Tuesday, 29 August 2017

This is What Recovery Looks Like

* This blog describes bingeing in detail and may be triggering for people who are struggling with disordered eating. 

Copyright @Women Magazine 
I forget. I forget I have an eating disorder. In fact that I 'had' an eating disorder. Right now, I don't have one. I wouldn't qualify for treatment, I am not sick enough. I am in recovery. But it lurks there, in the background, often quiet and in the back of my mind. I can ignore it. That voice, the voice that tells me that I am sick. Sometimes I don't hear it at all. It blends into the background of life's noises and I forget that it is there. But at other times, it screams at me. It shouts over every part of the day reminding me that it still lurks there, waiting.

I was diagnosed with having a Binge Eating Disorder (BED) in April 2016. I wrote about it the experiences of BED here.  I finished treatment 6 months ago this week. I remember the day of my diagnosis so clearly. A friend had convinced me to go. I thought it was madness that I could have an eating disorder. I was neither young enough, skinny enough nor sick enough to have one. But when I started speaking, and I heard from my own mouth the true story of what I had been managing for over a decade, I realised then, I needed help. At the time I was bingeing between 2 -4 times a day, over 5 days a week. My life was consumed by my bingeing. I cancelled nights out with my friends, trips with my family, and dates with my boyfriend. I essentially existed to work and binge, everything else in between disappeared. I was diagnosed as having Binge Eating Disorder, with a Bulimic mindset. Binge Eating aims to manage feelings. It's a coping mechanism for life, a way of sedating and suppressing feelings, and creating a beautiful numbness, which helped me navigate through life. My bulimic mindset made me restrict, to diet, to weigh, to try and change my shape. I used to think I had no willpower and was a terrible dieter, but on reflection, I can diet like a complete champ. Surviving on green juice for seven days? I've done it. I survived for two months on only 600 calories of milkshakes and yet I thought I was the problem. Insane. 

As soon as I got my diagnosis I felt relief. There was a plan for help and I took it. I started Dialectical Behavioural Therapy in September 2016. I missed my first group session as I was sunning my body in Turkey, and when I entered the room and seven other women were talking openly about bingeing, I had to grit my teeth and force myself to stay there. It blew my mind that other people were talking about bingeing so openly. I had hidden my behaviours for so long, the thought of confessing my most shameful moments openly in a group made my chest tighten. I remained in an anxious state of paranoia for the first four sessions and nodded along as everyone else described their binges in the most vivid details. At first I thought the sessions were a load of hog shit. I came back from each session feeling more anxious, more stressed and keen to binge than ever. I was told not to diet, and yet all I did was watch my calories, weigh myself and try and change my shape. On reflection, I don't think I wanted to get better. I didn't want to stop bingeing. 

I remember my first binge as if I had done it only yesterday. I was 21 years old and I had been on a fluid only diet for 2 months. I was malnourished, hungry and highly anxious. I was the thinnest I had ever been and people told me how good I looked, but I was miserable. I hated myself, I hated how I looked, I hated how I was and I just felt sad. I wanted to eat. So I went and bought a chocolate bar. As soon as I purchased it, I felt myself feeling calmer. As I sat in my room and shoved it into my mouth I felt elated, I felt numb. All the sadness I had been holding for those months just disappeared into the blackness as the sugar rushed around my body. It was one of the most enjoyable feelings I have ever had. I loved it. Within 10 minutes I was on the floor in crippling pain as my stomach attempted to digest it's first bit of food in months. But it felt totally worth it. From then on I kept chasing that numbness. The binges got larger as I required more and more food to suppress the new feelings of shame and guilt that were arising. I just didn't want to feel anymore. I wanted to continue bingeing. 

I went a decade without feeling emotion. Whenever I felt, I binged. I binged in the car, in my bedroom, in kitchens when no one could see. I did not want to stop bingeing, because I did not want to feel. I told my therapist I hated her. I hated her taking this from me, making me feel. 

Copyright @Women Magazine
When the emotions rushed back in and I didn't have my binges to rely on it was hard. I cried. I cried a lot. I cried in therapy, out of therapy and in between. I binged too. I binged when I couldn't take it anymore, when the pain felt too raw, too hard to hold, and then I told my therapist and the group and rather than pity or sadness they asked me why. Why had I chosen the easy way out, to block, to be numb, why couldn't I just feel? I learnt that bingeing was my coping mechanism, but it was also a choice. I needed to choose not to binge. 

