#70: 8 Recovery Top Tips

This is just a punchy, to the point, unflowery post about the things which helped heal me.

You’ll be happy to see there’s no rambling intro.

Please bare with me despite the ironic first tip.

Hope it helps 🙂

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#1: Never lose sight of the facts that other people’s top tips might not be appropriate for you.

Slightly ironic, but essential to mention.

There is no ‘How To’ guide for recovery. Anybody who claims to have one is hugely underestimating how complex, nuanced and individualised an eating disorder is.

There is no black and white. There really are no absolutes. What works for somebody may not work for another and visa versa. The treatment has to be tailored to the individual because we all respond to different things and find different things effective.  Blindly following somebody else’s method or motivation will likely not work.

Identifying your own WHY is important because you need passion and emotional engagement to help rebuild your relationship with yourself, your body and food. Using somebody else’s ‘why’s’ may not be solid enough to push you through the discomfort, if they don’t strongly resonate with you and your unique situation.

The best example of this I can think of is my motivation of hormone restoration (to enable future conception of a baby) as a large motivator for weight gain. Although this is common and may strongly resonate with some individuals it could have the opposite effect on another. For example:

  • somebody who has past-abuse as a contributing factor to their illness may not find the motivator of fertility useful. It may even feel threatening and undesirable if the individual feels safer not having an adult’s body which might be sexualised.
  • somebody who is past child-bearing age, either due to developing AN later or whose AN was active long-term during childbearing years.
  • Somebody who is too young for this to be a strong motivator.
  • somebody who never lost menses and already feels inadequate/invalid because of this.

This is very similar to finding your own HOW, as there is no ‘one way fixes all’. Although generally, I do believe the focus should be on nutritional rehabilitation first and formost, there are methods within this which may speed progress. For example, I found peace in finding out the science behind why things were happening. Knowing that other people had overcome temporary intolerances (caused by a lack of diversity of gut bacteria) was super helpful for me and motivated me to push past the discomfort. This sciency stuff doesn’t resonate for everyone, especially if they’re at a different place in recovery.

The point is: Don’t be deterred if something which was a turning point in somebody else recovery was not a turning point for you. There will be a way that does and it’s your job to find this. Which leads me nicely onto my next point…

#2: Take charge and DO

It took me years to realize that nobody was going to recover for me. No book, no video, no blog post would heal me.  Eating disorders are not a choice. But recovery is.  You make the actions to heal yourself, and you will.

Don’t get me wrong, blog posts help. Books help. Videos help. But even if you gather all of the resources in the world, ultimately it is your actions which cause mental and physical shifts and progression.

My main advice would be to ensure an action plan is being followed through with and constantly renewed. If you’ve begun to become comfortable with something, take it up a gear. Eat it at a different time. Have someone else prepare it. Prepare it yourself. Eat 2. Whatever it takes so you don’t become stagnant. A dynamic approach is so necessary because something that works for you in one stage of recovery may not work for you in a later stage. It’s also possible that one approach just doesn’t work entirely, and people waste years and years hitting their head against a brick wall.

I guess this was so important for me because being perpetually ‘in recovery’ was one of my biggest fears. I’d seen it on social media and read about it. I didn’t want to rely on my mum portioning all of my meals for the rest of my life, so I had to take the initiative to do something about this. I didn’t want to secretly wish I could have a bigger portion or seconds for all of my life, so I had to take the initiative to do something about this.

Resources, a support network, distractions and everything else are there to alleviate the discomfort that the action’s cause. But when the actions do cause discomfort, please know it is temporary and will pass. Eating disorder anxiety is forever. Recovery anxiety is not. You can do hard things. You can endure discomfort.

Never EVER lose sight of the fact that YOU are the most important member of your recovery (and wider treatment team if you have one). If something is not working, change it. More on this on #4.

#3: Lay down commitments and recognize that motivations may well come in second

The 3 key commitments are:

  1. commit to unrestricted eating
  2. commit to reaching an unsuppressed weight
  3. commit stopping ED rules and rituals

Whenever you are at a standstill, think of these. They resolve almost every issue.

The problem with relying on motivations is that they are too weak to stand up against fear. No matter how compelling they were, or how many I listed, they did not overpower the fear of the food in front of me. Nothing did, because Anorexia was still active in my brain. Regardless of how much I wanted to recover, the brain stem area was anti-weight gain.

Due to this, in the moment, when a pizza is sitting in front of me, something like “I’m going to eat this because I want to go to University in 5 months” or “I’m going to eat this pizza because I want to have kids in 10 years” just didn’t win. It wavered and collapsed in the ED wind.

Instead, having the commitment: “I’m going to eat this pizza because I have committed to reaching an unsuppressed weight” helped more.

#4: Be proactive

You are in control. You know, deep down, what is limiting you.

For me, being proactive meant that I had to completely re-record my mixtape, from Anorexia’s heavy metal screamo shit to Jazz or something. I would not have recovered if I didn’t completely overhaul what I was doing.  Making small changes didn’t work for me. Holding on to any part of anorexia and giving it in inch simply kept me trapped.

Below are things that I recognised I needed to be proactive about. Some may be relevant for you, too:

  • Learning and educating myself about mental and physical hunger, body neutrality, fatphobia, HAES concepts.
  • Ditching the scales.
  • Deleting any counting apps- incl. step counting apps and calorie counting apps
  • Unfollowing or blocking any social media accounts which I found even the slightest bit problematic. For me, this was predominantly running blogs and ones which promoted orthorexic eating
  • Put my trainers out of sight.
  • Threw old, tight clothes.
  • Being honest about some of my ED-OCD behaviours to my family, so they could call me out and keep me accountable.

Something that else comes in this section is seeking treatment. Not only treatment but the appropriate treatment that works for you.

Although I don’t comment on it too much, I also have pretty strong views about it. Please know that you are not a bleating lamb who has no say in what happens to you. You must recognise when something is not right.

An example of this is when a psychologist diagnosed me with depressive symptoms and promised to delve into my childhood in search for the ‘route cause’. I knew, deep down, that the route cause to my ‘depression’ was malnourishment and the eating disorder taking all joy out of life. It was not a trauma. It wasn’t something from my childhood. It didn’t bloody exist before my eating disorder did. The physical state of me caused my mental depression. Therefore, physically healing would take it away.

More examples from my experience include how I was advised:

  • to limit my weight gain to 500g a week.
  • to see my weekly weight gain on the scales.
  • to exactly follow a meal which prescribed a piece of fruit as a morning snack.
  • to start drinking protein powder every morning
  • to continue with ‘light movement’ if it kept me happy.

…amongst many other things. This set my recovery back a couple of years. Of course, my confused self and even more confused parents took every word as gospel, even if it didn’t seem quite right.

Without going into it anymore, I just want to make clear that I could have spent years and years hitting my head against a brick wall with my initial treatment team and never recovered. Instead, I recognised that it was not working and made a change. Deciding to find alternative therapy was the best thing I ever did. I only wish I’d done it sooner, but I guess this was all part of the process.

#5: Create recovery rules which apply to you

You will be able to identify some behaviours/ anorexia generated rules that are holding you back.

One of mine was analysing my weight gain in the mirror. To prevent this, I made a ‘recovery rule’ which helped me stop body checking. It’s something that seriously helped me. It involved giving myself a 3 second-ish rule for looking at my body in the mirror. I glanced at myself when leaving the house to see if I looked presentable and then moved away.  Anything more was just detrimental for me and done with bad intentions. Not giving myself time for any analysing or scrutinizing really helped me find peace with my body. Eventually, I became very neutral about it. I didn’t feel the need to love it, but certainly didn’t hate it either.

I had loads of other recovery rules which I put on a ‘No List’ in early recovery.

Identifying and ‘banning’ the most common specific behaviours preventing progress helped me a lot because I felt like I had made a law not to do them. It sounds bizarre, but it worked for me alongside the commitment. I’ve listed some of mine below, although it may be useful to create your own.

  • No leaving anything on my plate
  • No reduced fat/ sugar products
  • No unnecessary standing
  • No ‘i’ll have it later’
  • No weighing self/ food
  • Park as close as possible to the everything shop entrance

#6: Eat, eat, eat more (and rest).

Food doesn’t just help your body. It significantly improves your mental clarity and rationality.

There is no too much.

I read this blog post every night for about a month to help me see that: https://tabithafarrar.com/2017/02/anorexia-recovery-eating/

The same applies to rest. I needed 14 months rest from exercise to help me severe the link between movement and food.  Thank goodness I did that.

