an eating disorder, then a photograph of someone when they are sick would not be beneficial in any way. Disordered people would only be triggered by such images and most likely put off by the weight gain that they see between the before and after photographs (a comparison between the two would be inevitable), and raising awareness means showing a variety of eating disorders: bulimia, EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), and BED (Binge Eating Disorder), as well as anorexia. People who suffer from eating disorders that are not anorexia tend to be of a normal or above normal weight, and therefore a “before” photograph would not illustrate their sickness. Eating disorders are mental illnesses, and therefore the problem lies predominantly within the mind, not exclusively within the body. A photoshoot portraying people who are recovered in bikinis or underwear would be positive because it would show those in remission being proud of their bodies instead of feeling ashamed and hiding them, the focus should not be on what clothes size or weight they are now. Giving that number significance just defies the point of recovery and draws attention to what these people have been fighting so hard to get rid of: the destructive obsession with attaching such an importance to a number. Why would that number even be given a mention in an article about recovery?

I replied to the journalist, stating my thoughts on the matter, but she never sent me an email back to answer my questions about it all.

The media need to stop printing photographs of these extremely underweight girls day in and day out. Not only does the frequent publishing of photographs of anorexic individuals numb the viewer, but there is a high risk that it will trigger people with eating disorders to push themselves further into the disease, and hinder those who are trying to recover by possibly sparking a relapse. This could also cause the same for those who are recovered, because being recovered does not mean being cured. One of the eating disorder’s most powerful weapons is its little mantra: you’re not sick enough, and so when faced with images of the worst cases of anorexia, those with eating disorders more than likely have that voice whispering persuasively into their ear. Photographs of anorexics at their lowest weight benefit nobody. Ever.  At the end of the day the use of these images of very underweight people are there to satisfy the curiosity of the viewer, and not for any beneficial reason for those afflicted with the disease.

Notice that I said “girls” in the paragraph above. The prevalence of eating disorders in men is becoming more and more significant, but articles about men with eating disorders are extremely rare, which furthers the stigma surrounding it and invalidates the many men suffering from the illness. We need to start representing the male population who suffer with eating disorders. It is so important that they get recognition and acceptance, so that more men feel able to ask for help and support which they desperately need.

Another negative to these images is that because anorexia nervosa is the eating disorder most visible to the eye, the media focuses almost entirely on that eating disorder only so that they can publish disturbing images alongside the articles to shock the viewer and satisfy their morbid curiosity. This results in the media neglecting to give equal coverage to bulimia nervosa, BED, and EDNOS, not to mention ortherexia nervosa* and ARFID, which most people have not even heard of, and anorexia athletica. Our society seems eager to gawp at people who are physically different in some way to most others; whether they are exceedingly thin, extremely overweight, showing severe symptoms of illness, deformed, or disabled. Some examples of this are the programs Supersize Vs Superskinny, The Undateables, and Embarrassing Bodies. We are overly intrigued to see those deemed physically unattractive try (and often fail) to lead a normal life, but that has got to stop when it effects those in similar situations in a harmful way, which is exactly what the publication of these types of images does. We are so obsessed with staring at those different to us that it becomes the main focus of articles on eating disorders, and so all the other eating disorders get barely any coverage, which is extremely invalidating and perpetuates the myth that anorexia is the only “serious” eating disorder. All eating disorders are life-threatening and soul-destroying, and it is so important that people receive that message loud and clear.

Because the media focuses chiefly on those with severe anorexia nervosa and ignores the existence of other eating disorders, this only enhances the misconception that eating disorders are about weight, and that people who are not severely underweight cannot suffer from an eating disorder. Eating disorders are judged far too frequently by appearance, and people that are of a normal weight or above normal weight are not taken seriously enough by friends, family, and even doctors. The media only panders to that incorrect judgement.

People need to realise that eating disorders are exceptionally harrowing, extremely serious, and utterly destructive mental illnesses, and not some kind of sick pastime in the form of some “light reading” in a glossy magazine.

We are people, and we are suffering: stop parading us around for the entertainment of others.

