This week is Mental Health awareness week (May 16th – 22nd 2016) The theme this year is RELATIONSHIPS. So I wanted to take this opportunity to write about some of the issues I see women struggle with in my honoured position as a PT , a Health Coach and a Bootcamp Coach who works with females only. I had 10 ish years working as a Psychiatric Nurse prior to commencing my own Health + Fitness business and suffered from many mental health issues during my own life.
These are some of the things I have been through:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Alcohol and Drug Use
I have now been lucky enough to work with women solely for the last 8 years of my career, and do write often about my own battles with various issues over on my Facebook Page. The main issue I hear about from my clients is their own battles with Food which seems to be very strongly connected to self worth. Eating Disorders affect over 700,000 people in the UK, yet we still know very little about these mental health disorders and how we can better treat them.
According to research over the past 5-10 years, we have been seeing a growing number of older women seeking treatment for eating disorders. It is difficult, if not impossible, to accurately estimate how many women struggle with mid-life eating disorders.
According to information from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), it is important to remember the ability to quantify figures can be challenging, particularly because individuals struggling with an eating disorder are often in denial about their illness, and hospitalisations frequently focus on the physical consequences of the disease, rather than the illness itself.
During a 2006 study conducted by Austrian researchers, even women in their 60s were unhappy with their weight and body shape, and a small percentage suffered from full-blown eating disorders. The researchers found that among 475 women 60 to 70 years old, 60 percent said they were dissatisfied with their bodies and 4 percent met the criteria for an eating disorder diagnosis.
I find these statistics so sad and frightening but as I have said above it is this issue I see the most in the 100’s of women who have worked with me over the years.
Regardless of age, for someone with an eating disorder, the inner voices of anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating shout that self worth is measured by physical appearance and self-worth is always zero (or less). These voices can be over powering, exhausting, berating, self sabotaging, all encompassing. Looking in the mirror can be painful as you pull apart every wonderful thing about your body.
Yet the truth is that happiness and self-esteem are inside jobs which stem from loving and accepting yourself for who you truly are and taking esteem-able actions. We discuss this a lot on our Secret group for the Bootcamp girls, or my 4 week accountability group – Mindset – learning to love yourself – Make time for yourself – being accountable and sharing your feelings. This is all part of having strong female relationships and a camaraderie that we are all coming from the same place and supporting each other.
For me, my eating disorder started shortly after my divorce. I started to exercise for the first time since my brothers death and just didn’t stop. I had found something I loved doing for the first time in a really long time. However people started telling me that I was “getting big shoulders” or made comments like “Don’t go to far, you’re looking a bit manly”.. This along with the stress of my job at the time and looking after my small son led me to start skipping meals. I didn’t realise at the time what I was doing, my insight was zilch! I have never counted a calorie in my life (I still haven’t) so it was never based on that.. I just literally stopped eating. I would get my son ready for school, race to work through the rush hour and start at Addenbrookes seeing those patients who had been admitted over night. (I saw people who came into Addenbrookes as the Addictions Nurse). After work I would race to get my son from after school club, get him home, and make sure I could get to the gym somehow so that I could partake in the classes I had grown to love. Usually at this point I may have had some fruit or something else small, but nothing substantial. The weight started to drop off me (Again I didn’t notice this). I did notice that my clothes were getting a bit big but I started to feel like this was the only thing I was in control of and carried on. This time the comments changed.. “OMG you’re exercising a bit much now aren’t you?. Don’t go to far will you!” “Oh wow! You Look GREAT! Whats your secret?” (I could write here about why people think they have a right to comment on your appearance but I may save that for another blog post)
The lack of eating in the end became a more frequent and desperate habit.. One which I was in denial about for a long time.
There is much more to this story as its quite a complicated tale however, it probably lasted a good 18 months before I started to get my life back on track with the help of a very good counsellor and starting this business that I run now.. I started learning about Nutrition and its connection to health and haven’t looked back since. (I am currently studying to be a Nutritional Therapist in London) –
The experience helped me to write my own Nutrition Guide for my clients which I hope educates about the importance of balance and take care of ones self as a priority. I didn’t realise I had an eating disorder of any kind for a very long time. For me it was like being behind a big glass window and looking in on myself.. Sometimes I could hear and see very clearly what I was doing to myself but chose to ignore it. Sometimes the window was dirty and cracked and thats how I felt about myself so I continued to stay behind the glass feeling alone, dirty and cracked.
I am lucky that now I focus my energy onto getting my mind and body strong.. Of course there are still cracks but I am working on those every dam day and genuinely feel much stronger in all senses and can see very clearly the damage I was doing 11 years ago. For some the road to recovery is quite tough and can be lonely.. I have created a strong female only support network in Cambridge at the Bootcamps I run which I hope helps establish the relationships I mentioned earlier in the blog.
Whatever happens YOU ARE NOT ALONE.. Whether you are still within the grips of an eating disorder or out the other side YOU ARE NOT ALONE.. I am always an email or message away.. Failing that Net Doctor has created an Eating Disorder Screening Tool with some low-pressure questions.
If you feel like chatting to someone about this I have spaces for 1-2-1 Coaching or PT, a fab group of ladies at Bootcamp who’d love to meet you, and a 4 week online group starting next weekend where we focus on Balance and mindset (Email me for details)
I’ll leave you with this quote for some perspective and to end this blog.. “At this very moment, you may be saying to yourself that you have any number of admirable qualities. You are a loyal friend, a caring person, someone who is smart, dependable, fun to be around. That’s wonderful, and I’m happy for you, but let me ask you this: are you being any of those things to yourself?”
– Phillip C. McGraw