Becky Ezekiel discusses her own experience of suffering from an eating disorder, how it affected her life, the lives of those around her and what she did to recover from the eating disorder.
Becky's background and experience of having an eating disorder
Eating Disorders are a mental health condition
What is an Eating Disorder?
Are Eating Disorders caused by overly controlling parents?
Living in alignment with nature
How the medical community approach eating disorders
The stigma of eating disorders
The affects of eating disorders
Becky's Top 3 Tips.
Becky can be contacted @
Becky wishes to give a shoutout to her professional support team, without whom, she wouldn't be here!
Psychologist: Kimberley Wilson
Dietitian: Ariana Rodriguez at Embody Health London
Don't forget to leave a Rating for the podcast!
You can find Leigh @:
Becky Ezekiel: I don't know how to say it, but I guess it was extreme at that point. Extreme enough for me to need professional help. My body weight was extremely, extremely low. I was very sick. And at that point there was no denying that I was suffering and that I needed more support than you know. I was capable I wasn't capable of looking after myself anymore.
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Leigh Brandon: Becky. Ezekiel. Welcome to the Radical Health Rebel Podcast. How are you doing?
Becky Ezekiel: Thank you so much for having me. I'm really well, thank you. How are you?
Leigh Brandon: Yes, I'm really good. I'm really good. So today's episode is entitled the Torment and Torture of Eating Disorders in the UK. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, also known as Nice, suggests that 266,000 people in the UK aged over 16 have anorexia nervosa and 4440 have bulimia nervosa. In 2018 19190 hospitalizations were due to eating disorders, with 25% of admissions to UK hospitals for children under 18. Neist also suggests that 90% of those with eating disorders are female, affecting 15% of women and 5% of men in high income countries. Eating disorders have been for many years, one of the very few health conditions that I haven't felt equipped to help, which at times has been frustrating as someone who naturally likes helping people. So I'm really looking forward to learning from you today, Becky, on the Radical Health Rebel podcast. So to kick things off, I'd love the Radical Health Rebel audience to get to know you. So can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing, your background, and a little bit about your personal experience having an eating disorder?
Becky Ezekiel: Sure. That was a really interesting introduction as well. And what you say about wanting to help people and not feeling equipped to. I think that's the general feeling with eating disorders is that none of us are educated enough on what they are and how to help people with them. My background, I'm born and raised in Bermuda, a tiny, tiny island. For those of you who don't know where it is, it's kind of off the coast of the Carolinas, very much by itself north of the Caribbean. It's about 20 miles long and a mile wide. So tiny population. It's a real community where everyone knows everyone. So grew up here, left at age twelve and I moved to the UK and I went to boarding school, hence the English accent, which is stuck with me now. I think forever. So, yeah, I went straight to an Auger Was boarding school in Hertfordshire and I was there until I was 18, which was a real culture shock for me, coming from a small place and moving somewhere new. My dad stayed here throughout, my mum took me and my brother over, so there was a lot of adjustment during that time for all of us, I think, and I stayed in the UK until two years ago, so went to university in Brighton and then worked in London, and then, like a lot of people during COVID made a move. I was in London in a high rise building in a flat and just assessed my life and thought, this isn't what I'm looking for. I miss island life, I miss open space. And so my partner and I moved to Bermuda two years ago, coming up to two years ago, so that's a little about my background. When it comes to my experience with eating disorders, it's really difficult to pinpoint because I guess most people would look at me and say I've suffered and was diagnosed with anorexia in 2019 or 2020, but the reality is I suffered with disordered eating patterns my entire life. So going right back to childhood, I mean, I think I was aware of dieting from a very, very young age. My body weight was up, it was down, I was yoyo dieting constantly and I guess it came to a head a couple of years ago for whatever reason, and I don't know how to say it, but I guess it was extreme at that point. Extreme enough for me to need professional help. My body weight was extremely, extremely low, I was very sick and at that point there was no denying that I was suffering and that I needed more support than, you know, I was capable, I wasn't capable of looking after myself anymore.
Leigh Brandon: Yeah, I'm guessing that was a pretty tough experience to go through.
Becky Ezekiel: Yes, it was. And I think I was so used to battling weight, my weight has always been a big thing for me. I was overweight for a lot of my life, so right from probably when I moved over to the UK at age twelve, throughout my boarding school years, throughout university, I was overweight and so I lost a lot of weight and managed to maintain a kind of healthy lifestyle. So from the outside, what you would see would be someone who lost weight and was living a healthy life. I was back if I was going to the gym, I was kind of eating a balanced diet, but internally it was a daily struggle. I've never had a healthy relationship with food, never had a healthy relationship with my body, so, you know, a couple of years ago it was pretty much an extreme version of that. I started exercising a lot more, I took up running and it became obsessive. Then I started eating healthy but that became obsessive, and I started cutting out entire food groups and stopped socializing in order to exercise. And that's when things, you know, things really took a turn, and it was difficult for me, but also, I think, for those people around me as well, which is a big concern with eating disorders. It doesn't just affect you in the physical way that people expect it. It affects you physically, emotionally, mentally, and the people around you.
