Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Hello Boris...

I could not believe it when I was standing on Fulham Palace Road this evening waiting for a friend and someone stopped on their bicycle to ask me for directions. It was Boris Johnson (The Mayor of London)! He was looking for the River Cafe. There was no mistaking it was him. The hair, the voice, the face...

So to double confirm that I was right and am not making all this up - I took the initiative to ring the River Cafe and actually ask them if he was there/had made it - and he had!

So now I have bumped into David Cameron and Boris...who will it be next? Kate Middleton on a dog walk with her new puppy in Kensington Palace gardens? Dream on Miranda...

A letter from Charlotte to Dr Christian

Dr Christian read my blog this morning, and only cared that I spelt his name wrong. He needs to read this too...from Charlotte

Dear Dr Jessen

I am writing to raise my concerns about Supersize vs Superskinny. 

I don’t know if you are aware of the major changes to the DSM V for Eating Disorders and I am concerned that some participants in the programme may be suffering from a brain disorder and require expert medical attention.   As most Eating Disorders are on the Anxiety Disorders spectrum as well, I am not sure that the format of your show necessarily takes this into account.  I would hate for you to look back at your show, once the new DSM V is published and find that you have treated an undiagnosed Eating Disorder patient in the wrong way.

The first category I would like to draw your attention to is Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: 

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder 
A. Eating or feeding disturbance (including but not limited to apparent lack of interest in eating or food; avoidance based on the sensory characteristics of food; or concern about aversive consequences of eating) as manifested by persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs associated with one or more of the following:
1.   Significant weight loss (or failure to gain weight or faltering growth in children);
2.   Significant nutritional deficiency;
3.   Dependence on enteral feeding;
4.   Marked interference with psychosocial functioning.
B. There is no evidence that lack of available food or an associated culturally sanctioned practice is sufficient to account alone for the disorder.
C. The eating disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa, and there is no evidence of a disturbance in the way of which one's body weight or shape is experienced.
D. If the eating disturbance occurs in the context of a medical condition or another mental disorder, it is sufficiently severe to warrant independent clinical attention
The new DSM V is also including Binge Eating Disorder for the first time:

Binge Eating Disorder  
A. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
1. eating, in a discrete period of time (for example, within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances
2. a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (for example, a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)
B. The binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
1. eating much more rapidly than normal
2. eating until feeling uncomfortably full
3. eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
4. eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating
5. feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterwards
C. Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
D. The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for three months.
E. The binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behavior (for example, purging) and does not occur exclusively during the course Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.
I think that perhaps it would be wise for you to consider carefully whether the participants in your programme may be suffering from an undiagnosed Eating Disorder.  There are many specialised Eating Disorder professionals who would be able to help you and, if you would like to discuss this further, or you would like me to put you in contact with some Professors of Eating Disorders, I would be delighted to help.
Yours sincerely
Charlotte Bevan

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Supersize v Superskinny

I have been dreading tonight because it was the first episode in the new series of Supersize v Superskinny on Channel 4 (UK). This is a documentary presented by Dr Christian Jessen in which two people battling different eating disorders swap diets for 5 days in an attempt to change the way in which they view food and eating.

I have a LOT of issues with this whole programme. Firstly, Dr Christian calls the place where the two participants in the episode stay for the duration of filming "The Feeding Clinic" - this is actually just a television studio.

I also know for a fact that a lot of people find the footage to be triggering and a painful reminder about the past. I had a disagreement with Dr Christian about this over Twitter. He said "You choose to watch it dont you...?" and I said "Yes of course we do because we hope you will bring encouragement and hope and offer helpful advice to other sufferers...but none of these boxes are ticked"

Both the participants (one is a chronic under eater displaying traits of Anorexia, the other is a chronic over eater with a diagnosis of morbid obesity) have to swap diets for five days. This is simply unbearable to watch. Giving an anorexic sufferer an enormous plate of food swamps them with fear and anxiety on a level that most people can't comprehend. A friend of mine told me that for her it would be like being told to eat a plate of snakes. I feel the diet swap is an aggressive and overwhelming kind of therapy, which is damaging and destructive to the viewers and participants.