Over five months of treatment I learnt new ways of coping with my emotions. It isn't easy and there are some emotions I am better at holding than others. My main triggers are feeling tired, anxiety and being hormonal (way to go body)! I find anxiety my biggest hurdle and it hits me like a brick on most occasions. But I don't binge. I sometimes have panic attacks and I feel stupid and annoyed at myself for struggling to cope. But I don't binge. I miss the warm, sleepy feeling of over eating and wish for that release, but I don't binge. I breathe, I take time out, I reassure myself that this feeling is only temporary and then I repeat that cycle until the urges disappear. Recovery has been beautiful at times. I have mended friendships; I have danced, and sung, and shouted and laughed and been silly. I have lived. It has been glorious. 

On the occasions when I have relapsed and fallen back into old habits, I stop quite quickly after and work through why I chose to binge today. I can often find my trigger and know for next time in the hope of sating that voice inside me. It remains there, the voice of my eating disorder. I used to think it was my voice, I was convinced I had no choice but to listen to it, to do what it said, to believe what it thought. I hear it sometimes, and sometimes it blends into the background of life's noises, and that's where I am hoping it stays. 

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Let the Fun BeGIN!

I adore the summer; sausages sizzling on the BBQ, British skin sizzling on the sun lounger, the smell of badly applied 'Hawaiian Tropic' in the air. It's glorious. In the summer, we become these new social beings, going for 'drinks' on a Tuesday night and inviting neighbours we haven't spoken to for six months around for drinks and 'nibbles'. We're like 17-year olds on our first holiday to Magaluf, taking every opportunity to make new mates and to seal these new friendships with a drink or ten. And 'Oh the Drinks', the glorious summer drinks that make their way out of the back of the dusty booze cabinet to be consumed in vast jugs with fruit and salad swimming in it like tiny alcohol sponges. 
My favourite summer drink has to be gin. Gin is the type of acceptable spirit that can be enjoyed at all times and at all occasions without excuse. 12pm and the sun is shining, a little gin and tonic in the garden it is. 8pm and flirting on a first date, a gin and lemonade should do the trick. 8am and hungover from the gin the night before, I've got a gin marmalade martini for that. See, it's a respectable drink. So, when the lovely people at the Gin Festival contacted me to see if I fancied supping gin at their Portsmouth event with a pal, how could I refuse? It was all the best parts of summer in one trip. 

The Gin Festival offers events across the country, with opportunities to try over 100 different gins, accompanied by their suggestion of the best mixers and fruity/minty alcoholic sponges. When you arrive, you're given a book filled with all the gins on offer and little descriptors to help you make those all-important decisions. This being a summer gig, I stuck mainly to the fruity numbers at the back of the book and remained faithful to my favourite liqueur of all time, Edinburgh Rhubarb and Ginger Gin, on more than one occasion. Although spending time to choose the right gin is important, and choosing gins named after a guy you fancy on a TV series is not the way forward. One of our group chose a glass of Ragnarok in honour of her favourite sexy Viking and nearly singed her eyelashes off in the process - that be some strong gin. The Gin Festival is the perfect place to live that summer life, chatting to strangers about botanicals and attempting to look ed-u-ma-cated during gin master classes whilst the four gins you drunk the hour previously warm your soul. There is food a plenty to soak up the booze and a cocktail bar if you fancy being fancy with your gin mixers. We took a non gin drinker along with us and she left having successfully having fallen in love with Poetic License's Strawberries & Cream Picnic Gin (could you have created a more summer drink than this?)

My only wish would be that they moved the venue in Portsmouth. Full Disclosure: I have been going to the same event for the past two years, and there is nothing less summery than the 1970’s chic of a musty theatre hall. It was impossible to take a sunny outdoor photo without including the shiny caged bars which surrounded the gin drinkers like we were in a tiny boozy jail (I mean not the worst prison to be sent to). Give me a little grassed area, a sun lounger or three, and I wouldn’t have left the festival until they dragged me out. As it was, we left with two hours to go, for a kebab and a sit down. The perfect end to any summer holiday.  

The Gin Festival offer events across the UK. Click here for links to events near you. This is not a paid promotion, however I was given tickets and a few free gins for good measure.

Monday, 7 August 2017

So You Find Fat Women Sexy? So What!

Photo Credit: Women Magazine 
Now I don't want to say I told you so, but what kind of gloating narcissist would I be if I didn't write a blog post about how I am always right and everyone should listen to me more? Let me just pop my 'I knew it pants on' and lets begin. So, a few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the body positive gang and how I just wasn't buying it. I felt like it was a huge ploy by mainstream media to sell more stuff to fat girls and wrap it up in a bow of 'self love' as long as your fat fell in the right places, of course. Well, this week, the mainstream media have been fawning over a 'body positive' husband and I am calling it what it is, bullshit.

