Understanding and dealing with the numbers

When I first published Illuminating anorexia in 2011 I didn’t think it would be possible to tell the story of a long and complicated eating disorder without some reference to numbers, but then I met Bec, a beautiful 21 year old girl who was anorectic, self harming and recently suicidal. When she told me she would struggle to read a book containing body weight and BMI numbers, I resolved to write an edition of the book without them.

This is now the only edition available.

The truth is, I believe an eating disorder (and anorexia in particular), is a story about numbers – a quest to legitimise one’s value with numbers; a quest to make one’s self “safe” by controlling the numbers. It’s an understandable response to the problem of painful “self” experience, but it doesn’t work because it’s built on a lie. Our value cannot be measured by a number, and controlling calories and kilograms will never make us secure – this ‘solution’ will lead us further away from our desired goal of feeling comfortable in our skin (at peace, and at ease within ourselves). With time, we will find ourselves at the mercy of a ruthless and demanding taskmaster (anorexia), who is never satisfied.

There is more to say on this subject but I believe illumination is the key and first step on the path to recovery, because until we can ‘see’ the nature of the battle in which we are engaged, we will not be in a position to consider our alternatives. We will be fighting in the dark. Many of us will become exhausted and despairing. Some of us won’t make it. This is the devastating truth about anorexia.

If you think you or someone you know, may have or be developing an eating disorder, it is important to seek medical help and get a professional assessment and diagnosis. The sooner you seek help, the better the prognosis for your recovery.

If you are currently anorectic (low weight), please note, I do not believe you have to follow the path I took towards recovery (my rapid weight gain following hospitalisation). I was in the dark in 1978/79, (I believe we all were), but what I learnt in that dark place can help you now, and it’s this…

If you have denied your physical and emotional hunger for a long period of time, and found yourself driven and bound by the anorectic “voice,” you will need help to re-feed your body and soul, to fight the lie(s) and empower your spirit.

You deserve to live. You deserve to take up space.

I hope to write more about this in the days to come but for now, a story to illuminate some truths. The numbers have been replaced with letters (X, Y, Z etcetera). I have done this to maintain the integrity of my story, and to highlight the link and progression of my thoughts, feelings and behaviours as I journeyed up and down the scales. I hope it sheds light on your path and helps you take one step closer to freedom.

If you are currently struggling with an eating disorder, I recommend you read this book with the support of a suitably qualified health professional or counsellor.




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