#7: Buy and read “Rewire, Rehabilitate, Recover” by Tabitha Farrar.

Just do it.

I recommend a hard copy.

#8: Prioritize you and your recovery

Nothing else is more important than your recovery. Full stop.

For me, fully committing to recovery required my full attention and I would not have fully recovered without doing this. Taking a year off Uni gave me the time, space and the right environment for me to fully heal.

Whatever you need to do to put yourself first, do it. Once it’s done, you can get back to doing the everyday stuff with renewed energy, strength, passion and vitality.


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Hope sharing some of my thoughts helps. Keep going and DO.

Han 🙂




#69: Taboo

Hey guys!

A few days ago I did a post about the night sweats that I experienced from November through until February. As I changed into my 70th bed shirt of the night, I thought, what hell is going on? what’s wrong with me? 

Anyway,  turns out, yet again, nothing was broken. There was nothing wrong with me. Others had experienced the exact same phenomenon. I wasn’t the first, and won’t be the last, to wake up with my clothes drenched.

Reading about other people’s experiences with strange, uncomfortable recovery phenomenon, including night sweats, normalised them for me. As well as this, the explanation (that night sweats were down to the body being ineffective at dealing with energy) gave me hope. I thought if I push through this, and my body becomes effective, it won’t happen anymore. And guess what? It doesn’t. Ever.

There are loads of things which happen in recovery which are pretty scary, awkward and uncomfortable. I’m writing this to reassure you that you aren’t experiencing and struggling with something that countless others have not also been through and come out the other side of. Preparedness of the probable can help prevent a freakout, and perhaps a full-blown relapse.

If anybody reads this and said “oh few, I thought I was the only one”, I’ll be so pleased. Tolerating the uncertainty is a critically important recovery tool, and I think for me, understanding the processes and knowing it would pass helped a lot.

Just for ease, this blog post is just going to be about the physical aspects. There’s so much to say about the psychological aspects of recovery that aren’t often spoken about, that it probably deserves its own post entirely.

I hate blog posts which have a massive introduction and don’t just get on with it, whoops, but I just want to clarify I’m no doctor, so all the info below is from evidence within sources I trust and have found to be accurate to my experiences.

Anyway, here we go, finally…

“Weight restoring superfast. It feels like it takes months or years for everybody else.”

When I drive around, literally nobody seems to use their indicators. They turn at the last minute without warning. Does that mean that I should too? Is that safe?

Now, if I put that unmetaphorically and bluntly: drop the comparison. It does not matter what everybody else is doing. After all, the people you are comparing yourself are still struggling, and ‘in recovery’. At the start of recovery, it is common for weight gain to be fast, this is predominantly due to suppressed metabolism and the fact that your body is holding onto anything it can (including water- which I’ll talk about later).

Weight restoration can be be a very quick process. It is only your ED and the fear it motivates that makes the dragged out, slow approach option seen better. Regardless of your judgement about that, it is the best way as according to science.

If I had followed methods ‘everybody else’ seems to on Instagram, for example having 2 Weetabix with soya milk for breakfast, I would not be where I am right now. I’d be starving, still scared of all food and trapped in the illness. Remember: being ‘in recovery’ for eternity is not desirable. As soon as any risk of refeeding syndrome is cleared, ‘superfast’ is good.

The ‘Low and slow’ approach used to be the recommended treatment advice. Now, this has been turned on its head. Countless studies, (e.g Garber, 2013), strongly recommend a more aggressive and faster-refeeding protocol. This has been proven time and time again to lead to faster recovery and better overall outcomes. Although weight restoration is not recovered, it allows significantly improved brain function and receptiveness to any treatment. Weight restoration is the number one goal, and full neural rewiring will follow.

You cannot recover too fast, despite what your eating disorder says.  You cannot recover to fast, despite what it seems like everybody else is doing.

“Rock hard stomach and swollen legs”

Edema (fluid retention) is due to previous dehydration. Dehydration occurs for many reasons: laxative or diuretic abuse; decreased intake of glucose, protein, and electrolytes; refusal to drink water; as well as excess consumption of protein or caffeine intake.

In recovery, the priority and so first step for the body to gain water weight to achieve normal hydration. This can occur suddenly and can be severely uncomfortable because the change is pretty immediate.

Of course, your eating disorder will use this as a weapon.  For me, it felt like the confirmation of all of my fears. “See, this is what happens when I begin to eat!” However,  I continued to allow my body to do its thing and sat through mental and physical discomfort. Slowly but surely, the puffiness and swelling seemed to go.

Although water weight is impermanent and disappears, ultimately, weight gain is not and should not be seen as a maladaptive response to increasing intake.  Weight gain is a normal process and correct response to the reintroduction of food. No attempt should be made to micromanage or investigate why it’s happening. It must be accepted.

“IBS type symptoms/bloating/gas”

It is extremely common to suffer from gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, acid reflux, frequent bowel movements, ingestion in recovery. The solution to all of them: continuing to eat through the discomfort and allowing rest. Cutting out foods is not the answer.

There are loads of explanations for IBS type symptoms, here are some:

When you have been eating limited types of foods, your stomach seems to almost forget how to process them. This can create temporary intolerances. Do not take an at-home intolerance test. They are absolute bullshit on a stick. Solution: eat.

Your cells constantly make general repair work on your entire body. This is less of a priority compared to keeping your heart beating. Therefore, your stomach and intestines don’t receive as much maintenance during the restrictive phase. Before this system is going to work well again, repairs will have to be undertaken. Delayed gastric emptying means that you may feel food sitting in the stomach a long time after eating. As soon as your body receives enough energy for regular repairs, such intense pain is less frequent. Solution: keep eating.

For many, a restricted, low-volume of food gradually leads to the shrinking of the stomach. When you start to eat again, you might feel uncomfortably full until your stomach expands and adapts to the new quantity of food. Solution: keep eating.

Restriction leads to a reduction in gut bacteria. The decrease in diversity of (good) bacteria can be reversed by: eating more.

Eating creates anxiety more most people with an Eating disorder. This places you in your sympathetic nervous system. When we are preparing for a fight or flight response, we are not designed to digest food. The body thinks, I’m going to run from that tiger (or any perceived threat, perhaps a doughnut), rather than, I’m going to get to work breaking down that pesto pasta. 

Short-term, you can reaccess your parasympathetic nervous system with breathing techniques (Here’s a blog post about that #51: And Breathe)

Long-term, overall anxiety will reduce as your brain rewires. This means that your digestion will automatically happen in your parasympathetic nervous state (the rest and digest one).

If you skim read all of that and just want a quick answer, its EAT MORE despite the discomfort.

(I’ve got a whole blog post about the GI issues in case you wanted to know more!  #66: GI issues and stress)

“Low sex drive”

This is due to Energy Reallocation. When there is not enough energy to properly run the body, energy gets allocated from less important processes and structures to the most important ones. Energy is delivered to muscles, organs, and tissues only as they relate to surviving, not toward optimal function. 

Low libido, therefore, has a completely reasonable explanation biologically. You’re fighting to survive pal, the last thing you have the energy for is raising a child.  The body stops using ‘non-essential’ energy. Sex hormones are in this category.

To get all of these non-essential things back running to their full potential, you must eat in abundance. If you want your body to do more than the bare minimum, you must eat a lot more than the bare minimum.

When energy can be spared, you will be attracted to other things than food. You’ll achieve this by unrestricted eating.

“Weak bladder’

Anorexia causes muscle wastage. Degradation of the muscles used for the urinary system will make it harder to hold in wee. Muscles rebuild with adequate nutrition.

“Waking up hungry in the middle of the night”

Your body doesn’t care what time it is. Your body just wants food. It is your responsibility, as an adult in a committed recovery, to haul yourself out of bed, and go and make yourself a substantial snack. I did this several times and eventually, it stopped.

Whatever, how-much-ever, whenever = unrestricted eating. Don’t judge or question.

“Dry skin”

Xerosis, (dry skin), is due to deficiencies of vitamins and trace elements. It is also possibly linked to impaired thyroid function. The solution, as before, do your best to eat a range of nutrient-dense foods.

“Being restless and feeling like I have loads of energy makes me feel like I am eating enough…”

When you are underweight (under your bodies optimal weight) hormone levels that regulate tissue growth are decreased. The result of this is that more glucose becomes available for vital organs and vital movement. A malnourished body assumes that this movement is aimed toward getting food to eat – not with the goal of doing a home work out or purposely moving with the intent to burn calories.