Leigh Brandon: One of the words that you mentioned few minutes ago was when you said that at that point, you couldn't deny it. My understanding is that with people that have eating disorders, there's quite a lot of denial going on.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah, absolutely. For me, the first person to approach me when things got really bad, when I was underweight, was my partner. And he said to me, I'm concerned. You're exercising a lot. You're eating patterns have changed your moods. And I think my natural reaction was to say, I'm fine. I'm just trying to be healthy. And, okay, maybe I've gone a bit far. I'll change. You just kind of write it off. And shortly after that, a couple of friends came to me, and we had the same conversation, and I said, I'm fine. I'm just going through a phase, and okay, Ollie's off. I was in denial for a long, long time about how extreme things had gotten because they changed bit by bit. First of all, I started running what you would call a kind of healthy amount. There was nothing extreme about my behavior then that became extreme, and then my eating became extreme. So it took me a while to admit that I needed help. And even when I agreed to get help, I think it took me a while to understand that I deserved to be there. I was having sessions with a psychologist, and I was saying to her, I just feel like I'm wasting your time. I don't really know why I'm here. There's nothing wrong with my weight. Even though at that point I was very underweight. I couldn't see it in myself the way other people would see it in me or the way I could see it in someone else. You're not well. You're not capable of seeing the reality at that point.
Leigh Brandon: Do you know why? Generally there's so much denial? Do you know where that comes from?
Becky Ezekiel: I don't. I don't know where that comes from. I think for me personally, my issues with eating has been going on for so long that at first, it just felt as if it was just another thing I was dealing with. It was just another day where I'm struggling with my eating or my body. It didn't feel any different to me personally, but I think there's a lot of stigmas around eating disorders that people don't want to be associated with. There's a lot of shame around it that women or men who are suffering don't want to be identified with and also a kind of vulnerability where you don't like this idea that you need people to come and help you. That's certainly how I felt. I didn't feel it was necessary. I felt it was really over the top. And I kept saying to people that I just don't need it, I just don't know why I'm here. And it took my psychologist saying to me, if you don't start gaining weight, I can't see you anymore. Because I took an oath and I'm not fulfilling that duty of care to you by letting you come in here if you need impatient care. And I was so shocked and I went home to my partner and I said, george, can you believe that she thinks that things are that bad? And he said, yeah, I agree with her. I think you need to have inpatient care. And it took those two people to say it to me, I think, for me to think, okay, maybe I'm wrong in this situation, maybe it is bad as they say it is because I trust my partner with everything. And then I trusted this professional to do her job.
Leigh Brandon: So in that instance, I can imagine that other people still wouldn't have that you had a partner and a professional to put your trust in, but I would imagine other people in your position, even if they had a partner and a professional helping them, that they still might not trust those people.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah, right.
Leigh Brandon: They still might be in denial.
Becky Ezekiel: Absolutely. Sorry. Go ahead.
Leigh Brandon: So what do you think was different in you that kind of allowed you to trust what they were saying?
Becky Ezekiel: I feel incredibly fortunate for the support I had with my partner. I can categorically say I would not be here if it wasn't for him. I mean, he saved my life. And I also feel I got extremely lucky with the professional support I had, which was private support. And a lot of people aren't fortunate enough to be able to seek private support. So I think the support I had made a huge difference because I had two people who almost wouldn't let me take another way. So when your partner is backing you and pushing you to a point, you think, OK, I can't not now back myself. If he's saying to me, you need help, you need this, you know, at some point hopefully you realize that that person has your best interests at heart. And I think that's the point I got to where I thought, okay, he's got no motivation other than what's best for me. Let me see this through. But like I said, I was incredibly lucky to have that. And not everyone, not everyone does.
Leigh Brandon: So at that point when you kind of accepted, okay, I need some help now, was that scary for you?
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah, it was really scary. I think it's that kind of thing where you're step one, you're admitting that you have a problem that you can't cope with. That, for me, is terrifying in itself because I like to think of myself as incredibly independent, and I like to take on challenges and feel very capable in myself. So I didn't like feeling that vulnerable, first of all, and I wasn't sure what recovery looked like at that point. I didn't understand what I was going through. So all I was thinking was, everyone wants me to put on weight. Everyone just wants me to put on weight. And it felt like an attack. What I didn't realize is that what was happening to me was so much more than my physical body. My mental health was the lowest it had ever been, and I wasn't capable of seeing that. So it was scary because I had to put trust in other people and trust their motivation. And that's very hard when you have a voice in your head saying, no, these people, they're just trying to get you to put on weight. And that's not what we want. We don't want to put on weight. It's a constant battle. I think it was definitely, for me, a daily battle where every morning I had to choose recovery, I had to choose, okay, today I'm going to listen to my partner. And the professional is not the voice in my head. And some days that won out and some days it didn't, but it's not a case of, well, it certainly wasn't for me saying, okay, I'm going to trust these people. Let me see what they've got.
Leigh Brandon: As you were speaking, then I had an analogy in my head of standing on top of a tall building that's on fire, and at the bottom you've got some firemen and they're holding a blanket, going, jump, jump, we'll save you. It's almost like, well, okay, I can go back to the fire, and that's not going to end good.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah.
Leigh Brandon: Or, I've got to trust those people down there that when I do jump, they're actually going to save me.
Becky Ezekiel: Absolutely. And that's such a good analogy because the scary thing is that the voice in your head is telling you that actually the fire is probably you can probably make it through the building just fine by going through the fire. So the voice in your head is saying, no, don't take that leap. That's too much. Way too much. So, yeah, it's definitely I think starting your recovery journey is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Seeing it through is a struggle, but it is the most worthwhile thing you could do. And it's realizing that it takes some time, I think, because you've totally lost sight of reality when you're that ill, you don't quite realize.
