There are many misinformed ideas about eating disorders. One of the main ones (in my opinion) is that if you don’t ‘look’ like you have one then you probably don’t. The other day I heard the comment “but she doesn’t look thin enough to have an eating disorder”. One of the most frustrating elements of an eating disorder is how people define it purely on physical appearance. The general assumption is that if you look ‘well’ or ‘healthy’ on the exterior, that you’re actually fine. In many circumstances, this couldn’t be further from the truth!
When I embarked into recovery for the first time and put on weight, though people couldn’t seem to stop saying how ‘well’ I looked, on the inside I was probably more tormented by my eating disorder than when I was obviously ill on the surface. I can’t speak from experience on bulimia or binge eating disorder but I imagine that those suffering probably experience the same frustration. This is sometimes why sufferers often go months or even years without confiding in anyone; because they don’t look ill, they feel they are not worthy of help from their family, friends or doctor and suffer in silence; even questioning whether there is actually anything wrong with them or if it is just in their heads. The media doesn’t help – relentlessly (and often inaccurately) reporting stories of celebrities sporting ‘painfully thin frames’ and portraying the idea that anorexia and other eating disorders can only be identified by physical appearance.
And there is also the fact that in many cases, you won’t be taken seriously or can’t seek professional help on the NHS unless you are below a certain weight or BMI. This is crazy because that is basically suggesting to the patient that they are not ill enough to warrant getting help. The torment that exists on the inside is far worse than how it manifests itself on the outside and with all eating disorders it is the mind that needs to be cured and healed and then the body will begin to take care of itself once that work has begun.
So if you are experiencing any kind of disordered thoughts towards food or body image then it is vital that you hold your hands up and tell someone. Do not think you have to be ‘painfully thin’ to have an eating disorder. Every single person is different and you don’t have to be neatly categorised into one box (e.g. anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder) to be a sufferer. Everyone who even thinks that they may have an eating disorder or is experiencing eating disordered thoughts should be heard, helped and supported. The sooner you tell someone, the sooner that the issue can begin be addressed.
When I was first asked to attend an awards ceremony for My Personal Best, I felt honoured and immediately began to consider the logistics of the event: how much time would I need off College? Would I be able to write an adequate speech between completing my Biology homework and Psychology essay? And of course, the most important questions of all: what would I wear?! After enquiring for further details I found that the first two were not issues, there was no need to write a speech and the awards ceremony would be in the evening. I was even more pleasantly surprised to discover that the ceremony would take place at the Manchester Deansgate Hilton Hotel, (the tallest building in Manchester, and one of the most luxurious) which of course perpetuated the final question!
On the evening of Wednesday 19th October, I set off into the crisp night to meet my fellow volunteer, Laura and Beat’s project officer, Leila. We took a large, winding staircase to a packed foyer where a drinks reception was taking place. As we made our way through the crowds we could hear people excitedly voicing why they felt that their organization was deserving of an award. We were instantly reminded that we were up against some stiff competition. The ‘Somecomms’ awards ceremony is, after all, a celebration of the UK’s best social media. However, after considering amongst ourselves the hard work that the My Personal Best volunteers have put in to improving the website and spreading #thinkpositive messages, we felt assured and took our seats for dinner with smiles on our faces.
Following a three course meal (soup: 7.5/10, pasta 6/10, chocolate cake 8.5/10) served in a series of apparently choreographed movements from the waiters, the awards ceremony officially began - with the entrants for each category being announced, a tantalizing pause and then whoops, claps and congratulations from the audience. The apprehension on our table grew as the announcement of contestants for the not for profit/charity sector neared. After whispering several times ‘I hope we win’ and crossing our fingers, we anxiously awaited the conclusion… “The Not for profit charity award goes to Beat - My personal Best!” Absolutely elated, we went onstage to collect our award and be photographed; exuding pride that something so close to our hearts was being recognised by people uninvolved with the charity. As if this wasn’t a bright enough note to end the night on, we were then invited to join a silent disco, which was a rather novel experience!
Thank you to all of the users of My Personal Best and the outstanding work that the volunteers do – we wouldn’t have been able to win the award and boost the recognition of such an amazing and life-changing charity without you!
My Personal Best volunteer Lauren flew to New York to sing with her choir to remember those who lost their lives in 9/11, 10 years ago. Here's her account:
On Wednesday 7th September 2011, around 160 choir members and family boarded two flights to New York from Edinburgh Airport. As we got excited over the in-flight movies, spent our money at the Duty Free, got frustrated over the lack of leg space and moaned at the airport food, none of us were aware of the impact and effect this trip was going to have on us and none of us were fully prepared for the emotion we were going to face.
The three choirs; Lothian and Borders Police Choir, Tayside Police Choir and In Chorus from Peebles, of which I am a member, were all invited to sing at the 10th anniversary commerative services and concerts of the 9/11 attacks. This was a disaster that took the lives of thousands of people and affected millions. After organising and singing in the first Scottish ‘September Concert’ in the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh in 2010, the conductor of all three choirs Andrew Russel built up relationships across the water to help plan and organise the trip.