*Ortherexia nervosa is not mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) but was first used by Steven Bratman to characterize people who develop an obsession with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy. This is something a vast majority of people in recovery from an eating disorder experience a phase of, but it is also very much experienced as a stand-alone mental disorder and should be taken very seriously, as it can result in malnutrition and even death.

Recovery, Self-consciousness, and Relationships

polar bear

Recovery isn’t the prettiest thing. There are numerous unpleasant physical issues that we can have to deal with as well as the incredibly overwhelming mental aspect of the process: massive water retention (edema), bloating, constipation and/or diarrhoea, uncomfortable and unpleasant amounts of gas, extreme hunger, night sweats…the list goes on. This generally makes us feel not entirely loving towards our bodies, and this can affect the way we think our partners (if we have one) perceive us. We can become incredibly self-conscious around them and feel embarrassed at letting them see us this way.

“I look pregnant!” is a common complaint that I hear from people about their recovery bodies. Well, this is what it would be like if you were pregnant, so if you two are seriously loved up and settled, this will be a trial run (I’m only kidding. Half kidding.).

Your partner is with you because he/she likes you for you. He/she also cares about you. And because he/she cares about you, he/she wants to see you get well. So yeah okay, you’re gassy and swollen and sweaty but so what? It’s not a big deal. I’ve looked after people I love when they are sick and vomiting, or have fevers and are sweating, or are drunk and have thrown up over themselves, or are like “babe I have the worst diarrhoea” – that’s just life. We see our partners at their most unappealing and we love them anyway. So if your body being swollen and sweaty are the temporary side effects to you getting happier and healthier, then he/she’s really not going to care. If he/she loves and cares about you, he/she will laugh along with you at your belly noises and farts (I used to wake myself and my previous partner up in the night on numerous occasions in recovery when I had bad gas). He/she will admire your ability to eat the entire contents of your fridge, and will high five you for it. He/she will give you massages to help you with your swelling and aches. And if it’s affecting your desire to have sex he/she will get over the fact that you don’t really feel like hopping in the sack right now and will just look forward to when you can again rather than begrudge you for it now.

You have to remember that your partner holds your best interests at heart. A mature, loving relationship will not be negatively affected by your physical state in recovery. Your partner should hold your hand and accompany you encouragingly on your journey to recovery. They will be there with unflinching support, however unattractive you may deem yourself to be. How you view yourself is not how they view you.  Always remember that.

Shame in Recovery from a Restrictive Eating Disorder

Those who are watching someone recover from an eating disorder (friends, family, partners) will be overjoyed that their loved one is on the journey towards health and happiness. They will see recovery as an entirely positive process, and objectively, they would be right. However, the fact that they are looking at it with such an objective view can also mean that it makes it more difficult for them to understand why the person in recovery does not always feel the same way. They may become confused as to why the person suffering it finding it so hard to make this journey to remission.

 

I have a confession to make: when I was suffering with an eating disorder, I felt ashamed when I put on weight because it made me feel like a failure. It made me feel ugly. It also made me feel like people were judging me. I’m not sure why that was. Maybe it was just my eating disorder, which was trying at all costs to get me leave the path of recovery and pull me back into misery, or maybe it was also because our society puts so much value on our bodies and what they look like. Maybe I thought that people saw it as me losing my “self-control”; becoming “weaker”, or that I didn’t have a serious eating disorder any more. Maybe I thought people would think I looked better when I wasn’t eating and would think I had “let myself go”.

People don’t often realise that people feel shame in recovering from their eating disorders. Feelings like “letting their eating disorder down”, losing their identity as a “sick/thin person”, or feeling weak or a failure, is an issue when it comes to recovering. People who don’t understand eating disorders fully, or haven’t experienced an eating disorder themselves, think it’s great when someone gains weight and is working towards getting better – and it is; of course it is. However, there is another side to it too: we have to face all of our demons head on in recovery, and it is scary to say the least. On top of that, we have to face not only our demons but the society that we live in which tells us that thinner is better, that losing weight is good and gaining weight is bad, that the goal is to eat less, not more. Around us people are trying to avoid certain foods that we need to eat in abundance; nearly every magazine has tips on how to lose weight; our friends are on diets; all the menus have the calories labelled clearly next to them; low-calorie options are advertised. Everything around us – not just our eating disorders – is screaming at us that what we are doing is wrong. It is overwhelming, and confusing, and downright difficult.