Leigh Brandon: It sounds like you're at the point where your shoes are almost on fire.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah, absolutely. It's pretty crazy when I look back, because I think now that I'm healthy and my brain is fed and I'm capable of seeing things clearly. I look back and I think, why didn't it occur to me that taking three hot baths a day just to be warm wasn't normal? I was in and out of doctors all the time about my bone density, about this issue, that issue I was having heart palpitations. I mean, all of these things that you think would be obvious indicators that you actually are very sick, you manage to talk yourself out of and manage to put down to being about something else. So unfortunately, I think a lot of people do wait until it is at that point where it's do or die until they get help. And from what I understand, particularly in the UK, I said to you, I was lucky enough to have private help. But I know some girls who have gone through the NHS and they've been told that they're not sick enough to get help. And that's a real concern, is that you have to look a certain way to be believed that things are as bad as they are. A lot of the problems with eating disorders are it's a mental health condition. It's not a problem with food, it's not a problem with your weight. That's a part of it. But it's a mental health condition. And unfortunately, sometimes you do end up being so far down the line before you're ready to receive help or before other people are almost ready to believe that you need it.
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Leigh Brandon: That's probably a good place to ask you my next question. Can you explain in your own words what an eating disorder actually is?
Becky Ezekiel: I mean, you know, don't take this as medical advice, because I don't know what the exact definition is. But for me, I would say the most important thing to understand is that it's a mental health condition. It's a severe mental health condition. A deadly mental health condition. If we're talking frankly, a lot of people die from eating disorders. It's something that we shouldn't be afraid to talk about. It's something that's happening all the time. I think the problem is that we're not educated about what it actually is. A lot of us think it's just a physical condition, but it's so much more than that. I guess you would say it's severe thoughts and behaviors around food, eating and your body. And that can present itself in different ways for different people. It can be over exercising, it can be under eating, it can be making yourself sick. And you can fall into a box with those. You can tick the boxes of what it is to be under it's sick, or what it is to be bulimic. But I'd say for a lot of people, you wouldn't necessarily fall into a box, but you are suffering with an eating disorder.
Leigh Brandon: So obviously, under eating is generally called anorexia nervosa, and then making yourself sick is nervosa bulimia. And the other thing that we briefly mentioned before we started recording was binge eating disorder as well. Which is interesting, because as I was saying to you before, I've been working with someone for about five months. When she came to me, I had binge eating disorder, although that wasn't why she came to me. And when you were saying people are refused treatment on the NHS in the UK because they don't look sick enough, I can certainly see how binge eating disorder can become something more serious, like anorexia or bulimia.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah.
Leigh Brandon: I guess in the NHS, it's got a lot worse since she left the UK. Become the National COVID Service last two and a half years.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah.
Leigh Brandon: What's quite interesting, the lady that I've been working with, with binge eating disorder, even though if she had anorexia or bulimia, I would have just referred her out. But what was interesting was I was able to help her with a binge eating disorder. And as we were talking earlier, a lot of it comes down to I see a lot of similar conditions to this, where people, when they were younger, as children, were very rarely praised, but quite often criticized for certain things, and they can become very perfectionist. And as my client was telling me, she'd worked with other professionals before, functional medicine practitioners and nutritionists, etc. And she would follow the protocols 100%, but then stop and go 100% in the other direction.
Becky Ezekiel: Yes.
Leigh Brandon: She would do it well, 100%, or she'd do it badly. There was nothing in between.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah, it's a real measure of extremes. And that idea of perfectionism is a huge thread with people who have eating disorders. I mean, they can affect everyone and anyone from whatever your race, gender, background. There is no discriminating. But there are, I guess you would say, common threads that you can identify the kind of people who might be more susceptible to something like a binge eating disorder or anorexia or bulimia, because it's really about control. You're really dealing with something else, and you're using food or your body as a way of coping with that other thing. So whether it's stress or anxiety or something traumatic you've been through, it's a way of controlling that. And if you are a perfectionist, if you do like to do things a certain way, or you are a bit of a control freak, which I am, all of those things, then it feels like a very natural way of coping with those things, is to control something that you have full autonomy over. It's your body. You're the one who decides what goes in your body. So it's something that you feel very in control of.
Leigh Brandon: Yes. One of the things I've heard on a number of occasions is that quite often that kind of behavior can come from someone that's had very controlling parents. So when a child hasn't been given much freedom to make their own choices, they're very controlled. Well, they say, okay, you think you can control me, but you can't control what I can eat.
Becky Ezekiel: Yes, I read an article and it came out a while ago, and I think the headline was something like parents no longer to blame for eating disorders, because a long time ago there was this idea that it was all about how you've been brought up. And I do think that is a big part of it for a lot of people. If they were brought up in a very controlled environment, that's their way of rebelling. That's their way of finding something that they can control in their life. So there's definitely something to it in that respect. It's not for everyone. Absolutely not for everyone. Everyone has their own triggers, their own reasons for their experiences. But yeah, I can definitely see that.
Leigh Brandon: How can you recognize, as an outsider, when someone has an eating disorder?
Becky Ezekiel: That's a really good question because it's very difficult. And I always try to say is that I look around at people's eating habits. I'm very aware of people's eating habits. I can't kind of help it. It's something I pick up on.
Leigh Brandon: Like me, I can't help if I'm walking down the street. I'm analyzing everyone's walking pattern.
Becky Ezekiel: Right. You don't even mean to do it. You're trying to do absolutely. It's just a natural thing that you pick up on it. And I'm the same. And I think what I've noticed is that eating disorders are very hard to identify from the outside. I mean, there are some things you could look out for, I would think. If someone's attitude changes towards food or exercising their mood, are they anxious around food or do they not want to socialize so much in those kind of environments where food is good? I mean, there are things you could maybe identify that someone might be going through a difficult time. But I'd say it's really challenging because so many of us have disordered eating patterns. I don't know if you find this, but I've got friends who, for example, won't eat dinner beyond 07:00 p.m. Or don't eat carbs before a holiday or whatever it is. There are all of these food rules that have become so normal to so many of us that we don't even pick up that okay, they might not be a full identified eating disorder, but that's a disordered way of eating. To have rules around or such strict rules around what you eat isn't a healthy way to live. So I think that blows the line as well. You could just say, oh, but she's always been low carb, or she's just doing Atkins, but those things aren't, or they shouldn't be the kind of healthy way that we should be eating. The coach I worked with is very into intuitive eating. And the more I've learned about that, the more I can understand that that makes sense. That makes sense too.
