7 Things Never to Say to Someone With an Eating Disorder

Battling an eating disorder is exhausting–and it isn’t made any easier when friends, family or peers are constantly asking hurtful questions or offering misguided advice. If you’re approaching someone who has told you they have an eating disorder, read on to find out 7 important questions not to ask.

  1. “Are you sure? You don’t look like you have an eating disorder!”

Seriously, this should be common sense—but unfortunately, it’s not. Eating disorders do not discriminate when it comes to body shape, size, gender or identity. The media’s stereotypical image of a waif-thin blonde girl is not representative of all individuals with EDs.

Under the DSM-5—the guidelines which medical professionals reference when diagnosing mental illnesses—patients no longer have to be underweight to receive an eating disorder diagnosis (except for anorexia nervosa, in some cases). Additionally, not all eating disorders are restrictive-type. An eating disorder that is being diagnosed more often is binge-eating disorder, which shares traits with bulimia, where the primary trait is frantic over-eating.

  1. “So, it’s just a diet?”

No. Just… no. While some individuals with eating disorders do follow strict eating plans—such as Paleo or vegan—this is not just a “diet”. A 2016 US study from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) says that those who diet moderately are 5 times more likely to develop an ED—and 18 times more likely, if they practiced extreme restriction.

That’s why calling eating disorders “diets” is so dangerous. It minimalises the fact that eating disorders are mental illnesses that need professional intervention to overcome.

  1. “If you want to lose weight, just work out and eat better! Have you tried that?”

Individuals with eating disorders are already extremely self-conscious—the last thing they need is someone subtly saying, “Losing weight is more important than getting better.”

Health is not equated with weight. An individual with anorexia being underweight would be skinny, but not healthy. Likewise, an individual hitting the gym everyday to negate that day’s caloric intake is not a healthy person—mentally or physically.

Eating disorders are mental illnesses; as such, they aren’t going to just “go away” with a bit of positive motivation. The best thing that you can do, as a friend, is to support that person with an ED and not mention their body. Don’t tell them they should lose weight, or give them tips to do so—even if you think you’re giving them “healthy” advice. Praise their personality or their brain, and stay away from physical attributes.

  1. “Can’t you just call this a ‘cheat day’?”

The idea of food being “wrong” just feeds into an eating disorder. NEDA reported that 95% of those who lose weight on a diet gain it back within 1-5 years. Making food “off limits” except for these so-called cheat days just reinforces the idea that food is either good or bad, and can trigger binges in some folks with EDs.

It’s better to support your friend in whatever food option they pick, and don’t push them to choose any food they’re not comfortable with eating.

  1. “Why do you have an ED? I don’t see anything wrong with you.”

A majority of ED side effects are internal, or manifest in ways that an outsider would not pick up on. Individuals who aren’t consuming enough energy may be constantly cold, grow extra body hair to compensate for the cold, stop menstruating, have a heart arrhythmia, or an eroding oesophagus from stomach acid.

Additionally, NEDA says that self-harming behaviours may occur co-morbidly with eating disorders. This can range from self-injury to binge drinking to being sexually promiscuous.

Even if you do not see the side effects, do not assume they’re not there.

  1. “How can you have one? Only teen girls have eating disorders, and they grow out of them.”

This is extremely false—anyone, regardless of age, gender or identity, can have an eating disorder. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

NEDA reported that ED symptoms are starting earlier and earlier in all genders, and that at any given point, “0.3-0.4% of young women and 0.1% of young men will suffer from anorexia”—and 1%  of young women and 0.1% of young men will be bulimic. These statistics don’t even include binge-eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, or other specified feeding or eating disorder.

  1. “Is your ED really a bad thing? You could stand to lose weight.”

This isn’t an exaggeration—people genuinely think this way. Unfortunately, this weight-shaming does nothing to spur healthy dieting, and paves the way for disordered eating.

NEDA has reported that of overweight individuals, 40% of girls and 37% of boys are bullied because of their weight. This leads to less interest in physical activity and socialisation—and an increase in psychological turmoil, including negative body image and depression.

Ultimately, weight is just a number. What’s going on inside our bodies is important, and we should feed ourselves healthfully, but weight is not a direct indicator of health. Unless you are a doctor directly consulting with a patient who has asked for advice on losing weight, there’s no reason to tell someone to lose weight. You end up doing far more harm than good.