A lot of the time an eating disorder is also a coping mechanism, and so losing that coping mechanism can be hard. It also means that that coping mechanism may have made the person feel strong, powerful, and in control and in some twisted way, that can cause someone to feel pride. Most people cant understand that. That means that letting go of that coping mechanism can make you feel weak and shameful.

Recovery is such a delicate process. It is full of ups and downs. It is a path constantly moving forwards to health and happiness, but the path itself is full of extremely negative thoughts and feelings. People supporting those in recovery need to be very aware of this, and that even after the decision has been made to get better, it is a choice that needs to be made multiple times a day. The road is hard, and although it looks very straightforward from an outsiders perspective, take the time to recognise that from the inside, it is a maze.

A Word on Doctors

Smiling successful team of doctors.

When it comes to doctors, we often accept their word as fact. We see them as a source of knowledge and truth. In reality, they are people, like you and I – just with a lot more knowledge, education, and experience in the medical field. Doctors are to be used as a tool for your recovery: one tool amongst many. They are not the be all and end all of your recovery. They can provide a diagnosis and help treat some of the physical damages that are the result of your eating disorder. They can give you referrals for therapists and inpatient facilities. They can monitor your progress during the initial stages of refeeding, to make sure that you are not at risk of re-feeding syndrome, and are gaining weight. They can talk to you about different methods of treatment. They can help and support you, but that help and support can be limited.

Doctors are professionals. They have studied for a long time, gotten numerous qualifications, and extensive training. However, that does not mean that they are always right. Doctors make mistakes. They also don’t know everything, and of course, science is always changing and finding new evidence that points in different directions. Science may be factual, but a lot of the time when human beings uncover evidence, we haven’t gotten the whole picture, and so time and time again we find new evidence that points to something else. We can never know anything for certain. So when it comes to eating disorders, not only is there barely any research on the subject in comparison to other medical topics, but there is barely any research on recovery methods, and doctors need to know a lot more before they can hand out any concrete advice. No one really knows what is successful and what is not. In fact, most treatment methods advocated by professionals have poor success rates. Eating disorder recovery is, at best, trial and error.

In addition to that, it is common knowledge that doctors in general are pretty good for physical ailments, but not so good when it comes to mental health. Individual doctors have their own judgements, opinions, and viewpoints that interfere with the way they give out medical advice, not to mention the lack of training on the subject of mental health. This means that doctors are lacking both information, training, and personal experience – which doesn’t really build a strong case for them when they hand out medical advice for eating disorders recovery. They don’t actually know what is best for people in recovery a lot of the time. Consult your doctor, listen to what they have to say, and make your own decisions based on what you think is best for you. If you follow your doctors advice and it isn’t working, it’s time to try out something new. This could mean seeing a new doctor. It could mean trying out a new recovery method.

There are so many reports of people being treated by their doctors in ways that have triggered them, caused them to relapse, harmed their recovery efforts, and given them the wrong information, that what they say surrounding this topic needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. This doesn’t mean that you should ignore everything that your doctor has to say, but it does mean being aware that doctors are just people. They do the best they can with people suffering from eating disorders, but when it comes down it, they don’t have a lot to go on. This also means that with some doctors, what they suggest will depend on their own ideas about the illness. You can go from one doctor to the next and get completely different recommendations for eating disorder recovery. They also are people that live in our society too – a society in which diet culture thrives. Their advice can be useful, but it doesn’t mean it is always right.

This also applies to other professionals, such as therapists, dieticians, nutritionists, and anyone else that you may come across on your recovery journey. It’s not all doom and gloom: I have stumbled upon, read about, and talked to other people about professionals that have given them terrible advice, but I and many others have also had experiences with wonderful professionals that have been incredibly helpful, supportive, and informative, and have done a lot for people on their journey to remission.

