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.
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