Body,  Mind,  Self Care

My History with Disordered Eating & Moving Forward

Disordered eating. Notice I haven’t used ‘anorexia’ due to feeling that A) I haven’t been diagnosed officially and B) I don’t believe I FULLY fit into the criteria.

So this is going to be an incredibly difficult post to write and will take a lot out of me. Breathe. Go forward.

Disordered eating is something I have been struggling with for about two-three years, and only now do I feel myself escaping from its clutches. Now it also goes without saying, that this post could be triggering for those who have suffered/are currently suffering from any kind of eating disorder/body dysmorphia/negative self-esteem/negative body image.

Taking a Health Nose-Dive After University

As I spoke about in one of my previous posts My Mental Health Story, I suffered from a mental breakdown whilst at university. It was a very difficult time in my life, suicide, unfortunately, was considered more than once over the course of that year and I coped with my mentality tornado by drinking quite excessively and eating quite a poor (VERY poor, actually) diet. Now I know that eating awfully and drinking lots can be viewed sometimes as the ‘typical student experience’, but looking back, I am very aware that my actions were not ‘typical’.

I am thankful – INCREDIBLY thankful – for the friends that stood by me during these times and sad to have fallen off the edge of the earth in regards to communication since then. I feel so lucky to have reconnected with a certain friend in particular who has recently given me the honour of being one of my bridesmaids. She knows who she is, and I love you.

Straight out from university
Weight = 10.5 stone

Because of my vices during university and my declining mental health, my self-esteem and overall image of myself took quite a big hit. I was viewing myself as much larger than I was. I think I was about 10.5 stone, which isn’t big by any means, but my brain seemed to twist the presentation of myself in mirrors and windows into something I was incredibly unhappy with.

The Dreaded Calorie Counting Apps

After leaving university and returning from travelling, I downloaded a certain prominent calorie tracking app (I won’t name it but I’m sure if you google ‘calorie counting apps’ it will be one of the first to appear). Now I know that lots of people are aware of this app and some of the detrimental effects it has had on users’ health and wellbeing. I would just like to stress that I did not have any awareness regarding this or the experience of others and so I merely saw it as a means to an end and that by using it, I would lose the weight I wanted.

Christmas 2017: obsessive, worried and mentally calculating

This app became the dominant frenemy in my life – EVERY SINGLE item of food had to be weighed and calculated. Every gram of popcorn, every ounce of cereal, and even EVERY TINY TIC-TAC. I even measured my drinks intake – now I’m not talking alcohol (something I cut out significantly), but milk, fruit juice, squash, etc.

My disordered eating was prominent at family dinners where I used to weigh out vegetables and potatoes before putting them on my plate. Everything I ate had to fit into my ‘diet’ and the number of calories I was ‘allowed’ that day. Even typing the word ‘allowed’ angers me so much because I used to use it all the time to describe my food. Why the hell was I kowtowing to this pocket robot?

A typical woman should be on 1,800-2,000 calories a day to maintain her weight, and about 1,600-1,800 to steadily lose weight without any adverse effects. However, using this app, I was on between 800-1,200 a day, which is absolutely ridiculous when I look back on it. Not only was my calorific intake completely insufficient even for losing weight, but I also coupled my diet or lack-of with frequent trips to the gym.

Health vs Obsession

After joining the gym, I began blurring the lines between health and obsession. I would often spend up to three hours a day at the gym after work, attempting to ‘work off’ everything I had eaten that day. I would spend the majority of my time on the treadmill or the rowing machine and always got a little thrill when I could see the ‘calories burned’ increase digit-by-digit.

I would often follow up my intense cardio with a little bit of weight lifting and then would do laps of the pool for another hour. Again, this fitness ‘regime’ might not seem too much of a big deal to some, but that coupled with my 800-1,200 daily calorific intake made me feel weak and lightheaded. But I didn’t care. As long as the number dropped each time I stepped onto the scales, I wanted to keep going.