Becky Ezekiel: As a human, we're a baby and we know when we're hungry and when we're full, and we learn those cues. And as we get older, we start putting in all of these roles like, oh, but it's lunchtime, so I have to eat this, or, you know, beyond a certain time, and we start messing with what's actually something very natural to us. And so, yeah, identifying someone with an eating disorder is very difficult. It's not about necessarily their weight. They could be underweight and you could be concerned about that. Yeah, it's very challenging. It's the way to answer that question, I guess it's most simple way.
Leigh Brandon: It's interesting what you were saying about intuitive eating. I mean, that's exactly how I try and teach my clients how to eat, is to get in tune with what your body needs at any particular time. We call it metabolic typing®.
Becky Ezekiel: Right.
Leigh Brandon: But what I found works well, and I would imagine it certainly works well with the client. I've been working with a binge eating disorder is to set core values. Now, that's slightly different from rules, because the core value could be, for instance, I will eat what my body tells me is right for me to eat.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah, right.
Leigh Brandon: So getting really clear on core values can be really important for any health.
Becky Ezekiel: Condition, to be honest.
Leigh Brandon: I mean, in last week's episode, I spoke to Paul Czech about what he calls the four doctor model. And in the check system, what we teach is that in order to be healthy, we need to be really clear on core values in four areas our happiness, our diet, our rest, and our movement. And that could potentially be something that would be quite useful as part of a treatment program for people with eating disorders. I hadn't thought of that before. I literally thought of that as we were speaking.
Becky Ezekiel: No, but it does sound like it would be, because you're right. There's a real difference between a food rule and a belief. And like you say, a belief could be something like, I want to nourish my body in the way that I know it needs to be. Or I'm exercising a lot, so I need to give my body more energy, or whatever those things are. They're not so much rules. They're iconic carbs, because carbs are evil as they are positive. Kind of affirmations about giving your body what it needs.
Leigh Brandon: When working with clients, what I try to do is work alongside them to establish their core values. And talking about carbs, some people can eat a lot of carbs, and that's what their body needs. But then there are other people, someone like me, I can just sniff an apple and the energy goes straight through me and I'm hungry even five minutes. I am someone. If I eat too many carbs, my body will start to put down body fat. But then other people can eat loads of cards and stay really lean all the time. And that's where intuitive eating comes in. It's like, okay, so what does my body need right now?
Becky Ezekiel: Absolutely.
Leigh Brandon: And it takes time. It takes time to learn to listen to your body. I've been doing it over 20 years, and I'll probably say I'm still learning because I'm getting older. My body is changing, so I have to make sure I keep listening, just keep eating what I ate 15-20 years ago.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah, it's so true. We get into routines, don't we? We get into that's what I have for breakfast, or I always grab a prep for lunch or whatever it is, and we don't even think about really what we're putting into our bodies or why. So when we go through different changes, whether if you're exercising more, you're going through a stressful time at work, or you're just getting older, all of these things impact what our body needs at that time. So I think you're right. It's a constant learning curve. And. It's constantly about checking in with yourself and being aware of what your body is telling you it needs, because your body and brain signal you'll know a lot more about this than I will, but our body tells us what it needs. We just have to listen to it and we have to get in tune with it.
Leigh Brandon: And I guess with an eating disorder, you lose that connection, you totally lose.
Becky Ezekiel: That, and you override every signal your body is telling you. So when your body's telling you it's hungry, you're telling it that it's not. And, you know, you find a way to override that. You know, I used to drink copious amounts of Diet Coke to have some flavor and to fill myself up without having any calories or, you know, I would eat a giant, like, giant bowl of salad, but it was really just lettuce and cucumber without dressing or without anything on it. So you start tricking your body in these ways and overriding any cue, it's trying to give you to the point where you're so out of sync. You really do have to relearn how to eat. And that was a big part of my recovery, was relearning how to eat in an intuitive way and in a way that made sense for me.
Leigh Brandon: It's interesting. Again, one of the things that I always try and get across to people is if you want to get healthy, just live in alignment with nature. And the more you move away from nature, the more ill health you're likely to get. Now, the way that we're brought up in modern society, I believe we unlearn how to eat properly, we unlearn how to get the right kind of rest, et cetera. And what's interesting, when I was a toddler, my mom used to grow runner beans in the garden and my mum would go out to the garden and she'd see these little tiny teeth marks.
Becky Ezekiel: Right, yeah.
Leigh Brandon: Because I used to love raw runner beans.
Becky Ezekiel: Really?
Leigh Brandon: Right.
Becky Ezekiel: Even as a toddler?
Leigh Brandon: Even as a toddler.
Becky Ezekiel: Wow.
Leigh Brandon: Because when you're that age, you're generally not you haven't been untrained, you're still young enough to have that intuition.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah.
Leigh Brandon: And if my mom was cooking something and she was chopping carrots, I'd always want a bit of raw carrot. Love raw carrot.
Becky Ezekiel: Right, yeah.
Leigh Brandon: And then my mum would cook the meal and I wouldn't touch the runner beans or the carrots, really, because she boiled them, they no longer had any nutrients in them.
Becky Ezekiel: That is so interesting.
