She doesn’t know it but she has an eating disorder…
Actually I had 2. Emotional eating and bulimia (binging and purging), both as demanding on the body as each other.
As you already know, I’ve always been a big girl, when I say big, I was never massive at school and college, I was around a size 14 around 13 stone (I’m lucky I’m tall so it kind of hides itself!), when all the rest of the girls in the school were around a size 8 – 10 and probably around 8 stone. So yes I was always big but I had the personality to match, vivacious, warm and on friendly terms with everyone at school, even the hotties in Sixth Form! You know those geeks and the really popular hot girls who got all the boys…? Well, they all loved me!
And then I went to university, where I ended up house sharing with 2 of my uni buddies. Initially living with 2 girls I’d known for a year was fun, I was normal sized in uni (well as normal as you can get… everyone was an individual, some were flat chested, some big bummed, but me I was just a 14 with curves in somewhat the right places!), we were always out and about, partying, drinking, eating… but then they started getting pretty cliquey (they were friends before I came along). By which I mean, locking themselves in each other’s rooms, talking (then stop talking when I entered the lounge or kitchen), going out together, sharing the same food, not inviting me on some nights out… and I know I had other friends at uni, but when the girls you live with start acting different or ostracising you for no reason at all… it’s really hurtful and can take an emotional toll on your mind, and can stress or depress you.
And because of this emotional state I was in, I turned to food, and being a poor student, mainly carbs, and most of those carbs were chips and pasta with cheese. So unlike a lot of people at uni who lose weight (which I think my poor mum hoped I would…) I turned into a size 22 – 24 literally without realising. Food became my friend, drink became my drug and that’s what I did.
I remember, eating plenty of sandwiches, chocolate and cakes at uni everyday then coming home and scoffing 2 mountain plates full of pasta, sauce and cheese so vividly that I get an ache in my stomach now! But you know I never realised that I was putting on weight nor did I realise that I was an emotional eater… it was just food and I was just a big girl! I did this for over 8 months or so, and you know the moment I realised?
It was the moment I walked into Evans (the big woman’s shop) in the city centre and couldn’t fit into a size 24 shirt… that’s when it hit me that I’d grown in size, and I was completely gutted as now I had nothing new to wear for the night out that evening… So, as I was an emotional eater… What did I do…? I ate my feelings!
I was in a awful eating rotation I ate because I felt left out, I felt as if my flat mates ostracised me, then when I did get invited out, I couldn’t find anything to wear so I ate again! (please note I was still the warm, bubbly girl at uni and had plenty of other friends, but as I said before… this was my living situation… and where and how you live really effects the mind!). And also note that I don’t hate these girls, it’s just the way it was. One of them is now someone who I would call my closest of friends and love dearly.
Anyway… now that I was officially clinically obese (or “a beast” as my mum would say) and realised it, I tried everything to lose it, the gym, the Atkins even walking… but nothing helped. My only saving grace is that I ended up going to summer camp in the USA that summer. And was a camp counsellor to over 500 kids at a ranch in the middle of the mountains. Walking up and down hills, swimming, teaching archery and radio presenting, I ended up returning home after 3 months having lost 1 stone, even though I ate good food! I was overjoyed.
Now I was on a role.
I signed up to weight watchers (well before they launched Pro Points) and in a month I’d lost another 15lbs, and then came the obsession… (I was losing weight without exercise), it started with purging after lunch, at work, in the toilets, to get rid a of a few calories (intentionally), and then it became so hard to control that the only meal I’d keep down was breakfast! Again I didn’t really realise, but I’d just gone from emotional eating to binging and purging in less than 1 year.
I remember people comments, the shock in their faces, and the admiration in their voices when they saw that I’d gone from a 24 to a size 10, and at my height (5′ 9) I looked like an 8 and my BMI was NORMAL! Some were a bit disgusted as I didn’t look like myself, but make up covers all sins like lifeless skin, and nail varnish covers weak nails! The best bit I remember was the attention from boys who’d ignored me all my life, were now knocking at my door, the attention from strangers in clubs and the massive attention I got on a holiday I took with some friends! In fact on the outside I was positively glowing… it was the inside where everything was wrong.
I used to get the biggest cramps ever, in the arch of my foot, I’d wake up every night for hours I wouldn’t be able to sleep because of the pain (lack of water, calcium and salt), I was constantly ill, my skin wasn’t tight, I got stretch marks, I had headaches… then I got gastroenteritis, I was taken into A&E and put on a drip, this was the night before the holiday. Luckily they let me go, there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to fly. So 2 weeks into the holiday I’m suffering with this bug, so therefore I’m lacking even more water than usual, everything I ate went straight through me, it was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been, even more uncomfortable than being the fat girl at uni!
So, how did it all stop you’re wondering? Well I woke up in a hotel on holiday after a night of drinking with the girls, with the biggest pain down my left calf, the whole thing had basically cramped up and it was so unbearable I was screaming the entire hotel down at 4:00am, I’ve never felt that kind of pain before in my life, I’d not wish it upon anybody! (We had some very annoyed neighbours to say the least!)
And that was it, and that was literally the moment that I realised that I’ve not been good to my body and that if I want to be healthy I need to stop punishing myself and need to get in control of the binging and the purging (oh I forgot to mention, I was eating crap like Maccy D’s etc and losing weight… seems mental right, but I was purging it!).
So now, a good few years on, I’m back to a size 14 and you know what, my body likes this weight, it suits me and I fit into clothes, my skin is tighter and I feel healthy, I work out 3 times a week, I eat whatever I want to an extent, but If I binge, I work it off, and that’s the difference! I try and get my calories from healthy foods but I haven’t given up on pizza and chocolate, one thing I DON’T eat any more is pasta (I don’t keep it in the house and I rarely eat it out)! And yes, my weight has fluctuated between 11 and 13 stone, but that’s fine, currently I’m working on losing 30lbs but I’m doing it in a healthy way, eating right and working out hard. My goal is to be a size 12, but have a healthy strong body, not a weak frail one. Because I know I’ll be hotter than ever then!
I just want to say that if you do have an eating disorder, I understand, I’ve been there and you can and will get through it, because your body needs you to. Your family and friends all want what’s best for you, and you are beautiful whatever size you are. Help yourself get better and don’t leave it too late.
Now, I’m happy! Now, I eat well. Now I could never return to my old ways.
Be strong and eat well