Me and MinnieMaud: My Take on Recovery

The MinnieMaud Method is pretty popular right now with those in recovery from eating disorders. It’s also causing a bit of controversy over on the blogging site Tumblr. You may already be acquainted with MinnieMaud (abbreviated to MM). You may already be following it. You may have your doubts about it. You may be hearing its name for the first time. Whichever of those you identify with, here’s a fact about me: I am someone who has reached remission by loosely following the MM Guidelines.

Now there are a certain few people who make all kinds of presumptions about you when you mention that you used MM to recover. I’m not sure why but they assume to know about your personal beliefs, how you feel about the creator of the MinnieMaud Guidelines (Gwyneth Olwyn), and what views you hold, amongst other things. But enough of them. Here are my honest thoughts about MinnieMaud, Your Eatopia, and Gwyneth Olwyn.

As I said above, I loosely followed the MM Guidelines. I used them as just that: guidelines. I weighed myself for a long time, even though the guidelines warn you not to, before I realised that – surprise surprise – this did not help me in any way and was actually hindering my recovery. I realised that aspect of the guidelines was totally correct, and so one day I just stopped, and I’ve never weighed myself since.

I exercised on and off and on and off, because I found it too hard to do what I really should have done and stopped exercising full stop for a long time. I would listen to the guidelines and give up exercise for a few months, before trying to incorporate it back into my life in a healthy way. It never worked, and I would fall down the rabbit hole of exercise addiction, only to have to drag myself back out of it again (so I really advise you to follow that guideline – seriously, just do it). It was only in remission that I was able to have a healthy grasp on being active and not sinking into a relapse with it. However, I can tell you that it requires being super vigilant at all times, not to mention being really, truly honest with myself (which is of utmost importance in both recovery and remission).

I never followed the calorie guidelines exactly, as my hunger cues were always reliable. I had extreme hunger, as expected, and then my appetite tapered down. Sometimes I was eating 2,500 calories. Sometimes I was eating 4,000 calories. I listened to my body, and it worked. Eventually, after two years, I ended up in remission, eating an average of around 2800 calories a day. I was lucky when it came to hunger cues. Lots and lots of people do not have reliable or accurate hunger cues. This is why it is dangerous to not eat the minimums militantly for quite a while. I took a risk. I probably shouldn’t have, because if I had done that with unreliable hunger cues, I would probably have ended up in relapse, or significantly slowed my recovery down. The reason things are black and white in recovery with the MM Guidelines, is because if you let there be a grey area, your eating disorder will be all over that. The grey area is where the eating disorder will sneak it, and start to alter the rules and play its own game. People need black and white to fight their eating disorder. It is in remission that you can look back at this and understand why. I’m not trying to patronise anyone that is not recovered by saying this, but things really are much clearer from the other side. Just trust me on that one.

As for the creator of Your Eatopia, I do not think that Gwyneth is a “god”, which followers of MM sometimes get accused of. I think Gwyneth is a wonderful, knowledgeable, dedicated, hard-working, empathetic but firm, patient person. That does not mean that I think she is perfect. I do not agree with everything that she writes on Your Eatopia. I do not believe all of her information is flawless and supportive of her arguments. I do not believe that everything she states is fact. The thing is, science changes, all of the time. We come across new information that points in all different directions to what we first believed. However, all we can go on is what we know now, and readjust our beliefs when we learn new information. Not all of the detail within Gwyneth ‘s arguments is conclusive evidence to her arguments. I can’t say that all of the science behind her writings support her. I can’t say that because I have not read all of the studies – I just don’t have time to do so, and I’m sure some of them can be interpreted in different ways. What is important to me is that overall, her points are logical. The big picture makes sense: Extreme hunger is absolutely a thing. I am 110% sure of that. We absolutely require far more energy than the government-approved guidelines, and those energy requirements are around minimums. Through Gwyneth’s articles I also learned about a lot of less disputed things about recovery that I would never have learned about had I not come across Your Eatopia, such as the various digestive issues, refeeding syndrome (extremely important), edema, exhaustion, aches and pains, the different stages of recovery, and why exercise is bad in recovery (kinda should have been obvious but you know, eating disorder denial). I also learned about health at every size, ortherexia, diet culture, the genetic link to eating disorders, weight set point theory, anorexia athletica, and the misdiagnosis of BED (do I believe BED exists? Yes. Do I think that many people get misdiagnosed with BED during recovery from a restrictive eating disorder because they are experiencing extreme hunger? Yes. I began to understand that food isn’t my enemy, and neither is my body.