Leigh Brandon: Right. So even at that age, I knew instinctively what was good for me and what wasn't. And another story that's similar, a friend of mine, many years ago, when his son was probably a similar age to what I was talking about, over about three, I think his son is in his 20s now, so going back a bit. But I remember him saying to me, my son was in the garden and he was picking buttercups and eating them. And he said, don't do that. It's dirty. It's dirty. Don't do that. And he noticed, he kept doing it day after day, eating buttercups in the garden. He thought, I wonder if there's some medicinal, you know, something in these buttercup. So he looked it up and his son suffered from eczema, where it turns out that buttercups are actually good for eczema.
Becky Ezekiel: Wow. Isn't that amazing?
Leigh Brandon: It is amazing. And if we lived on the savannahs in Africa, we didn't live in houses. We would probably never lose that.
Becky Ezekiel: Yes.
Leigh Brandon: If we hunted and we gathered, rather than going to a supermarket and buying poisonous foods that's barely got any nutrients.
Becky Ezekiel: In it.
Leigh Brandon: We just would never lose that instinctual knowing of what's right for us to eat.
Becky Ezekiel: That is so interesting and totally true. And the more our lifestyles become, the way they've gone, which is that we're all busy all the time, we're looking for something convenient, the more we're being given that by being given more and more processed food that we can just zap in the microwave. And so we're getting further and further away from what's best for us.
Leigh Brandon: I tell people convenience kills. If you look at all the things that we have that make our lives more convenient, a lot of them actually do us a lot of damage.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah.
Leigh Brandon: They're very unhealthy for us. So you think processed foods, things like sliced bread, mobile phones. Mobile phones, they give off high levels of electromagnetic radiation. I see people at the gym, they've got these bluetooth earphones on, not realizing they're frying their brain because they can't be bothered to plug a cable into their iPhone. Even cars. What do cars do? They mean we don't have to walk.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah.
Leigh Brandon: So a lot of these convenience things are not natural. They're not nature.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah. We're paying a price.
Leigh Brandon: And again, I go back to what I said before. The more we move away from nature, the more we move away from health.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah.
Leigh Brandon: Obviously not everything, but a lot of the instances.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah, I can absolutely see that.
Leigh Brandon: Something that you touched on earlier, I think you might want to go into more detail, is to talk about how the medical community in general approach eating disorders.
Becky Ezekiel: From what? It's difficult for me to say now that I'm here because I'm in Bermuda, I'm not really in touch with what's going on in the UK kind of anymore. But I know that one of the charities, Beat, which is the eating disorder charity in the UK, I remember on their website they said something like, the average GP in the UK has under 2 hours of training in eating disorders through their entire medical degree.
Leigh Brandon: 2 hours more than they get on nutrition.
Becky Ezekiel: Right. But it's pretty crazy when you think about the statistics that you ran at the beginning of the show with how many people are affected. And I think that really speaks to.
Leigh Brandon: Three quarters of a million.
Becky Ezekiel: I mean, it's unbelievable that it's something that is so affecting so many people to such extreme lengths. And the people that we need to go to for help aren't being informed in the way they need to be. So I think there's a real gap there that needs to be plugged. So the education piece is a huge one because you should be able to go to your GP and they should be able to identify what's going on with you. And with under 2 hours training, how can they be expected to do that? To identify when someone is struggling? And you asked me earlier about denial being a big part, which it is. So if you have someone going in there who's a little reluctant to be there anyway and it's saying I'm fine, I'm fine, you need someone who's really trained to identify that they're not fine. And we can't afford to wait until people are so underweight. We can't afford to wait until their BMI drops below a certain amount before we say, okay, they need help now. They need help from the minute they walk in that door and are willing to accept that help. They need to be treated in a way with understanding of what they're going through because what they're going through is so difficult. I can't underestimate or I can't overstate, shall I say, how challenging recovery is? And I don't say that in a way that I want to put anyone off because it is the most worthwhile and rewarding thing you will ever do. Anyone who's listening is facing sounds like childbirth. Yeah, well, I'm sure it is. I'll let you know in two months’ time. I'm seven months along now, so thank you. So yeah, that's another fun hurdle I'll be overcoming. But yeah, it's the most worthwhile thing. But I think in terms of if you're going through it or you're concerned about someone who might be struggling, I think the first thing to understand is the severity of eating disorders. They're not a vanity, it's just a vanity thing that someone is just really vain and they just want to lose weight. It's a real severe mental health condition and one that you can't go through alone. I don't think you need help, you need professional help. So awareness and understanding. I think.
Leigh Brandon: When you were talking about GP’s and their lack of training and it's not a criticism of the GPS, obviously, it's a criticism of the training. And I think probably the most challenging thing and probably where they need the most training is actually how to speak to someone and communicate with someone that they feel might have an eating disorder. Because like you say, if they're in denial and they say, oh, I'm a little bit concerned about your weight, and then if the person is in denial, they say, oh no, there's nothing wrong with my weight. That to me is where they probably need I mean, obviously they need to be aware more, which is why I'm doing this episode. Hopefully some doctors are going to listen to it.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah, absolutely.
Leigh Brandon: But also, I can imagine it can be quite tricky communicating with someone with an eating disorder who's in denial.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah, I can imagine so too. And I can't speak fully to that because I went and saw my GP alongside the private help I got and she was great, she was very understanding and supportive, but I didn't go through any of those channels to get further support, so I'm not sure what that looked like. The only thing I can speak to is the experience I know other women have had who I've met, and I'm trying to think where this kind of conference was, but I went to a conference where these women were speaking about their experiences with eating disorders and you might look at them and they were in a very kind of average body weight. They weren't underweight, they weren't overweight to look at, and they were talking about their experiences with bulimia or binging and purging or laxative use or whatever it was. And they were told by their GP that because they didn't hit this criteria of having a BMI under a certain amount, they couldn't refer them for help. So the message they're then getting is a it's almost like you're not believed that your feeling as awful as you're feeling, which I imagine would be incredibly difficult to hear, and B, you're then being told that you almost need to get more sick in order to get more help. So you're being pushed down a road of, okay, well, I guess I need to eat less or purge more in order to hit this strict criteria of what qualifies me to be sick enough to get help. And that needs to change. That absolutely needs to change. It's just not good enough.
