“Never give up.” With Candice Georgiadis & Emma Green PhD

Never give up hope. You’re not broken. Use whatever tools and resources you have at your disposal and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. The little steps will add up. As a part of my interview series with public figures who struggled with and coped with an eating disorder, I had […]

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Never give up hope. You’re not broken. Use whatever tools and resources you have at your disposal and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. The little steps will add up.

As a part of my interview series with public figures who struggled with and coped with an eating disorder, I had the pleasure to interview Emma Green, a freelance writer, and an online health coach. She holds a PhD in Health Psychology and is a certified personal trainer.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?

Iwork as a freelance writer and online health coach. I live in London in the UK.

Thank you for your bravery and strength in being so open with us. I personally understand how hard this is. Are you able to tell our readers the story of how you struggled with an eating disorder?

I began struggling with an eating disorder when I was 14 years old. At the time I was being bullied at school, which was something I felt unable to control. I struggle to remember much about this time except a deep sense of happiness and low self-worth. My mum recalls me saying to her that I didn’t feel like I deserved to eat. Also during this time, I began exercising obsessively. I wasn’t old enough to go to the gym but I asked my mum to take me to the local swimming pool as often as possible. After a few months and visible weight loss, my mum took me to the doctor. I didn’t have the self-awareness to realize that I was struggling with an eating disorder so rejected this suggestion from the doctor.

Over the next few years, I got better physically as I ate more and curtailed my obsessive exercise. However, I haven’t healed mentally so when I went away to university I began struggling again. I was at university for four years and got worse and worse every year. Disordered eating was constant, along with obsessive exercise. I also dabbled with laxatives which I used when I was in social situations and felt pressure to ‘eat normally’ like everyone else.

I was finally diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 20. I was immediately prescribed antidepressants and was referred to a therapist. Over the next few years, I gradually became stronger, mentally and physically. I have three other therapists, all of whom helped me get closer and closer to what I would define as being fully recovered.

What was the final straw that made you decide that you were going to do all you can to get better?

Never give up hope. You’re not broken. Use whatever tools and resources you have at your disposal and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. The little steps will add up.

A friend from school came up to visit me at university. We were very close at the time so we knew exactly what the other person was thinking at any given moment. Because I was struggling so much, we were more distant than usual which she noticed. After her visit, she said that she knew something was off and I knew then that I needed to get help. She could see that something had taken over me that was completely masking who I was as a person.

And how are things going for you today?

Today I am fully recovered. I don’t exercise obsessively, I don’t weigh, track or measure food in any way and I accept my body exactly as it is. I have days where I feel a bit down but I never turn to disordered eating or exercise to cope. I have so many other tools now, which serve me much better.

Based on your own experience are you able to share 5 things with our readers about how to support a loved one who is struggling with an eating disorder? If you can, can you share an example from your own experience?

  1. Don’t ever make comments about size, shape or weight.
  2. Listen as much as possible if the person is willing to talk.
  3. Be a good role model. Don’t engage in talk about dieting or about how your body looks.
  4. Offer to eat meals with them to help ameliorate anxiety around food.
  5. Don’t expect them to get better overnight. Eating disorders take years to recover from.

Is there a message you would like to tell someone who may be reading this, who is currently struggling with an eating disorder?

Never give up hope. You’re not broken. Use whatever tools and resources you have at your disposal and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. The little steps will add up.

According to this study cited by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 30 million people in the U.S. of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder. Can you suggest 3–5 reasons why this has become such a critical issue recently?

I don’t know whether eating disorders are more common, or there is just more awareness. It might be a combination of both. Certainly, the diet culture that we live in fuels eating disorders. Dieting, especially for women, has become so normalized. The belief that ‘” smaller is better” is pervasive. Engaging in disordered eating is almost a rite of passage. It’s a way that people bond with each other and if you’re not engaging in it, you can feel as though you are missing out.

There are constant messages from the fitness industry telling people that they need to punish themselves with exercise, burning as many calories as possible and making their body fit a standard that society has decided is acceptable.

Messages about health and weight have also become conflated. Despite the wealth of evidence about the social determinants of health and the significance of health-promoting behaviors, people believe that they have to be thin to be healthy, which is not only scientifically inaccurate but also deeply damaging.

Based on your insight, what can concrete steps can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to address the core issues that are leading to this problem?

We all need to embrace a Health at Every Size (HAES) approach. We need to see that weight stigma is a social justice issue. We need to celebrate body diversity. We need to acknowledge the social factors that only affect health directly but also make it harder to engage in health-promoting behaviors. We need to support individuals to eat and exercise intuitively, by tuning into their body’s cues. We need to challenge the patriarchal, capitalistic and racist forces that make people feel like they have to be in constant pursuit of thinness in order to be worthy. We need to radically rethink health and an approach to it, urgently.

As you know, one of the challenges of an eating disorder is the harmful,and dismissive sentiment of “why can’t you just control yourself”. What do you think needs to be done to make it apparent that an eating disorder is an illness just like heart disease or schizophrenia?

Some people won’t ever understand eating disorders and I think we have to accept that. If people are open to learning more, I’m always happy to share my experiences as well as scientific research, but people are not necessarily willing and able to hear that. It’s frustrating but we have to accept that we can’t necessarily all be on the same page at a given moment in time.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have helped you with your struggle? Can you explain why you like them?

I found books by Jenni Schaefer hugely helpful in my recovery. She wrote in a way that felt like she could see exactly what was in my head. She also wrote about life after recovery, which can be equally as challenging as recovery but for different reasons. You lose so much of yourself in the disorder that you have to go on a massive journey of rediscovery afterward. which feels really overwhelming.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” by Carl Sagan. It’s a useful reminder that we should all remain skeptical of the messages we receive and think about them critically, rather than merely accepting them without question.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At the moment I’m running a “Non-diet December” challenge on Instagram. It’s consists of daily tasks that people can do which help them to build a healthy relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies. It’s all about tuning in, and honoring those needs.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the largest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would like everyone to start listening to themselves more. We are thrown so many external stimuli that we can easily drown out our own thoughts and feelings. Developing that self-awareness is not easy but it is so worthwhile.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m @emmafitnessphd on Instagram. I’d love to connect!

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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