When we first arrived in New York, we had some time to settle in. We were all staying in the Hampton Inn Hotel on West 33rd Street. This was so central and the Empire State Building was just a street away. Our week stay was jam packed with singing and events. We did many informal ‘flash choirs’ at many of the landmark sights in the centre. These included Penn Station, Madison Square Gardens, Wall Street, the Rockefeller Centre and Times Square. My favourite was Times Square. We all sat on the famous red steps among the different tourists and then suddenly ‘popped up’ and started singing. We received such an amazing response.
Our official performances included singing at four September concerts at Central Park, Union Square, the New York Public Library and at a Police Museum near Wall Street. On the Saturday evening we sang at the NYPD Memorial Service Concert at the Town Hall. We only sang three songs, but received a standing ovation which was amazing! This was mainly because of the ‘gift song’ that we sang. This was a unique and original arrangement of Amazing Grace with the Star Spangled Banner. Singing this back home, it was nothing special – it was just a nice song, but in America, it meant everything! I will never forget the response we received at this concert. The tears, the emotion and the warmness of the people staring back at us, so grateful for what we were giving to them.
On the Sunday 11th, the mood and atmosphere in New York was very different. Keen to avoid the subway, the choir all travelled in Limos and taxis down to the British Memorial Garden, not far from Ground Zero. Here we were face to face with families and friends of British people who had died in the attacks. The Canadian Prime Minister gave the formal address and Tony Hadley sang the National Anthem. There were other talks and the Pipes and Brass Band played Highland Cathedral. Then the choir sang. Once more the power of music took over and the raw emotion came through. I could hardly sing. It was at this moment that I realised exactly why we had come. The choir couldn’t give much and we could never give these people back their loved ones, but we gave the one thing we could – music. Music is so powerful and can speak a thousand words! The comfort and peace these people found with the songs we sang was wonderful!
It wasn’t all work in New York. We had plenty time to do some sight seeing and enjoy the City. I was able to visit many places, including Staten Island, Battery Park and The Empire State Building, I did plenty of shopping at Bloomingdales, Sacks 5th Avenue and Macey’s and I even managed to fit in a Broadway Show – Billy Elliot. It was amazing! By the end of the week I was shattered and was glad to come back home for some rest!
I will never forget this trip. I will never forget the response from those who heard us, the joy of the choir after every performance, the music and noise that was constant and the smells of the various food stalls and car fumes that polluted the air. But this trip was extra special for me. Two years ago, I would never have believed that I would be travelling to New York. I never thought I would finish University or even complete my food plan. I was so consumed by my Eating Disorder, hope seemed distant. Now I am healthy and I am enjoying my life. I am able to give back to others and help encourage people in so many ways. Music and singing have been a big part of my recovery and In Chorus have helped me so much. I owe so much to the choir and I just want to thank Andrew and all the choir members for all that they have done in helping me to find myself again.
I did it, I really did it! I still can't actually quite believe it and I feel amazing (although very sore!).
In the run up to the 10k I wasn't sure at several points along the way whether I was going to be able to take part... I'd never ran 10k before (I'd done 5k before and found it rather challenging), I hurt my back in the run up to the event, and I doubted my ability to be able to run that far. But, I trained well in advance, I allowed my back to heal, I got the all clear from my GP to run (very important) and I paced myself during the race. I put on tunes by Pendulum on the iPod and completed the race in an hour and a half. I'm so pleased.
I was thinking about the challenges philosophically, and in the spirit of this website, it made me consider the challenges we go through to reach the goals we set ourselves. We overcome obstacles, frustration and become that little bit more than we were before. That's my wisdom for you - do with it what you will!
I've almost got to my target of raising £150.00 for the charity, Beat. I've only got a little bit more to raise - you can sponsor me here if you wish!
Thanks for your support all!
Well, I can't believe how quickly time has flown. The 10k is taking place in London this Saturday! I'm looking forward to it with a mixture of excitement and anticipation. I imagine that the atmosphere is going to be amazing. I'm hoping that the weather is going to be alright too - not too hot, but not raining either!
I've been training over the past couple of weeks again after the episode with my back. I'm feeling myself again and going to take it really easy come race day. As a Young Ambassador said to me, it's all about 'the cause' (Beat), so I'm just going to be thinking about that. Other people have told me about visualisation techniques that I can do, so imagine yourself reaching the finishing line - achieving your goal. It got me thinking that this could work for any goal really - if you can see it happening hopefully you'll get there.I hope so :-)
So... wish me luck, and sponsor me if you want to - all proceeds go to Beat, the UK's Eating Disorder charity: http://www.justgiving.com/Leila-Lahfa
I'll be honest, I've not been feeling very positive over the past few days. Last weekend I hurt my back very badly and could barely move for more than two days. It's now starting to get better. Now you may think that I hurt it through my rigorous training regime, but I was infact simply picking a pair of trousers up from the floor. Really! Thankfully a good friend came to my aid but I have been unable to undertake training for almost two weeks now. However, now that I'm better I'm going to pick myself back up and going for a gentle run this evening - and I'll be back on form for the race on the 10th July. Wish me luck all - I'm raising money for Beat.
