There are different types of eating disorders, the two most commonly known are bulimia and anorexia. In some cases, people can have one type which then develops into another. There are so many misconceptions surrounding eating disorders and so many people are still being body shamed which is contributing to the decline in peoples mental health. Body image is seen as so important to society that it is creating unhealthy obsessions in both men and women who are trying to conform to these ‘idealistic’ expectations. Quite frankly, its all a load of b*llocks.
1) How old were you when your eating disorder first became apparent and were you aware of what was happening?
Looking back I don’t remember a time I had a healthy relationship with food if I’m being completely honest. I binge ate from a young age and often ate in secret. My mum used to hide food to try and stop me. I never really saw my disordered eating as a problem until I was starving myself at 18.
2) What were your thoughts during the most difficult times dealing with your ED?
I had so much going on that during the most difficult times, I wasn’t even thinking about the ED itself. It was a coping mechanism for me and oddly it helped me deal with other things I was going through.
3) What was the turning point in your road to recovery and why?
My turning point was Christmas 2013. It was a really weird time for me… A few months earlier, within the space of two weeks, I had walked away from an abusive relationship, my nan had passed away but my first younger sibling had been born. I felt extremely overwhelmed and during all of this I opened up to my sister as I felt I was falling apart. She didn’t even really say anything she just let me talk and I agreed that I’d tell my lecturers at uni and get help.
I’d been seeing a uni counsellor few a few weeks and had finally spoken openly about it to people I was studying with and things just felt easier. I knew I wasn’t alone and had some great friends to get me through. I sat down at my sister’s in laws for dinner that day and my sister whispered that I didn’t have to eat if I didn’t want to and I just looked at her and said “I’m going to.” And I did.
Don’t get me wrong, that wasn’t the end of it but after that day I was determined to get better.
4) How do you feel your experiences have shaped you as a person?
They’ve made me much more empathetic and thoughtful. You don’t know what anyone is going through, you don’t know a relationship you aren’t in and you don’t know how hard people are battling with themselves. Just be kind.
5) How does it make you feel when people use eating disorders as a derogatory way to judge/belittle someone about their body size?
It’s not something I’ve ever experienced first hand if I’m honest. Although, I have come across anorexic being used as a compliment, which is upsetting. I don’t comment on anyone’s body unless I’m asked my opinion by them… I think it’s something people should just stop doing in general. It can be very damaging. During recovery I used to get so paranoid when people would tell me I looked skinny… I associate skinny with my illness so it’s not a term a like to hear although, they thought they were complimenting me.
I think for the most part it’s ignorance. I don’t think people see an ED as a serious mental disorders like schizophrenia for example. They believe it’s all due to vanity and don’t understand that more often that not, that isn’t the case. I used to get extremely hurt reading jokes about people with EDs being cheap dates and such but now I just get angry. Many people don’t realise how serious disorders of all kinds can be until it affects someone close to them… Only then do the comments stop being funny.
6) What type of help/support that you received do you feel benefited you the most? (I.e. family, doctors, psychiatrists etc)
This is a very touchy subject for me. I feel very angry when I talk about this now. The first professional I tried to speak to was my doctor at the time, I was studying so I wasn’t seeing my family doctor and when I told him what had been happening his exact words were, “we don’t need to discuss that at this stage, it’s something we can talk about when it seriously starts affecting your health”.
I had a handful of very support friends and uni who helped me through, without them and my sister, I don’t know what I’d have done.
7) Have you ever relapsed, if so, how did you overcome this?
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t made my self sick or had days/weeks where I’ve slipped since recovery… I just talk it out with people and deal with it that way so it doesn’t happen again, if it did. I find exercise helps, I gym and I go for it walks regularly, just to think and calm myself.
8) What advice would you give to someone who was suffering with an eating disorder?
Talk. Honestly, just talk to anyone. Family, friends, a counsellor, people online. It’s so difficult to keep something like this to yourself and it’s so much easier to help yourself when people are supporting you.
9) What is your opinion on negativity relating to body image in the media?
I’m very torn about this – for years both male and female bodies have been underrepresented in the media but I feel in an attempt at tackling this some people cause further damage. As someone who worked extremely hard to gain weight hearing people refer to curvier women as “real women” can be hurtful… It’s so damaging. Being slim doesn’t make anyone less of a woman. The media throws out this ideal body, yet they and we are so quick to attack those who have surgery etc. to achieve what they’ve been told their whole life they should want. The sooner we (the general public) stop buying into this false idea of beauty, the sooner we will see changes in the media. People are gradually starting to be better represented as I think people are starting to educate themselves regarding mindfulness, fitness, diet culture and so on… Health goes far beyond weight and I think many people are just starting to realise this.
10) What were the triggers for your eating disorder?
At the age of 18, I was in an abusive relationship that made me feel as though I had no control over my own life. I couldn’t see the people I wanted, wear what I liked and after miscarrying I felt I had no control over my life or my body.
To cope with this, I decided to take control where I could; my diet. I began restricting my food until eventually I wasn’t eating at all. I kept this a secret for the best part of two years. I would eat socially and then make myself sick part way through a meal in order to clear my plate, vomiting again once the food was all gone.
My triggers are purely emotional and when I feel emotionally exhausted and I’m struggling to cope, I have to really talk myself into eating sensibly. Throughout 2017, we were renovating a house, my contraception was messing with my hormones, I felt very on edge, worried and stressed. There were numerous occasions throughout that time where my boyfriend would have to get serious with me because I would go days without eating. Sometimes I slide into old habits without realising and it’s good to have people around you that know what’s gone on so they can point it out.