Foods for Recovery: Ginger

FFRGINGER

I LOVE ginger – in face there’s several ginger recipes in the book because it is such a favourite of mine. Warming, spicy, comforting – but also a zingy addition to lots of savoury dishes, this versatile spice is actually packed with health benefits which makes it the perfect recovery food. I’ve listed a few of its many qualities below which are relevant to recovery – I’m sure they’ll surprise you!

  1. Anti-inflammatory – Handily-titled Gingerols, found in Ginger, help to reduce inflammation and therefore help with mobility and joint pain, especially in people with Osteoporosis. Brittle bones are a huge problem for anyone after an eating disorder, so calcium is often prescribed to help improve bone density and body function. With this in mind, not-so-obvious foods like Ginger may be able to really help the body to recover better.
  2. Digestive Health – Your digestive system takes a real hit going through an eating disorder – and after it has been gently eased back into ‘normal function’, residual problems can still be present which make can life pretty unpleasant and difficult. Aiding digestion is really important as it helps all your bodily functions, allowing the nutrients from the food you eat to be absorbed properly into your body. Additionally for those with anxiety and chronic IBS like me, any relief from the excruciating symptoms is much welcome. Ginger tea is said to help this and I can certainly vouch for the fact that it tastes lovely and the simple warming taste and feel of the tea does help to calm me a little. Ginger is said to ease the painful cramps and contractions caused by IBS, so it can also regulate and keep good bowel function in those who are recovering. In turn, it helps us to properly absorb the goodies from the food we eat and keeps toilet problems at bay (I’ll leave it at that!). Fresh Ginger tea (fresh Ginger brewed with hot water and Manuka honey) is said to be the best way to aid digestion using Ginger.
  3. Circulation – Many of us suffer with poor circulation even well into recovery (and after, as I’ve discovered – my circulation is irretrievably damaged). That’s why I’m passionate about recovery nutrition – if I had consumed some of these foods during recovery then perhaps I wouldn’t suffer now with the irreparable consequences of my eating disorder. On a positive note however, anyone with poor circulation can use Ginger to help improve blood flow!

Ginger Tea

You can buy Ginger tea bags at the supermarket – but here’s a simple recipe for Ginger Tea if you fancy making some for yourself and trying it at home.

  • Ginger Root
  • Manuka Honey
  • Boiling Water
  1. Peel the Ginger Root and then grate the ginger or slice and chop thinly.
  2. Add Ginger to a mug or cup and pour over the boiling water. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes maximum.
  3. Stir in the honey. You can add Cinnamon or Lemon for additional flavour if you like!

Ginger is in a wide range of delicious foods – especially Chinese and Thai food. I enjoy Ginger in cookies and cake – recipes for these can be found here in my book, Recipes for Recovery.

More Foods for Recovery here!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Hair Loss – what to do (the update)

HAIRLOSSUPDATE

I’ve covered the route for those who aren’t so bothered about the chemical aspect of cosmetics (the route I took myself initially and last year!) but I’m now keen to try a natural alternative to keep my whole body (and hair) healthy, so I wanted to compile an alternative post for those wishing to try all-natural to combat hair loss themselves.