Christmas 2018, at my lowest weight
Weight: 7.9 stone

As my weight dropped, I was getting comments saying how thin I looked and I relished in it. I was buying new clothes left and right and even went down half a shoe size (trust me I don’t know how! I was a five and now I’m a four-and-a-half). I went down from weighing 10.5 stone at the beginning of my ‘diet’ down to 9 stone and then down to just under 8 stone at my lowest.

Realising I Had a Problem

In October 2018, after spending a whole week eating nothing but a portion of Weetabix each day to ‘make room’ for my dinners out with family and friends for my birthday, I finally hit rock bottom. I remember having a panic attack over being presented with a meal that I hadn’t ‘planned’ for. I was crying, I was shaking, I was sweating and I felt that I couldn’t breathe. I had considered making myself throw up to be rid of the anxiety over what I just ate. Then, after a Christmas spent worrying about our meals together as a family and mentally keeping a tally and calculating each Malteaser, I was done.

A birthday week spent working out the calories I was allowed before each meal

I said I was done, but my mind was still controlling and obsessive, and it took a lot of family and friends to help me realise my self-destructive patterns. Over the time, I had learned how to hide a lot of my negative habits in regard to my disordered eating from family and friends, and I would become incredibly defensive if they were pointed out to me. I would often respond with ‘you don’t understand’ or ‘it will only be for this time’. I feel that creating my calculated little world allowed me to feel more in control with myself and my life, after feeling so lost and out-of-control whilst at university and the years leading up to it.

Christmas 2019: feeling healthier and happier
Weight: 8.5 stone

My Current Situation

It didn’t happen overnight. It has been long and is still continuing to be an ever-looming presence in my life. Just when I think I’m through it all, something happens, I slip up and weigh out an item of food. I’m weighing much less, worrying much less and enjoying more unexpected meals out with my friends and family. I have also been allowing myself to drink a little alcoholic drink at a time. My drink of choice whilst at university was whiskey and LOTS of it. Five years later, I have only just started to have a single with ice every so often, and that is enough for me. I don’t rely on it anymore to take me out of my mentality.

Starting to change my way of thinking in New York

Going travelling with Ben really helped with my obsessive calculating around disordered eating as I wasn’t able to weigh my foods nor was I able to default to the ‘safe foods’ I relied on (the foods where I immediately knew the calorie content) to help fuel my bad habits. Instead, I was dropped in the deep end and had to listen more to my instincts and what my body was telling me I needed to help me thrive.

Making an effort to fully enjoy my birthday 2019

There have been a few little breakdowns and tears when I became too consumed in the foods I was eating without knowing their content or ‘safety’ – I remember crying in Lisbon due to eating a pizza or panicking in Austria over splitting a Baumstriezel with Ben at the Vienna Christmas market. Since then, I have had about ten more Baumstriezel-y occasions and thoroughly enjoyed every single one of them.

I think the turning point for me was imagining myself looking back on my life in old age and worrying that all I would be able to do was remember the calorie counting, evenings spent on the treadmill, and panic attacks in an exciting new country due to eating a churro or pizza. I choose to embrace the food available in my life knowing that there are those less fortunate who don’t even know when their next meal is coming.

Baumstriezels in Vienna

I have developed an absolute adoration for cooking and learning new world recipes over the past year and I truly think that this has also helped me in my recovery from disordered eating.

I’m not out of the woods yet and still have my moments, but I know that I keep improving my relationship with myself, my body, and my relationship with food. Its a long road but I am actually feeling more like myself than ever.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story and history with disordered eating. I have included some helpful links below incase you can relate to anything in this post and would like to get some help.

ARIA

Helpful Links:

One Comment

  • melahughes61yahoocouk

    An amazing piece of writing, so reminiscent of what we have as a family seen. We have watched you struggle with yourself. Each time been there, tried to help and support ❤ We are in awe as each time from somewhere deep inside you have found the strength to drag yourself from the depths. You are an amazing, beautiful and talented young lady., who we are so very proud of. You have helped many in similar circumstances and no doubt will continue to do so.Believe in yourself, we do so very much and enjoy what the future holds.

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