Whilst writing the comedy series Nutritiously Nicola!, which is based on my own experience of an eating disorder, I came to a few conclusions about having an eating disorder (ED).
Now, this list would likely be different if you’d asked a different ED patient. It would likely be different if you had asked me on a different day. EDs are slippery buggers. But on some days, for some people with EDs, here are some things you should know about what they’re experiencing…
Eating Disorders can put you in an almost-constant bad mood. ‘Hanger’ is a real thing. It can turn the pleasantest of people into temporarily nasty bastards. But when food is perpetually off the menu, hanger consumes you and becomes your entire personality.
Eating Disorders seriously mess with your mojo. When you’ve got a seriously controlling relationship with your own body, sharing yourself with someone else becomes unthinkable. Sex is the ultimate pursuit of joy, which feels impossibly indulgent when you’re thick into the denial of an ED.
Eating Disorders can be addictive. Frighteningly, EDs can sometimes make you feel really, really good. Both bingeing and intense episodes of restriction can give you a drug-like high, which can become a habitual mechanism for avoiding unpleasant feelings.
Eating Disorders really rack up your central heating bill. Fat is lovely. It’s nature’s puffa jacket; it keeps your bones and vital organs warm whilst keeping you looking gorgeous. Without it, and there’s no other way of putting it: You are constantly f***ing freezing.
Eating Disorders are the Romeo to your Juliet. Your ED can feel like the love of your life. It’s always there for you, it understands you in ways that your family, friends and partners don’t. It’s an exhilarating, intense and dramatic relationship. Problem is, it’s a tragic love story.
Eating Disorders have a weakness. They thrive on silence and secrecy. Admitting that you have a problem is hard –but by doing so you will destroy the environment in which EDs grow.
Eating Disorders won’t win you any prizes. When you’re in the grip of an ED, you’re in a constant competition with yourself. Calorie targets are set, numbers are crunched, and in the daily appraisal you give yourself, the mark is always ‘could do better’. EDs are demanding full-time jobs that rob you of time to pursue worthwhile careers and hobbies.
Eating Disorders aren’t about ‘looking good’’. I think of EDs as a form of self-harm. An ED doesn’t necessarily seek to emulate images of ‘perfect bodies’ in the media; rather, it’s an expression of self-punishment for not meeting those unrealistic standards.
Eating Disorders aren’t picky. They can live inside anyone, of any age, gender, ancestry or appearance. They have many aliases, sometimes calling themselves ‘bulimia’, sometimes ‘anorexia’, sometimes ‘just a diet’. They can be hard to recognise, and their disguises sometimes fool even doctors.
Eating Disorders are mental health problems. Your brain, not your weight, is the barometer to trust for needing to seek help.
Natalie Bray is a comedy writer, performer, director and producer based in East London and one of the founding members of Double Yay Productions – a newly formed, all-female London production company which specialises in making F-rated comedy. Natalie is the creative mind behind Nutritiously Nicola! - the story of a not so healthy health food blogger with an eating disorder, living in London and trying to make it big in the perilous world of social media. To find out more visit the Nutritiously Nicola! blog.
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