Interview with Founder of Eating Disorder Support Service BalancEDMK & Author Emma Bacon
Emma Bacon runs an eating disorder support service BalancEDMK in Buckinghamshire, providing general information, self-help groups, specialist one to one therapy, nutritional guidance and educational training to professionals, community groups and schools.
Emma is also a qualified personal trainer, martial arts instructor, yoga enthusiast and author of Rebalance Your Relationship with Food: Reassuring Recipes and Nutritional Support for Positive Confident Eating and the ‘Eating Disorder Recovery Handbook: A Practical Guide to Long-term Recovery’ (co-written with Dr Nicola Davies).
Emma’s determination to help people affected by an eating disorder was inspired by her own recovery from anorexia and OCD. She was affected by mental health issues during adolescence and her twenties, leading to an attempted suicide at the age of 18. Thankfully, Emma was well supported by her loving partner and family, who helped her to access one to one and group therapy, teaching her how to live a healthy, balanced life.
Emma is now happily married with two children. She lives a varied life, promoting the moto ‘Everything in moderation, including moderation itself’. She continues to run support services in her local area whilst also promoting her books on an international level (through media interviews, her website www.rebalancing-me.com and her Instagram account edrecoverycoach). Emma’s ultimate aim is to increase awareness and support for people affected by an eating disorder, whilst representing a good example of a balanced lifestyle to her children.
Describe a typical day for you?
I always wake up at 7am to help my children get ready for school. Savannah is only 9 and Joshua is 11, so he’s just started high school.
Otherwise, every day of the week is slightly different for me because I enjoy a variety of part time roles, enabling me to work flexible hours that fit in with the family.
Often, my day includes a personal training client, an eating disorder recovery coach client, some emails and a bit of home study. When there’s time, I also like to attend a yoga class to keep me grounded, strong and flexible.
Twice a week, I run an after school kids club, engaging children in fun physical activities that’ll encourage them to enjoy social exercise as they get older.
I also teach martial arts two to three times a week, with a focus on developing physical skills, general self-confidence and body awareness.
In between tasks, I return calls or emails from people wanting support for their eating disorder. I also visit health professionals and schools to speak about recovery and how people can support good mental health.
Finally, I enjoy snuggling up on the sofa with my husband to watch a good movie, with the dog keeping my feet warm as I relax.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
I try to live my life being authentic and honest about things. When I was unwell with anorexia, I was very disconnected from myself and didn’t really know who I was, or what I wanted. Recovery has taught me many things. Rather than assuming a lack of worth, I am now able to practice self-compassion and patience, which has given me the strength to make friends with myself. This confidence has enabled me to speak about my issues with other people affected by similar challenges. I would like to think that I’ve been able to support these people during their recovery. I’d also like to believe that my experiences have made me a better parent…I try my best to be a good example (though no one is perfect!).
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
My wallet, mobile phone, keys, some chewing gum, a foldable shopping bag and a few flyers about the self-help group I run (just in case I meet someone that might ask me about it).
What are your ambitions in life?
I would like to live a balanced, honest life, jam-packed full of personal experiences and meaningful relationships. I would like to connect with people, at a level that makes a real difference to how understood and cared about they feel. And I hope to do this whilst still giving consideration to my own strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, I’d like to live my life with an open mind to the future – continual personal development and learning is so important. In my experience, the best way to learn, is to really listen.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
When I left school, I never anticipated living the life that I have now. I wish I could have helped my younger self to see the bigger picture, rather than getting caught up in a world dominated by an inner critic. But having said that, I also recognise that I have learnt some very important lessons throughout my recovery, which I may not have given myself the time to consider if I were not unwell. So, even though I would not wish an eating disorder on anyone, because it’s heartbreakingly difficult, I am thankful for the experiences that have brought me to where I am today.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I’d like to combine my work with eating disorders and my interest in yoga, because yoga has helped me to reconnect with my body and overcome issue with trauma.
I’d love to link up with other organisations offering a range of wellness therapies and activities so that my clients could access these under just one roof.
I also like the idea of running an after school club for teenagers wanting to improve their body image, self-esteem and confidence. I have ideas in the pipeline, so fingers crossed I can make things happen!
What advice would you give a budding author?
If you have a vision and you have passion, then you can do anything. Put self-doubt to one side and start typing! And don’t give up. There are more books available to buy than ever before. Of course, this means that there is also more competition, making it hard to interest a publisher, but now a-days a lot of people self-publish too.
Enjoy the process of researching and writing. Allow yourself the time to create something you’re really proud of, no matter how other people receive it.
What do you wish you’d known about motherhood before having kids?
When I was only 11 years old, I recall my teacher asking everyone ‘What would you like to be when you’re older?’. I answered…’A mum’, and the experience has not disappointed.
I feel privileged to have two wonderful children, though I’m not saying that it’s easy!
I actually relapsed into anorexia after the birth of my second child. I had struggled with my changing body during pregnancy and was tired from being up at night with my first child. I felt scared, out of control and overwhelmingly anxious about my children growing up to see that I had issues. Ironically, this encouraged the return of anorexia and I had to seek help again. But this time, I was more experienced and better prepared for recovery. I was also highly motivated to be well.
I recall making a phone call to an eating disorder helpline, in tears. I was terrified about not being good enough and confused about how to take good care of my children when I felt so low myself. The support worker gave me some great advice…she reminded me that there is no such thing as a perfect mum! We are all human and we all make mistakes. We can only do our best, with what we have, in that particular moment. As long as I was making every effort to be well and I asked for help and support when I felt overwhelmed, then I was doing a great job. It was important for me to understand that it was right to protect my children from some things, but having emotions was not something that I should hide. In fact, showing my children that life has ups and downs is an important lesson. What really counts is how you express and manage your emotions and challenges.
Finally, happiness is…
Living a healthy, balanced life, surrounded by meaningful relationships and experiences. Embracing all emotions and situations with an open mind, one day at a time.