  1. Supplements and diet – make sure you’re taking Biotin (1000mcg) every day for your hair (if you are at a safe weight and are okay health-wise to do so). I swear by this and always have done, plus it isn’t something which you will need to worry about harming your scalp! I know I don’t need to bang on about it – eating right helps too, but I know that isn’t always so easy.
  2. Use natural oils – Instead of conditioner, switch to oils. It’s a bit messy, yes, but you can buy squeezy bottles which make life easier. Even expensive conditioners contain silicones and chemicals which are less than helpful for your hair. Also take into account that any conditioner claiming to ‘aid hair loss’ is making a mistaken claim because combatting hair loss really does begin and end with the scalp. The rest of your hair is dead, so whilst combatting breakage will help your hair retain thickness and is important to the health and look of your hair, it won’t stop it from falling out at the root. I love castor oil and coconut oil. (You can read my post all about castor oil and its fabulous hair benefits here!)
  3. Invest in essential oils – Essential oils are renowned in alternative and homeopathic medicine for many health benefits, some of which are calming or uplifting effects on the mood which are added benefits to using them for your hair if it has been caused by anxiety or an eating disorder. Certain essential oils are specifically good for hair – such as Rosemary and Peppermint. Rosemary is said to maintain a healthy scalp and shiny locks, and peppermint stimulates the scalp – that’s why it is tingly when you apply it. I use a Rosemary Hair Oil every week which smells lovely and does my hair the world of good – click here for the recipe.
  4. The Inversion Method – I’ve only recently come across this – I’ve always massaged my scalp to aid hair growth but this is quite a sophisticated way of doing so which promises some pretty drastic results! I’m not sure everyone will see a few inches growth in just weeks as some internet die-hards claim, but it definitely makes sense to give it a go. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now – my hair already grows very fast and I’ve had decent regrowth round my forehead but I’m looking to sort some of the patchiness on the back of my head so I will see how I get on with those and post an update! I use the Rosemary Oil in conjunction with the Inversion Method to make it super-potent.
  5. Natural shampoo – When you’re losing your hair, you’ll try anything. (I have!). There’s countless hair loss shampoos on the market but as with all mainstream shampoos, they’re full of chemicals and we all know how harmful they can be for your skin and hair. Whilst I saw fantastic results from Alpecin and Nioxin, I’m really starting to move more towards natural methods now I’m maintaining my hair and regrowth. Natural shampoos can be hard to come by (lots claim to be natural or Organic, but they actually just contain a few natural ingredients and are not 100% natural). If you don’t feel you can, or want to, go all-natural, then try to choose the next best thing – it will be fine if you follow the next step, which is….
  6. Don’t wash your hair as much – I wash my hair once a week only. I know there will be lots of horrified people reading this – but honestly, I haven’t had anybody notice!! What I have personally noticed (and had comments on by friends and family) is the thickness and healthy look of my hair. When you first stop washing your hair so regularly, you of course feel towards the end of the week that your hair is a little greasy or looks a bit oily at the roots. I combatted this originally by using Klorane dry shampoo in between washes – but I haven’t had to use it anywhere near as much as I thought I would need to. (Now I use a chemical-free, home-made cocoa dry shampoo – recipe here!) The reason washing your hair less aids hair loss is that it allows your scalp to maintain a natural cycle and means you are not exposing your hair and scalp to chemicals so much, which not only strip the oil from your hair (confusing your scalp into producing more, hence more washing) but you are also possibly helping your hair loss by using harsh artificial detergents. You’ll notice that the greasiness really is only in the scalp area, and that this will only last for the first couple of weeks or so whilst it adjusts to not being stripped constantly. Now, after 2 months of only washing once a week, I generally don’t need to wash my hair more than that.

Combatting hair loss can happen, and it can be easy, it just takes time and patience (a lot of it!) I know from experience that it’s easy to become obsessed with progress and how much you’re shedding etc but the best thing you can do is secure a routine, follow it religiously and keep positive until you see the results.

Fancy going all-natural? Take a look at my no-poo post here!

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PLUS: Read What Not To Do for more tips

Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Foods for Recovery: the (not so humble) Egg

FFREGGS

Eggs. Often overlooked as a ‘staple’ grocery – we consume 11.7 billion each year in the UK – that’s 32 million per day! Eggs are SO versatile; just have a think about all the dishes you can make using eggs! Of course, they can either be used whole, or the yolks and whites can be isolated to make a huge range of dishes. They are also light and suitable for people who are poorly or have digestive issues. Packed with protein, they really are a tiny nutritional hand grenade and a fantastic addition to any diet.

I have eggs at least once a week – I either bake them into a soufflé or quiche (you can find my quiche and soufflé recipes here in the book), I’ll often have them poached with salmon in a salad, or scrambled or devilled as a snack.

Why are they so important for recovery though?

  1. Protein – Eggs are high in protein and good fats, so they pack a fantastic nutritional punch considering how little they are! They are filling whilst being light in texture – so one little egg goes a very long way.
  2. Other nutrients – High in selenium, Iron and Vitamin D and a host of B-Vitamins, eggs are incredibly nutritious and perfect for helping your body repair and restore itself. They also help to increase good cholesterol which is really good for your heart. Eggs also contain their very own unique antioxidants which help maintain good eye health.
  3. Digestible and light – They’re a great addition to almost any diet because they are not too heavy on the digestive system. When your digestive system has been through something as harsh and debilitating as an eating disorder, it’s going to take a while for it to get back on track. And when it does, being kind to it by eating soft, easily-digested eggs which are packed with nutrients and protein can only do it good.

More Foods for Recovery here!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Reiki for Anxiety and Eating Disorders

Holistic therapies are still treated with a degree of mistrust and incredulity by some health professionals, but when it comes to matters of the mind, we all know that extra stress is damaging and relaxation can be really effective as a complimentary treatment. Some improvements in health can even be down to holistic therapies – even if this is simply the work of placebo, surely any improvement is good, no matter what the reason is!

At the end of last year I was going through a very stressful time which had exacerbated my anxiety to breaking point. My mum said she had heard Reiki was good for anxiety and said it had actually helped a friend of hers – so I decided to just give it a go.

