Anorexia Laid Bare




This has been not surprisingly the most difficult blog post I’ve ever written but strangely perhaps the easiest – words (and tears) have certainly flowed. I’ve wrestled with myself ever since I started my blog whether I should be broadcasting my anorexic past. I mean, I run a food blog for goodness sake, I market myself as ‘The Cornish foodie’ and I run a PR agency that centres around food and drink. How can someone that suffered with anorexia now have food as such an integral component of their life? A part of me is worried that by telling you my story you might not take me seriously, or even worse I may damage my readership and perhaps even my business, I hope though instead that my story will inspire people to fight. The thing that spurred me into writing this post, today, was seeing a young girl at the swimming pool – 16 or 17  - clearly with an eating disorder, punishing herself with a ridiculous exercise routine (as I used to) – I wanted to talk to her so badly, but I didn’t. Instead, I came home and put pen to paper, in the hope that my words might be of benefit to someone out there. If I can help just one person through this blog post then I know I did the right thing in posting it.

First things first, you are probably all wanting to know how I can work with and love food so much today (at the age of 28) when only 12 short years ago I was still fighting a daily battle with it. Well, the answer is it was never about food, for me it was all about control. I am a perfectionist in everything I do– I was an A grade student, popular, funny and generally well liked….but I wanted more. The initial spur to me losing my ‘puppy fat’ (that’s all it was) was one throwaway comment by one stupid little boy in my class …..a boy that now walks round my home town a jobless junkie. Despite him being the instigator of so much pain in my life I genuinely feel so sorry for him today.

So, after ‘that’ comment, I made a ‘conscious’ decision to lose a bit of weight. I became completely dedicated to the cause and in the 6 week summer holiday from school between years 8 and 9, I had managed to lose my ‘puppy fat’  -  I looked really healthy. In fact, on my return to school, some of my friends didn’t even recognise me. When teachers, extended family and friends started commenting about how good I looked, instead of stopping and maintaining what I had achieved, I started slowly becoming fanatical about losing more and exercising more. It wasn’t long before my Mum realised there was a problem. Almost straight away I was booked in to see a counsellor (who I’m afraid to say didn’t help), my weight was monitored by the school nurse, Mum tried to feed me up….but it was all in vain. Anorexics will know it is not until you want to help yourself that you start accepting help from the people around you.

I was stuck for years in a vicious circle of being forced to eat to stay out of hospital, then going mad on exercise to compensate, I even started taking laxatives. Looking back on my teenage years my life is pretty much a blur…yes I achieved A’s in my GCSE’s and A levels, got into my chosen University (Nottingham) but my life revolved around weight and exercise. To be honest I didn’t really have a life and sadly nor did my family. I distanced myself from my friends (including my now husband) – they didn’t understand did they?! My poor mother cried herself to sleep every night for years, Mum and Dad argued over me a lot and my poor brother was also sidelined for far too long. I caused a huge amount of pain and tension. Anorexics are very selfish, they are also devious. I would hide food, tell my parents I’d eaten at friends, exercise in secret and generally do anything possible to avoid putting on weight. The mere thought of it repulsed me.

This vicious circle continued relentlessly…. and it got to the point where I didn’t think I would ever escape its clutches. At my lowest I weighed under 5 stone and was doing 6 hours of exercise a day. I would set my alarm for 5am and do 3 hours of exercise before I even went to school. Dedicated to the cause but constantly battling the sensible part of my brain which was telling me now just to stop.

It wasn’t until I was given the most fantastic opportunity of my life so far (at the age of 17) that I took (well was forced to take) a step back from what I was doing to myself. I had been chosen to represent the UK at the International Space School in Houston, Texas – living and working with NASA astronauts for 4 weeks in my summer holidays. I jumped to accept but my Mum had other idea’s – ‘you can go but only if you start to eat’. With no hesitation at all I made myself a sandwich and ate the lot, turned to my Mum and said ‘I can go then?!’ I was obviously ready to get better, but it was the kick I needed to pull myself up and out of the dark hole I was in and start the long road to recovery.

When I say long, it really has been long. It probably wasn’t until I became pregnant with my first child Lowen (a child that Doctors told me I would never have) that I can honestly say I had completely escaped anorexia– and that was just 5 years ago. I stand here today though, at the age of 28, with a fantastic husband, 2 beautiful children, 2 university degrees, my own business, lovely friends and a life full of possibility and I can say, with some certainty that I will never return to those days of starvation, obsessive exercise and above all darkness. I’ve got too much to live for.

Apologies to those expecting a recipe today, I just felt this was more important. Normal service will resume shortly.

For help and advice please see

38 comments:

  1. I really admire your decision to post this, and I'm really glad you have. You've shown that things can change and Anorexia can be beaten. You are proof of that, after all.

    Who knows, it could help other girls in the same situation.

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  2. How brave you are Beth. I am sitting here feeling so proud of you for speaking up. Well done, it must have been so hard and it shows a real stength of character that you turned your life around. You are a great example to any young girls who may read this.

