I Was On the Brink of an Eating Disorder
Two years ago, I took a picture of myself in a bikini that I had bought for a holiday and hated the way I looked.
I was by no means overweight, but I disliked the extra weight that I had put on and I believed I needed to take drastic action. I was going on holiday with my boyfriend in two months time, and I felt there was no way I could be on holiday whilst looking how I currently was.
I began researching ways to lose weight quickly and tried all sorts of experimental methods. I firstly cut down the amount I was eating and decided I could not exceed 1000 calories within a day.
I began weighing and calculating everything I ate and kept a record of it. Some days I was only eating about 600 calories and I would applaud myself for this.
I was working as a waitress, doing extremely long hours and working most of the week. This made it easier to cut down my food intake and also to disguise it, as I was barely home and could use the excuse that I was too busy or tired to eat.
I found my ‘safe’ foods and would eat these meals repeatedly, as I knew they fit within my calorific boundary.
As a waitress working 15-hour shifts on my feet, I was burning an excessive amount of calories, which made my daily consumption dangerous.
I was losing weight, so I believed that was I was doing was working.
I have always been quite intuitive with myself and my own thoughts, and I knew that was I was doing was toxic and unhealthy, but I comforted myself with the fact that it was only temporary and to fulfil a goal.
The issue is, that the deeper you go into the chasm of unhealthy thoughts, the more difficult it is to pull yourself back out of it.
I knew I had a problem, and I knew that my thoughts were irrational, but I just couldn’t stop myself.
My boyfriend was away at university, so couldn’t see my problem and my parents barely saw me eating as I was having my meals at work in short breaks that I could snatch.
I think my lowest point, was the day before my holiday which was Father’s Day. I had taken my father out to breakfast as a gift, and my family were choosing these large and luxurious meals. I really wanted to eat something glutinous, and after some deliberation, I chose to do so. I thought that it was the day before and it wouldn’t make any difference.
I got home that afternoon and began crying, chastising myself for that awful mistake. I then thought I needed to take drastic measures and decided to make myself sick. I tried, but it was very hard to make myself sick when I didn’t feel ill. I searched on google ‘how to make yourself sick’ and I stumbled across the most horrifying eating disorder forums, with young girls encouraging others and sharing tips on bulimic tendencies. These forums were perpetuating toxic thoughts and truly enlightened me to the horrors of eating disorders.
I realised how dangerous my situation was becoming- it was no longer a quick fix to look good for my holiday. It was becoming an illness.
I was very lucky that I managed to be so intuitive and realise my own struggles, as many will face these disorders without the ability to recognise how dangerous it is.
I went on holiday, which was a week-long period of eating and drinking. My boyfriend has a real passion for nice food, and it’s an interest that we share. I think my embarrassment over my problem, caused me to stop as I didn’t want him to know what I was facing.
It took that week of luxurious eating to fit in with others around me, to make me realise that it didn’t matter. I didn’t put on a drastic amount of weight by doing so, which made me realise that I had such a false perception of my own image.
I look back on that photo that caused my problem, and I see a healthy and slim girl. It really shocks me that I saw that photo as repulsive.
I still struggle with being totally happy with my own body image, but I am trying hard to never let myself get back to that low point. Being healthy does not need to be restrictive, I have learnt that I can still eat foods that I once deemed as ‘bad’.
I am glad that I never fully developed an eating disorder, and I recognise that I barely even touched on the trauma that so many face surrounding eating and body image.
The most concerning thing is that so many women that I have spoken to have said that at some point they took measures to change their body image and drastically lowered the amount they ate. It isn’t a rare condition.
Statistics say that between 1.25 and 3.4 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder.
Those statistics only show those that were diagnosed. The worrying thing is that most young girls have had toxic thoughts surrounding eating at some point in their lives. False perceptions of body image and obsessive dieting is becoming a pandemic.
It is perpetuated with the constant need to look perfect, which is advertised over social media, films and magazines. Even shop windows contain mannequins that are a size 6.
I was once eating a bowl of pasta at work and a girl who is known for her fitness said to me ‘wow I would never eat that much pasta.’ I then felt awfully guilty and believed that I was wrong for eating my meal. She probably did not know the effect that her comment had, and I know she did not mean it maliciously. The problem is that this mindset is so ingrained into our culture, that comments such as these appear normal.
Things are changing, and measures are being taken to counteract this. For example, ASOS a clothing website, has introduced a feature whereby you can pick from a variety of models of all different body types to exhibit a certain clothing item.
Whilst we are improving on spreading the message of self-love, and the idea that a ‘normal body’ can mean a wide range of things- as a society we still have a long way to go.
We need to remove the taboo of talking about eating disorders, as there is a good chance that many of your friends and relatives have developed a negative habit surrounding eating at one point. Eating disorders are nothing to be ashamed of, especially as it is hard not to develop toxic thoughts when we live in a world that strives to be perfect.
One of the ways that we can begin to combat this, is by changing our language when we talk about food. Stop labelling certain foods as ‘naughty’, and stop making negative comments on someone's eating habits. You do not know what people are facing, and you do not know if your fleeting comment could push someone over the brink.
Change the phrase ‘cheat meal’ to simply a meal that you enjoy. Reworking terminology about food that is so ingrained into our culture, will begin to fight against the terror of eating disorders.