This week is national eating disorders awareness week (22-28 February 2016) and the theme this year is eating disorders in the workplace. Beat (the UK's leading eating disorder charity) will be concentrating on the impact eating disorders can have in the workplace and highlighting what individuals, colleagues and employers can do to support someone's recovery at work.
Recent research by Beat (the UK's leading eating disorder charity) estimates that over 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder - and it's not only women who suffer, with 11% of those affected are male. The number of both women and men suffering from eating disorders is rising by approximately 7% each year, with anorexia having the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder and 20% of anorexia sufferers dying prematurely from their illness.
In other words, both anorexia and bulimia are on the rise. They are dangerous, fatal and often misunderstood illnesses. The fact that there is a global week dedicated to raising awareness of eating disorders is testament to its severity - and how much we need to talk about it.
We're faced with food daily, and it's impossible to underestimate how hard this makes it to overcome the illness. With 46% of anorexia and 45% of bulimia sufferers making a recovery, it is possible to come through the other side - but the journey isn't easy.
For those of you that don't know my personal story, I turned my life around after struggling with the illness as a teenager, National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is an opportunity to share my story of recovery to inspire and inform others.
An eating disorder is very hard to overcome as human beings need food to survive, unlike alcohol and drugs.
The journey to where I currently reside has been an arduous one with many bumps and potholes along the way. Whilst challenging in transit, it has been ultimately enlightening and one of my biggest blessings.
After reaching 13 stone at the age of 13, I went on an extreme diet, losing huge amounts of weight, and eventually becoming so unwell I was admitted into an eating disorder unit. My hair was falling out, my periods had stopped and I was unable to take my GCSEs or enjoy a normal teenage social life.
One of my greatest fears in life, is dying or losing any member of my family or friends, although when you have an eating disorder you are almost killing yourself, especially when your body's organs are under continuous strain to survive. Slowly I came to my senses that this negative relationship I was having with myself wasn't bringing me any happiness, watching my family and friends suffer was the turning point. How could I have this negative relationship with food, which in turn was resulting in a negative feeling amongst the people I loved most? I had to take control of my mind and convince myself not to let this self-destructive behavior bully my body.
Through therapy and working on myself and a few good years, I began to take control of my relationship with food, I learnt to love food in a positive way.
Cooking has always been my greatest passion in life, I was advised from my doctors that I shouldn't pursue a career in the food industry and I should focus my passions in life elsewhere, to ensure I don't relapse. I took these comments on board and stayed away from the food industry, although after a few years, I felt I was ready to be connected with what I love most in life, food.
After becoming a professional chef I found myself on the road to recovery, my goal is to help others and show that it is possible to overcome the destructive force that is an eating disorder. "I love the person I've become because I fought to become her."
I have overturned my relationship with food, developing recipes for leading brands, regularly giving healthy cooking demonstrations and teaching children how to cook nutritious meals.
Today, I also talk in many corporate companies about the importance of wellbeing in the workplace. I hope that this week, eating disorders are not just looked upon as a self-inflicted illness, but a negative disorder that can be turned into a positive one
"Perhaps the most intimate relationships each of us will ever have is not with another person - instead it's between our bodies and our food".
For further information visit http://www.myrelationshipwithfood.com