I really loved Reiki and it made an instant difference to the way I was feeling, not necessarily physically, but I was most definitely lifted mentally.

What can you expect?

It’s difficult to say exactly what you will get out of the experience ,and they vary from practitioner to practitioner – but my own personal experience of Reiki is that it is so deeply relaxing – like being almost asleep. My practitioner has a heated bed covered with soft, scented towels – so it’s a really multi-sense experience.

Even though its psychological and medical benefit may not be proven, I genuinely believe that Reiki has a significant place in the treatment of mental illness, for nothing else if not its calming qualities. I would really recommend it for anybody with anxiety disorder, depression, body dysmorphia or an eating disorder because for that time you are there, you are in a warm, comfortable bubble and if you are additionally spiritual you feel very safe and protected. Because it’s a non-contact therapy, it’s suitable if you have an eating disorder as obviously massage and acupuncture can be painful and dangerous.

I feel so uplifted and happy when I have had my Reiki, feeling positive as though I could do anything. It’s definitely worth a go!

Tips…

  • Find a good practitioner who you feel completely at ease with – as with any therapy or profession, there will be a select few who aren’t that great or who maybe just aren’t the right fit for you. If you’re not completely at ease with the person doing your Reiki then you won’t relax and you won’t enjoy it, so it is essential. Try to go with someone who has been recommended as I did – then you won’t be as apprehensive and there’s a better chance that person will be a good practitioner.
  • If you don’t like it first time, then don’t give up – try a different person. I did go for hypnotherapy once and the guy told me to ‘be a tree’ and ‘feel my roots’ – frankly I thought it was stupid. I’ve since heard that hypnotherapy isn’t always like that – so sometimes it’s important to give things another go with a different practitioner.
  • You don’t have to spiritual, but it helps. I’m spiritual, but not to any particular degree, and I still love Reiki and embrace it fully when I have it. In fact it’s probably made me more spiritual as a consequence.
  • If you’re not into ‘chakras’ and ‘energy’ and ‘crystals’ that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy and benefit from Reiki – just enjoy the relaxation of it. Reiki works on the principles of energy, Chakras and colour but if you don’t believe in any of that, then simply listen to the music, take in the scents and sounds and take benefit from being lay down in a warm, dark room for an hour. It can work wonders.

What are your experiences of Reiki? I’d love to hear from you if you have tried it!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Understanding Body Dysmorphia – should there be an age limit on surgery?

I’ve spoken before about vetting people psychologically for surgery before they go ahead and go under the knife – because I think that age and psychological welfare are important things to be considered when offering surgery to anyone. I say this because I was one of those vulnerable people – and I’m so glad that the surgeon who saw me had the sense to turn me down – a devastating blow at the time, but one that I am so thankful for now.

When I was 16 or 17, my Body Dysmorphia took over massively (before I even knew what it was or that I had it). I got to the point where I was fixated on two things – my boobs and my ‘acne’ (I did have acne, but it was very isolated and I had a very small amount of it compared to others my age).

I was in another stressful, quite important transitional period in my life, moving from school to college. I was convinced that the college I’d picked would be best for me, academically and socially, and it’d been a nightmare to get in, but once there I found myself just as isolated as I had been at Secondary School. Here, everyone stayed in cliques so it felt impossible to make new friends outside of the people I knew before – the opposite of what I wanted. I felt all wrong in so many ways – just as I had done at school. I wanted a certain look – thick curly blonde hair – but my dark mousy brown hair was still thin just two years after my eating disorder and although I dyed it blonde it never lightened to what I wanted it to be.

I don’t know how or why my boobs became such an issue for me. They just were so small and I saw the popular girls at college tended to have big boobs. Where I’m from, at school and at college, sex and who you were having it with (and how much you were having) was everything. Nobody wanted to even kiss me, let alone have sex with me, and this was a marker of how attractive and acceptable I felt I was. These girls oozed confidence and were full of jokes and banter – a persona which I just didn’t feel able to adopt myself. But these were the popular girls – the girls that chatted endlessly and went out all the time and I think that, more than how they looked, made them attractive to lads more than their boobs – I just didn’t see that at the time. Ironically, when I look back and picture those girls in my mind, I really wouldn’t want to look like them now.