Leigh Brandon: I can imagine if we're talking about the NHS, that guideline is probably based on money, not on health outcomes.
Becky Ezekiel: Absolutely.
Leigh Brandon: Which most of their policies are.
Becky Ezekiel: Unfortunately. Yeah, unfortunately it is. And I think people like yourself who are having these conversations openly and raising awareness, and hopefully the more we talk about these kinds of things and understand how many people are being effective, hopefully things will start to change. And I know in the UK there are a lot of advocates for eating disorders and getting rid of the stigmas that are attached to it. So we just have to hope that by naming it and by having these conversations, things will change.
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Leigh Brandon: You mentioned stigma there. Can you tell us a bit more about stigma and stigma attached to eating disorders?
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah, I think the main stigma I felt was or particularly early on when I was really kind of suffering, but maybe my body weight wasn't to the point where everyone was concerned, it was just on the low end, is that it felt like people thought it was a lifestyle choice. People thought it was just something that I was kind of choosing to indulge myself in this being underweight without realizing that it was torment. I wasn't happy at that weight. It was something I was suffering with. So I think understanding the severity of it is the first kind of stigma we need to address.
Leigh Brandon: Unless you said some people lose their life over it not just their health.
Becky Ezekiel: But some people lose their life totally. That can be because of the physical outcomes of being that underweight are so severe that your heart stops or whatever. Or it could be that you're so depressed that these women take their own lives. I mean, not just women sorry, women. That's another stigma is that it only affects women. It doesn't men are affected. You mention it in the beginning. I think it's probably underreported. If I'm honest about the amount of men who are impacted, I can't talk about their problems. They don't. They don't. And that's hopefully changing as well, because I do think over recent years, everyone is speaking, particularly since COVID a bit more openly about their mental health. And I do hope that that stigma that men feel that they can't is changing. But since I did a podcast a couple of months ago here where I mentioned that I had recovered from anorexia and I got a few messages from people and a few of them were from men, saying, you know, I went through something similar, I went through something and it was such an amazing wake up call to me about just how many people this affects. And you would never the message we're given is that it's generally girls, generally teenagers that are affected by eating disorders. You don't typically think of adults being affected. You don't typically think of men being affected. I think the big stigma is that it can happen to anyone, absolutely anyone.
Leigh Brandon: I remember a time a little over 20 years ago, I was working, I was a fitness manager in a gym and there was a lady who used to come into the gym and it didn't take 2 seconds to realize that she wasn't well. I would guess she weighed between 25 and 30 kilos. And I remember speaking to the club manager and he said, I've checked her record, she comes in twice a day and does 2 hours every day in the gym. And I did notice that she would just come in and she would just do cardio right now. I remember thinking, I just don't know what to do with this lady. I know I'm not trained to help her. And even if I did try, she was probably in denial. And so I didn't do anything and I felt bad because I didn't feel I could help. But some of my team did approach her. Not I didn't suggest that they did, but they did. And they were quickly told by her that there was no problem. Go away, leave me alone. There's nothing wrong with me. Yeah, and if I remember right, the club manager even took her aside one day and said, look, I'm a little bit concerned. You're doing 4 hours every day. An hour, three times a week is probably enough. And she was just like, no, I'm fine, I know what I'm doing, there's nothing wrong with me, I'm fine.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah.
Leigh Brandon: And she was in her mid forties, I would have said at the time. So yes, she was female, but she certainly wasn't a teenager. So as you say, it can affect anyone at any time.
Becky Ezekiel: It can. I mean, my diagnosis was in my 30s for my anorexia and someone actually said to me, what, so you just in your therapy, you developed an eating disorder almost like that can't happen? And I said, yeah. No, that is the truth. That is the truth of it. It's not just something that affects that affects young girls. It really can. It doesn't discriminate. It really can affect absolutely anyone.
Leigh Brandon: So how is life impacted for people with eating disorders?
Becky Ezekiel: I'd say every aspect of your life is impacted. Usually you're physically unwell depending on which eating sort of you're dealing with maybe more severely than others. For me it was anoreticia, so I was extremely underweight. I had issues with my heart, kind of irregular, very low heart rate. I was cold all of the time. I would wear like four jackets. I was having baths to keep my body temperature normal.
Leigh Brandon: Affects the menstrual cycle.
Becky Ezekiel: Absolutely. I lost my period for years. It's taken a lot of work to get that back and to get pregnant. I mean, there was a time where I didn't know if I could ever have children. So it impacts you physically in so many ways that you wouldn't think of. I mean, your brain is not yours, it's fog. I remember having conversations and just feeling like a zombie. I couldn't communicate with people, I couldn't speak, I had no energy. It really was like me. But someone had dialed me down to level one. So there's all the physical sides of it and more importantly, there's the kind of mental health side of it where for me, I was incredibly anxious about everything. I couldn't sLeighp. I would wake up at 430 in the morning, wired, start cleaning the kitchen. It was a very strange existence at the time. I was depressed. Ended up on antidepressants for a couple of years. I mean, I came off then because I got pregnant. But your brain, you don't feel like yourself. You're not yourself.
Leigh Brandon: Your brain is not getting the fuel that it needs. It's not getting the nutrients that it needs.