The reason you may feel as you have more energy is due to the energy that has been allocated to those limbs to get them to work for hunting and gathering food. NOT FUCKING HOME WORK-OUTS. The fact that these activities are perhaps physically possible, does not mean they are advisable.

“Uneven weight gain”

Weight gain going to the trunk (tum) is an adaptive process occurs in order for body fat to protect and separate vital organs. Within one week of beginning fully committing, I noticed it and it terrified me. But, because I expected it this time around, it ploughed on.

This, alongside body dysmorphia and water retention, can feel excruciating. All the advice I can give here is that YOU can do hard things. You can endure discomfort. You must continue to eat.

“Wacky hunger cues”

During the weight gain phase of recovery, it’s really common for appetite to be a bit all over the place. Mine varied dramatically, with wild swings between insatiable hunger and uncomfortable fullness. Experiencing both ends of the hunger spectrum during the course of an hour isn’t just something I found to occur, it’s happened to loads of others.  Many people report feeling mentally hungry and unsatisfied, despite extreme physical fullness.  This all happens as the body does its best to promote eating to get out of energy deficit.

These swings are thought to be down to the body doing it’s best to ensure as much food is coming in as possible and due to the fact that food is quickly put to use.


I really hope that helped provide you with a little bit of comfort and reassurance that your body isn’t broken, or damaged, or doing something ‘wrong’. To get rid of the symptoms, or force them to pass quicker, the solution is to eat and rest. Simple in concept, but admittedly harder in practice with an active ED brain.

Here are 3 last points worth mentioning:

  1. What I write about it from my own experience. As always. If a particular symptom is persisting, online help, advice or guidance is no replacement for proper medical opinion. The last thing I would want you to do is avoiding seeking professional medical advice if there is an underlying cause.
  2. Your body tailors its response to its environment depending on what it deems safest and most appropriate for you. No recovery looks the same. You’ll have noticed that some of the symptoms directly contrast each other. This just proves the point that everybody’s bodies respond in different ways and are at varying stages. Not having a particularly common symptom is a good thing. It doesn’t invalidate you or bare any reflection on how ill you were or how desperately you need to recover.
  3. Overanalysing is never good. Personally, I respond and find peace in reading scientific evidence and explanations. If you don’t, that’s cool. Just as a reassuring rule of thumb, your body doesn’t do stuff frivolously. It is smart and has your best interests at heart.

Han x


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#68: Words of Wisdom


A while ago, I messaged a few of my favourite accounts and asked them if they would mind telling me 3 things/words of advice they wish they knew at the start of their recovery.  

The responses were amazing.

The following are the replies from 2 of these awesome ladies who I admire so much and who inspired me so much during my own journey. I’ve put the parts that I think are really essential to take on board in bold.

Firstly, @mumming_and_recovering:

1. That amidst all the fear and worry and anxiety and stress of committing to recovery, look for the glimmers of relief. They will be there, deep down. When you truly commit 100% to recovery and know you are not going back, if you look hard enough you will find brief moments of relief at being able to eat now. Relief at not having to go for a run in the rain. Relief at not having to lie or keep secrets. Relief at being able to rest and not endlessly find ways to move. Relief at not having to endlessly count. Hold onto those moments. They are a glimpse at a much, much brighter future.

2. Judging and comparing your hunger will always, without exception, make you feel shit.

3. Aiming to ‘re-find’ the person you were before your eating disorder is impossible. Aim to grow into a new, stronger version of yourself

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Secondly, @mkmakesmoves

  1. Quasi-recovery isn’t worth it. I had only partially committed to recovery at first, which was honestly just a big waste of my time. I wish I could go back and tell myself that I was going to have to take the leap at some point– and if not now, then when? I’d gained weight, I was eating enough to prevent people from worrying about me, and my family was no longer on my back about what I ate 24/7. however, regardless of the progress, I appeared to be making from an outsiders point of view, I still felt stuck.

My family would congratulate me on eating a donut, but didn’t know that I dwelled over the online nutritional information beforehand seeking the lowest calorie option on the menu. My doctors were happy that I was gaining weight, but they didn’t see the countless hours I lay awake at night calculating and recalculating the calories I had eaten that day in fear that I had eaten ‘too much’ or would gain weight ‘too fast’.

It killed me to hear my dad talking about how proud he was of my when I knew in my heart that I’d only been half-assing it the whole time. I felt like a fraud. I wanted so badly to make him proud, but not like this. I wish I had known earlier that in order to truly recover, there is no such thing as simply dipping your toes in to test the water. you gotta dive in head first.

2. I wish that I was prepared for the influx of feelings and emotions that come along with feeding yourself properly. Restricting provided me with numbness that allowed me to avoid all of the feelings I was too scared to face. It allowed me to run away from my problems without actually going anywhere. However, along with all of the negative emotions went all of the others as well. Sure, I had successfully numbed that intense sadness, the one you feel deep in your gut, but I had also numbed feelings of joy, hope, and love. I lived in a constant desensitized state. Obviously still had feelings, but not in the way I once did. I have always been one who feels very deeply, which has both its pros and cons. However, the emotions I felt deep in my eating disorder were not true, raw feelings, but rather forced and surface level. I lost my ability to empathize with others and became selfish and self-absorbed.

3. It doesn’t always have to be hard. Just because recovery is difficult doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to enjoy it sometimes. While yes, it will sometimes be scary and frustrating and challenging, it will also sometimes be fun. Don’t let yourself feel ashamed for enjoying the process, because that’s what recovery is about. It’s about rediscovering joy and learning to love life again. Enjoying food is not a shameful thing or a personal failure. Rather, it’s an important part of life that recovery allows you to discover. Do not feel guilty for enjoying late-night ice cream runs or the feeling of freedom that comes with allowing yourself anything you feel like- whether that be chocolate cake for breakfast or a bagel for a mid-morning snack. Similarly, you are allowed to feel confident in your changing body. While bad body image days are inevitable, good body image days happen too. On these days, embrace it!! Contrary to what your eating disorder may have told you, you are allowed to feel good about yourself, just as you are.

A HUGE HUGE thank you to both for taking the time to write these.

Here are the combined key points:

  • Look for the glimmers of relief. They will be there.
  • Hold onto those moments of relief.
  • There is a brighter future.
  • Judging and comparing is shit. Period.
  • You will grow into a new, stronger version.
  • Quasi-recovery isn’t worth it.
  • have to take the leap at some point
  • You can fool others and make it appear as though you are recovering to an outsider, but you can’t fool yourself. You will still feel stuck.  
  • There is no such thing as simply dipping your toes in.  You gotta dive in head first.
  • Restricting provides numbness. It might numb bad emotions, but also good ones.
  • It doesn’t always have to be hard.
  • You are allowed to enjoy it. 
  • It’s about rediscovering joy and learning to love life again.
  • Fuelling yourself allows genuine emotions. Deprivation and restriction means emotions are likely to be forced and superficial.
  • Enjoying food is not a shameful thing or a personal failure. 
  • Do not feel guilty for living.
  • You are allowed to feel confident in your changing body on any occasions that happens.
  • You are allowed to feel good about yourself.

I really hope that helps. I know I would have found it super useful if I was just starting out.

I messaged a few others too… but lost their replies. If I manage to find them, I’ll share them too.

Han. x




#67: How I stopped calorie counting


Calorie counting is something that plagued me for a long time. Now it doesn’t. Whatsoever. Yipee! So, how?

It’s a process, as usual…

At the very start of my recovery, I thought avoidance was the only way to cure my fear of calories. Although short-term this helped, (especially not seeing traffic light charts), ultimately it just ended up strengthening my fear of numbers on the occasions I was exposed to them.

When I say avoidance, I mean that I tried my best to not see the calorie content of anything. I wanted to be completely oblivious to calories. Forever. To do this, I asked my mum to remove foods from their packets and cover nutrition labels. I also tended to avoid packeted foods that I already knew the calories of, like bars or biscuits. Needless to say, this ruled out quite a few things.

Much like avoiding looking at myself in the mirror, this method did work for a while in the initial stages of my recovery. My emotions were pretty volitle, and avoiding sensitive things was necessary for me to keep stable and gain strength and provided enough courage to get going. 

