17/10/2017 07:02 BST | Updated 17/10/2017 07:02 BST

Eight Beliefs About 'Healthy' That You Need To Re-Define When In Anorexia Recovery


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Healthy is defined as being "In a good physical or mental condition; in good health". But when I Google imaged 'healthy man' it showed men with six packs holding up dumbbells. Searching 'healthy woman' showed images of toned, slim women eating fruit. 'Healthy food' shows images of fruit and vegetables.

Due to the amount of people being overweight in the UK, there is a focus on losing weight and people are educated and encouraged to be aware of calories, and be more active.

But what about when you are in recovery from anorexia?

You need to rip up the rules you've learned about being healthy. Those rules no longer apply to you. You have so many rules and rituals already that you live by but let's start again.


What is healthy food? When you're in recovery from anorexia then the priority is on refeeding your mind and body so that you can think and function better. By denying yourself food, your mind and body becomes weaker. Food is vital so that your brain can rationalise, see that you're worth fighting for and be willing to work towards recovery.

Healthy food is a balance of all types of food groups to help your mind and body become stronger. Because you've been restricting, you'll need to eat more than the average recommended intake, to make up for this.

You may have a fear of carbohydrates, however according to the Eatwell Plate, (designed by Public Health England) everyone should be eating as much fruit and vegetables as carbohydrates, and fats and sugary foods are allowed in moderation too. So when in recovery, it is important to increase the carbs and fats because just increasing fruit and veg is not enough.

Do not compare your food intake with someone else's as it's not helpful. You have different goals so require different plans. It's a bit like one person wanting to be a maths professor and another wanting to be a vet but both studying the same subjects. You need to focus on what you need to do.


What about the word 'healthy'? I dreaded being called healthy as I interpreted it to mean fat. Now, I like to think of healthy as being strong and positive.


My worst fear was gaining weight. However I now like to think of weight as nothing more than gravity, and something that is important and valuable. For example, speaking, reading, and writing may be weighted equally in an assessment. Weight is just one method of measurement. It doesn't measure, evaluate or define us as a person.


The word recovery meant gaining weight. What I've learned now is that recovery, for me, is about feeling better about myself, being able to enjoy and experience life. While I was an inpatient, I was asked to plot my life on a pie chart. The pie chart at that time was a big slice of anorexia and not much else. Now my life (as well as the food I eat) is more varied and enjoyable; and I don't focus on the issues that tormented me back then.


I didn't want to be big. But what is big? Who determines what is big, what is small, and what's OK? BMI considers just height and weight, clothing sizes vary from shop to shop, mirrors and photographs are open to negative perception. Everyone else looked fine except me. My perception of myself was wrong. I remember someone drew around me once, (like you used to draw around the fingers on your hand as a child) and because the body outlined was separate from me, it wasn't associated with me, I could finally see how small this body was. Maybe you could try doing this?

And just quickly, here are a few more words that I needed to re-define:

Food = fuel, essential to nourish your mind and body.

Calories = energy, essential for a strong mind and body.

Fat = essential part of daily fuel/energy intake and essential part of a strong body. In fact, the acceptable percentage of fat required in your body is between 21% - 32% for a woman.

So tear up your rule book and start again, working out what's right for you. There's a part of you that won't agree and will be desperate to go back to old behaviours, but remember they never made you truly happy. Aim for happiness. Make that your measurement and your goal!

If you'd like help to feel happy, relaxed and free, get in touch. Check out my website for details.