Not only is the site itself so informative and has helped me understand so much about my eating disorder and myself, but it offers the forums. I can’t explain how much support I received from members there when I was anxious and in doubt. Ultimately, it was up to me to change my behaviours and thought patterns, but the support that was offered to me when I was scared and had nowhere else to talk about these issues was invaluable. The Your Eatopia blog provided me with information, and the forums provided me with emotional support, helpful advice, and lots and lots of love. I have not received so much warmth and sincerity anywhere else on the internet.

Still, I had questions about some of the things Gwyneth had written about in her articles, so I took it upon myself to email Gwyneth directly. Quite a few times. I remember writing those emails, and I can recall my anxiety and doubt as I typed out my questions to her. She always responded; always took the time to converse with me about the topics that I brought up. Sometimes I still have questions for her, and she still always replies to me. Do I fully agree with everything that she writes back to me? No, not always, but she gives me something to think about; something to work with, every single time. I can also say that going over old emails and looking at them now from a healthier place, I can see how much my eating disorder fuelled my fears. I could not see it then, and no one could have made me see it. You can only really see that stuff when you look back at it. However, it was Gwyneth that pointed me in the right direction, and I got there in the end.

I absolutely believe in health at every size. I believe the body has a natural, health weight at which it settles and maintains whilst you are eating unrestrictedly. Our bodies come in all shapes, weights, and sizes. We are a species of variety. So I do not think it is ever okay for anyone, professional or otherwise, to set a goal weight for those in recovery from a restrictive eating disorder, especially when that goal weight is usually a minimally “healthy” BMI, or just above. As I said, our bodies are all different, and whilst some people may be healthy at a BMI of 19 or 20, most people will still be underweight, maybe severely so, for their own individual bodies.

I also firmly believe that doctors are not always right, especially when it comes to mental health issues, and specifically when it comes to eating disorders. Eating disorders are highly complex, commonly misunderstood, and very individual mental illnesses. There is not much known about eating disorder recovery: what works, what doesn’t work, and unfortunately not much research on the subject. The success rate for full eating disorder recovery is much lower than you would hope. Doctors and others do not have a lot to go on but their own personal experiences (limited), what they have been told (also limited, as mentioned above), and both of the former are tainted by the society we live in, which has been indoctrinated by diet culture. Whilst doctors are to be listened to, when it comes to eating disorders, what they say should not always be taken as fact. Listen to what they say. Research it. Make informed decisions about your mental and physical recovery. Most importantly, do what you feel is right for you (for you, not your eating disorder).

MinnieMaud is not the only method that advocates these calorie amounts in recovery. It is not the only method that calls for the cessation of exercise during recovery. It is not the only method that realises that the body will need a vast amount of calories to repair the body after intense starvation. It is not the only method that disagrees with the notion that once at a minimally “healthy” BMI, you should stop gaining weight and maintain. There are many recovery methods used in inpatient settings, by therapists, by doctors, and by other professionals that do not have a specific name, but have similar ideas about what is needed for recovery. There are also many who don’t, but MinnieMaud is not the only method to use these types of guidelines by far.

I am open to discussion. I am not militant when it comes to MM. I am very aware of the fact that new research is being done all of the time on many, many topics that is related to eating disorders, eating disorder recovery, and food/weight/dieting/bodies in general. I don’t know the ins and outs of every single thing to do with those topics, but I’m getting the overall picture, and I think I’m getting it right.

Do I believe the MinnieMaud Guidelines are a good method for recovery? Absolutely. Do I advise following them? Absolutely. Your Eatopia helped me to save my life. I don’t think I could have reached remission without it.

That is my stance on MinnieMaud, and about recovery. It is my stance on Gwyneth Olwyn, and Your Eatopia. It is my stance on doctors, and the aspects of recovery from a restrictive eating disorder. I probably could say more, but for now, I will leave it at that.