What infuriates me more than anything is that it seems that Dr Christian portrays Eating Disorders as Lifestyle Choices... these people have not chosen to become like this. Eating disorders are biologically-based, brain disorders with severe neurological and psychological consequences - it is a case of brain wiring gone wrong and an individual will have had a pre-disposition to the development of an eating disorder in order to lapse into an eating disorder. The sufferer, boys and girls, do not make a choice to become anorexic or bulimic; the path of 'disordered eating' often if not always, if left unrecognized or treated, leads to a full-blown eating disorder. 

I feel this programme exploits very vulnerable people. It is unnecessary and unfair to ask the subjects of this programme to parade in underwear for the whole nation to see. It is simply 'entertainment' in the guise of education. It is unethical to gawp at people with eating disorders.

They are NOT choices - would you choose to have cancer? Would you choose to have schizophrenia? NO! In the same way that you dont choose an eating disorder.

YES - it is brilliant that people are becoming more "aware" of eating disorders and more people are seeking help - but if the information out there is actually WRONG, unhelpful and triggering, what part of the awareness is actually beneficial? This horrendous article was published last week in Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

There is too much destructive, triggering information presented in this documentary. Too much focus on calories, weight and not enough helpful advice for the viewers - many of whom may also be suffering. The real advice, the real help and the facts can be found here: F.E.A.S.T 

Breakfast Cereal

Perhaps Breakfast Cereal is not such a healthy way to start the day after all. We are pouring far too much sugar into our bowls every morning...

I know this article is from the Daily Mail but its written by Joanna Blythman who is an award winning investigative journalist.

Have a read - maybe after breakfast so you are not put off?

Monday, 27 February 2012

Holding a grudge


This is somewhat uplifting and heartwarming - it made me smile and certainly cheered up my Monday... thank you Coldplay.

Food Labelling in Supermarkets

I am studying Nutrition at University and have just had a lecture on Food Labelling in Supermarkets.

Do you pay attention to the "traffic light system" on food labels in supermarkets? Or do you just go straight to what you want and throw it in the trolley because its what you want to eat?

I do think its important that we take note of what we eat in terms of making an effort to eat a balanced diet but I also think that too much time and worry can be spent on checking and double checking the nutritional contents of everything in our trolleys, and it can become too habitual, obsessive and unhealthy, which is ironic as the whole point of it is to be more aware and...healthy!

For those people with eating disorders, it is not at all helpful to be told to check food labels and count calories as this is exactly what a person in recovery is trying to avoid doing.

There is much talk at the moment about the nutritional content of dishes appearing on the menus in restaurants. Would you choose one dish over another because you can see there is more fat, salt and calories in one than the other? I am biased on this as (a) I am studying Nutrition and (b) I am recovering from an eating disorder so I try and just buy what I know I will enjoy eating and not think/over analyse if it will be "good for me" or not, but its not always easy...

Saturday, 25 February 2012

University Halls

What do you think of when the phrase University Halls comes up?

I think of loud noise, the lingering smell of alcohol, over flowing sink of unwashed and greasy dishes, kitchen dustbins full of Favourite Chicken packaging from endless takeaways, freezers full of mums homemade Bolognese mince for emergencies... bedrooms are badly lit, small, cramped and also include piles of dirty laundry....

Nowadays - university halls are often completely different to this description (apart from the noise level, washing up and dirty laundry). I hear of current university students who have double beds, en-suite bathrooms, TVs in every room... I have to admit, in my university halls, we have our own bathrooms - they are actually "wet-rooms" which consists of a basin, a loo, a shower curtain and a hose. Not really a bathroom in my opinion but serves the same purpose! I certainly don't have a double bed or a TV on the wall. But to get in and out of each room you need a key/swipe card which was fun to begin with as we felt like we were in hotels but they are now annoying and easy to loose...

I am painfully tidy and have tried to make it as fun, cosy and welcoming as possible. If you're lucky I might post a photograph in the next couple of days...

