I DID IT!! I GAINED 2 POUNDS! 🥳🎉
But first things first - let's start from the beginning...
As you’ll know from previous blogs that I have posted around this time of year, Christmas can be really challenging for those with eating disorders.
I was first diagnosed with anorexia in 2014, and the memories I have of that Christmas are harrowing. On Christmas Eve 2014, I had a major panic attack after eating chocolate and bolted from the house, running blind for hours on end in a desperate, frenzied attempt to counteract every calorie consumed. It was also the one and only time I have ever made myself sick. Luckily, my anorexia didn’t morph into bulimic tendencies again, but the recollections of that Christmas still haunt me. It was the lowest point of my illness and the most dismal and melancholy time of my life.
Christmases since that first one shared with anorexia back in 2014 have been mixed, but thankfully never as bad. Heightened feelings of anorexia-infused anxiety are second-nature to me throughout December, but over the years, I have developed certain coping strategies to get me through the season.
Because, despite all of the negative connotations connected with my illness... I bloody love Christmas! 😍
It's all about taking one day at a time and acknowledging that set-backs are going to happen. It's how we bounce back that really defines us.
A particular triumph for me was last week, when my work threw a buffet, and we exchanged our Secret Santa gifts (shout out to Abbie for the BEST Secret Santa EVER!! The way to my heart is most definitely a giant tub of PERSONALISED Marmite!). 🥰
I was dreading the buffet for weeks, and began to conjure up all manner of elaborate excuses in my head to get out of attending.
One of my personal anorexia ‘quirks’ is that I rarely feel comfortable eating in-front of others in a social setting. Don’t ask, because I honestly don’t know why; it just makes me feel worried. If I’m plagued by this apprehension, I find it difficult to even be around food.
This, coupled with buffet food in general and a step outside of my usual eating ‘routine’ and ‘control’ filled me with such dread.
But when the buffet came around, I felt strangely calm. I no longer had the desire to faun a sudden bout of nausea and remain sitting behind my desk while my colleagues partied in another room.
Because that is exactly what anorexia wants: to isolate its victim. People don’t understand how hard it is to maintain a social life when your every single move is dictated by anorexia. The strict control that it enforces leaves very little room to form your own opinion or live life the way you would like.
I wanted to spend time with my colleagues and join in the merriment. I wanted to see the reaction of my Secret Santa-ee as she opened her present.
Two of my work friends had actually been out to get the food and told me they’d bought veggie sandwiches and pizza with me in mind. One of them also said she’d thought of me when she walked past the bags of my fave pretzels and had grabbed some.
No matter how much of a slave I often feel to anorexia, there are some things I know I need to refuse to allow it to mess with, and friendships and relationships are of utmost importance.
So I took a plate and I tucked in. And I was on a high all day.
I had a really lovely afternoon with my work friends, despite the intensifying hissings of anorexia.
Defying anorexia is the scariest, hardest thing you will ever do, but it’s ALWAYS worth it.
Christmas is for loved ones ❤️
I have enjoyed precious time with my nearest and dearest throughout December.
Me and Josh have watched a different Christmas film every night, from Christmas Chronicles, to Love Hard. We combined our movies with snacks, and after getting over the hurdle of guilt on the first night, I grew to really love our cosy nights. I have kept up my usual exercise routine, so why shouldn’t I be allowed to enjoy some treats and down-time? Anorexia protested, but I vowed to ignore it in favour of making memories with the people I love the most – that’s what Christmas is all about, and anorexia has no right to interfere with that.
I was on annual leave during the really cold snap a few weeks ago. One morning, I went out for a 15k run, and upon my return, I burned my gingerbread wax melts, whacked on the Christmas lights, prepared myself a mini cheese board and watched the Meghan & Harry documentary on Netflix. We’ve temporarily moved the hamster (Marmite) downstairs into the warm, and she even woke up to keep me company for much of the afternoon. I very rarely allow myself time to simply sit and do nothing, but I thoroughly relished it, and didn’t give myself any time to feel guilty for my ‘lack of productivity’ or extra calories in the form of the cheese board.
Life is all about balance, although anorexia regularly tries to convince me otherwise.
A chilled Christmassey afternoon with Marmite 🤣🎄
One thing I will say, though, is that I don’t AT ALL agree with the addition of calories on menus at restaurants.
I’m sorry, but in what world did people ever think this was a good idea?
People in positions of power can’t claim to be mindful of mental health and then pull a stunt like this. It’s all well and good filling our TVs with ads encouraging us to talk, but Jesus, adding a calorie-count to menus was a BAD move that will benefit absolutely NO-ONE.
All it does is encourage food-shame and guilt. It’s irresponsible and to be honest, downright dangerous. Impressionable children and teens view these menus – why the actual fuck are we tempting a complex?! Seriously, don’t even get me started… 🤬
While out for a meal with my bestie a few days before Christmas, I was wracked with anxiety upon studying the menu of a chain restaurant. I reeled in horror as the dish I intended to pick came with the additional information of 950 calories. I had already made the brave move of going to a restaurant – the last thing I needed was extra anxiety like such. I ended up choosing a different, lower-calorie option.
Changing the subject, I also just wanted to say that the sudden death of Faithless singer Maxi Jazz really struck a chord with me.