Every girl or woman I looked at, my eyes were drawn straight to their chest, like a randy 13 year old boy. I analysed their size against my own, almost always insignificant in comparison. I purchased numerous push up bras and chicken fillets and on nights out I always wore low-cut tops with a ridiculous amount of padding and scaffolding underneath them, almost to convince myself and others that I did in fact have the boobs I wished I had.  I was labelled a ‘slut’ and my friends and family all used to make fun of me ‘always having my boobs out.’ Ironically, they saw it as a display of over-confidence rather than a manifestation of my deepest insecurity. I spent almost every waking hour of every day contemplating how I would ‘sort out’ my boobs. I constantly imagined life with my new boobs, surrounded by admirers – lads queueing up to have sex with me, too many party invites to cope with, loads of envious friends. Of course, that was all rubbish. A new set of boobs would certainly not make that sort of impact on my life. And looking back now, all of those things are so trivial and unimportant – of course they’re not trivial or unimportant in a teenage mind.

I set about working out how I could get a boob job. As with most cases of Body Dysmorphia, I became fixated on them and couldn’t rest until I had them ‘fixed’. I researched the NHS criteria, which I didn’t fit. I had too few savings – my life savings – to afford the op – and obviously my part-time job at John Lewis would not be accepted for the 0% finance offer so many of the companies offer. Despite this, undeterred I scheduled an appointment at MIA for a consultation with a surgeon. My parents were horrified and my Mum insisted on coming with me to the appointment.

The sales consultant (dressed up as an ‘assessor’, all perfectly-coiffed hair and boobs herself) was very keen to get me through the door to the surgeon – pound-signs glinting in her eyes. I filled out a form and waited to be called in by the surgeon. As my name was called, my mum shot up and came in behind me – something which at the time I was angry about but now, I am so glad that she did.

The surgeon asked me why I wanted the surgery. I didn’t tell him I thought it’d change my life. I just told him I wanted to feel more confident – what woman doesn’t? We weighed up size and he measured my current size and showed me the implants. As I held them in my hand they felt so big – I couldn’t imagine them actually being under my skin. He explained the procedure and the choice of under or over muscle and my mum grimaced. He expressed a little concern at my young age and then he asked me if I had any mental health problems. My heart dropped as I smiled and said I’d had an eating disorder a few years ago (ages ago in my 17 year old head!) but I was fine now. I was on anti-depressants but I was feeling better (another lie).

From behind me I heard my mum say ‘Well, no, you have had a lot of problems recently too.’ She went on to voice her concerns about my mental health, to talk about how I was very down about how I looked and how it hadn’t actually been that long since I’d recovered from Anorexia.

The surgeon shook his head and said ‘There’s no way I can operate on you.’

My face must have visibly fallen and he went on to explain why – it was a massive risk for him, but it was also not perhaps the best thing for me. Because I wasn’t ‘stable’ emotionally speaking, I could change my mind once the surgery had been done, and as a prominent surgeon the professional repercussions for him posed a risk to his career, in addition to being ethically questionable given my current and previous mental health issues.

As soon as we left the building I began sobbing uncontrollably. I’d been working up to this day for months, contemplating my illusion of an ‘amazing life’ and my increased popularity, all of which was now shattered and completely out of reach. Mum consoled me and apologised but said: ‘I had to tell him; I couldn’t not have him know how fragile you are.’ I was angry with her but I knew she was trying to do the right thing to help me. After a while, I realised that she was completely right (always humbling to have to admit that your mum was in fact right!). But she was.

Looking back now, I’m so glad that surgeon turned me down, and so glad that my Mum intervened as she did. My boobs are not the best, they’re nothing special, they really are pretty small. But I quite like them. I am petite and if they were even one cup size bigger, I’d be looking a bit top-heavy.

I’m not criticising anyone who has had surgery here – a lot of my friends have had boob jobs. But they did so with clarity of mind and went in knowing what they wanted to do. When asked, they don’t regret it and are pleased with their new boobs. They had their surgery in their early twenties, when they could make an informed decision about it.

Please, if you are under 20, and are reading this desperately wanting to change who you are and how you look, hold on. It seems like the most important thing right now – being liked, being popular, being attractive to your peers. But those things aren’t really that important – what’s important is you! Hang on a few more years, and see what they bring. I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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Did you like this post? There’s more on Understanding Body Dysmorphia here.

Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Why I hate ‘Thinspo’ – and why I want it banned

 

When I see Thinspo or Thinspiration, whether it’s on social media or on TV or in magazines, it makes me physically shudder. Maybe that’s because it’s usually accompanied by an image of an impossibly thin person, all rib bones and protruding hip bones; maybe that’s because the connotation for it for me is far from innocent and in fact represents something very dangerous.

I’ve said this before on the blog but I have to say it again for the purpose of this article making sense – ‘thin’ is not healthy. Looking at people as ‘Thin’ and ‘Fat’ is like looking at everything in ‘black’ and ‘white’ – there’s always a grey area. If you fail to be categorised into either you’ll force yourself to fit – it’s human nature. Of course, not many people want to fall into the ‘fat’ category – hence the absence of the ‘fatspiration’ hash tag.