Focus 12

Very exciting to open today's local newspaper, the East Anglian Daily Times, and find that Amy Winehouse's father and step mother have donated £30,000 to a local charity who support people recovering from addiction and substance abuse... the full article is here

The Help

As promised, after writing yesterday's post on marking the anniversary of the day that I got help.... here is more info on all those people that got me to where I am today. Click on each name for more info...

Lara H - W and co at the P
Diana S
James L
I didn't go down this route but they found me this AMAZING doctor so I suppose they did help after all.... Dr F
Dr H - L
Dr D
Norah B
Will N
Janey D
Naella G
Mary McD
Charlotte B
Shannon Y
Nina G
Polly E
Angela B
Martin S
P FINE peeps

I knew it was a lot of people but I didn't realise it was THAT many. Wow. I feel I have had quite a team behind me, and am incredibly fortunate for that. I would also be nowhere without my family or friends, who stood by me, came to visit, sent flowers, came to the rescue....there is an endless list!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Rehab: No, No, No

Never has Amy Winehouse's song Rehab been more appropriate:

It is exactly two years to the day since they tried to make me go to rehab, and I said no, no, no. But then I said yes - and went here / here. I nearly went here but this place was desperate - did everything they could to get me through the door, and their aggressive, strict approach soon put me right off - I appreciate that what they had to offer might work/suit others but it wasn't for me, and I know a lot of other people who have had problems with them too. 

I must add that these places are not full of celebrities enjoying a holiday camp for a few days - sadly its has this reputation but let me tell you right now that it was intense, difficult work and the other people I was with are some of the bravest and most genuine people I have ever met, and we are all close friends to this day. Whoever said this was "a holiday" clearly has never been there themselves. I've read other blogs where people have said they live down the road from places like The P in Knaphill of Chelmsford and they could "hear the patients screaming" - it was not like that either. Ever. 

Its was a complicated sequence of events that happened over the course of a few weeks in Jan/Feb 2010 - and I remember every detail of it as though it all happened earlier today. I will one day copy and paste it here for you to read from the documents I have already written about it all - but not yet. 

A lot has happened and changed since then - in a good way. It obviously was not a period of time in my life that I think fondly of - it was emotional and everything was an uphill struggle - so therefore, why is it so clear in my mind and hard to forget? A friend of mine says we can't ever forget times like this as they make us who we are today - and she is absolutely right.

Tomorrow, I will give you some idea of who helped and got me to the better place that I am at today - be prepared, its a long list of names!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


A friend of mine who I have known forever but haven't seen in years has launched a new business selling really fun footwear and other summer "must haves". Its called SCRUF and I encourage you to take a look at the website - I guarantee it will get you excited about the summer. I'm starting to pray now for good weather.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The start of Lent

As we have just marked Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake day, it is now time to look at Lent, which starts tomorrow. I must add that not everyone will take note of Lent but I am going to "stick to it" this year and try and give something up. Typically, one tries to remain abstinent from something that we would otherwise enjoy frequently or take for granted. Chocolate is a good one...

I might try and do more of something that I don't do enough of instead of giving things up. In the past, I have given up ketchup, which was not hard because I don't eat it very often...but I realised at the time that everyone at school ate ketchup with almost every meal. Another year I gave up "giving up" - but I realise now that that was rather selfish.

There are lots of things I can do more of, which I don't do enough of. For example, I am not sure I am always very grateful and don't say Thank You enough. Everyday throughout Lent, I am going to try and say Thank You genuinely every day to at least one person. Its so easy to take what other people do for us for granted.

A friend of mine gave up Supermarkets for Lent once, which I thought was very clever. It meant she got to know the market very well, and the local Health Food store. And she ordered a Veg box from a company like Riverford or Abel & Cole

It's Pancake Day...

Anthony Worral Thompson says for the perfect pancake take flour, butter, eggs...then run like shit before the store detective sees you.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Busy Week

Its a busy week in the UK. We have three "things" going on...

Eating Disorders Awareness Week, National Chip Week and London Fashion Week

I am not sure I can cope with the irony of all of that. What do you think?