I have seen Faithless live and have always admired Maxi’s timeless, poetic lyrics.
And, let’s just be brutally honest here – is there even a better bloody song to run to than Insomnia?! Just a few weeks ago, I went for a run as the daylight faded. This song came on through my headphones and my pace evolved into a sprint, fuelled by that mesmerising beat. I ran hard and fast until I felt as though my feet were no longer making contact with the floor. The impending night swirled across my vision. It was an out-of-body experience, shared with the love of my life – running – and the blessing of good music.
A friend of mine actually did some work with Faithless a few years ago and has always said that Maxi was one of the kindest, gentlest, most intelligent people you could ever wish to meet. He shared that Maxi had time for everyone, no matter who they were, and tributes paid to him across the media echo this.
I was shocked and really saddened when the news of Maxi’s passing broke on Christmas Eve night. He was just 65 years old.
In the wake of Maxi’s untimely death, his band-mate Sister Bliss tweeted: ‘… Look after each other y’hear.' It really brought home to me how important it is to cherish every single second with our loved ones. Without sounding morbid, we never truly know when our time - and the time of our loves ones - is going to be up.
Two years ago, I wrote a blog entitled ‘Anorexia: I Refuse To Ruin Another Christmas.’ I quote that blog and stand by that ethos every single year. This year, the sentiment rang truer than ever. Christmas is a time for family, and I am NOT letting anorexia impact that.
Rest in peace, Maxi: ‘In you the fullness of living… We come one.’ 🖤🖤🖤
Christmas dinner! 🤤
Christmas Eve was the day I had hoped it would be. It’s the one day of the year I work extra hard to eschew my anorexia.
My Mum and I have certain traditions and I wouldn’t change them for the world. They are worth a million times more than anything anorexia could ever claim to offer.
We made mince pies while dancing around to 80’s music, and we had a feast while watching 'The Greatest Store In The World' (THE most underrated Christmas film!).
On Christmas Day, I granted my body a full day off exercise and indulged in chocolate for breakfast and a hefty portion of Christmas dinner, and I don’t regret a thing!
It is famously often said that 'Christmas isn’t about where you are, but who you’re with,' and I firmly believe this.
My Mum embodies the spirit of Christmas and still ensures that the magic of the season is rife. Spending Christmas with her is a highlight of the year for me. Anorexia will never again steal this joy or ruin our special day.
NOTHING beats Christmas at Mum's ❤️
So yes, I have gained two pounds, which is half of the weight I intended to gain before January 2023. I am so pleased with my progress, and the fact that I have persevered, despite the barriers, and kept a level-head. Slowly but surely, I am getting to where I need to be.
I am now eight pounds up on the weight I recorded during my initial relapse after my wedding at the beginning of 2020. 🥳
Two pounds doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re underweight, every increase – no matter how minimal - truly makes all the difference.
And as we all know, anorexia isn’t actually about the weight; it’s about the control. Anorexia is made up of hundreds of daily battles and by gaining weight, I have been quietly victorious. And the sense of victory is addictive.
I can’t even begin to explain how much better I feel in myself.
Even before anorexia, I was naturally underweight and had legs that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a malnourished sparrow, so I’m not expecting a Kardashian-esque figure anytime soon! But, happpily, it's my face that I can really see the difference in.
Weight tends to leave the face before anywhere else, which has always devastated me.
I HATE that a mental illness can manifest itself physically until it claims every single aspect of you. Anorexia strips its victim of their identity and turns their face into its own, with the trademark sunken cheeks, shadowed eyes and translucent skin.
Regaining some of the weight on my face has strengthened my armour and made me that bit stronger and more determined to fight.
Running continues to be the shining light in my journey towards recovery. I honestly do not know what I would do without it.
Last night, I went out for a quick 10k, and I couldn’t help but grin to myself as I pounded along. My body felt so physically fit and strong. The night engulfed me and I felt as though I could run forever.
Anorexia is basically the notion of the mind constantly bullying the body. In running, there is no time for this. The mind and the body must work together in perfect symmetry to ensure the best results and maximum enjoyment. The result of this has been revolutionary for me, and remains to be utterly euphoric every single time I prise on my running shoes.
The best thing I EVER did was allow myself to cross that threshold between running presenting as a chore and it becoming a lifeline.
NOTHING makes me happier than running. It’s the truest love of my life. ❤️
Nothing like a winter run to blow away the cobwebs! 😍
I actually feel like ME again! I feel my own, unique version of beautiful. My face is no longer shadowed by the mask of anorexia.
My skin beholds a glow, my hair feels incredible, and running feels effortless. My body feels toned, but joyously fuller.
Never underestimate the confidence boost of two pounds! I feel like a new bloody woman, ha!
If you want a plant to bloom, you have to provide it with the right ‘fuel’ and ensure it has access to the correct environment to grow and evolve. I am fast learning that the ‘fuel’ I feed my body has a positive impact on my overall well-being, and I am striving to create the best possible environment for my recovery. ❤️
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©
✨Read my book 'Running For My Life: An Anorexia Memoir & Self-Help Guide' HERE: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0B35FHK97/ref=dbs_a_def_awm_bibl_vppi_i2