Some people are naturally slim and that is fine. We are all built differently, that’s what’s incredible and diverse and interesting about us as humans. This isn’t an attack on the naturally thin.

What I want to highlight is that ‘thinspiration’ encourages us to become slimmer than we are supposed to be; it shames us into thinking and feeling that we are somehow inadequate because we are not thin. For people with body dysmorphia, every single person they see is some form of this ‘inspiration’. Inspiration of how to be, how to look. Whether that’s hair, skin, height, or weight. This isn’t something which needs to be highlighted and then spread via Social Media.

When I look at images of celebrities and models and these so-called ‘inspirational’ images, I feel worse and worse about myself as a consequence. Hashtag or no hashtag attached, they’re inspiring me to obsess over how I look. They’re inspiring me to believe that I am somehow ugly or strange or ‘fat’. When I am none of those things, factually speaking, even though I believe that I am.

I advise fellow sufferers of BD and people with eating disorders to ration social media. I do this because of the huge exposure to this sort of thing – which consciously or unconsciously damages us and compounds our negative beliefs about ourselves. ‘Thinspiration’ wasn’t around when I was poorly – if it had been, I’d have been all over it. That is to say, my eating disorder would have latched onto it within no time and I actually think over-exposure to it would have made it more difficult for me to recover.

I’m anti #Thinspiration and I hope you can see that it is false and absolutely not how you ‘should be’. There are so many different types of beauty, which I try to celebrate here on the blog. You are individual – unique, and beautiful the way you were made. It might take time to realise it but for now start to see the falsehood in the media and know that it is NOT a reflection on you!

Who else hates #Thinspo?

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Lip Balm Reviews

Being freezing cold all the time and living in a body which is depleted of nutrients, dehydrated and generally is struggling to survive, usually things we often take for granted such as moist mouth and lips completely disappear. Even if you’re well on your way to recovery your body is still getting back on its feet, and I found that my lips were very easily dry and chapped even a couple of years after my eating disorder. My circulation even now is ruined and I struggle in cold weather so a good quality lip balm is still a must in my beauty arson! It’s so difficult with so many products on the market to decide which ones are best. I’ve bought so many lip balms in the past and they’ve ended up sitting in my drawer unused because they are hard, too slippery or too greasy (I HATE Vaseline, eugh). Here’s my run down of the 5 best I found – to save you throwing your money away and heal those chapped lips fast!

  1. Palmers Cocoa Butter – Original Solid Formula

 Palmers-Cocoa-Butter-Formula-Jar-26294

Yep, it’s not exactly portable, and I apologise for this in advance! However it’s got to be one of the most hydrating, silky lip balms I have found and not only is it 100% natural it also smells/tastes AMAZING. Palmer’s do have a stick-balm range, but I’ve always preferred this and when I was a make-up artist I always had a tub of this in my kit, as for hygiene reasons it made it easier to scoop a little out with a metal spatula and apply it with my fingers than using a traditional stick balm. It’s moisturising without leaving a horrible greasy film on your lips and because it’s all natural you don’t have to worry about ingesting anything untoward if you’re applying it frequently.

  1. Aldi Lacura Lip Balms

ALDI-Lacura-Orange-and-Cranberry-Lip-Balms

I know people are often dubious about buying cheap supermarket cosmetics (that’s because I’ve always been one of them!), but not only are these such a good buy at 99p for three, they are fantastic quality and so moisturising. I bought them on a whim one day whilst I was doing my food shop and I’ve been so pleased with them. Just one lasts forever so you can imagine a pack of three lasts a fairly long time! The only thing with Aldi is that lines tend to come and go, or come once and then go forever – luckily this appears to be an almost constant line (probably owing to its popularity), but the flavours differ; the one I have is Mandarin but they do a natural one and also did a cranberry one for Christmas. They’re free from mineral oils and contain exactly the same ingredients as much more expensive brands – so they’re a super savvy buy!

  1. Bodyshop Almond Lip Butter

 almondlipbutter

These handy little pots are great for putting in your handbag and they have a lovely buttery consistency. Of course as with all Bodyshop products they’re natural and made with Fairtrade ingredients. I love anything almond, anything marzipan, so this for me tastes like absolute heaven. Not a fan? Not to worry! Bodyshop do a huge range of lip balms so you’re sure to find one to your taste – from fruity flavours like strawberry and mandarin to sweet flavours like chocolate, Shea butter and vanilla.

Any of your own to add? Please comment below!

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Enjoyed Lip Balm Reviews? There’s more in Beauty here!

Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Hair Loss – What NOT to do

hair

There are so many articles on what to do when your hair starts falling out – what products to use, what to eat, how to style it. From experience these can be a little bit mind-boggling and of course everybody has different hair types, different types of hair loss and therefore widely varying opinions on products and methodology. Here’s my run down of the top ten things NOT to do when your hair starts falling out:

  1. Don’t panic

This one comes under the category ‘easier said than done’ – I know. Stress and anxiety is a massive cause of hair loss – at best it exacerbates existing hair loss. It’s difficult not to be distraught when you start losing your hair and start obsessing over each lost strand, staring longingly at everyone else’s hair and feeling generally crap and upset. Our hair is often our comfort blanket , our crowning glory – your hair (or lack of it) can make a huge difference to how you look and ultimately, how you feel. I know that. Try your best to distract yourself from what is going on with your hair. Make a plan of action and feel assured knowing you’re doing everything you can to help your hair.

  1. Don’t overbrush

Brushing your hair can be therapeutic and distracting; yet it can also become an obsessive ritual of seeing how much you have left and how much comes out when you do brush it. Some hair loss advice calls for regular brushing but experts say it is possible to over-brush your hair, and especially where hair loss is concerned over-vigorous brushing will only cause more harm than good. Use a natural bristle brush to distribute your hair’s oils evenly and minimise breakage. The same goes for washing – try not to overwash your hair even if it gets greasy and even if you are using a hair loss shampoo. This strips the oils and increases exposure to chemical nasties which do not do your scalp or hair any good. Using your hair loss shampoo twice a day won’t make any difference to your growth compared to if you were using it every other day – but it may damage your hair and have the reverse effect instead.

  1. Don’t go buying expensive shampoos

Sadly, there’s lots of people who’d like to cash in on your hair loss because they know how upset and vulnerable you are, and that most (me included!) are desperate to try anything, no matter what the cost, to get their hair back as quickly as possible. Please don’t be drawn in by anything which appears ‘too good to be true’. Equally, don’t go buying every single hair loss shampoo and product out there. They all work differently, they are different for different people, and their efficacy also depends on what sort of hair loss you have. Read reviews (you can read my post on Hair Loss Shampoos here) and make a decision on what is best for you. Give it a good month or two to see if it is working; you won’t see results in days or even a week or so no matter what anybody says. If it still isn’t working, try something new. I’ve made this mistake before and the best thing I did was eventually to buy one shampoo and conditioner and stick to that regime for over a month – that’s when I saw amazing results. Equally, I’ve tried shampoos, given them a month or two, and realised they are not working, kicked them to the curb and tried something new. Perseverance is the only way to be sure of what works and what doesn’t.

  1. You don’t have to cut it all off

When my hair fell out after my eating disorder, my hairdresser categorically told me to cut it all off. The best solution, she said, was to cut it all down to at least shoulder length and keep cutting it until it reached the length of my baby hair. That way, it could all grow at the same rate. 14 years old and recovering from an eating disorder, I was desperately clinging on to the hair I still had left. Losing it had been a shocking additional blow a few months into my recovery. There was no way I was going to cut it off.

My hair admittedly looked awful for at least a year. I lost mine from underneath, so stringy strands hung over bald patches which were gradually filled with lots of wispy baby hairs. As they grew they formed a fringe on my forehead and a fluffy ‘do beneath my old hair around the rest of my head. It wasn’t the best look, but it allowed me to keep my hair and eventually 3 years later my hair looked incredible. For a year or so I’d worn clip in extensions which helped me to feel more confident and forget about the state of my hair, and one day, I realised my hair was exactly the same without them. The baby hair had matured and was long and thick and as a whole it looked fabulous.

Since then, I’ve found some hairstyles and a few techniques you can use to help ‘mask’ hair loss whilst you are – of course temporary extensions, wigs and hair pieces are also handy. You can read about them here.

Of course if you’re brave enough to have it all cut to one length then this is good for hair health and growth and will ensure even regrowth – it is completely your decision. But know that if, like me, you are very attached to your hair, you can hold onto it!

  1. Don’t leave it unchecked medically

Hair loss is becoming more common in women especially due to the increased stress and pressure in our lives. Therefore it’s easy to put it down to stress or hormones. But there are other medical causes of hair loss which should be noted and it’s important to be vigilant for in case your hair loss is caused by an underlying health problem. If your hair loss is persistent, make an appointment with your doctor just to be sure there’s nothing else going on. They may even refer you to a trichologist for help with your hair loss.