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  3. V brave post, so glad you managed to overcome the illness. I'm sure your post will help at least one person so well done :) x

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  4. What an amazingly brave and open post.

    Sounds like a horrendously traumatic time for you and those around you, but such a positive outcome which surely will inspire others.

    Well done x

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  5. Anorexia is a crippling disease that wrecks you physically and mentally. I speak as someone still battling with this relentless disorder. It's left me childless, suffering from osteoporosis, uncontrolled epilepsy, Graves Disease and utterly mentally torn apart.
    If you are in any doubt about it's potency, I can only hope what I have written may illustrate it's simply not worth it.
    Seek help NOW

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  6. What a brave post. Have you ever read rosie scribbles blog, as she discusses her life with anorexia also

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  7. Hi Beth.
    I think it is incredibly important that you posted this on your blog, because it is a food blog, to show that there is a life after anorexia.
    I see the tiny, too thin girls in town, I want to hug them tell them to eat and tell them that what they aspire to isn't about how thin they are.
    That looking and feeling good about yourself isn't to do with starvation.
    Though its difficult for people to believe me because I'm "naturally thin", which is why my aneroxia was never noticed or diagnosed, I suppose it was borderline. At my lowest I was 6.12, would weigh myself daily on the Boots machine & pin up the tickets it printed out.
    I too had opportunity save me, strangely enough going to uni to be a dancer, well you just can't dance 6 hours a day on four slices of toast can you?
    There are times I still struggle with food, still wallow in unhealthy habits, but they are few and far between and I recognise them, allow them and then go and look after myself properly.
    And I firmly believe that it is my duty as a parent to example good healthy food relationships to my child.

    Anyway, I'm rambling, just to say well done and looking forward to meeting you in a couple of weeks.

    Ruth

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  8. :) anorexia is a terrible thing, it had a grip on me for about 7 years in my teens so I know where you're coming from with the hiding food and being deceitful about eating. Brave of you to post this though.

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  9. all I can say is *hugs* and good on you for writing this.

    xx

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  10. I think it is great that you shared this. I applaud you for being brave and sharing this.

    By the way, Burp and Slurp has a weekend ED series that is very insightful that you or anyone commenting should check out for more thoughts on battling eating disorders.

    http://www.burpandslurp.com/

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  11. @mustardseedcook8 June 2011 at 18:53

    Well done! You can never lose by being honest & sharing pain, present or past, with others. This is what makes us approachable, loveable, human.

    I understand your fears in posting - every single one of them - I too am a perfectionist, and so understand the fear of cocking up , or looking stupid, or failing.

    But this is a triumph. Because you have worked your way out and because in doing so you may well help many others.

    Well done I say, again!! :0)

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  12. What a brave and lovely post! I love your openness and I think people will benefit from reading it, and if it's just to understand anorexics better. I am glad you have overcome this terrible illness and have now a normal relationship, even love, for food.

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  13. Beth - sending a big hug from me, you've done so well to get over this which is just Fantastic.
    As WhiteLily says - it could help other girls in the same situation xoxo

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  14. This is a real problem in our societies all over the world and I'm glad there's people like you who are brave enough to bring to the attention of all of us. I will honestly remember it as I start trying to lose some weight and I really want the discipline not to over do it. Thank you for sharing :)

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  15. Well done for writing this Beth. As someone who promotes 'food' & can see the issue from all sides, you are the most qualified person to speak out on the subject.
    I really do hope that someone out there who needs this message, will be reading.
    xxx

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  16. What a brave and honest post and I think it's wonderful that you have written it. It will help others and it's wonderful that people can see people recover. As Jen (Mum in the Mad House) says, I've written about it on my blog too over the years. I'm better now too. I recovered after 20 years but lost two friends a long the way. You are absolutely right, it isn't about food. Wishing you all the best xx

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  17. Thank you so much for this post. I was never anorexic but I was borderline for having other eating disorders and I was once 8 stone 7 which looking back was too thin. (I'd be lucky to make 10 stone!)

    I don't think it's the right decision to talk about it and I don't see that it can be damaging to your business. You have a past - and anorexia is firmly in it, not the present.

    (BTW, LONG before you went to Nottingham, I did my degree at SB!)

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  18. I battled bulimia for 4 years and now also have a food and exercise blog. I find many people who have had issues with food surround themselves with it later in life. Nothing pains me more now than when I see someone who clearly has a problem. Great post. I wish more survivors were so honest!

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  19. Thank-you for all your comments. It has shocked me how many people have also suffered/are suffering.

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  20. Brave, thoughtful and I think you should consider talking to girls (& boys for that matter) in education ... I lost a student in 1996 at the age of just 15 to Anorexia ... no-one could get thorough to her. But I really think you could talk to young people, inspiring and also a very positive ending.

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  21. You are an amazing and brave lady - well done for posting this. I am blessed to say that I have never battled an eating disorder but my best friend in secondary school did and I was totally at a loss as to how to deal with it. I thought she just had to eat, I was too young and immature to realise that it boiled down to psychological problems. I still feel even now that I let her down really badly by not understanding. She has recovered from her eating disorder but has had horrendous health problems recently which are linked. Thank God you are healthy and happy.

