Most people experience some kind of anti-climax after the turn of the New Year. After all the wrapping paper has been cleared away along with the party streamers, it’s back to work or study, bills and the shuffle of everyday life. For those grappling with eating disorders, it can bring a sense of huge relief that a very stressful period is over with for another year.
But then comes the onslaught, my personal most-loathed part of January: the sudden excessive emphasis on diet, fitness and “getting rid of those extra Christmas pounds!”
On most days it can be difficult trying to navigate through a twisted tunnel of mixed messages when you suffer from an eating disorder, with or even without the complicated addition of type 1 diabetes. You are told by your doctors and by the part of you that wants to be healthy that you need to eat. You need to take insulin. To get better you need to refuel, replenish and relax. But the environment around you, especially during January, suggests the opposite.
Media and society can easily push you back into a disordered mindset you are trying to escape from. It’s tough, pushing back and in particular rejecting the ideas that come from voices around you. It can seem like everyone is talking about going on some kind of diet, joking about how much they eat over Christmas. Even friends who don’t mean to trigger are suddenly opting for skinny lattes whereas in December they’d have ordered a hot chocolate with cream. Comments overheard all around “oh I have to get back on the treadmill!” “I need to get back into my old clothes!”
You have to try to keep reminding yourself that to recover you need to regain additional strength. Reserves are low, and whether underweight or not someone that has been restricting food or insulin will have a starved mind and depleted body. Low fat or calorie controlled might be unnecessary for someone of a normal weight without an eating disorder, but for someone with one this can be harmful without that stable level to begin from. Additionally, for someone with type 1 diabetes many of the eating plans that are promoted can be completely impractical.
An important message to note is that it has been proved that New Year’s resolutions rarely stick. Many individuals will give up on new fitness plans a few weeks in and may lose a few pounds but then gain a couple back. It is often a short-lived phase yet for someone with an eating disorder it can be a deep rooted obsession. It can kill us.
I just try to keep my head down; sometimes it is all you can do. Divert my eyes from the screaming front pages of trashy magazines and stupid television adverts. Remind myself that certain sources of media are only interested in making money and don’t care about potentially harmful messages they might be construing.
Repeat if necessary: I don’t need a new television package, sofa, dining room table set or to sponsor a child in Africa. I do not need to try out the 5:2 plan, join the gym or abandon eating completely for shakes or juicing.
I wish all of you that are struggling out there and reading this a happy and safe 2017. Please, try to be kind to yourselves.
By Claire Kearns.