For more resources on eating disorders, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

5 Spooky and Fun Reusable Halloween Costumes

Ah, Halloween–the perfect time of the year to let that weird and spooky side out!

Unfortunately,  it’s not always easy for students to break the bank for their favourite costume – especially one that you’re only going to wear once a year. Is the only way to enjoy Halloween to pull £50 out of your already-crying wallet? Or is there a secret way to enjoy the holiday for less?

Lucky for you, we’ve got just the trick to get your money’s worth! Here are five of our all-time favourite spook-tastic Halloween costumes that are versatile enough to be worn all year.

1. Wednesday Addams

If there’s one family that’s got the Halloween spirit down, it’s the Addams family. So why not channel your inner goth and dress up as the dark child, Wednesday Addams? This costume is simple, comfortable and easy to put together. All you need is a black dress with a white collar, some black stockings and some black shoes. Plus, you can always wear these pieces separately all throughout the year!

2. Mime

Want to make a statement with your Halloween look? Then the mime costume is definitely for you. Just grab a striped shirt, some simple black pants with suspenders and a hat (or beret if you’re feeling French) et voilà! You’ve got yourself a costume that even Marcel Marceau would be proud of. If you really want to go over the top, add some face paint or make-up to the mix and you’ll be sure to dazzle. Don’t forget to practice your moves before you go out!

3. Arthur from cartoon series Arthur

If you ask 90s kids what cartoons they used to watch, Arthur would definitely be at the top. This Halloween, take a trip down memory lane by dressing up as Arthur himself! Not only will you make life easier – as you probably already have a yellow jumper, some jeans and a white shirt in your wardrobe – but it will surely bring smiles to your friends’ faces when they see your outfit!

4. Shaggy from Scooby Doo

Ah, another classic–who hasn’t watched Scooby Doo at least once in their lives? If your childhood self always dreamt of hunting supernatural creatures in the Mystery Machine, Halloween is your chance to live that fantasy! Grab a green T-shirt and some baggy brown pants (you can skip the dog this time, we’ll understand) and you’re ready to catch some monsters as Shaggy! Bonus points if you manage to bake your own Scooby Snacks.

5. Scarecrow

For those of you who want a classic Halloween look, we’ve got the perfect look for you: a scarecrow. It’s simple! All you need for this is a pair of overalls, a checked flannel shirt and a big straw hat and you’re ready to party! Don’t forget to add a bit of make-up to make it look more realistic.

What’s your big 2018 Halloween look? Let us know in the comments, and have a safe and spooky Halloween!

Restaurant Review: Unity Diner, Shoreditch’s vegan hotspot

London has seen hundreds of vegan restaurants and cafés pop up as veganism gained popularity over recent years, but Shoreditch’s latest addition is a special one − a completely non-profit restaurant.

I went down to Unity Diner to see if it was worth the hype, and let me tell you: it truly was.

Unity Diner, opened by vegan activist Ed Winters (known online as Earthling Ed), donates all the profits made from their delicious food to Winters’ animal rights organisation Surge.

The restaurant has a blue exterior, which really stands out next to Hoxton Market’s dull buildings. Inside, it looks quaint and simple, with vegan art on the wall–the most noticeable one being a painting of several animals on a blue background, with a neon sign saying “the future is VEGAN”. I already know you’re going to see that all over Instagram.

The food was delicious too. I ordered the Surge Burger (and replaced the ranch mayo with hot buffalo sauce because no meal is a real meal without hot sauce), with a side of onion rings.

I nearly cried when I first tasted my food.

The burger was amazing. It didn’t fall apart at any time, as most vegan burgers do, and the flavours worked really well together. I was also surprised to be able to taste every single ingredient, which I loved. It was genuinely the best vegan burger I have ever had.

The onion rings were perfect, and also surprisingly massive. Despite being typically unhealthy dishes, both the onion rings and the Surge Burger tasted like real food.

The meal was affordable, and would have been worth it even if it had been more expensive. The bill included a 12.5% service charge, which goes to their really kind and friendly front of house and kitchen staff.

