Somehow my first degree relatives were worried about my medical status but they didn’t really get the problem of disordered eating But other relatives who were aware of EDs were understanding and trying to follow up with me also my friends were really supportive at every step.
I’ve decided that I need to find my way out of the Eating disorders and that’s the step I needed to take back then. and that time I didn’t have to wait for anything to start recovery , that was tricky as usually I got the idea of “ maybe when you start losing weight or when you try X diet you could get better” surely it never got any better. And my other thoughts of waiting; I didn’t have to wait to go to another place to get treated once I found support here in Egypt. or to find people who believes that it’s a real illness . And that was the beginning of my true recovery after 2 trails , now I’ve been in recovery for 11 months ,every step in recovery and every change was worth it . and I am totally thankful for the chance that I was able to get treatment . I mean I thought I was stuck forever in the ED cycle helplessly, I’d have never imagined that I will be able to talk about me recovering.
We continue with our series of real life stories. This Ramadan, we had an honor of interviewing so many people. We thank everyone who contributed and was part of our Ramadan initiative. I had an honor of interviewing an eating disorder survivor Donia from Egypt. I am grateful to Donia for sharing her experience of her battle with anorexia with us. Our hope is that this interview will educate our masses of the complexities of this mental illness and how they impact individuals and their relationships.
Maha Khan (MK): Please tell us about yourself. Where you live, what you do and how old you are.
Donia: Hello, so as you known I am Donia , I live in Hurghada , a beautiful small city by the sea , I am a 3 rd year university student and ..almost 21 y.o :))
MK: Please tell us when did you first hear of eating disorder? And what is an eating disorder?
Donia : I heard about Eating disorders first through Instagram hashtags and that was probably when I was a teenager ,I think 14 y.o ,now I understand more than back then. so ,Eating disorders are mental illnesses they shows up as person’s unhealthy relationship with food through different behaviors , They are much more than a food issue they have complicated cores and they could cause many complications .
MK: Growing up, how would you describe yourself? (We are leading people into context, here we just show them how you were as a child and growing up, sociable, quiet etc)
Donia : As a child I wasn’t very sportive but I had to try many sports I was also quiet and shy somehow insecure and the hardworking student.
MK: Please brief us on your journey into world of eating disorder
Donia: So, first I started dieting later on it became an obsession and developed into anorexia so I only ate certain foods, exercised used laxatives for the food that I didn’t even eat , I was in denial of how unhealthy I am getting , by the time my body started to react differently whenever I ate and I got really sick after that and doctors weren’t sure of the reason later on trying to find a way out of the disorder , examinations showed I have had a
very low fat percentage, low bp and blood glucose and that’s what might cause some organs dysfunction, later and I see that as lack of awareness , I got a wrong treatment with a nutritionist who wasn’t specialized in ED,I was put on a graded food plan that didn’t work so I was put on a large calorie intake plan and that shifted my eating disorder to Binge eating disorder ,I suffered for time it felt like I wanted to eat but I wasn’t hungry neither ever
satisfied, I tried to compensate the food using the same unhealthy behaviours, Kept suffering with body image and how I think of myself, kept isolating myself , avoiding any social gatherings . On another trial to treat BED, I got wrong diagnosis of depression and the treatment didn’t help with the binges so I stopped it , and I wasn’t sure where else to seek help anymore , but finally I found a therapist who is an ED specialist and started my recovery journey.
MK: Please tell us about your earliest memory of your problem with food and eating?
Donia : When I finally found a sport that I could stick to and didn’t have to try other sports
MK: Please tell us about your earliest memory of your perception of how your body needs to change?
Donia: My family has been concerned with their weight almost since I was aware so as a response I had to do the same and after that ,
Everyone in my training place were smaller and they were given more special places and I loved their confidence I , and later I was told I am good but I need to lose weight
MK: How long did you struggle with your eating disorder?
Donia: For 4 years
MK: when were you diagnosed and how did the diagnosis come about?
Donia : it wasn’t Until I started therapy-2021, That I had got an official diagnosis of both disorders Though , the nutritionist that was anorexia in 2019- 3years ago
MK: What was the reaction of your family and loved ones?
Donia: Somehow my first degree relatives were worried about my medical status but they didn’t really get the problem of disordered eating
But other relatives who were aware of EDs were understanding and trying to follow up with me also my friends were really supportive at every step.
