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Health & Fitness 'If I Had Been Weighed At School, I Don’t Believe I'd Have Survived My Eating Disorders'

23:00  22 june  2021
23:00  22 june  2021 Source:   heatworld.com

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I was born a big girl. Those are the words that feature the most frequently in my earliest memories. A big sister, expected to be responsible and caring, and ‘set a good example’ to my five smaller siblings. ‘Tall for her age,’ teachers and aunts would comment, wrinkling their noses as I sat too heavily in tiny chairs, or clambered onto swings that might not withstand my weight. And on the playground, I was fat.

a close up of a hand: A child stands on scales © Credits: Getty A child stands on scales

The first time I heard the ‘f’ word, I was five, a new girl at a new school. I knew so little about my body beyond what it felt to live in. But it was made clear to me, very quickly, that it was wrong. It stood for something that I had no control over. Without understanding what I could have done, I felt sharp shame, every day, every hour, flushing my cheeks and pricking at my eyelids.

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Over thirty years later, I felt that shame when I read about government proposals to regularly weigh school children. During lockdown, the National Child Measurement Programme was halted. Tam Fry, the chair of the National Obesity Forum was reported in the Independent as saying: ‘We expect the figures [for child obesity] will have gone up and we expect the results, when we get them, to be a real jolt to Boris Johnson.’

Children have never had so much to worry about. I don’t understand why any sane adult would want to make their weight into another worry.

Why would the figures have figures increased? The expert consensus is that it’s a result of home schooling, less activity and ‘easier access to snacks’. I have yet to hear an expert venture the suggestion that most children have probably just experienced the toughest year of their lives, mental health wise.

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They have been surrounded by frightened, confused, stressed adults. Many have probably spent more time than ever staring at various screens, absorbing frightening fragments of news stories which make the dark days seem unbearable. Children have never had so much to worry about. I don’t understand why any sane adult would want to make their weight into another worry.

Some parents have assured me that their schools are handling this in a smart, responsible way, recording the data without making a big deal of it, and keeping all the information confidential. However, when I consider my own experiences, I’m not convinced that it can be done in a wholly responsible way.

When I was growing up, all sorts of well-meaning people would take it upon themselves to try to fix my problem, as though it had never occurred to me that I could eat an apple instead of a chocolate bar, or that I just wasn’t getting enough exercise. All I wanted was to be ‘good’ and make the grown-ups happy.

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Before I knew what an eating disorder was, I was locked in a cycle of starving and bingeing. Food stopped being fuel or nourishment and became my drug of choice. I tried so hard to be ‘good’, and lose weight, but when the bullying became especially bad, food was my only source of comfort. The bigger I got, the smaller I felt.

Every time I hear the phrase ‘obesity crisis’, I want to shake our Prime Minister by the collar and scream ‘BUT WHAT ABOUT OUR MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS?’ Because I believe the two things are inextricably linked. We urgently need to spread the message that no food is bad, no bodies are bad, and food isn’t simply a nutritional issue. It’s an important source of joy and celebration that must be respected and honoured. However, I don’t think we can ignore the fact that food is constantly sold to us and promoted as a kind of legal drug. We can be silenced when we are encouraged to eat our feelings.

Every time I hear the phrase ‘obesity crisis’, I want to shake our Prime Minister by the collar and scream ‘BUT WHAT ABOUT OUR MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS?’

Before lockdown, I lost a significant amount of weight because I started to learn that every time I turned to ‘comfort eating’, I was using food as a way of numbing my mind and body. In my mid-thirties, I had to learn how to feel my feelings, without distracting myself with food. Throughout my teens and twenties, I had struggled with anorexia, bulimia and disordered eating. I can’t name a diet I haven’t tried. Eventually I found a weight that feels right for me because I made my mental health a priority. Quite honestly, there are superficial things I enjoy about the physical changes, but it’s the mental and emotional strength that I’ve developed that has truly changed my life for the better.

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a woman sitting on the floor © Getty

If I had been weighed at school, I don’t believe I would have survived my eating disorders. As a child, I felt completely alone. As an adult, I’ve been heartbroken to discover that there are so many of us – people who were taught to feel ashamed of their bodies before they were even taught to look at a classroom model skeleton. Collectively, we’re plodding through our mental health crisis, trying to find ourselves inside ourselves, hoping to eventually feel that we’re OK, even when we don’t feel OK. It’s a painful legacy, and one that no one should have to inherit.

If children are weighed and measured at school, it’s their mental health that will soon be found wanting. But if we make their mental health our priority, I suspect that soon we won’t have an ‘obesity crisis’ to worry about.

READ MORE: This Is Not The Time To Be Panicking About Your 'Post Lockdown Body'

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How to lose weight: 12 safe strategies for weight loss that can ACTUALLY help .
Losing weight isn’t instant, but follow these steps and you’ll get fitter and lose weight faster than ever before.The NHS recommends that you aim to lose no more than 2 lbs (1kg) per week; any more than that, and you risk burning out and giving up. If you want to get fit in 2021, you must be patient with yourself and allow time for your body to adjust.

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This is interesting!