Despite this, it certainly wasn’t ‘unrestricted eating’. I was restricting foods I knew the calories of. Ok, not the worse type of restriction imaginable, but nevertheless, not good.

Issues I found with the avoidance method:

There were 3 main reasons why not exposing myself to calorie content wasn’t very sustainable.

  • I already knew the calorie counts of most foods.
  • Hiding the calories was exacerbating my fear of calories (marking them as something to be scared of & avoided).
  • It left me dependent on my mum. I was unable to buy food on my own & became particularly distressed on occasions that I was exposed to a number.



It became exhausting. How could I have lunch in a chain café with my mum when I knew all of the calorie counts? Should we go to independent cafés for the rest of our life? No, that’s inconvenient, unsustainable and not addressing the issue. Should I allow her to pick for me? No, because then I’m reliant on her and my recovery is only stable when she’s around to initiate challenge. 

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In the end, the way that I cracked my calorie counting habit was addressing the issue by asking myself a few questions.

Why was I scared of calories?

Why did I feel the urge to count?

Well, it doesn’t take a genius to work it out. But it takes honesty. I counted calories because  I was scared of eating ‘too much’. I was scared of exceeding a self-imposed limit. I was scared of gaining weight. I was scared of not being ‘in control.’ (oh, past-Han, having anorexia didn’t make you ‘in control’.)

So, with knowledge of that, these were the fears I had to address and resolve, which in turn would help me stop obsessing over calories.

I had to commit to 3 things. Unrestricted eating. Weight gain. Losing rules and rituals. These were some of the things involved:

  • Consistently repeat my affirmations such as, ‘there is no too much’ until I truly believed them.
  • Remove the upper limit I had on my intake. Even though I was eating enough by other people’s standard, I still could have eaten more. 
  • I had to confront my issues with weight gain. I did this by working on body neutrality and acceptance.
  • I had to drop the bullshit idea that I was in control.
  • Oh, and I had to gain weight. Because that made me think clearer and more rationally. And, because that is a pre-requisite of a stable recovery. 

So, once all of that was heading in the right direction, I knew that something needed to change in regards to my attitude towards calories. I needed a complete overhaul of the way I viewed them. I’ve found this need for a complete overhaul pretty necessary throughout my recovery. I needed to wipe the slate clean on any previous misconceptions and restart. Any associations I had about calories before were wiped and I did my best to realign some new words to them.

Because I was telling myself ‘there is no too much’ food, by definition, there could not be ‘too many’ calories. I played a game which used my heinious calorie counting superskill to my advantage. This was when I really got going and serious about my recovery. 

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I stopped trying to stop…

Calorie counting was automatic for me I changed my intentions and purpose for doing it. Are used it in a way that served me and benefited me positively in my recovery. I stopped tracking my calories in fear of eating too much and turned this on its head. Trying to block numbers entering my brain was futile so trying something else, like a having a goal to exceed a minimum, really helped. In the ‘game’ that I played with myself, I didn’t go around searching packets for calories. That would have been weird. But, on the occasions that I did see calories or already knew them, I did my best view them as positive. The higher the better. The more points. 

There was a point in my recovery where this ‘game’ would have been unimaginable for me. But by this point, it felt pretty much like my last shot. And thank God I took it.




Rules of the ‘game’:

  • I would choose what the real me liked best.
  • If I still didn’t know or was deliberating between options, I would choose whatever I knew had more calories. If in doubt, it was always higher is better- a complete rehaul of my previous actions.
  • If a product made me think “yikes”, I followed through, bought it and ate it.


Eventually, the exposure helped me have a mindset shift about calories. I lost focus and created a strong, stable, sustainable relationship with numbers if I do happen to see them. I never actively seek them out, but they do not bother me or plague me as they did before.

The aim for you is, obviously, to stop calorie counting. But remember, our brains pay attention to things we pay attention to. For as long as calories are important to you, it will continue to count them and hold them as significant. Over time, calories have become less and less important to me. I can see calorie counts on a packet or meal and be more or less neutral about it. It has very little effect on my anxiety levels because I have been exposed to them and ignored them for so long. 








I honestly could not care less about how many calories I eat per day, as long as it’s enough. With time, calories CAN become unimportant for you too ⭐️

Whatever method you find useful to stop counting calories, GO FOR IT. It is possible. The most important thing to remember is: If one thing doesn’t work after persistent effort, try something else. There will be a way. Don’t give up until it’s done. ❤️

Han x


#66: GI issues and stress


Today I’m going to talk about a really glamorous topic! This week I’ve really been struggling with sickness. Mainly, D&V–ew.

I had a huge problem with GI issues whilst I was doing my A level mocks and exams a few years ago. At the time, I went to the doctors to try to figure out what was wrong. I headed the surgery thinking it might have something to do with dairy. I feel like everything is blamed on dairy online. Bad skin? Dairy. Stomach issues? Dairy. Aching toe? Dairy. Anyway, when my doctor suggested there may be some truth in this, I took it and ran. I cut milk, cheese and yoghurt out of my diet completely.

In hindsight, this was the absolute wrong thing to do for so many reasons. Mainly, because cutting out dairy and being overly concerned about traces of it anywhere made me very stressed, but also because my body then developed a real temporary intolerance to it. (Side note: temporary intolerances can be overcome this by gradual reintroduction.)

This dairy demonisation was an example of confirmation bias, something I posted about on my Instagram a few days ago. I went into the surgery believing it was dairy and came out with a strengthened belief. Out of the numerous things it could have been, my brain latched onto the passing comment my doctor made about the possibility dairy could be playing a part. I didn’t even consider any other potential causes, because I was so focussed on it being the fault of cow’s milk.

What else could it have been?

I had test after test and gave sample after sample to try to figure out what was going on. The doctors said that *something* wasn’t right, but couldn’t work out exactly what. There was no sign of intolerance or underlying long-term condition, which was good, but it left everybody a bit pickled.

At this time, alongside studying for A-Levels, I was really struggling with my ED recovery and still over-exercising.  From being worried about 18th birthday parties at weekends, to trying to maintain good grades, to stupidly trying to fit in exercise into already hectic days. It goes without saying, I was stressed To The Max.

I also had a job outside of school, ran and edited the school paper, tutored loads of international students and was writing coursework. Physiologically or physically, I rarely rested. Sometimes I felt like recovery was a full time job on its own. Let alone juggling quasi-recovery with 100 other things. It was a massively stressful period.

It’s incredibly common for psychological stress to cause digestion problems. It only takes a quick google search of ‘the link between stress and GI issues’ to find out how entwined the problems are.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might remember me saying how I had D&V on Christmas Day just gone. Although it’s very possible that this was food poisoning from Christmas Eve prawns, mum and I have a feeling it could have perhaps been stress-related. I wasn’t stressed about Christmas because of eating the food, I was stressed because I just wanted the day to go so perfectly to make up for the ones I’d ruined before. I think I put a bit to much pressure on myself because I was so hopeful to really enjoy the day.

Regarding this week, I’ve got a couple of things going on making my life very busy. It’s nothing major or anything AN related, just regular life stuff. But, considering my symptoms are exactly the same as they have been before, it could well be stress causing my problems again.

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Types of Digestive Issues caused by stress:

In the short-term:

  • Indigestion and heartburn due to the build-up of acid in the stomach.
  • Stomach pains due to cramping of the stomach muscles.
  • Diarrhoea and constipation due to changes in the speed of digestion.

In the long-term, stress can exacerbate existing conditions, including:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which is characterised by stomach cramps, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhoea;
  • indigestion – stomach growls, aches and burns, often accompanied by feelings of bloating, vomiting or nausea.

How are GI issues exacerbated by stress?

Most of us know that we have a sympathetic nervous system ( “fight or flight” response) and a parasympathetic nervous system (calms the body, slows HR etc). Both of these nervous systems interact with another, less well-known component of the autonomic nervous system — the enteric nervous system, which helps regulate digestion.

If you’ve ever heard somebody say that your stomach is like ‘your second brain’, they’re not far off. The enteric nervous system relies on the same types of neurons and neurotransmitters that are found in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). After sensing that food has entered the gut, neurons lining the digestive tract signal muscle cells to initiate a series of intestinal contractions that propel the food farther along, breaking it down into nutrients and waste. At the same time, the enteric nervous system uses neurotransmitters such as serotonin to communicate and interact with the central nervous system.

