I want to be the alternative for anyone out there suffering from anorexia without conventional support.
I founded Tough Cookie because I recovered from Anorexia myself ten years ago, and getting through it alone, I still see so many struggling with little or no support. With so many negative influences online and in the media I wanted to bring something positive and accessible to the table. My experience is specifically with Anorexia and more recently anxiety and body dysmorphic disorder, but I hope to use the things I’ve learnt (and am still learning!) to help people with all kinds of eating disorders.
I also hear a lot of people saying that they do well in hospital on specialist units and feel better in that environment, but struggle or relapse once they are home with little or no support. Tough Cookie is about changing that – through helping people to help themselves, and teaching others how to support them in doing so.
Dedicated to promoting better awareness, understanding and empathy
I’m a survivor of Anorexia who set up Tough Cookie to support people with eating disorders and promote positive body image. I’m passionate about empathy and understanding, positive reporting and promoting the recovery and prevention of eating disorders through my own experiences, as unfortunately I didn’t have access to the help I needed like so many sufferers.
I set up Tough Cookie’s blog as a positive online resource for sufferers of eating disorders (Anorexia in particular) and body dysmorphia and their families. A blog fighting for positive body image and self-esteem and sharing basic nutritional education (making food friendly), campaigning for awareness and change, battling against eating disorders and body dysmorphia.
I believe in treating people with eating disorders with humility and kindness, and that empowerment and understanding is the only way that these mental illnesses can be overcome. I’m campaigning to end stigma and raise awareness of eating disorders, body dysmorphia and other related mental illnesses from a unique first hand perspective.
Passionate about positivity and promoting recovery
For us to be able to improve the upsetting statistics surrounding Anorexia, it’s all about being positive and saying – no, things aren’t ideal in the NHS, but you CAN recover and you absolutely deserve to. Angry ‘I was left to die’ headlines won’t get us anywhere – I don’t know anyone who has suffered from an eating disorder that wasn’t let down. We have to look at ways in which we can overcome eating disorders by ourselves. I did – and that’s why I’m passionate about helping other people who feel let down do the same thing – to make a full recovery and live a healthy, happy life.
The NHS is not going to find a magic pot of money and if they do, it’s unlikely they’ll spend it on an overhaul of eating disorder services, so we need to focus on other ways to help people to recover and spread the message that even without intervention of the NHS, you can get better.
I understand that people are angry. I’m still angry about the way I was treated. But my anger won’t change anything or help others in any way.
I’m always a bit cautious and feel worried when I am asked to discuss my lowest weight (which is ALL the time). It’s not because I am embarrassed or upset by it – not at all, what happened happened and I’ve since gone into great detail about my recovery – in order to help others. But this is one detail which I don’t believe is positive or helpful to others, both those at risk of developing an eating disorder and those who are suffering with one currently. I know from experience that it will become a ‘goal’ for many and I do not want to have any part in exacerbating an eating disorder when I am in fact trying to do the exact opposite.
I don’t think sharing grotesque photographs of me at my lowest weight will help anyone, either. It satisfies a sick curiosity for anyone who hasn’t been through it and may encourage vulnerable people (it did for me), and for those who have been through it, or are currently suffering, it’s a reality which doesn’t need outlining any further. I hate ‘thinspiration’ with a passion and with many people with eds (as I did) citing this as an influence in their illness I can’t understand why newspapers insist on sharing images of emaciated sufferers. An eating disorder is almost like a competition with yourself and others – so giving someone with an eating disorder or body dysmorphia a ‘lowest weight’ or a photograph is like giving them something to work towards. It will undoubtedly become a goal for some people, just as it did for me.
We need to recognise what is simply curiosity and sensationalism and what is well-meaning journalism designed to help people who are suffering and discourage vulnerable people – not inspire the opposite. Instead, why can’t we share inspirational stories of recovery which focus more on what people did to get better and not on what they experienced at their lowest ebb? By now most of us know that an eating disorder is shocking and horrific at its lowest ebb – but with cases on the rise it seems not as many people know how to prevent them or recover from them. Wouldn’t it be refreshing for the media to focus on making a difference?
I think it would be really good for the media (papers especially) to be seen to be making a positive difference, rather than just a headline.
I’m still a work in progress
I’m very frank about the fact that I am not perfect. I think you have to be – because comparing and putting people on pedestals is part of what causes eating disorders in the first place. When I was recovering, there was this ‘better’ scenario where everything was fantastic and great and as you get older, you learn that you have continuous challenges in life which you have to deal with, as well as any ongoing mental health issues which may just be a part of who you are. It’s about managing those well and learning to live with yourself and with your life to live the best life possible. I’m still learning how to do that myself! But every day and every week I get better at doing that and I love to share what I am learning with others to see how it can help them, too.
More on Anorexia on Tough Cookie
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