This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I have felt so encouraged by others sharing their stories across blogs/Instagram and I feel really thankful for these platforms for these issues to be spoken about openly. Something that struck a chord with me is that my journey doesn’t look like those I’m reading about. I’ve never been considered medically underweight, I was laughed out of a doctor’s surgery when I first opened up about my issues around food, I actually have lost weight since my issues with an eating disorder. My recovery hasn’t been linear, it hasn’t been what medical guidelines use as a textbook example of an eating disorder but my story is valid and my struggle is valid and so is yours.
I have spoken about my story on a few of my previous blog posts: Little girl with ice-cream on her face, I’m doing this for you, Anti diet 101 & Real talk on my recovery – so I don’t want to go over old ground too much but I want to emphasise that there is not one BMI, story or before and after photo which validates the realness of your experience. I have struggled with disordered eating on and off for 10 years mainly in the form of restriction and binging. I believe my eating disorder stemmed from childhood trauma and the need to feel in control of something in my life. This theme of control haunted me throughout my teens and early twenties, I switched from diet to diet in a manic attempt to claw back a feeling of calm which I felt only when I was in control of my food. The flipside of this was extreme binge eating and then extreme restricting and it went on and on and on and on until a couple of years ago.
I went to a doctor about something non-mental health related but ended up bursting into tears and opening up about the struggles I was facing with food and body image. My suffering was completely brushed under the carpet. The doctor said that there was no way I could have an eating disorder because I was a healthy BMI for my height. I went away feeling deflated and confused. I couldn’t find anyone who would take what I was saying seriously and I’d even exhausted Google of information which I could relate to. Everywhere I looked I was being shown an image of an eating disorder which I didn’t fit and the more this happened, the less I believed that I needed help. It wasn’t until I first “met” the brilliant Jamie Mendell that things changed for the better. She took what I was saying seriously and through coaching helped me to start to heal my relationship with food and my body. It’s been 2 years (give and take) of recovery and in that time my whole mindset has changed for the better. I feel at ease within my body most of the time, I’m able to eat and move my body using my intuition to guide me and I no longer associate negative feelings with my eating habits..
..I also lost 2 stone. My story and my recovery doesn’t fit the image of eating disorders that are discussed the most in mainstream media. When my body began to trust me again, my body settled at the weight it was meant to be. This happened slowly & naturally and I didn’t even realise it was going on at the time because my focus wasn’t on weight loss. I get messages a lot from people who are entering the world of intuitive eating after periods of disordered pattern who want reassurance that their weight will settle and guidelines as to how to eat normally but to still be thin. This mindset will stop your progress. As long as you are preoccupied with shrinking your body your relationship with food will not recover. I had to completely remove myself from the world of fitspiration and challenge my idea of beauty. I had to physically and mentally allow myself to eat without restriction. I had to stop exercising for a while and accept that my body will change as it is meant to be and if that means having a bigger body than accepting that too. I had to work on fiercely loving myself (after working on accepting & liking myself first) for reasons beyond my aesthetic. This is the change that is important. My body doesn’t fluctuate wildly anymore but if I put on weight then I’m not going to stress about it and if I lose weight then I’m not going to celebrate it.
My body trusting me and becoming smaller was a bi-product of the hard work I put in to healing my deep rooted issues with food and the reasons behind them. I had shifted my goal from wanting to lose weight to wanting to gain self appreciation. These are very different things and if your body changes to become bigger or smaller as a result of recovery then that is okay. That is normal. Neither is better than the other and that is what you have to fully accept to see progression in recovery. I was going to try and find photos of me at different stages of my journey but then I realised that doing that means comparisons and I don’t want someone to come across this post and think that their experience is less legitimate because it isn’t the same as mine. Everyone’s bodies are different, everyone’s stories are different, everyone’s experiences are different. An eating disorder is not a body type, it’s a mindset. Your story and your struggle are valid and I am here to listen.