The fact that these systems are so closely linked, has helped researchers see how psychological or social stress might cause digestive problems. For example, when a person becomes stressed enough to trigger the fight-or-flight response, digestion slows or even stops so that the body can divert all its internal energy to facing a perceived threat. In response to less severe stress, such as public speaking, the digestive process may slow or be temporarily disrupted, causing abdominal pain and other symptoms of functional gastrointestinal disorders.

Of course, it can work the other way as well: persistent gastrointestinal problems can heighten anxiety and stress. If you’re suffering from lasting GI issues, its best to go to the doctors to check that there isn’t an underlying long-term condition.

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What is the resolution to GI issues?

  • Go to a doctor. Have the necessary tests done to check that there is no underlying long-term problem.
  • Don’t jump into an elimination diet. This may cause more stress for somebody with an ED history. It might not be the food.
  • If you DO think it could be linked to stress, try to understand what makes you stressed and do your best to control it.
  • Is it home or work life stress (essays, overworking, deadlines, etc.)? What sort of help do you require to help manage this? Perhaps a timetable which factors in breaks? A new relaxing hobby? Support from a tutor? An essay extension? As soon as you identify the issue, you can go after a solution.
  • Is it stress caused by your ED, from social events involving food, worry and fear?  Again, question what form of help you need to help you manage this and reduce the stress of recovery? More support from your family? A treatment professional? A new self-help book? As soon as you identify the issue, you can try your best to find a solution. 
  • The main thing: continue to eat. Despite discomfort. Other people can afford to lose their appetite and skip a few meals. With your history of AN, you can’t. This week, it’s been extremely difficult for me to stomach anything. I havent felt like anything whatsoever. Regardless, I’ve eaten. I haven’t had a single piece of fibrous fruit or veg, and instead been eating plain foods which are easily digestible. I’ve eaten a lot of white toast, rich tea biscuits, crackers, bagels etc, which the body doesn’t have to work hard to break down. The best teas to sooth my stomach are fennel, camomile and peppermint!

I’m planning to do a blog post sometime soon about catching the Flu when recovering from AN. Hint: you still need to eat. Being sick is not an excuse to restrict or not eat if it happens to reduce your appetite. You simply cannot afford to skip meals and allow your energy levels to slip.

Han x

#65: The Brain & malnourishment


This blog is about the brain. I’ve written it in the very simplest way I could, basically because it’s been a long day and i’m not feeling very brainy. I only understand the very basics. But, nevertheless, the basics are mindblowingly interesting. (all puns are intended as usual, pal).

If you’ve come across the Minnesota starvation study, you’ll know that many of the men experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression that didn’t predate their malnutrition. This was probably the first time I came across the startling impact of malnutrition on the brain.

There are many ways that the brain can be harmed by malnutrition. One of the most ‘known’ impacts is called ‘Cerebral atrophy’. This basically means that the brain physically shrinks in size.  This is just one occurance of many that happens. A reduced heart rate deprives the brain of oxygen. A weakened response in the brain regions disturbs the ‘reward centre’. The list seems to go on and on. It’s frightening.

I’m not writing this blog post to scare you, I’m writing this to reaffirm how important weight gain to an unsupressed point really is. This reverses damages caused.

Anyway. On to the science.

The ‘prefrontal cortex’ area of the brain is pretty damn busy.

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It’s involved in our:

  • attention span,
  • memory,
  • cognitive flexibility,
  • ability problem solve,
  • regulation of our mood,
  • decision making and
  • impulse control.

Eating disorders have a significant impact on our frontal lobe, which is where the prefrontal cortex is.

It can lead to issues with memory and attention. This is definitely something I experienced.  I did a whole Uni module on Anglo-Saxon literature and, seriously, that thing was a blur. I couldn’t tell you one thing I learnt. Usually, I can retain information pretty well, but in the semester I did that module, I wouldn’t even be able to tell you my tutors name. Everything that didn’t involve food wasn’t something I remembered or had the attention for. If somebody had opened a crisp packet in the lecture theatre, I’d know the brand of crisp, the eater and the size of the packet, but I wouldn’t have even been able to tell you the book’s title we were studying. It just wasn’t my brains priority.

Another problem that an effected frontal lobe can lead to is issues with impulsivity. It means we act on sudden urges without real consideration and rationale. It can also lead to compulsivity, meaning a malnourished individual feels driven by a seemingly irresistible inner force to do something. I relate to this too. A lot. And, as compulsive behaviours are repeated over and over, they become deeper ingrained to become rigid, persistent habits. It’s a slippery slope.

As I mentioned earlier the Prefrontal Cortex allows cognitive flexibility. We can see things and solve ideas without thinking in black and white terms. People with Anorexia, whose lobe has been impacted, often have ‘frame-shifting difficulties’, which basically means are stubborn. Being mentally inflexible, rigid and stuck to a certain way of thinking is, again, something I definitely experienced. Everything was black or white. Great or Awful. Always happening or never happening. Any suggestion of otherwise was immediately disregarded. Maybe you can identify with some of these traits that I’ve mentioned so far?

As well as the Prefrontal Cortex being impacted, studies have shown how activity in the ‘dorsal striatal’ increases remarkedly in patients with anorexia, compared to controls. This part of the brain is highly involved in the expression of learned automatic behaviours. Since gaining weight, I have definitely noticed that my old ‘automatic behaviours’ around food are, (in want of a better phrase), far less-automatic. I feel considerably more in control of my actions now.


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There are 2 reasons why I’m only just writing this blog post.

The first, is because when I was at a lower weight than I was now, my brain couldn’t think as well. Quite simply, I wouldn’t have been able to read and comprehend the scientific journals that I’ve got my information from today. I think i’d have got to the words ‘cerebral atrophy’ and u-turned on my blog post idea.

The second reason is because it’s only now that I really recognise how terrifying all of this is. I think the disorder made me lose perspective of everything. Especially internal damage.

Like, I could be told over and over how bad restriction is for my body. I could be told every day how awful malnutrition is for my functioning. But, if you would have put buttered cheese bagel  in front of me, all of that knowledge about the perils of restriction and malnutrition would have slipped my mind and become irrelevant. My response wasn’t to think: “hmm maybe I should have this bagel to help heal my bones, brain and get my life back’, it was an instant desire to remove the threat.

The good news…

Scientists have found that with enough time at a healthy weight, the brain seems to fully recover. The research suggests that by three years after achieving weight recovery, most individuals’ brains will likely appear normal physically.

Many studies have shown that participants with AN who remained at low weight had very abnormal MRI scans. In contrast, fully weight recovered patients had normal brain volumes. The structures of the brains in the recovered individuals were normal and similar in volume to those of the control subjects. So, abnormalities are reversible with long-term recovery.

What’s important to acknowledge is knowing this information isn’t going to heal you. It’s not enough to say “oh shit.” and then carry on restricting and going through the ED motions. You must find a way to change.

The main reason I wrote this blog post, though, is to reassure you that you aren’t broken. That brain-fog you’re experiencing, that irritability, that lack of concentration, all of it, it’s due to malnutrition. Malnutrition doesn’t have a look. It doesn’t mean you’re emaciated. It means your body isn’t getting adequate nutrition for its own needs.

 Knowing the details and intricacies isn’t important. But what is important is knowing that the damage is reversible. But you must let go. You must allow your body to reach and unsuppressed weight.

 Remember, brains and bodies need consistent nutrition and nourishment for survival. And they need even more if they want to thrive. And we all do.  

You can. You must.

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Han x




#64: The world vs Han

I used to have a habit of constantly attaching deeper meanings to people’s actions. These *deeper* meanings were almost always attached to either food or exercise. Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • He’s only having 1/2 a pizza. It must be because he’s restricting.
  • Why is she going for a walk? It must be because she’s trying to burn energy.
  • He’s leaving his potatoes. It must be because he’s avoiding carbs.
  • She’s having a cup of tea not a hot chocolate, she must be trying to pick something lower calorie.
  • She didn’t use all of the syrup with her pancakes and she’s left a fricken berry on her plate. She must be cutting sugar.

And this was with my family members. Family members who, rationally, I knew didn’t restrict. People who wouldn’t know the calorie count of a single thing in the fridge to the nearest 50. People who never (and have never), done activity to purposely burn calories. People whose only occasion of ‘cutting carbs’ is slicing bread or cake. People who didn’t make decisions out of fear, but out of taste or preference.