  1. Don’t overstyle it

We all love our hairdryers, curlers, straighteners, rollers – but it goes without saying, these are NOT good for your hair, especially when it is in a weakened state. I made a conscious decision to stop using the hairdryer (unless it was an emergency – you know we all have those) and I rarely use straighteners or curlers but these were vetoed too. It may well be torture but it is worth it to help your hair to recover and alleviate the anguish that comes with seeing clumps of hair all over the floor after styling. There are lots of nifty tutorials on Pinterest for creating curls (and other hair styles) with no heat and little pulling or breakage on the hair, so if you are naturally curly embrace them and take a look online for inspiration.

  1. Don’t use tight bobbles and clips

Bobbles are the worst thing for your hair. Even ones without the metal clip which can snag hairs pull on your scalp and hair follicles and can accelerate hair loss. I only wear clips or loose slides when my hair is falling out and if I really want a bobble in I use a trick Iwas shown on a shoot by my lovely best friend and renowned hairdresser Mark – attach two bobby pins one either side of your bobble – scrape your hair into a pony then slide one clip through the centre close to the scalp. Wrap the other around a few times till it’s tight then slide the other bobby pin through the centre of your pony. Home-made bungee! So much less damaging for your hair and 0-expense, 0-hassle.

  1. Don’t forget to eat (and drink) for your hair

A few of you won’t like this one and will be sick of hearing it but honestly, good skin and hair health comes from the inside. What happens on the outside of our bodies in often an indication of what’s going on inside, so if your hair is falling out, it indicates a problem whether that’s mental, physical or perhaps a deficiency somewhere. If you’re not at the stage where you feel ready to address your diet then that is understandable, however without a good diet, your hair will struggle massively to recover. The real you will care more about your hair than what an eating disorder cares about, so concentrate on that and try really hard to follow that desire rather than any other false ideals that will be in your head. I really wish I had known what to eat to help my hair all those years ago – I was recovering and I’d have eaten anything to stop it from falling out. You can read my post on food for hair here.

  1. Don’t use harsh chemicals on your hair

Most commercial shampoos, whatever they claim to do, will be full of chemicals which are less than healthy for your hair. The ‘worst’ of these is sodium laureth sulfate, which is what makes shampoos and shower gels lather nicely. Experts say it strips the scalp of natural oils and can also leave hair brittle and dry. Once you know this, you’ll know that finding a shampoo without this in it is very difficult.

  1. Don’t feel alone, embarrassed or suffer in silence

More women than you realise will be suffering from hair loss but will not have told anybody about it out of shame or embarrassment. So many will be covering it up on a daily basis and feeling bad about it alone. Don’t feel like you are alone in this – take a look online and you’ll find lots of friendly women ready to discuss hair loss with you; forums where you can share what works and what doesn’t. And of course, you have this blog J

 

Hair loss is an awful thing to experience but at least now you know what NOT to do and can concentrate on getting your hair, and yourself, back to the best health possible.

Any tips I’ve missed here? Share them!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Struggling to access help? Turn to Mind

It’s a well-known fact that urgency (or rather lack of it) is contributing to and exacerbating mental illness in this country. GPs are often clueless as to where to refer their patients, that is if they are able to diagnose or recognise what the issue may be. Lack of understanding of many mental illnesses and stigma, especially surrounding eating disorders, unfortunately appears to still be rife in the NHS as well as in society as a whole.

Not being referred for the help you need makes you feel like you are not being taken seriously. Perhaps you are lying, perhaps you are overreacting? Maybe you aren’t worth the help? Damaging feelings for those who already have a negative mindset.

I don’t believe that bashing the NHS will bring any positive change – that’s not what this article is about. It’s about identifying and sharing other avenues which are open to those suffering who don’t feel they are being listened to or are getting help quickly enough – other avenues which do exist but aren’t always widely known about. Avenues which your GP probably also does not know about – therefore you simply don’t hear about them.

Over 11 years, I’ve tried to access help on the NHS several times. Sometimes it was voluntary and elective, at others it was something that I was compelled to participate in. Each time, I was let down. I decided each time I was poorly that if I was going to feel better I had to do it alone – as I always had done.

At the end of this year, I was under a lot of stress and pressure and my family asked me to go to the GP. I refused because I knew no good would come of that – and a few weeks later someone came back to me and said that a friend at work had been talking about the charity Mind, and how they had helped them. I was sceptical at first, but I agreed to give it a go and called my local Mind. They called me back and arranged a one-to-one with a member of staff who could direct me to the right place for support.

I was so impressed with this service. For the first time, I felt properly listened to, and the staff member I saw completely understood that I felt demoralised and had actually been made to feel worse in the past by not having been taken seriously or receiving the treatment I had urgently needed on several occasions. She was incredibly efficient and printed off a self-referral form there and then (this exists in my borough but obviously may differ depending on which region you live in). I have been recommending Mind to all my friends who have felt let down or who are disgruntled because they are consistently ignored by their GP, or those who are desperate for help and stuck on endless waiting lists for therapy.