It begins with an Instagram post (link here) by "wordsmith, public speaker and creative activist" Robbie Tripp. At first glance it seems like a perfectly sweet but generally benign public display of affection with him and his wife doing googly eyes at each other on a beach. But take a closer look and you will see a diatribe of ‘bopo’ inspired drivel written alongside this precious intimate moment. Robbie wants us to know that he likes his wife, even though she is a bit fat. Cue the crescendo of likes and the boy's a viral sensation, and it doesn't take long before the mainstream media are crawling all over Rob's 'love of big birds' and suggesting we should be 'swooning' over him. 

Well I am not swooning, my fanny is not even remotely fluttering, and here's why. 

Stop Fetishizing Fat Women's bodies  

Robbie starts his post by admitting that when he was younger he was "often teased by my friends for my attraction to girls on the thicker side..." Lets ignore the fact that Rob's friends sound like complete bell ends, and focus on young Robbie's penchant for the rotund rumpy pumpy. 

If you're a sexual being, then you have probably found things over your adult life that make your genitals gyrate. As we get older and we open ourselves up to new experiences, we are likely to find different things that make us more sexually attracted to the people we want to sleep with. Whether it's a plump boob, a little side roll or that little muscle which appears on their face when their jaw clenches due to holding back tears (Yes, Your Honour, I like my men crying and emotionally stunted), it is not uncommon to search out those things in a sexual partner. But just because you have found the thing that makes your todger tingle, it is not OK to whittle that person down to only the things you find sexually stimulating. 

Robbie dissects his (beautiful and conventionally attractive) wife right down to the things he thinks are sexy. All of these are physical attributes that he admits he fetishized as a young adult. He breaks her whole entirety down to what gets his knob nodding and then reminds other women not to worry because “There is a guy out there who is going to celebrate you for exactly who you are…” Really Robbie? You mean I can find myself a man who wants to spend time with me purely because he has found things attached to me that he can tug his tent house too. Phew, and to think I was getting desperate. 

Stop fetishising fat women. Stop fetishising all women. Whether it's our flab, feet or fannies, stop fawning over us like we're plastic sex dolls and realise women don't exist for your sexual gratification. 

Just Because You call it Feminism, Doesn't Mean That It Is. 

I love me some male feminists. They are my favourite feminists. Men, who are willing to accept that their gender is a privilege and who recognise that there are patriarchal structures that exclude women socially, economically legally and culturally? Yup, those men really float my boat. 

Robbie is not a feminist. He uses his wife for views, likes and personal one upmanship. He displays her like a fat trophy on all of his social media and then expects a slap on the back for doing so.  Robbie knows that millennial women quite like the idea of equality, and so Robster has thrown the ‘F’ word around and hopes that no one will notice that he does so whilst pointing out every one of his wife’s ‘flaws’. 

I am looking forward to his wife’s post where she points out his lack of jaw line, fashion sense, muscular definition, or body hair and suggests that despite Robbie not being in the least bit conventionally attractive or ever likely to grace the front page of GQ magazine, she still wants to bone him. Except that won’t happen will it, because women don’t comment on men’s bodies, men comment on women’s bodies, and that Ladies and Gentlemen is the mother fucking Patriarchy. 

 You're Not Doing Her a Favour 

Photo Credit: Women Magazine
Even though Robbie uses his wife (and her body) throughout his social media in order to build his business and media presence (his insta bio reads “Husband to a curvy goddess), the main message of his piece is that it is his wife who should be truly grateful for their union. Because despite her stretch marks, dimply butt and fat rolls, Robbie still finds her sexy. Can you hear that sigh of relief from the world’s female population, that men find stretch marks sexy? Imagine if our skin had only stretched to make room for puberty, babies and general growth and not for men’s sexual satiation. 

It bothers me that men like Robbie seem to think that accepting women, ‘flaws’ and all is somehow commendable. It perpetuates the myth that women’s self worth can only be affirmed through male attention and that without it we are just all the lonely fat girls on the benches at the school disco. Women don’t need men to get up and dance, and we are quite capable of doing our one-person solo to Whigfield’s ‘Saturday Night’ without a man’s intervention. If you like a woman physically, emotionally or mentally, then big whoop for you, but don’t expect her to be grateful for your attention. 

 So what I am really saying Mr Tripp is, it’s great you fancy your wife and every part of her. That’s fab. I fancy men with big hands, and broad shoulders. So as long as you’re OK with me rubbing my vagina up against them in clubs, catcalling them when their on their own and vulnerable and sending them explicit photos of my labia just because they are on a dating website, then I guess I can be OK with your post about how you fancy your ‘fat’ wife.  

What do you think, is Robbie's post a hit or is he a tit?