Where I was making choices out of fear, obligation and with the underlying stranglehold of an eating disorder, they were not. For them, individuals with a good relationship with food, that walk after supper weren’t dangerous in terms of compulsive tendencies. Saying no to dessert wasn’t down to trying to save calories. They made a choice out of intuition and due to the fact that their mind and body was pretty much in sync.

Because mine was *so* out of sync, I couldn’t even comprehend the possibility a walk being for enjoyment or skipping a dessert out of preference. Their actions which I perceived to be as them attempting to be “healthy”, are actually possible without obsessive thought running them or ulterior motives guiding them.

I wouldn’t say I worked on this realization. It was effortless. It just happened. I stopped seeing peoples “healthy” actions as driven by a nasty, forceful compulsion.


Obviously, there are occasions when people are fighting their own battles. When other people are eating in a (socially acceptable) disordered way. There’s always people on diets or trying a new workout. You must just learn to separate yourself from this. I don’t think you can recover without doing this. As hard as it feels, what ever anybody else does has absolutely nothing to do with you. Whatever anyone else does takes nothing away from the respectful relationship that you must forge with your body. Your body. Your needs. What they’re doing might well be disordered, but it doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. If they’re checking their pedometer, ask yourself if that’s the life you want to live. Ask yourself if that has brought you joy in the past.

I’ve spoken about this situation a couple of times. Picture this. Me: Terrified. Struggling with exercise addiction and restriction sitting opposite a nurse who was struggling <but trying> to relieve me of my fears of gaining weight. She said: “If you get to a point where you’re uncomfortable with what you look like, you can just cut down on what you’re eating and start up your running again. That’s what I do.”

At the time, my severely undernourished-self could not rationalize this. She did it, so maybe that’s what I should do? Maybe that’s the norm? I cried for days and days. I thought because she had said that, it was my fate to one day go back to restriction and exercise. It took me years to get over. Now, when I think about it, I’m sad because she’s probably telling so many innocent souls that too 😦 But I also laugh. What an arsehole. What an absolutely shit thing to say. Maybe it’s ‘the norm’ but it’s not the life that I want to live. Cancelling on coffee and cake with a friend because my head can’t deal with the fact that my jeans *feel* tighter today.  So, Yes, Sally, (she wasn’t really called Sally), I could cut down my food intake and start exercising to lose weight again. But that would reawaken my eating disorder. So I better fucking not. I’ll leave you to it. It’s not, and can’t be my path.

Many of the messages I get are about advice doctors/ therapists/ care-givers have given you guys. The fact you’re messaging me means that it doesn’t sit right with you. This is important. You have your doubts about what they’re saying. You’ve recognised that it isn’t quite right to you and your situation. So, don’t take it lying down. Don’t take their word as gospel. You’re sick with an eating disorder. You’re not stupid.

So, for example, when your doctor says that your 10,000 step target per day is ‘healthy’, nod. Say thank you. Go home and have a hard think. Is it healthy for me? How do I respond to this?

Your reaction is within your control. You have choices. Yes, you could continue to walk compulsively every day because Dr. Shitadvice said so. But you could also gather your thoughts and think, no, I know better.

Keep in mind that doctor’s don’t see patients with compulsive movement all that often. They are told to recommend that people release some endorphins and get fresh air. For some people, getting exercise is health giving. But for a long time, for me, it wasn’t.

Blatantly, the doctor didn’t judge your situation well, but nevertheless, use your wise-brain who knows your intentions. Use your initiative. Use your responsibility for getting yourself better. Although it might be healthy for somebody else to go for a stroll, it may well not apply to you. And if you’re somebody who is recovering from an ED… it won’t be. Health is very, very relative to the individual. For a long time, a stroll wasnt just a stroll for me. It was a whatever-the-weather-compulsive-fast-paced-friggen-nightmare.

Anyway. Next time you feel yourself digging deeper into somebodies actions and comparing yourself: remember that you might be projecting your own relationship with health (exercise/food) onto that person and attaching a deeper meaning which simply is not there.

I know sometimes it can feel like the world is against you. Trust me, I do. I was doing my shopping in Aldi last week surrounded by a group of women who were scanning barcodes and saying how many Weight Watchers points (?) each item had. I overheard how friggen amazing/adaptable/diverse/tasty/multi-use cauliflower is and how pairing spinach with egg whites was a “MEGA HIGH PROTEIN, LOW -FAT LUNCH”.

It didn’t bother me one slightest bit. It didn’t influence my to buy liquid egg whites, spinach or cauli. Because time and time again I have reiterated to myself that I am on my own path. Likewise- you are on your own path. I no longer attach deeper meanings to anything and everything and shit that people do doesn’t bother me.

Walk YOUR path. Comparing your path to others is futile, boring & unhelpful. Live for you. I promise you won’t look back and think oh how I wish I conformed.

Han x

#63: Veganism in recovery

Here we go. Opening a can of worms. I’m joking. Keeping worms in a can would be very Un-Vegan of me. This is a topic that I get asked to write about ALL the time. I find it interesting, mainly because of my own experiences of the pull towards a plant-based diet. A while ago, I came across something which suggested that our desire to eat predominantly vegan foods in recovery was a psychological survival response to famine. Our ancestors would have foraged on plants and berries, when other, more highly caloric food was not abundant. Since I can’t find where I read this, I can’t elaborate, but i’m sure there will be further study on it in the future.

As well as my own experience of it, there is the obvious abundance of people in the recovery community who avoid animal products. What I see on Instagram, is back up by a 2013 study investigating the relationship between vegetarianism and ED’s. It found found that 50% of those with anorexia reported eating some form of vegetarian diet. Comparing this with the 2% of the general UK population who adopt the lifestyle, there is something about the diet that, at some point, draws in many of us who are in recovery.

I know not everybody will share my opinion, but as always, my views come from my experiences.

So, where to start?

Before I give you my opinion, I will begin with 3 facts which I think are important. I like facts. I feel safe, for now, that nobody will read them slide DM’s to tell me I am an animal-hating bitch.

  1. Veganism rules out certain foods. Therefore undisputably, veganism is a restrictive diet. It restricts you in terms of what you ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ consume. I don’t think there is any possible argument against that.
  2. Your recovering body benefits from a sustained period of eating a large volume of highly caloric food. It needs a consistently wide range of nutrients to heal.
  3. The limitations of the diet mean people who are vegan eat differently to 95% of the population, who are omnivores.


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Ok, now for my opinion.

In a perfect world, the rise in veganism comes solely from a place of compassion for animals and a personal responsibility towards sustainability and reducing carbon emissions.  I am not against veganism as a concept. But, I am against the lifestyle in anorexia recovery. I would probably also extend this to questioning whether it is appropriate to anybody who has recovered from an eating disorder in the past 7 years.  But, anyway, back to those ‘in recovery’.

The main reason that I have the opinion that veganism is unsuitable in recovery from a restrictive eating disorder, is that, for me, veganism was a shroud. I gave me a suitable excuse to avoid all of the foods I didn’t want to eat. Veganism and vegetarianism became a convenient disguise to put on, one that wouldn’t be questioned by family, friends or even professionals. My ethical label ‘vegan’ legitimised my restrictive eating habits. It was a secret I held close to me — a loophole in recovery. It was a harmful secret that could have killed me.

When I wrote out my list of fear foods that I needed to face, the only vegan products (on the very lengthy list) was baked beans, nut butter and pasta. (And then, I think about how even non-vegan fresh egg pasta would have been tricker dried pasta.)

This highlights the majority foods my ED was scared of were not vegan products. Thus, if I was vegan, I could eat lots of foods I wasn’t so scared of. Interestingly, most of the foods on my ‘fear-food list’ contained dairy or meat. This is no coincidence. AN is an illness which makes us fear highly caloric, nutrient-dense foods. Facing the fear of these nutrient-dense foods will give a strong, stable and robust recovery. The food I was most scared of was the exact type of food which I need to recover both mentally and physically. I’m confident that introducing full-fat dairy into my diet was one of the best things I have ever done for my mind and body.

Recovery for me means full food freedom, without limitations, boundaries, rules. For me, veganism would impose too many limits. As soon as I stopped fucking around with ruling things out, eating differently to others and substituting things here, there and everywhere,  I made improvements. It took time and a lot of honesty for this.

One of my favourite accounts on Instagram (@sweetpotat.hoeee) has an amazing ‘highlight’ saved on her Instagram feed containing her thoughts on veganism, which very much align with mine.  Her format of answering some possible disputations of her opinions really sat well with me, so I’ve used it as a template.

