Before I start, I wanted to let you know that this post talks about eating disorders in an honest and open manner.
This may be triggering to people who suffer from eating disorders.
I didn’t know whether to make this post, but it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week and I decided to share my journey with you.
I want to say that I’ve always struggled with my weight, but it hasn’t always been an issue.
Growing up I played a lot of sport (mainly netball) so I was always athletic looking.
When I got to university, things started to change. Just so you know, there are going to be a LOT of pictures of fancy dress. I’m not sure we ever went out in normal clothes!
In 2006, I had my appendix removed, then my gallbladder removed in 2007 and a lump removed in 2008. Yeah, it’s a lot for a teenager to have to deal with all at once!
My appetite was affected quite badly during this time; not because I was consciously choosing not to eat, but because my appetite had pretty much vanished after each operation. In the photos below, I was a size 10.
2009 – 2010 (First Year)
During my first year, I’d put on the weight known as the “Freshers Fourteen” and was genuinely happy.
I’d just started university, met some awesome people, was away from home so eating takeaway for every meal… I was enjoying myself for the first time in a really long time, and I was discovering who I was as a person. Even though I’d put on weight, I was still confident. I kinda want to high-five that girl!
I was living in halls with a lot of different personalities; even a girl who appeared to have an eating disorder. She was as thin as a bone, rarely ate anything and would wear baggy clothing so people wouldn’t notice how thin she was. It’s only hindsight that made me realise that she could’ve had an eating disorder – I did exactly the same thing.
2010 – 2011 (Second Year)
After being home for the summer holidays, I had shifted a bit of the weight I’d gained during my first year of university. My friend and I had been training harder with the cheerleading squad, going to the gym a couple of times a week, but I still wasn’t getting the results I wanted.
I started taking herbal slimming aids to help shift the stubborn stomach fat. I could feel my confidence growing with every pound that I lost.
That’s when the eating disorder kicked in fully.
I’d find myself feeling lost if I hadn’t taken the herbal slimming tablet I’d become addicted to; I’d feel worthless if I hadn’t been to the gym; the rowing machine, stepper and treadmill became my friend.
After a few months, my housemates staged an intervention after a particularly bad night.
We went for our usual night out; I’d hardly eaten anything all day so got to the stage of drunk where I couldn’t even keep my eyes open. They took me to the bathroom to be sick and I remember being hysterical, saying that everything had to come out. My best friend even walked out and went to a friend’s because she couldn’t watch me in such a state.
The next day, they came into the living room to talk about what was going on. They said that they knew I wasn’t eating enough. They asked if I was going to bed later than everyone else so I could be sick without being heard. I thought I had been smart in hiding it. Obviously not.
They gave me two options: I go to the doctors to get help or they called my mum. I chose the doctors.
They weighed me (something else that terrified me) and I weighed 9 stone 7 pounds. Technically still a healthy weight for my height, but because I hadn’t been eating, he sent me to a clinic to see a therapist who gave me more options: I either put on weight, or they refer me to an eating disorder clinic. I chose food.
If I’m honest, I didn’t start eating properly.
I cooked meals with my housemates and ate it while being watched out the corner of their eyes. I would pick through the day so I wouldn’t have to eat a full meal but I guess they thought that it was ok as long as I was eating.
People thought I was getting better but it was just as bad. I would stare at pictures of thin people all day, take more slimming aid tablets and do sit-ups in bed at night.
6 years down the line and my eating is just as disordered but on the opposite end of the scale.
I can’t say no to food. Whatever it is, I’ll eat it. Cake for breakfast? Yep. 4 slices of toast for a midday snack? Absolutely. Muffin and yoghurt for dinner? Get in my belly.
When I left Australia at the end of September, I weighed 84kg (around 13st 3lbs) and I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror.
I’d see huge thighs with silver stretch marks, bingo wings with angry red streaks, a stomach that I can’t even suck in anymore; size 14 clothing being a bit snug and my bra size going up to a 38FF.
On the surface, I joke about my weight and how much I love food, but when I’m on my own, the anorexic thoughts come back. The voice that screams at me as I’m eating anything, not being able to get into any of my old clothes, it really affects me.
Although my disordered views of food will never go away, I’m thankful to my body.
It has got me through the death of my best friend at the age of 14 and the subsequent depression, through an eating disorder and through countless injuries caused by sport.
I may hate my body sometimes, but I will always be thankful that it hasn’t given up on me.
Lessons To Learn
The most important thing that I wish people (and doctors!) would understand is that eating disorders are not about weight – it’s a mental illness.
I have been turned away by a lot of doctors because I’m not sick enough. I was discharged from the ED clinic because I wasn’t “thin enough”; I’ve been turned away from therapy services because I wasn’t “depressed enough”.
There shouldn’t be a number on how ill you have to be to get help – if you are ill, you should get help.