If you are struggling to access help through your GP, then I would encourage you to speak to your local branch of Mind. They can listen to you completely impartially, and share with you the local resources which may help you. They may also be able to help you to get referred – so it’s definitely worth a trip. They also run workshops and therapies themselves, so there’s lots of ways in which they can possibly help.

Have you accessed help through Mind?

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Moisturiser Reviews for recovering skin  

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Just like lips, (You can read my lip balm review here), your skin suffers massively when you’ve had an eating disorder. It’s dry, sore, flaking, tight; symptoms which are exacerbated by time spent glued to the radiator through the cold or in hospital. My skin was dry and cracked in places and I had horrendous chilblains on my toes (I still get those now!) and I really struggled to find anything which kept my skin hydrated for longer than half an hour. Here’s my top five body moisturisers – you’ll notice a few of them are butters and oils and most are natural, as I always think natural is best for your skin and overall health. Let me know if you’ve tried any and agree (or disagree!)

  1. Body Shop Body Butters

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I already raved about Body Shop Lip Butters in my Lip Balm Review, but I couldn’t help but include their body butters too in this post. So luxurious and thick, but easy to rub in and quick to absorb, these body butters also smell AMAZING. As always, you can expect an all-natural product from Body Shop which includes fair trade ingredients. There are so many to choose from, but if you’re into warm scents like me, Vanilla, Argan Oil, Shea Butter, Almond, Cocoa Butter and Chocolate (to name but a few!) will probably take your fancy. Body Shop also offer these in lotion form so if you’re looking for something more portable, they’ve got it covered. The butters are very reasonably priced and tend to last a little while so they are great value for money and certainly a good investment for parched skin.

 

  1. Kiehl’s Crème de Corps

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Kiehl’s was a brand I’d never heard of until I started working in luxury beauty 7 years ago; and as soon as I tried this moisturiser I fell in love. It’s pricey, but a little goes a very long way. I think the warm, buttery smell is heavenly but I can imagine it’s not everyone’s cup of tea – they do in fact offer a fragrance-free version now for those who don’t find it as tempting as I do!

My favourite form of this product is the whipped body butter. It is so light and fluffy, almost like buttercream, and sinks into the skin beautifully. The lotion form is thick but spreads lightly and as with its creamy counterpart, it absorbs quickly so no waiting around in the cold bathroom wafting your limbs around waiting for it to dry!

 

  1. Original Source In-Shower moisturiser

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It may not be enough on its own, but I decided to include this anyway because for anyone wishing (as I do!) to limit their time out in the cold wilderness between the shower and their pyjamas, body lotions and creams aren’t always practical. Plus they can be sticky and greasy even if they absorb well – not everyone’s cup of tea.

These nifty products have been emerging over the past year following the introduction of Nivea’s In-Shower Moisturiser; I like this one because it has a really natural, fresh scent.

 

  1. Argan Liquid Gold Pure Argan Oil

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I first met May, founder of Argan Liquid Gold, when I worked for a magazine a couple of years ago. With so many Argan products on the market (many of which tend to just contain a small percentage of Argan as an ingredient), her passion to introduce something which is pure and natural and 100% authentic, as well as Organic and Fairtrade, was so inspiring for me. Argan Oil hails from Morocco, and May is Moroccan herself, so what better authority on Argan Oil can there be??

Lots of people are more than dubious about using oils on their skin; but for parched skin oil can be one of the only emollients which effectively penetrates the layers of the skin and nourishes it more deeply. Liquid Gold Argan Oil sinks in very quickly, so it’s not greasy or sticky on your skin. May advised me to use it on damp skin as this enables it to be absorbed more efficiently – but doing this also means that you spend less time out in the cold bathroom slathering oil on yourself. Because it’s completely pure and natural, you can rest assured there’s no chemical nasties in there either.

This product is going to sound expensive (£60   a bottle, stay with me), but I use such a minimal amount that my current bottle has lasted since I first met May! Not only can this be used on your skin, it’s also an amazing facial moisturiser too so you are effectively getting two products in one.

 

  1. Laura Mercier Body Souffle

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I know I feature a fair amount of these products on the blog but honestly, I love them so much and they really are amazing. The only catch is they are pretty expensive – and I can’t make an argument here for that extra expense other than the fact that I am IN LOVE with the smell of them which lingers for hours, and the moisturising qualities, which stick around for a few hours too! The lotions (in a tube) are a little cheaper and just as thick and creamy, with the same scent, so I think if you’re on a budget, there’s a lot to be said for purchasing one of these rather than one of the most expensive pots.

 

Let me know how you get on with these – I love to hear your thoughts as always!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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