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‘A Letter to a Sufferer on New Years Day’ by Hugh Smith

First off: congratulations. You’ve made it through Christmas, often the most difficult time of the year some someone with an ED, and you’ve reached the new year. Whatever situations you faced, however destructive your thoughts, however uncomfortable the feelings, it’s in the past. Allow yourself some praise for this – you deserve it.

As you’ll probably know the new year won’t be without it’s challenges. There’s a year straight ahead and at the start it can feel like looking into a chasm, a space inhabited by the unknown and the unknowable. You might feel daunted by this or overwhelmed

Right now, as you know, we’re going to get through it a day at a time. Let’s focus on the present before we get to the future, because the present is a pretty confusing place right now.

Immediately following the grand end-of-year celebrations, the whole world seems to have gone into reverse: people are talking self-improvement instead of self-indulgence. Obviously, and most relevantly for you, this often takes the form of dieting and exercise.

The immediate response for someone with an ED is to absorb diet and exercise chatter. The slimming narrative gives someone with an ED the means of maintaining it as they are given new ideas for how to restrict their intake or expend their energy. The first step towards addressing this problem is to recognise where the response comes from: it’s not coming from your intelligence, your reason, or your capacity to love and care; it’s coming from your ED. Acknowledging this makes it easier to resist the impulse triggered by what you see and hear.

It’s hard to resist the temptation to read up on fad diets. It’s part of the ED to be vulnerable to behaviour that is objectively harmful. My advice when you’re confronted with media hype about new diets is as follows:

  •  Remember that humankind somehow managed to survive up until now without this diet.
  • No food regimen holds the key to happiness and self-acceptance. Achieving those two things is a much harder and time-consuming process. Short-term
  • The media are not your friends. They do not have your interests at heart. They make profits by exploiting fear and envy. If you let yourself feel bad about yourself because of what you see in the media then you’re playing their game and you’re letting them win.
  • The nature of modern life means only the most extreme viewpoints get heard. What you read will have been hyped up to get people to pay attention. It’s relationship to the real world is shaky at best.
  • You are not your diet. Just because you don’t follow such and such a rule doesn’t mean you’re not an intelligent, funny, ambitious, hard-working, kind, talented individual.
  • There are more important things in life.
  • Your time on earth is limited. Don’t waste it paying attention to people who would enjoy seeing you suffer.
  • In a few weeks or months the backlash will start. Everyone will realise that that was a terrible idea in the first place.

I hope the new year is a good one for you.

'Men Get Eating Disorders Too' is a registered charity in England and Wales no. 1139351.

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