Training... I've really been doing it! Getting up early to undertake my training was tough at first but I've been making myself do it and now my fitness is up I'm actually really enjoying it and my confidence has grown as a result. I've been following a training programme and I found some gold stars from my GCSE days, so I'm using these to mark off each training session that I complete. I managed to run for a significant amount of time the other day and achieved my very own 'personal best'! I'm very pleased... :)
Now I just need to do a bit more pushing on the fundraising for Beat - please sponsor me if you wish - every teeny bit helps!
My Personal Best is amazing, as you guys all know! However we wanted to celebrate in style and throw a celebration event! We all went to Chelsea, London, to the event hosted by Beat and Body Gossip. We shed tears (over the monologues) followed by much more laughter, and it truly was a day we will never forget! Beat really went that extra mile and invited Nikki Grahame, Zaraah Abrahams and Mikyla Dodd along to read out the monologues written by some of the Beat ambassadors and MBP volunteers. Everyone was so touched by each one, each one written with such emotion and personality. It was a moment to remember.
The event itself was held in Petyt Hall in Chelsea, just by the embankment, such a beautiful setting. The day started when we all met in the hall, so, who attended? There were a few MBP volunteers along with the rest of the Beat gang, and lots of Beat Ambassadors too!
Body Gossip’s presence was huge, Ruth and Natasha wearing their BODY GOSSIP t-shirts, with their big friendly smiles. Hannah (the main event organizer and full time MBP volunteer) was there. Seriously – well done Hannah you are such a star, and we all think you did such an amazing job, you put so much effort into Saturday , so thank you, thank you, thank you!
Before the monologues were performed, Body Gossip showed the – ‘This One Is For You’ video, which is absolutely amazing so if any of you haven’t seen it, check it out on you tube or on their website! It’s a MUST SEE!
We were given some flip cams, and filmed the monologues being performed, so perhaps you may see them at some point! We also did some other ‘general’ filming, by general filming I mean, spontaneous silliness. We went to explore the garden... then Hannah brought out lots of bottles of bubbles, so you can only begin to imagine the fun we had with those!
We also were provided with a lovely afternoon tea, sammies, and cakes. (Pret!) We then went on to talk about the future of MBP, which is really sad to think it may end, but we are adamant it won’t. We have some keen ideas to help MBP live on – so watch this space!
We then went onto receive lovely gifts and inside contained lots of goodies, my favorite was the Beat balloon, which we had plenty of giggles over; again, that is on film! I really hope that the videos get uploaded because they are sure to make you smile.
I think I am speaking on behalf of everyone who went on Saturday, we all had the most amazing time, some of the volunteers travelled from far and for those who did, it was such an achievement! I think everyone should be really proud of the role they took part in on Saturday, no matter how big or small because everyone made it special for each other, and without you all it would never had happened.
So, thank you to Beat, Body Gossip, Nikki Grahame, Zaraah Abrahams, Mikyla Dodd and thank you to YOU.
Well, I've signed up and committed myself to running a 10k this July in fair London town. I can barely run to catch a bus without breaking a sweat so as you can imagine, the idea of running 10k in 2 months time is slightly terrifying! But, I am running for Beat and that has given me the motivation I need. I have a chart with running times on it and yesterday I found some gold star stickers, so when I completed the run I promptly put a gold star next to it. I hope that the sheet will be full of gold stars by the end of the 2 months!
I have set up a new JustGiving page so if you'd like to spare a few bob for Beat then please do so here! http://www.justgiving.com/Leila-Lahfa
I'm going to update this blog on a regular basis to keep me in check, so please do come back from time to time - I need all the help I can get!
Leila - My Personal Best Project Co-ordinator
Hello again, you’ll be pleased to know I’m still here and entering my 3rd week at Beat. Strangely, due to the bank holidays I still haven’t worked a full week and the time is flying by. I’ve been to my first team meeting which gave me a great insight into Beat’s work and what I will be focusing on over the next few months – all very exciting! I am starting to work on the Young Ambassadors scheme and organising the next training day that will be happening in June or July in London – I might even see some of you there!
I am part of a very friendly team, led by Francis Burrows, that includes, Lawrence Brown, Leila Lahfa, and Emma Roper- you may have met some of them before. It’s great to be part of such a busy and creative team and I’m looking forward to some interesting times ahead. The teams dedication goes as far as taking part in lots of sponsored events – Francis is doing the London to Brighton bike ride and Leila is doing a 10K run, and I might just join her! Anything but a parachute jump!