Supermarkets and Obesity

I was truly shocked this afternoon as I wondered round the supermarket, when I came across a whole aisle dedicated entirely to chocolate for Easter, which is not for another 2 months. That's about 20 meters of chocolate (7 shelves high), and don't forget the other aisles that we see all year round dedicated to sugary snacks including crisps, biscuits, cakes and more chocolate.

No wonder so many people in this country are over weight and obese. People are likely to buy their Easter chocolates now (excuse: must get organised) and not be able to wait until April to eat them, so they then have to buy more....the supermarkets are very cunning.

Call the Midwife

Have you been watching Call the Midwife on BBC 1 on Sunday evenings? I have to admit - I was hooked and found it highly entertaining and thought provoking. I am sad that the series has now come to an end but looking forward to the next one already. Apparently, it had higher ratings and more viewers than Downton Abbey....

Nothing made me laugh more than seeing Miranda Hart playing a midwife called Camilla Fortescue-Cholmeley-Browne (known as "Chummy") skidding round the corner on her bicycle (just as I probably would), riding straight into a policeman, and on her way to a delivery (which turned out to be triplets) dropped the delivery pack, which meant that by the time the third baby appeared, she had to strip from her nurses uniform and wrap the baby in her dress..

It was the first time that I had seen her act as well as be in her usual comedian role. I think its hard to be good at both, but she was brilliant. 

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Quote of the Day

"Dont let the shadows of yesterday spoil the sunshine of tomorrow. Live for today." - Nandina Morris

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Big Fat Liar

According to an article I read yesterday, most of us exist on a diet of porky pies.....get it?! According to a recent poll, women tell 500 lies a year about what they eat and how much they weigh. Thats at least one a day. Basically we eat far more than we are prepared to admit. Apparently, those people who are overweight will either not admit to being fat or are completely oblivious to the problem.

24% of the UK population are obese. Thats nearly a quarter of us - 1 in 4. Only 6% of people will identify themselves with being obese. Two out of three people in this population are either overweight of obese and therefore average is not a good measure of what is healthy. Also, 220 million people around the world have diabetes.

Those are, in my view, some shocking statistics.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Accessing Health Care

This blog post is about the dilemma I have seen people go through with accessing health care and the problem of insurance companies. Now, we all know that we have access to free health care in the UK, via the NHS. Its great being able to ring for an appointment, going to the doctor and only having to pay for it if a prescription is administered. However, it can often be IMPOSSIBLE just to get that valuable 8-10 minutes with a GP. What if you have to go to work? The evening appointments offered by some doctor's surgeries are so popular, there is never any availability...

Waiting lists are another issue. Sometimes, a doctor might refer a patient for tests/x-rays/other investigations and more often than not, you end up on a waiting list which would be a queue so long, you might be waiting for months by which time the original problem you had has got much worse. If an anorexic patient was told they had to wait 6 months before there was any sign of them being seen to, they could die in that time. Sorry to be blunt, but its true. And mistakes like this can't afford to happen.

Opting for private health care is just not an option for most people. But from my experience of getting psychiatric help, I do know a lot of people who sought help for private psychiatric medical health care via insurance companies - but the problems that followed when the insurance money ran out are just horrendous.

There is always a level of uncertainty because you dont know "how long you've got" i.e. how much the insurance company is prepared to fund. Will they continue to fund treatment after this episode of illness? How much will the premium be next year if you claim a lot on it this year?

How are people meant to get better from these kinds of problems if (a) they are worried about the funding running out and (b) when it does run out and the waiting list for the next possible source of help is so long, they have no-one to turn to?

If private health care is the better option i.e. you're seen to quicker...why can't more people have access to this kind of support?

I am not for a moment saying that there is anything wrong with the NHS (I mean there is, but the point of this post is not to have a stab at it), I am just frustrated that for those of us who need the help, its not always the right sort or readily available.

I set up my own help and support network, to help the friends I made in hospital, in order that we can support each other for when things get tough. Its called P-FINE - and is very successful with about 50 members at present. Do you know what FINE stands for? More on that another time.