Becky Ezekiel: Absolutely. It's getting nowhere close to what it needs to even function. You're not giving it what it needs to function. So aside from the way it directly impacts you, it impacted my relationships, my friendships, my social life. I didn't want to do anything. I didn't want to go out. I didn't want to see anyone. You know, a lot of our socializing revolves around food. And it was easier for me to just say, no, I'm not going. I don't want to go. You know, on the occasions I did go, I cried in more restaurants in London than I can bear to admit. And if I would go, I would order the same thing. I would order whitefish with green vegetables. And if I suspected that they had put butter in it or something, they had prepared it in a way that wasn't exactly how I needed it to be, I would burst into tears. And, you know, I look back at that and anyway, it's embarrassing, but it shows where you're at at that point. It just shows how impacted you are. I wasn't seeing friends. I wasn't me for a very long time. And that played into why I know or why I knew I needed to recover. Because I did have these glimpses of times where I just knew, oh my God, my life. What is my life? I don't do anything. Putting my partner through absolute torture, I mean, no one would ever know what he went through getting me through that time. It weighed on him, I'd say, as heavily as it weighed on me. Unfortunately, I had that. But like you say, not everyone does. And if you're going through something like that by yourself, I would just hope that anyone who's struggling understands that it's not their fault. It's not something they have to cope with and it's not something they have to deal with alone. There is professional help out there or to speak to someone you trust, because it does impact everything. Like, you say that someone in the gym for 4 hours a day. That's your life. You're choosing the gym over anything else. You're choosing unhealthy habits over anything else.
Leigh Brandon: I'm pretty sure she had kids. That was 4 hours that she wasn't. Spending with her kids.
Becky Ezekiel: Absolutely. And those are the decisions that make sense to you at the time. You don't think about things in the way you normally would. You know, there were times where I knew that I was making decisions that were hurting other people or that were hurting my partner, but it just wasn't as important as the voice in my head telling me, but if you do that, you might put on weight or you might have to eat something you don't want to eat. So just stay at home, make something you're comfortable eating, and just don't socialize. You become incredibly selfish. It's not a place that's nice to be. It's certainly not, you know, this idea that you're in a smaller body and you're happier that way, or not, or I certainly wasn't. It's torment.
Leigh Brandon: What would be your top three tips for someone who's suffering from an eating disorder? Or indeed for a loved one who's maybe their partner is suffering, or maybe it's a parent whose child is suffering from an eating disorder. What kind of advice, what top three tips do you think you would give them?
Becky Ezekiel: I'd say if you're suffering or if you're helping someone through, it's so important that you find someone who you can trust and talk to if you're not ready to get professional help yet. I would encourage anyone to get professional help. I think trying to deal with an eating disorder alone is just too much for it that anyone should have to take on. But if you're not quite ready to do that yet, talk to someone. If it's a partner, if it's a friend, if it's a parent, if it's someone you actually don't know that well, but you feel more comfortable talking to them about it because you don't know them that well, just find someone that you can open that dialogue with and say, you know what? Something's going on with me and I don't quite know what to do. And you'll be amazed, like you said, about when you saw that woman in the gym, often people know that you're going through something and they just don't know how to help you or if you're ready to accept that help. So I think the minute you show that you are, or even if you take that one step, you'll be amazed at the reception you get. You know, when I lived in London, I would go to this nail bar down the road to get my nails done every few weeks. And the owner of the nail bar took me to one side one day and said, you know, we don't want to overstep the mark. We don't know each other, but I'm really concerned about you. And it stuck with me all of these years later, just thinking, what an amazing thing to do to step out of his kind of comfort zone. He doesn't know me. I'm just a customer of his who comes in once a month. So if you're on that side of it and you want to help someone, I'd say you don't know the response you're going to get. They might not be ready to hear it, but if you feel capable, then putting yourself out there and saying, look, I'm here if you need me. I'm not trying to step on your toes, but I'm just concerned. And I just want you to know that, because even if in that moment that person isn't ready to hear it, the care does stick with you. It's absolutely planted a seed and you feel that connection. You feel, wow, that's quite amazing, even if you're not ready to accept the help. So, yeah, speak to someone. Definitely speak to someone beyond that. I know we've talked about the NHS and GPS, but please go to your GP, find those professional channels. My advice would be that you might have to push, or you might need to take some with you to push on your behalf.
Leigh Brandon: Take a recording of this episode.
Becky Ezekiel: Exactly. Take the statistic in. Absolutely. Take it with you. Because I think a lot of people are afraid that they're not going to be taken seriously, or they don't think that they qualify for help. You do. Or if you're feeling unwell and you qualify for help, if you want the help, you qualify for help is what I think. So go. If you need to take someone with you to back you, then do that. And thirdly, what I found really helpful was to educate myself. I listened to podcasts, I read a lot of stories online about recovery, about other people's experiences, because it is very isolating. And to feel that connection, to know that other people are going through it, or better yet, have been through it and come out the other side of it, it can make you feel less alone and realize that inspiring as well, I would imagine. Totally inspiring. Totally inspiring. So, yeah, try and make those connections. I think it's an incredibly isolating being.
Leigh Brandon: So, yeah, I would imagine it's particularly hard for parents if their child is going through that. Is there any other advice you might give to parents? Because imagine, they seem pretty helpless.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah, I can imagine. It's incredibly difficult. I mean, my experience is with my parents, I went to my parents eventually and said, I just want you to know that I'm getting help for this, for what I'm going through. And the minute I open that door, they were, oh, my God, I'm so glad you're talking to us about it, because we didn't know how to help. And I think a lot of my friends felt that way. I know that a lot of people were talking to each other about how to help me and they didn't know how to help. So it is very challenging. I can imagine as a parent. I met one woman, actually, when I was seeing my psychologist in London, and I was physically going in. I became friends with a woman there and she was seeing a psychologist because her daughter was suffering with anorexia and she went to get support as a carer. It was such a great. Idea to get that professional help, to get that support. Like I said, start the conversation. I would just start the conversation. Whether it's expressing concern and, like you said, planting that seed, just let that person know that you love them, you care for them and you're there to help them. They might take it as an attack, they might not be ready, but I'd say doing something is better than doing nothing. So, yeah, take the risk, I would say, and get the conversation going.