The work the people at Unity Diner do is incredible. Everything they do is to free animals from oppression and violence, and it’s clear that they are all passionate about it. As explained in a post on the restaurant’s Instagram page, another one of their main aims is to “show the non-vegan public how awesome vegan food is”, and their entire menu is made of mouth-watering vegan versions of popular foods such as chicken wings, mac and cheese, burgers, and more.

There is a lovely feeling of union and belonging in the restaurant, which perfectly explains the choice of name. I recommend it for everyone; vegan or non-vegan.

You can visit Unity Diner for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks any day of the week at 5 Hoxton Market (closest tube station: Old Street).

The Bloody Truth Behind Menstruation

Menstruation – It’s painful, bloody, and downright annoying. The unpleasant yet necessary cycle of menstruation affects nearly 50% of the world’s population — yet the topic is incredibly hush-hush and deemed taboo to speak about.

Anyone with a vagina has been there: you need to ask a friend for a sanitary product, but you’re uncomfortable saying the words out loud. But why is this? What is it about periods that make women feel uncomfortable to speak outwardly about them?

Depictions of menstruation in media – including film, advertisements, video games, social media, etc. – have always been particularly problematic. The media’s representation generally does not convey what menstruation is actually like, but rather demonstrates a glorified version that seeks to make audience members more comfortable with a manipulated version of menstruation.

Ads are especially guilty of adopting this sugarcoated image of menstruation. These advertisements are usually selling sanitary products and, in order to boost sales, depict the women on screen as being happy and physically active, conveying the idea that if you buy these tampons, you will also be happy and active!

This image is particularly absurd to most period-having humans; when you’re on your period, all you want to do is curl up in a ball and cry. PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is painful and uncomfortable and ugly–and no matter how effective a tampon is, women on their period typically don’t want to perform a ballet recital or go rock climbing.

Advertisements are also notorious for specifically not showing period blood, despite the fact that their products exist for the sake of combating menstrual bleeding. Rather than the standard colour of blood – red – advertisements use a mysterious blue liquid to represent period blood.

The use of this blue liquid isn’t only found in sanitary product commercials; indeed, it can be seen in advertisements for toothpaste, diapers, paper towels, and more. Why do advertisements do this?

This sterile blue colour is often used in advertisements to denote cleanliness. The blue liquid elicits images of pure, clean water, and directly opposes any unsavoury thoughts of blood or bodily fluids. 

The use of this blue liquid also stems from quite problematic origins, some of which are deeply rooted in cultural norms. This allusion to cleanliness perpetuates the notion that menstruation is unclean and impure, a belief shared by the texts of many cultures and religions. This idea is also often seen in mainstream media and films, such as Carrie (1976), in which Carrie’s mother believes that her period is a symbol of sin.

While menstrual product advertisements do not necessarily mean to imply that periods are impure, companies tend to portray menstruation in a veil of beauty and happiness.

This perpetuates the notion that menstruation should be a clean experience, as a means to combat the inherent impurities of menstrual bleeding. This depiction is particularly effective as advertisements are ubiquitous and accessible, and therefore viewed by larger audiences, which subconsciously perpetuates these ideals without audiences knowing it.

The depiction of menstruation extends past advertisements. Not only is it misrepresented in mainstream media, but it is often actively censored.

A photo that poet and activist Rupi Kaur posted to her Instagram account of her bleeding through her pants was flagged and removed from the Internet. Since the photo technically met the official Instagram guidelines, it was eventually reuploaded; however, Kaur did not go quietly into that good night.

rupikaur-period1-454x341 Photo credit: Rupi Kaur

In response, she wrote, “I will not apologise for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak.  When your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified.”

This, and sanitised media depictions, are just some of the many ways that menstruation is stigmatised and stereotyped and deemed gross or offensive, ultimately making it a taboo subject.

While this information can be disheartening, it is important to remember to celebrate companies that are attempting initiatives to end stigmas surrounding menstruation.

For example, Libresse is an international brand of feminine hygiene products that has recently initiated a campaign called “Blood Normal” that seeks to “banish the blue liquid that conventionally stands in for period blood in ads and instead shows real-life scenarios of young women dealing with their periods.”

The hope is that more mainstream companies will adopt similar ideals, ultimately working to collectively end stigmas surrounding menstruation. In the end, perhaps someday, women may not have to whisper about their periods and treat them like they’re secrets.

Watch the Blood Normal campaign video here.