My Valentine....

So my date for tonight on Valentine's Day has been in the diary for a while. Here is how it goes:

Who is it with? This bad boy
Where am I going? I'm not going anywhere - I'm staying here
What am I wearing? These lovely things... here
What am I drinking? This rather scrummy tea
What am I doing? Bashing out the rest of a 2,000 word essay on the Stress/Illness connection...

I am so excited. Not

Monday, 13 February 2012

Chocolate Philadelphia

I can NOT believe I have just seen this on the supermarket shelf...

Costing £1.57, we can now have more than just a hint of chocolate with our smoked salmon bagel - this is more like full on chocolate spread. I am going to be sticking to normal Philadelphia from now on.

Quote of the Day

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is a great accomplishment" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, 12 February 2012

For those of you who are university students...

This video is a bit rude but is so funny and not far off from an accurate representation of student living in Britain. From this, you will learn that students are bored, hung over, tired, cold and hungry all of the time! Enjoy.

Listening and Awareness

I was very sad to hear of the death of Whitney Houston this morning. In light of this devastating news, I wanted to share this with you, which I read on Twitter earlier today.
This world loses souls on a daily basis due to the sad ravages of depression and also believing they don't wish to 'burden' others with their pain and sorrows. Some souls depart before they die, drowning in alcohol or drugs. Children lose parents and parents lose children. Some people actively chose to depart, others slide in that direction and end up falling off the edge. Please reach out, notice, or just be as vigilant as is comfortable, as some of us might say we are 'fine' over and over, but there'll be one day when we say more, and if you listen and you're ready, you'll catch those souls, before they fall.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Sugar, the brain and heroin

I was intrigued by a recent article in London's Evening Standard newspaper. The headline read

"Sugar affects the brain like heroin - we must crack down" and it was written by Dr Christian Jesson

I dont often believe what's said in these sorts of articles - but when it comes to sugar and the brain, in this case, I can't agree more with every word that Dr Christian is saying. Sugar is most certainly as toxic to our health as alcohol. After all, the reason why so many people are becoming obese is because there is so much sugar that is readily available wherever you go.

There is a possibility that we will have to start paying tax on sugary foods - but as Dr Christian says, will this just tax the poor even more? What do you think? Do we need to focus more on fat or is sugar the real danger to us all?

Other countries (Hungary) have imposed a tax on all foods with high levels of sugar, salt, carbohydrates and even caffeine. Dr Christian also says that if there is a "fat tax", we are in danger of eating more salt - which leaves us in danger of heart disease.

This is a fascinating subject and one that I am keen to explore further...

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Word of the day...

I am a firm believer in the phrase "you learn something new everyday." Today I learned a very long and interesting word from a great friend who is a Medical student at UCL, London and I wanted to share it with you...


This is when the body thinks it is low in the parathyroid hormone when really it isn't - usually the body has high levels of this hormone.

Interesting fact for you, so now not only have I learned something new today but so have you...thank you Chantal.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Food Issues in the Young

I was absolutely furious this morning that I got up for a 9 am lecture and after sitting there for 20 minutes with no lecturer, we were told it had been cancelled. However, this meant I could do any of the following:

(a) go back to bed until the next lecture at 11 am (tempting)
(b) plough on with one of the many essays I am currently battling with (essential but not favourable)
(c) listen to the radio (no, not Capital FM which is getting rather dull) 

I chose to do (b) and (c) at the same time (Who said women could not multi-task?) and tuned in just in time to listen to Radio 4's Woman's Hour where one of my hot topics was being discussed - Food and Eating Issues - in this case, in the young. Huge thanks to Charlotte Bevan for giving me the heads up on this just as it was about to start.

Please listen to it. It starts at 24 minutes. The link is:

Both Dr Nicholls and Dr Adrienne Key were amazing - they said all the right things. This time two years ago I was rallying round trying to get all sorts of help and very nearly found myself an appointment with Dr Key. I chose to go down another route for complicated reasons but I think she is incredible.