Eating Disorders and Tariq Ibn ZIyad- Using Creativity to Break out of Negative Cycle of Disordered Eating

Using Creativity to Break out of Negative Cycle of Disordered Eating

Dear Readers,

Staying away from Eating Disorder behaviours is the key to tackling Eating Disorder. If you can manage to not give in to your behaviours, or you can adapt so that you don’t get so many urges in the first place, then this weakens the power of the demon of the Eating Disorder. Someone asked me what activity/distraction helped me to distract myself from the Eating Disorder behaviours and demands.  Eating Disorder didn’t ambush me from nowhere; it developed over time as a habit of thought-to get rid of it takes building new habits of thought and you have to be prepared to expect relapses from time to time.

I tried to distract myself  with a healthy, alternative activity.

Focusing on writing and research at the earlier stages of Eating Disorder provided me with much-needed distraction and relief from my depressive behaviours.

It was 2009 and I had just returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia. I was stuck in a horrible cycle of trying to lose weight and more weight to no avail. I was very much preoccupied with going on random fasting diets and had no time for anything else in my life. Isolation, introspection, lack of physical exercise, disordered diet, and lack of exposure to sunlight—all worsen the cycle of Eating Disorder. I went to my local GP and she diagnosed me with depression and anxiety and refereed me to a therapist. At the therapy we discussed everything but Eating Disorder was never brought into discussion. To break me out of my depressive cycle, my therapist advised me to take up an activity, such as writing, painting, knitting, learning a new language etc. Her mantra was to use creativity to free yourself from depressive thoughts. I complied and decided to write-up on Tariq Ibn Ziyad, a Muslim Berber who crossed the straits of Gibraltar and entered Visigothic Kingdom of Spain in the year 711. It was this project that broke me out of my ED cycle in 2009. From January 2009 till October 2009, I ate and maintained my weight at a healthy BMI. It took me a long time to complete this project, but there were days when I became so engrossed in writing and studying of the Visigothic and Moorish History that nothing else mattered. I translated my work on Tariq Ibn Ziyad from Urdu to English and tried to find out more on this Berber from limited resources. All this creative writing and thinking and researching kept the demon of Eating Disorder locked away.

Why did I choose to write on this Man from the mountains of Algeria?



My main discipline of study was International Politics and I found it very difficult to understand the political climate of the Muslim world. With the Eating Disorder I started to lose my faith in politics and politicans. I was in search of people, Muslim leaders, dignitaries who were humble, kind and their actions were based on righteousness and pleasing God. Tariq was a tale told to me by my uncle when I was 9 years old.


This warrior is remembered for his humility, compassion, and restraint. He was a favourite son and beloved brother of Berber tribe and was admired by his Arab contemporaries. He was a man who burned all his ships and left a legacy behind. Spain was the accolade of Tariq and the Moors, bringing to native land a great combination of Islam, architecture wonders, poetry, food, music and culture.

Tariq did not stay in Spain to build lofty Palaces for himself and secure wealth for his future, but instead he left his conquered kingdom and post as a governor of estate and returned to Damascus on the orders of Ummayad Caliph. He lived a quite life and died in year 720. Thousand of year after his emergence, he stands firmly as a transcendent and triumphant figure in our history; his name continues to hold and the rock that was once his mountain stands proudly in Southern Spain bearing his name.

 Gibraltar, طارق جبل

Writing about Tariq Ibn Ziyad enabled me to embark on a journey of discovery into a different world. I traced this Young warrior’s journey from Tangier in Morocco to Gibraltar to Cordoba to Toledo to Granada. It was a fascinating voyage of discovery with knights in shinning armors, Goths, foreign army and majestic landscapes.

“Tariq bin Ziyad route is a tale of courage, war, humility, compassion and faith and runs from Tangier through the province of Gibraltar, and links Ecija, Cordoba, Toledo and Granada, the later three being main cities of earlier Moorish civilization.”


Some Minor Challenges you Face when Writing with a Disordered Mind

While I was working on this project, ‘Tracing the Footsteps of Tariq Ibn Ziyad, I struggled so many times to come up with something that was magical and creative. It’s sad but Eating Disorder dis nothing for my creative side, why? Well, Eating Disorder doesn’t just make you miserable it robs you off your mental and physical strength –and writing university thesis, newspaper articles, blog posts is no easy job, it takes hard work and lots of energy. I found it very hard to start new things (like write on current issues, come up with innovative project ideas, write reports, chapters, the day’s work), and could not make any decisions. I was sure and convinced that my work was and will be abysmal and the next thing I know I was in the midst of a full-fledged writer’s block. Cognitive therapy exercises helped me to overcome the  writer’s block I was experiencing and as a bonus, the insight into thought processes which the therapy provided were useful in story development.
They say hard work pays off, after spending over a year and half on this project (this shows how severe my condition was) I managed to complete my project. This gave me so much satisfaction and a sense of achievement. It made my father so happy.
There is hope, I try to preach what I practice, and this is something that worked for me really well in the early stages of Eating Disorder. Hope exists, people who suffer from Eating Disorders are brilliant people with an extraordinary level of intellect. We all are unique individuals and we all require a different approach to deal with the demon of Eating Disorder. And each person’s approach is unique to them, so please do search for what will help you in your recovery.


 The past is an interpretation. The future is an illusion. The world does not move through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead time moves through us and within us, in endless spirals. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but simply timelessness. If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain within the present moment. The present moment is all there is and all that there will ever be. Elif Shafak Forty Rules of Love