It’s National Eating Disorder Week and raising awareness is something that is very important to me. Not many people know that I am a long term sufferer of an eating disorder, if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I’ve mentioned it briefly in my transformations, but it’s not something I’ve opened up about very much. I guess I don’t feel fully recovered from it, so I never felt like I could talk about it, but an eating disorder is something you live with. Yes it fades, yes some days you don’t even notice it and some days it consumes you…it’s a continuous fight.
I want to explain my story, because my eating disorder didn’t fall into one category, but this isn’t uncommon there are so many people who don’t simply fall into one category of eating disorder, it shouldn’t even be categorised anymore! How can someone determine how thin you should be to be anorexic, how many times you throw up to be bulimic, how many binge sessions you have to have ‘BED’? What if you were like me and fit into all categories equally? At 5ft 4inches and my lowest weight of 7st 8lbs I was still deemed ‘healthy’ on the BMI scale, laughable right? But my Doctor wouldn’t take my family seriously when they thought I had a problem. All that did was spur my on to think I was fine, everything I was doing was fine and my mind set was fine, because if my Doctor didn’t think there was a problem, then why should I right?
That’s what we need to raise awareness about! The fact that an eating disorder is a MENTAL ILLNESS. An eating disorder is the poor relationship with food, it’s the bad habits you create, it’s the constant anxiety it causes and it’s the mental exhaustion…that’s an eating disorder, not the desire to be thin that will simply be fixed by eating as society naively presumes.
I’ve struggled with my body confidence and battles with food ever since I can remember. Myself and my mother often talk about how I used to be a terrible teenager, complaining I looked horrible in everything, I was too fat for this, too fat for that and having hysterical fits whenever I made plans with my friends. At the time we thought that was normal, just a typical teenager right? It’s only now we can look back together and think…something wasn’t right there.
I’ve always been sporty, growing up with two brothers I was that skinny tomboy who loved football kits and tracksuit bottoms. I was good at sports; Netball, Hockey, Football, Cross Country, Athletics you name it I done it. I honestly can’t look back and say there was a time in my life where I wasn’t active.
My body issues developed as I went into my teens, I started to ‘fill out’ a bit more, as young girl’s do, but I began to feel like that ‘fat friend.’ I have NEVER been bullied about my weight, I have never had anyone comment on it and why would they? The ‘biggest’ I’ve ever been was a size 12 and that’s not big. Size 12 is beautiful, but on me I hated it.
As the years went on throughout secondary school I avoided going out as much as possible and if I did I hated every minute of it. I created a mental battle with myself that continuously got worse as the year went on.
In my first year in University I don’t recall having any problems with body confidence or food issues. Probably because University was for eating rubbish food and drinking a lot of alcohol so gaining weight was inevitable!
It wasn’t until my second year, where I vowed to lose weight after a year of being a ‘typical student’ so I invested some of my student loan into a treadmill for my room. I would spend every day without fail on that treadmill, I began eating clean, learning to cook and cutting carbs, the weight was falling off me…I felt great, I was back to a size 8 and comfortable within a month.
It was going great, I felt the healthiest I had done in years…that was until I started to experience searing pain in my abdomen, to the point where I couldn’t move out of bed and I certainly couldn’t. That’s when the guilt set in and that’s when my mind told me if I ate less, then my progress wouldn’t reverse. I got so obsessed I stopped eating all together.
Of course my family and my friends were concerned, they all knew before I did that I had an eating disorder. But they knew not to suffocate me with it, they knew not to confront me instead they kept an eye on me, took me to the doctors and tried to understand what I was going through.
Towards the end of second and third year of university I become a pro at lying and manipulating my family and friends about my eating habits. That’s what it does to you, it makes you the ultimate con man. After moving back home for the summer and going on holidays I could no longer get away with not eating, I knew I was being watched, so I began constantly binge eating for a sugar rush and then throwing up straight afterwards. After months and months of this, I knew I’d hit a low point when I couldn’t physically be sick no more, instead I sat on my floor in a ball and cried for hours. I hated my mind for making me do this.
My eating disorder was at its worse from the age of 21 to 23, and although I’ve always suffered, it was during these years that it seriously began affecting my health. Now I’m not going sit here and tell you how I got down to my lowest weight, I’m not going to discuss my habits, ‘tips and tricks’ instead I’ll tell you exactly what affect it had on my body:
· The most embarrassing moment I had experienced was on work experience with a Barrister, I hadn’t eaten all day, instead I was over hydrating. In the middle of attending a court hearing I passed out and hit my head on a chair…now you’ll never experience anything as scary as waking up from hitting your head and not being able to feel your toes. The scene from million dollar baby was going around and around in my head! I was rushed to hospital and the Doctors didn’t bat an eyelid at me, even though I was small and I’d clearly fainted because of not eating…they sent me on my way.
· The pain in my abdomen increased for several months, right up until my third year when I was told due to the amount of weight I’d lost I developed cysts in my ovaries and was told that I will have complications having children. For a young woman of 22 to hear that was heart breaking, although they didn’t say it would never happen for me, the fact that I will have complications was hard enough.
· My periods stopped for over a year because I had lost so much weight, which has no end of complications on your body.
· I developed a weak left kidney because I was using water as a tool to curb my hunger and over drinking every single day.
· My hair got thin and started falling out, my skin was awful and it affected my teeth, I was malnourished and I began to look it.
Having an eating disorder is mentally exhausting, every day was a battle. I developed constant anxiety over food packaging and how much calories different foods had, it got to a point where I knew the calories for a lot of food off by heart. I would have to google a menu before I ate at a restaurant and I would also pick the lowest calorie food on that menu. I would NEVER eat in front of anyone because I felt as though I was being watched. Those anxious thoughts consume your mind.
I never had counselling for my eating disorder, I should have but no one took me seriously, instead I turned to the gym! I stopped running and began lifting weights. I loved it! The more I went, the more it encouraged me to become a healthier version of myself.
I lifted weights in a calorie deficit for a year and wondered why I wasn’t growing, I heard eat to grow constantly but never listened, until I decided I would give a month bulk a try in January 2016. I upped my calories to the most they had ever been, I didn’t do cardio and I just focused on weights…at the end of the month my shape transformed! That was the pivotal point for me, I learnt what “eat to grow” meant, I understood that my body needed food; it wasn’t this horrible thing I perceived it to be.
I still suffer now, although I no longer look at food based on statistics, I still have days where I’m down and the first thing I do is avoid food, or the odd takeout makes me feel guilty. I still have bad eating habits like eating my food in certain orders. But I live a healthy lifestyle and i'm focusing on having a healthy mindset, i'm choosing to be in recovery everyday and i'm choosing to control those thoughts that made me feel like I wasn't ever good enough.
With my social media platform growing, I feel like I have an obligation to young girls, women, men anyone that suffers to let them know they aren’t alone. I know I’ve read articles that I can connect to and it makes me feel better that someone out there feels or is going through EXACTLY the same thing I am and that’s what I want, I want to you to know social media is used to highlight the best of people’s lives, but that’s not real…we all suffer, we all have struggles which is why I’m open and honest about my depression, anxiety and eating disorder.
Please take 2 minutes to sign the petition below and help raise awareness, it’s so important that we notice the signs straight away and stop people suffering for years before receiving the help they need.