MK: Do you think there is awareness of eating disorders in Egypt?
Donia: I don’t think that there’s much awareness among Egyptians and maybe not every sufferer is aware of their illness , maybe it’s because of food being a huge part of the Egyptian society and culture . Even me at the very first beginning I wasn’t fully aware of all aspects of it , and I didn’t know that In Egypt there’s the specialty of Eating disorders , I used to get surprised every time I found someone who understands what is this illness. Although now I see that many platforms are trying to spread awareness about it here ,which is making it much easier for the message to be delivered.
MK: Was it easy for your parents to understand your illness? What steps did you as a family take to deal with this illness?
Donia: That wasn’t really easy. Due to the medical status at the beginning they took me to the nutritionist but once I started gaining weight they thought I was doing well while I was actually developing a new disorder, but later on me being really isolated and quiet we’ve tried to find other treatments.
Donia: so as I’ve mentioned ,last June I started psychotherapy treatment . I’ve decided that I need to find my way out of the Eating disorders and that’s the step I needed to take back then. and that time I didn’t have to wait for anything to start recovery , that was tricky as usually I got the idea of “ maybe when you start losing weight or when you try X diet you could get better” surely it never got any better. And my other thoughts of waiting; I didn’t have to wait to go to another place to get treated once I found support here in Egypt. or to find people who believes that it’s a real
illness . And that was the beginning of my true recovery after 2 trails , now I’ve been in recovery for 11 months ,every step in recovery and every change was worth it . and I am totally thankful for the chance that I was able to get treatment . I mean I thought I was stuck forever in the ED cycle helplessly, I’d have never imagined that I will be able to talk about me recovering.
MK: Did you have positive experiences with recovery resources like therapy or medication?
Donia : Yes, I started my therapy sessions and finally that was very helpful for me to get better and to stop going back every time to one of the unhealthy food related behaviours through understanding and being more aware of how it happens, the therapist has been
guiding and helping me through this journey patiently ,explaining all about Eds and that was a way out of it , later I was able to join a group therapy for emotional eating and that was helpful for me as well in developing more tools to cope with stressful situations that could lead to relapses so
that was also a huge part of the journey. generally I’ve learned about myself and what I am capable of , I am back doing things I’ve forgotten I can do and part of that is me being able to talk about my experience.
MK: Tell us the three biggest challenges you faced with this illness?
Donia: Maybe at the beginning that I got the wrong diagnosis so it took time to get the right treatment , that not many from around me understood what I was going through and that affected my relationships with them ,the third I think would choose to say the emotions of fear and negative tricky thoughts that ED leaves you with
MK: Ramadan is challenging for people suffering from eating disorders, how do you deal with Ramadan?
Donia : I am reminding myself of the aim of Ramadan, trying my best to be mindful in every way, eating enough and eating what I feel like rather than restricting it , I am even able to put my own food boundaries and spending more time with god and meditating whenever I get stressed out by the situations.
MK: Did you feel supported during your recovery and in Ramadan?
Donia: Of course , during my recovery ,and now In Ramadan I am thankful for everyone who’s sharing their daily notes ,tips , knowledge and experience.
MK: Why are more girls feeling insecure in their bodies? Is there body shaming in Egypt?
Donia: Yes,I would say due to body shaming you can feel that “enough” doesn’t exist regarding to the society standards which isn’t even a fixed thing so if you’re fit ,thin, lean , curvy, bulky, skinny …you’re to be shamed for something and if you tried to put your boundaries you’d be called sensitive and they’d be justifying the situation as “it’s just a joke” , body shaming isn’t really about the person’s body it’s about the bully and lack of awareness of how hurtful it could be.there’s body shaming and it’s affecting not only girls.
MK: How can we make people see that unnecessary comment on weight and looks are dangerous?
Donia: It’s also part of raising the awareness so maybe by explaining more how dangerous and the way it could hurt people suffering from Eating disorders or even heathy people , regarding to how they would be perceiving and identifying themselves , how it could affect
their confidence, self esteem and their behaviours later .
MK: Your message to those who are suffering from eating disorders?:
Donia: Change is hard, uncomfortable and could look like you’re making a terrible mistake, but I promise it’s better than being stuck running in a circle, .I think you need to find the life that you’ve left behind or that was taken away from you by your ED , the life that you wonder how everyone is living it. finally , “the best time to start your recovery journey was yesterday but the second best time is right now”.