Feminism vs Eating Disorders - an interview with Emma Lyddon
Meet Emma Lyddon, the woman behind Kind To Mind. Emma founded the organisation after her eating disorder diagnosis and mental health struggles. Kind To Mind combines Emma’s wit and personal experiences, and signposts free and useful self-help resources for those wanting to improve their emotional wellbeing. We spoke to Emma about her personal diagnosis experience, how female mental health advocates inspire her to be brave and share her story, and why feminism is a useful education tool for people with eating disorders.
Can you tell us about Kind To Mind’s mission and what led you to set up the organisation?
Having been unable to access support for my own mental health struggles, due to strict diagnostic criteria, I realised that there was a gap that needed to be filled in mental healthcare. The mission of Kind To Mind is to provide mental health support tools to everyone who is unable to access professional treatment. Kind To Mind aim’s to ensure everyone has the tools they need to get well and stay well.
Do you feel that feminism has empowered your recovery from an eating disorder?
Yes. I feel as though feminism has educated me on the causes of my eating disorder in terms of expectations on women to be a certain size and diet culture amongst celebrities. I am motivated to challenge the different pressures men and women face to damage their bodies, whether that be taking steroids or skipping meals. Feminism is one of the biggest tools of education for a better understanding of eating disorders.
Are there any mental health campaigns or advocates who have helped you? What organisations do you admire?
In relation to feminism and understanding my eating disorder, Jameela Jamil and the work of iWeigh I find incredibly inspiring. I am moved by the radical inclusivity of iWeigh and the courage people have to share their stories. On that note, the work of Hope Virgo, particularly in relation to sharing her experience of Anorexia keeps me empowered to share my story when I don’t always feel I have the courage to do so. Hope Virgo’s #dumpthescales campaign is fantastic as it aims to take weight away from the diagnostic criteria of eating disorders. Meanwhile, Kind To Mind fills in the gaps for those who still can’t get treatment with the hope that one day everybody will have the support they need.
Do you think that there is enough support for people with eating disorders? If not, what you do think needs to be done?
There is absolutely not enough support. Even if there was enough support available, it is incredibly difficult to get your foot in the door of a treatment centre. It took me two years of restricting and overeating after my first GP appointment regarding my eating disorder until I could finally get help. The help I was given was 10 hours of talking therapy via video link. Whilst I am grateful for this, 10 hours of video calls didn’t suffice 10 years’ worth of disordered eating that had led to a mental breakdown. The sad truth is that my experience is just one of so many and I am one of the lucky ones who was able to get some support in the end. The diagnostic criteria for eating disorders needs to be more flexible so that more people can get the help they desperately need.
What books have helped your recovery and had a positive impact on your mental health?
I’ve only recently got back into reading in my recovery and am in love with many books such as The Wild Remedy by Emma Mitchell and Depressive Illness, The Curse Of The Strong by Dr Tim Cantopher that provide some calming tonics to the depressive moods that come with many mental illnesses. As I have previously mentioned, Hope Virgo inspires me to share my experiences in the face of social anxiety and her raw account of Anorexia in Stand Tall Little Girl encourages me to keep pushing the mission of Kind To Mind.
What advice would you give to someone who is going through a similar experience as you?
Firstly, you are enough. If I could only say one thing then it would be that. However, I can say more so I want to stress that you deserve the support you need to improve your emotional wellbeing. If it is feasible then get help as soon as possible, which may mean paying privately for support. But if you are going to invest in anything financially, then it should be your health. One-quarter of my salary goes on my own mental health support and sometimes it feels like a lot of money but I know in the long term it is so worth it, so please put yourselves first.
To learn more about Emma Lyddon’s work and Kind To Mind visit www.kindtomind.org.
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