This week (2nd – 8th March) marks Eating Disorder Awareness week here in the UK and, as someone who has experienced an eating disorder first-hand, it’s a week that is especially significant to me and always causes me to reflect on what is, what has been and what could have been if things were different.
It’s the sad truth that the eating disorder charity BEAT estimate there to be 1.25 million people in the UK right now who are living with an eating disorder – that in itself is bad enough – but when one also factors in the number of additional lives that these conditions impact (the lives of friends, family etc) this number to a staggering 5 million! And it’s this army of supporters that stand beside and behind sufferers that so often fails to be recognised even though the toll it takes on their lives can be as great as that on the sufferer themselves.
My own experience came as a result of being bullied about my size and weight at school – I grew up in an era where being slim was highly desirable – it was “the thing to be” – and if you didn’t conform to that as I, being slightly overweight and plump didn’t, then you were an open target – and, in my case, was subjected to masses of cruel, hurtful comments on a daily basis – and those comments cut deep, very deep, kicking off a downward spiral in both my physical and mental health. Had it not been for the amazing support of my family and friends to whom many of you will know I am incredibly close, I honestly don’t know if or how I would have gotten through this awful period in my life, their support was invaluable. However, I DO KNOW how incredibly difficult this period of time was for them, how desperate they were to do whatever they could to try and get their healthy, happy Lisa back again and whilst it took a number of admissions to specialist inpatient units for me to start to get my life back on track, and many years of work to cultivate a better relationship with both myself and food, I have NO doubts that had I not had the support and guidance from my family and friends, things could have been VERY different – and not in a good way.
The one and only positive outcome from my experience is that I know how to help and support others who are going through a similar journey – I can remember the thoughts and feelings as if it was just yesterday – and I know that the wounds CAN be healed and that life can feel worth living again. This is the reason why I decided to launch my debut cookbook “My Relationship with Food” – so that I could help and inspire others to develop and maintain a positive relationship with food – and hopefully try and reduce the likelihood of them going down the dark road that I did – and if my book achieves that for even one person then I will consider that to be a success.
For now though, I will continue working with and sharing my passion for food in positive way BUT I will never forget where I came from, the journey I have been on or how lucky I was to have had such amazing support throughout it all BUT I do appreciate that not everyone can be as fortunate as I have been and so, my gesture to you this Eating Disorders Awareness Week is that if you are reading this and feeling lost, isolated and hopeless then please do feel free to reach out – I am always here to offer support in whatever way I can. And I promise that there can be light at the end of your tunnel just as there has been for me.