“But Han, the animals…”

The complexity of our modern world means that our existence harms countless living creatures. This includes other human beings. Right now, I’m typing on a laptop. My phone is beside me playing music.

Many components in my phone and laptop (and basically every other electronic device) are made from a metallic ore called coltan. This is mined for in one of the worlds poorest countries, by children, who are forced to work long, dangerous hours. From when its dark in the morning, to past when night falls. Do I think of the ethics of this as I type?

No. If it crosses my mind, I push the thought away. It doesn’t stop me.

My clothes, from Zara, Topshop and Asos are all made in factories which invariably force women to work for 16 hours a day, in China or Bangladesh. Do I think of the ethics of this as buy?

I think about it, but it doesn’t stop me.

Then, I think about the absurdly priced vegan yoghurts I used to drive (20 minutes to the only supermarket which sold them) to buy which came in tiny plastic individual pots. Did I think about the fuel or the plastics I was using and how it might end up polluting the environment or laying in landfill millions of miles away for me for several hundred years?

I thought about it, but again it didn’t stop me.

So, ponder this. If you decide that you want to eat animal products (remember, it doesn’t have to be all the time if the environment is what you are worried about) it will have very little effect on the environment.

I am an omnivore. Wherever possible I choose meats where the animals have lived good, free-range lives with empathetic caretakers and stewards. I’m aware, however, that I am privileged in this regard. I have the luxury of choosing local, well bread, organic meats, eggs and dairy products. I have the option handed to me and I do understand this is not a luxury available to everyone.

Really, I see it as priorities. My first and most essential move must be to get myself better. Then I can think about saving the animals.  If I was still vegan or vegetarian, I would still be controlled by my eating disorder. I might be reducing my carbon footprint ever so slightly, but I wouldn’t be truly ‘living’ in the world I was helping to conserve.

As they say, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”

“But Han… the environment”

I am a strong believer of everybody doing ‘their bit’ to help with environmental conservation. If you believe reducing your consumption of meat aids with that, do it. But in my opinion, there is no need for labels or taking items off the menu entirely.

20 firms are responsible for 1/3 of all carbon emissions. The atmosphere (along with the ocean) is one of 5 ‘global commons’. These are area’s which have no governance. No ownership. Therefore, large companies have no obligation to protect them. Because the atmosphere is unowned, organisations lack the incentive to conserve it. Capitalism and imperialism will always over-exploit the natural world.

Again, I see it as priorities. A weak and feeble girl struggling entrenched in food rules and restriction cannot save the world. My first and most essential move must be to get myself better. Then, I can think about doing my bit.

“But Han, I know it is not the disorder speaking. It is an ethical choice.”

You cannot trust your perception in recovery. I truly, 100%, would have sworn on my life that it was an ethical choice. Eating disorders warp your emotions.

The quote I always come back to is “veganism is not ethical if it means you are harming yourself”.

“But Han, vegan food and substitutes taste amazing” 

I know they do. I eat them. I like them.  I am an omnivore and I can still eat these yummy vegan foods if I so choose. I have a choice because there are no rules. I am not obligated to pick them or confined by boundaries. These vegan subs aren’t off-limits just because they are labelled vegan. It does not say ‘no omnivores to touch this product please”.

Because its ‘Veganuary’, everywhere I look, new vegan products are coming out. Cool, if they intrigue you, try them. But that doesn’t mean you have to do Veganuary, confining yourself to solely this way of eating for a month. (Just a side note: I was listening to a discussion on the radio today about the irony of veganuary being in January, with all of the fruits and veggies out of season, having to travel huge distances to meet our demands. The air miles calculated were unbelievable!)

Not labelling myself as vegan gives me to the ability to pick what I want. To have food freedom and to make choices based on my cravings. To be honest, I am sick and tired of having alternative foods to everybody around me. Being an omnivore doesn’t mean I  eat meat every day. I do, however, eat animal products every day. The nutrients within these, which are lacking in vegan alternatives, have been extremely influential in my mental and physical healing.

“But Han, most places cater for vegans now”

Yep, you’re right. Most places do. But suppose my mum and I take a trip into an independent cafe and they don’t. Do we leave? Do we ask if they can make me a special Han meal? Suppose the vegan options that are on offer aren’t great. Do we search for somewhere else and let my energy levels drop?

Another example: a friend, not knowing I am vegan (I’m not), bakes me a birthday cake full of eggs, milk chocolate and cream. The eggs in the cake and butter in the icing mean I can’t eat it. I am therefore 1) avoiding engaging in spontaneity and social eating and 2) restricting cake.

One last one: my family and I are on holiday in a less developed country. We pass a wonderful looking ice cream stall. Do I, somebody with the previous history of restriction of icecream, watch as my family all choose and eat?

For somebody who doesn’t have a past of restriction, that might be fine.  But turning down food is not something that you should be practising in recovery. It is sending the absolute wrong messages to your brain.

“But Han, I like eating in abundance”

So do I. But, that screams “I want to eat a lot of food, but don’t believe that I can eat non-vegan food’s in abundance because that would be unhealthy.” I’ll tell you what’s more unhealthy- orthorexia.

It’s important to remember that eating disorders the public perception of what anorexia is: a skinny white teenager pushing food around her plate isn’t accurate. Even when I was restricting heavily, I consumed a fair amount… of fucking salad. I was eating in abundance, and filling myself up… but it was incredibly physically and mentally harmful.

“But Han, I was vegan Pre-Ed”

Firstly, what does Pre-Ed mean? Pre-physical signs? If so, remember that judging the morality of foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is socially normalised disordered behaviour. Also remember, that ED’s are a mental illness that sometimes never manifest in an individual’s physical appearance. If somebody in a naturally bigger body drops below their optimal weight, they may ‘look’ normal, but they will have activated the ED gene if its present.

I went vegan pre-ed. It was as my eating disorder was just hatching. Like a dragon. I truly, honestly believed it was a dietary preference. A couple of months down the line and there wasn’t a moment that went by that disordered thoughts swirled my brain.

To conclude:

Here’s Dr Andrew Hill, Head of Medical Psychology at Leeds University, on investigating the link between Veganism and Eating disorder recovery:

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For other people, it may be sustainable, for me, it is not. For me, Veganism requires restrictive controlled eating. Anorexia nervosa is characterised by restrictive eating, and these behaviours are too similar to enable veganism to be part of a psychologically healthy recovery. It is a fact that those more likely to enter full remission from an eating disorder embrace omnivorism. I don’t share these thoughts to criticize anybody. I share these thoughts to address a question I always get asked, “have you considered veganism?”.

Yes, I have considered it. It’s not for me. I certainly can’t be the judge of whether it’s appropriate for you.


Han x


#62: The Recovery Hotel

Hi guys,

For a while, I’ve been wanting to somehow convey how it is likely that there will be many opportunities where you feel obliged or tempted to stop before reaching full recovery.

For a stable recovery, where AN plays no role in your life anymore, you must commit to going the full distance, no matter how scary.

I posted a story on my story (what!) and lots of you asked me to save it to a blog post. So, here we are! I am to please!

The framework below shows the expected ‘stages of recovery’ from an addiction. Ok, AN is not exactly an addiction (like alcoholism for example) but it does have addictive and ritualistic tendencies which are closely linked. If you take a look, the diagram works and is pretty relatable to AN. If you decide to go on and read the story, you’ll notice the different stages are resembled by the different floors of the (spoiler alert) ‘Recovery Hotel’.

The diagram below describes how you begin the process of recovery in Orange. That’s when you’re actively engaging in ED behaviours.

  • Then you move to Red. You ponder recovery.
  • Then, you start to think about how to get going. This is green. Maybe this involves making a list of fear foods, hiding your running shoes, or stocking your cupboards.
  • The action (blue) might involve telling somebody you need help or seeking treatment. It might involve increasing your breakfast, following your meal plan properly, or diving straight in. The most important actions, in my opinion, are eating a lot more and resting a lot more. This blue part must eventually involve reaching your unsuppressed body weight and unrestricted eating.
  • The purple bubble is maintenance. By this, I don’t refer to weight maintenance necessarily. Your weight will vary throughout your life, at different phases, ages, hours and seasons. By this, I mean perhaps repeating the actions over and over until they become your new normal. This will be the neural rewiring stage, I guess.
  • The recovery process can go on for years and years in a cycle (like the diagram suggests) if you never exit.
  • This diagram doesn’t make a big enough deal of the bit on the left. Termination/ Graduation. You don’t get a degree after ED recovery (although sometimes I think it deserves one) but this basically means being ED free. A full and stable recovery. The end of the ED chapter of your life. A life filled with a high intake and good relationship with your body, exercise, as well as anything else you envisage to be in your future


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The short story I have written can apply to everyone. You might not be at the entrance hall level. Maybe you’re hanging around at level 3 and waiting to step back into the elevator. This can apply to everyone. CONTINUE with your journey, even if you feel scared. 