    Thanks again for this Beth :) xxx

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  22. I just want to give the teenage you a hug. Actually you can have one now as the adult you for being so open and brave.

    I think you have a huge amount to offer in terms of motivational speaking to young ladies - am sure your local school would grateful receive you. How wonderful it would be if you could save someone (and their family) from going through it.

    I think it is fitting that you now work with food - it's almost a two-fingers up to anorexia!

    xx

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  23. It must have taken a lot of courage to write about this Beth. I admire you for doing so and sincerely hope that no one would be silly enough to hold it against you. Congratulations on overcoming this awful illness and achieving everything you have. x

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  24. Well, the fact you've been brave enough to post this speaks volumes. What a brave and amazing person you are.

    I know how hard a battle with food can be. At 6th form, it started as a competition between myself and another girl, to see if we could lose a few pounds by Friday. Then it moved on to dropping a dress size in a week, where we'd deliberately go out and buy a dress a size too small. We'd feel good if we beat one another, and spurred each other on, despite blacking out from hunger. At the same time, I was dancing, and couldn't work out why all of a sudden I would sprain my ankles so easily.
    A year later I left college, but couldn't stop- friends from that time still remember how fragile I was, even in one of the hottest summers on record, I would have on 3 layers and shiver with cold. I got to the stage of eating just a small bowl of pasta every few days. I once was so ill I was walking from work, doubled over with stomach cramps.
    I then met my partner, who helped me- he would make me eat, and at first I hated him for it, but now I'm glad.
    I wish I could speak up like you have x

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  25. Your children are very lucky to have such a strong and brave mum. Thanks for putting this out there x

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  26. Beth, that was a beautiful post full of hope and promise.

    Well Done.

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  27. Thank you for sharing this. I truly admire your strength and willpower to beat this horrible illness and feel safe and content enough to share your experience with us. Look at all you've acheieved and the beautiful family you have. Best wishes

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  28. Inspiring Beth, and a very brave thing to do to speak out! I can't believe this can do anything other than strengthen the opinions of your clients, friends and readers. Who wouldn't want someone with that kind of strength in their corner?!You've certainly got my admiration!

    Andrew

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  29. This is a brave post and also will be a very important moment in your live. admitting to yourself that you caused a lot of pain must have been a hard moment for you. You shouldn't be worried about what people think of you now, I now everyone will respect you even more. I myself had a minor eating disorder when I was 14, I know how it feels to stand on those scales and see yourself loosing weight. I used it to punish myself and to wipe out the pain I was feeling with the pain of feeling hungry. Everytime something bad happens in my life, my first reaction still is to start starving myself. I believe it will be always there. The last time I did it was just 5 years ago when I was 23. I snapped out of it as people started to tell me that I was becoming too thin and it wasn't very nice to look at. Now I also write a food blog, it also never was about food for me. I love food, always have. Taking away food for myself was part of the torture to me. Best of luck to you! Thanks for sharing! x

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  30. A very brave post, well done for sharing such a personal thing so openly, I hope it helps others out there with this cruel disease.

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  31. Beth,
    Thanks so much for sharing this info. I, like you have suffered from anorexia, and would do anything to highlight the seriousness of the illness and the all encompassing effect it has on your life, and how quickly the routines and controls can develop into a full blown eating disorder. You've achieved so much since then which is great, but for others reading I just wanted to highlight that recovery takes a long time and it would be nice if you would maybe share some practical tips which helped you on your journey. I'm very much still living with my eating disorder, however have more control over it than I have in the past. I've always had a love of food etc but must admit the illness has increased my interest. I've started my own blog and hope that like you I can use it in a positive way to work through my illness.
    laurax

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  32. After our conversation on Saturday evening, I felt I had to re-visit & re-read your post. It is scary how much the bubbly, gorgeous lady I shared a meal with that night could also be the one who you talk of here. We tread such strange paths during our lives, but I'm so glad that yours has led you to your happy, contented & successful life, full to bursting with children, husband and food. Cx

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  33. Awww thanks Cara - was lovely to meet you at Cybermummy x

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  34. A brave and important post. Let's hope it inspires others to seek help.

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  35. What a brave and very honest post. It's inspired me to maybe write one myself.

    It's such a positive ending and I so wish so many young people who are going through this right now, could read your words.

    You're so right when you say that you can only be helped when you want to be. It's the same in anything.

    Thanks for sharing such a personal story with us all.

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  36. Thanks Fi - I have been overwhelmed by the amount of people that have/are suffering too!

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  37. I was just reading a few new blogs, going from one to another. And faced this post :)
    I haven't read such a post build with a real life experience like that recently.
    I could even touch your words :)
    Thanks for sharing this very private of yours.
    You didn't give up and life given you the best :)
    Cheers from Istanbul
    Banu

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  38. Thank you for posting this. Beautifully said. I have a friend who's daughter is struggling with that. I worry for my own two girls as well.
    SO glad you made it through!
    ~Michelle

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