Leigh Brandon: Excellent. I think I know what the answer is for my next question.
Becky Ezekiel: Okay.
Leigh Brandon: What's next for Becky?
Becky Ezekiel: What's next? Oh, my gosh. Well, trying to navigate parenthood myself, I think it's been a crazy few months working. I've launched, with a couple of others, a business in Bermuda, so we quite swiftly going on maternity leave. And yes, being a mum, which is.
Leigh Brandon: Most important job in the world, the.
Becky Ezekiel: Most important job, and equally terrifying and exciting. I can't wait. I mean, like I said, there was a time I didn't know whether this was even a possibility for me. So the fact it's happened has been challenging, I won't lie. If you've been through an eating disorder, the idea of them, your body getting bigger for nine months as something to celebrate is challenging, I thought when you.
Leigh Brandon: Said that, I thought, wow, that must be something to get your head around.
Becky Ezekiel: It is. It's very challenging. But I think it's easier when you know there's a baby at the end of it. There's this amazing thing at the end of it. You kind of accept that for now, your body is not your own. And we talked about intuition a lot. It's that intuitive thing of knowing you need to give your baby what it needs. So it's not been as challenging as I so worried it would be. I'm sure the challenge is to come in December when he comes along, may.
Leigh Brandon: Share the same birthday as me. Then? December.
Becky Ezekiel: When is yours?
Leigh Brandon: 17Th.
Becky Ezekiel: 17Th. He might do he's due on the 26th.
Leigh Brandon: Okay.
Becky Ezekiel: So we'll see.
Leigh Brandon: I think I was due on the 7th.
Becky Ezekiel: Oh, where are you? Yeah, I think most babies are late, I think, but you never know.
Leigh Brandon: Yes. My mum thinks I was starting my football career a bit early for the last ten days.
Becky Ezekiel: I bet. Yeah. Already.
Leigh Brandon: So you're still doing your podcast?
Becky Ezekiel: I will be until December. It will be until December, and then I'm going to step away. So, for your listeners, I do a podcast in Bermuda where I host and we get different health professionals on each month talking about either a mental health or a physical health condition. So that's been really great. It's interesting to be on the other side of it now as a guest. Quite a different experience through the other.
Leigh Brandon: Transition from being a guest to being a host. I enjoy both, so that's fine.
Becky Ezekiel: Yeah, I've enjoyed both as well.
Leigh Brandon: And also, obviously, I've known you some years, but it wasn't until I don't even know how I came across it, your episode about eating disorders on your podcast, it's really what inspired me to ask you on this episode, which that episode was great.
Becky Ezekiel: Well, thank you. And I think it's so important for people like yourself who have an audience to talk about these types of mental health conditions, because the more we you know, we said before we came on Earth, the more people talk about it, the more aware we all are, the more educated we all are and the more we're more capable of helping people. And people don't have to suffer the way they're suffering. We can help each other. So I'm really grateful that you heard that episode and that you've had me on your show. Thank you.
Leigh Brandon: And I'm grateful for you for sharing your experience.
Becky Ezekiel: Anytime, anytime. If there are people listening who wants someone to talk to or want to drop me a message and just say, oh, my God, what do you think this is what I'm going through, or whatever, if you just need to find a connection, I'm here. I'm absolutely always happy to speak to anyone who's going through a difficult time, so you can put my Instagram in the show notes. And more than happy to speak to anyone who might need some help.
Leigh Brandon: I will definitely put your Instagram in the show notes.
Becky Ezekiel: Thank you.
Leigh Brandon: And I note to finish off, there's a couple of people I know you want to give a shout out to.
Becky Ezekiel: I do. I have to shout out. Well, I should shout out my partner. First of all, George. I don't know whether he'll listen to this, but sure he will. I will make him. Like I said, I just wouldn't be here without him. Beyond that, the two professionals who really got me where I am and I still am in contact with today, not in the way it was before. We still check in and I still can't imagine not having them in my life. So my psychologist, Kimberley Wilson, who is just incredible, also an author, she wrote a book called how to Build a Healthy Brain, which is amazing. You should check it out. And her Instagram is food and Psych, so definitely check her out. And then my nutritionist, who is an intuitive eating and body confidence coach, Ariana Rodriguez. So I'll send you her Instagram handle as well.
Leigh Brandon: Where are they based?
Becky Ezekiel: They're both in London. They're both in London. So I'm still in touch with them remotely, even though I'm here in Bermuda. But if you're looking for professional support, I can't recommend them highly enough. They're both incredible.
Leigh Brandon: If you send me their details, I'll make sure they're in the show notes.
Becky Ezekiel: Thank you much. Appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Leigh Brandon: Becky again, thank you so much. Not just for taking your time out today, but really sharing your experience, which I guess probably not the easiest thing to talk about. And to all the Radical Health Rebel tribe, if you know someone who would benefit from watching or hearing this episode, please make sure to share the love and forward it on to them. After all, the mission of this show is to help people lead a more fun filled, healthy, productive, fulfilling and happy life. And if you'd like to support the podcast, you can do so at www.patreon.com/radicalhealthrebel, where you can also receive other premium content such as full length ad and sponsor free video episodes monthly. Ask me anything. Q and A calls. And also radical health rebel merchandise. So that's all from Becky and me for this week, but don't forget, you can join me same time, same place, next week on the Radical Health Rebel podcast.
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