Pls pretend this is a cool flashing sign

Let’s imagine that you’re you’re numb & miserable, walking along the street, in the freezing cold rain.

You glance up and see a cool flashing sign: ‘The Recovery Hotel’. On the glass door, there are 5* trip advisor ratings from people who have stayed before. Part of you doesn’t even want to go in, bc —what even is this weird place??

You contemplate it. Should you? Shouldn’t you?  You’ve been in this dilemma before.

Finally, sick & tired of the cold rain, you do. You’re curious if inside holds comfort & safety, yet still hesitant. Regardless, you walk up the steps & somebody holds the door open for you, encouraging you to come in. You think: it must be worth at least giving a go. It can’t be worse than the rain.

In the entrance hall, all you see is an elevator. Without overthinking- you get in. Ah! Where did that sudden surge come from?Immediately you start to question whether it was the right move. Going up feels different to plodding along the street. In the elevator, you feel scared, claustrophobic & want to go back.  You don’t know where this takes you and what it holds. At least the cold rain has no uncertainty.

On a sign in the elevator, it states: “For your safety: only get off at the 5th and final floor. The doors will open at other floors. Do not get get off”

You slowly start to go up. As you’re heading up, you are determined not to be tempted to get out sooner. You pledge to stay inside until floor 5 but really begin to worry that you won’t find safety and it won’t be as comfortable as you’d hoped. You also worry that it’ll be too hard and painful to endure the journey to go the full way. You want to get there, but have no idea how you’re going to actually bare with it.

The doors open—

Floor 1: increasing intake, decreasing movement. 

This already feels mighty uncomfortable. This corridor looks rough. You start to think that going any higher up might be even worse. You’re not sure you can do it. You have 3 options:

  1. Press the down button and go back to the cold street.
  2. Get out here.
  3. Continue upwards

Hell! this is already awful. Will it just get harder and more unpleasant?

Despite ambivalence, you don’t disembark.

You travel up and the doors open:

Floor 2: initial weight gain.

You desperately want to get out.  You don’t know how much more you can take. It’s been just about bearable so far, but you think any higher might be too hard to endure. You are uncomfortable, exhausted and wonder why you made this decision.

Against all of your urges to flee, you remain inside. You go on up:

The door opens to a empty, grey corridor:

Floor 3: bullshit BMI marker/low end of healthy.

Here, you are desperate to get out. This floor seems just about bearable. It isn’t as colourful as you imagined but remaining in the lift doesn’t feel possible.

You could live here and exist. You acknowledge you will not thrive, but anything more is excruciating to even think about.

There are signs of other people living here. You start to wonder: If they are able to live here, can you? Are they happy living here? Do they make it work?

It doesn’t look like a place of full freedom and you know deep down you want and deserve better. You don’t want a partial recovery.

You’ve committed to going to the full way. You remain inside the lift.

So you go on up.

The lift-bell dings and the doors slide open:

Floor 4: Full weight restoration.

Maybe you got here quicker than you thought. You feel uncomfortable & question whether you should have got out at a lower floor.

You still feel really cold and wet. Things haven’t got that much warmer or dryer and you’re wondering whether it was worth enduring.

Because you’ve managed to get this far, you feel slightly stronger. You know, deep down, that you’re not at your strongest, though. You wish it could get a lot better.

You see a sign which says: continue on for neural rewiring.

So you do. This is the part, you’ve heard, when it gets easier.

Finally, the doors to floor 5 open.

Full stable recovery

It’s warmer, dryer & you feel surprisingly comfortable. You’ve got through the hard part.

You didn’t really know what to imagine, but somehow feel safe.

It’s not a utopia with rainbows, but you feel strong enough to manage & work through the shit you don’t like.

You can learn to live here. You can eventually fall in love it. There are so many things up here to fill your life with, new emerging interests and old things which fall back into place.

And you are so proud you stuck with it.


#60: The energy vacuum & relapse

Hey guys,

I hope all of you are doing ok. If you follow my instagram (really, how else are you here?) you might have seen how I returned from University last week. I am already in a much better place then I was, after 7 days of lots and lots of food, rest, and family support.

I have received quite a few messages asking “what caused your slip up?” and I think this might be useful to discuss. It will also help me gather my thoughts together. Please bare in mind that I am writing from my own experience, understanding and interpretation of the illness from all of the literature I have read and trust.

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What causes a relapse?

In short, there is no singular conclusive ’cause’ of a relapse. For me, there was no moment of “Oh shit! I hate this new wonderful life I have began to reconstruct! Lets go back to hell!”

I, as well as many other professionals leaders in the field, believe relapses happen when you reenter an energy deficit. I once did a blog post called “The Cause” which explains the term energy deficit slightly more.

As you guys who follow my Instagram know, I went on a holiday in the Swiss alps with my parents at the end of summer. I think it was pretty energy zapping. I think this, combined with not paying attention to my nutrition so closely over the summer, is when things started initially going downhill, although I coped at the time, my energy levels were diminished.

Then, came returning to Uni. Something which makes even the most chilled people stressed. I am a warrior, but also a HELLA BIG worrier. I worry a lot. I worried about missing my family, about buying course books, about having to go out partying until 4am when my sleep had been pretty shoddy. I even worried about whether I’d need a bus pass. The first week of also uni involves meeting new people, meeting old friends, joining societies, buying books… and of course preparing meals for myself.

Then, when I told my friends that I wasn’t sleeping well and didn’t fancy going out clubbing, they seemed a bit disgruntled. This really hurt me, as I expected them to understand. To fill my days with something, I threw myself into loads of different societies to avoid getting bored or lonely.  My course has quite low contact hours and a lot solitary reading is expected, so I wanted to find something fun that I could do to productively procrastinate & fill my spare time with. From wind sailing (absolute fucking disaster ending in hypothermia, btw) to newspaper writing- I gave it a go.

AND, here was my mistake: as all of this was going on, I wasn’t nourishing myself adequately. I didn’t increase what I was eating to counteract the vast amount of energy being expended. As you can see, there was lots going on with not enough coming in. It was like an energy vacuum. Henry the Hoover, but a more savage version.

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Obviously, not everyone goes to uni or goes on holiday with energy-sucking kids. But the one thing we all have in common in life? We all go through periods of high stress or periods of time when vast amount of energy are sucked out of you. This could be a family bereavement, an activity holiday, an argument with a friend, a change of job, as well as  many other things. Or, indeed, a combination of lots of little stresses.

So how will I aim to avoid a relapse next time?

For the rest of my life (or for a very long time), I will have to be mindful and aware that the anorexia gene may be triggered if I slip into a deficit once again. Periods of stress or increases of activity use energy. In those times, I must increase my intake. It is not my fault that I have the genetic predisposition for anorexia, but it is within my control to stay out of a deficit. 

For the rest of my life, I will have to be mindful and aware that the gene may be re-activated if I become lazy with my snacks, or if something is stressing my out. This is where I do have control, and so do you.

I simply cannot afford to get into a deficit, so whenever a stressful situation arises, I must eat significantly more. Probably, the signs that I was gradually slipping back were there, I just didn’t notice or pay enough attention to them. When I look back, before returning to Uni, my mood was low and I was becoming slightly more anxious and rigid around food again. By the 2nd week of uni, I was spiralling downwards. That was no coincidence.

So, in the future, periods of stress MUST equal increasing my intake. Like it or not. I will always have to maintain a high intake, but it will be absolutely essential to eat MORE THAN MORE THAN ENOUGH (thank you Jan for that one 🙂 !!) during energy sucking times.

I hope that helped and cleared things up. Remember, you might have to fight a battle more than once to win the war. If you feel yourself going backwards, my answer: FOOD FOOD FOOD. Get on top of your nutrition. Eat more than more than enough 🙂

Always Keep fighting,

Han xx

bowl of sliced bananas with rice crispies
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