When I was ten years old my mum took me uniform shopping for primary school.
The trousers in the 10 – 11 age bracket didn’t fit, and she made the mistake of griping that I “looked like a barrel”. This is something that had a massive impact on my life.
I’m not saying this comment caused an eating disorder in my teenage years, but it’s something I frequently revisited and, following it at the age of ten, I stopped eating desert with my school dinners.
Previously I had never worried about my weight.
I’d always been a small skinny kid. When I was about 22 I was looking through photos with my parents & saw a photo of myself at 10 years old. I asked who it was; I didn’t recognise me. I always remembered myself as being chubby, ugly. In the photos I was a perfectly healthy weight, a normal cute kid.
I had disordered eating from the age of eleven to sixteen. My Grandad was diagnosed with cancer when I was about nine, but I didn’t know until I was twelve, and he died when I was thirteen.
From twelve to thirteen I was barely eating, but when I did eat I binged massively. A close friend at the time told my form tutor, who threatened that if I didn’t eat she would phone my parents – this was easy enough to avoid as I lied every day about what I had eaten.
From thirteen to fourteen I ate three packets of polosa day at school – my parents were used to paying £5 a week for school dinners at my small village Primary school, so they carried on giving me £5 a week at Secondary school. I didn’t tell them that was barely enough to pay for food for one day, let alone five. Three packets of polos = 90p; if I didn’t have money I couldn’t eat!
After school I would go to my grandparent’s house and try to avoid eating, but more often than not I would binge on biscuits, half a dozen packet of crisps and yoghurts. I’d hide the empty packets in the outdoor bin so she wouldn’t know.
At sixteen the fun really began. I wasn’t eating all day at school. After school I walked home, which took about an hour, and would continue to exercise. I *had* to do 20 minutes cycling on my exercise bike and a dozen sit ups a day. I’d eat a large hearty meal with my parents at night so they didn’t suspect a thing.
At eighteen the eating disorder was in full swing.
I was losing weight rapidly and my life was consumed with calorie counting, meal planning and exercise. Monday-Thursday at school I wouldn’t eat, and in the evenings I had started cooking my own meals before my parents got home from work.
Meals varied from a small portion of veg and two Quorn sandwich slices to a small portion of veg and one onion bahji. I’d scatter crumbs on plates and leave mess everywhere so I could tell my parents of the massive meals I’d ‘eaten’.
Friday became ”food Friday”, at lunchtime I would allow myself a 6 inch sub sandwich from the canteen. The dinner lady knew my recipe off by heart: lettuce, cucumber, onion, peppers and rice. A huge binge for me at the time.
My exercise regime was also overwhelming.
8am – 20 minutes on exercise bike, 30 repitions of weight lifting, 20 sit ups – all before school
3pm – hour long walk home
4 – 7pm – 20 sit ups, 20 push ups, 1 hour on the cross trainer, skip whilst cooking tea, 20 minutes on the exercise bike
8pm onwards – 30-45 minute walk, at least an hour on the exercise bike
One night I was on the exercise bike for over three hours. Several times I pushed myself too far and would collapse when climbing off, either blacking out or just lying on the floor fighting the dizziness. I’m lucky I never smacked my head on the way down.
By the time I was eighteen and a half years old I had gone from a healthy 9 stone 5, which I had weighed for years, to 6 stone 10. I was consuming 300 calories a day, and it was hell.
The summer after I’d turned 18 I weighed 7 stone 4 & was going on holiday abroad with friends. My mum took me shopping for clothes & when we got home she made me model them. Her reaction really fueled my eating disorder – she said I looked amazing after losing weight (FUCK YES!) and also told me not to lose any more because my knees were thicker than my thighs (DOUBLE FUCK YES!).
Can you imagine how encouraging this was to someone with anorexia?
The holiday with friends opened my eyes to how fucked up my rituals were.
There they were eating whatever and whenever they wanted, and I was eating half a Wheetabix made with water and baby carrots from a can. Those were two separate meals to me. I was still exercising as much as I could; hours spent swimming at the beach & pool.
When I left for university things changed. I gained confidence & self worth, and along with this weight. My weight actually went up to 9 stone 10, but I felt okay and I was eating healthily.
I lost weight during the summer back home and went back down to 8 stone 10, but I wasn’t restricting calories ridiculously.
At the start of my second year, just after Gog and I had started dating, I found out that a family member had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Almost overnight I stopped eating and upped the exercise.
Gog found all this very scary and hard to cope with; he’d never known anybody with an eating disorder. Nevertheless he was an awesome support and tried to help in any way he could, including being with and distracting me after food so I couldn’t purge.
In just two months I had lost all the weight I had previously gained, it was terrifying. None of my clothes fit & I was exhausted, yet still I ate only half a sandwich or some fruit a day alongside hours of exercise.
One afternoon we were laying in bed and I started having heart palpitations and struggling to breathe. Terrified I ate four apples in a row, and I remember thinking so clearly ‘there you go disgusting body, that will last you until tomorrow – happy now?!’
How scary that to me at the time four apples was a HUGE amount >__<
When my parents saw me for the funeral my mum was actually alarmed by my weight. Things continued until, s-l-o-w-l-y, Gog helped me get back on the healthy eating track.
I would not have managed this without him.
For the next few years I was at a good weight: about 9 stone 7, give or take a few pounds. There were a few wobbles where I lost weight, but they didn’t last.
Gog was cooking healthy meals and constantly boosting my confidence, and we adopted our first dog and spent hours every day walking him. From beating an eating disorder stand point we were fucking rocking it!
Then in 2012 my first psychiatrist prescribed me Seroquel to help manage my Bipolar. There was no mention of weight gain and no questions were asked if I had trouble with my weight / body image.
I gained over 2.5 stones in four months.
To me this was absolutely horrifying and undid a lot of the hard work Gog had put into how I thought about my body. I was already doing a minimum of 2.5 hours exercise a day, and by the end of the four months I was doing 4 hours exercise a day and had reduced my intake to 600 calories.
Once I came off Seroquel I stopped gaining weight, but I couldn’t lose all the weight I had put on. This left me at just under 11 stone.
For a few years things were okay. Then a different psychiatrist put me on Seroquel again, even though I’d told him about the weight gain. I was on it for six months before I took myself off it (they refused) and last time I weighed myself I was over 13 stone.
Although Gog continues to reassure me that it doesn’t matter how much I weigh, and that of course he still loves me, I HATE my body right now.
I have constant thoughts of how disgusting and repulsive I am. I spend hours romanticising about when I was in my late teens and at my skinniest; the way I’d fall asleep with my wrists resting on those sharp, sharp hip bones. How flat my stomach was.
These thoughts are always there, and I think they will be forever.
Gog has always said he doesn’t find me as attractive when I’m skinny – whenever I had a mini relapse he would constantly bemoan those bones, much to my amazement! I just couldn’t understand it.
He always told me to imagine how I’d feel if the roles were swapped, and obviously I’d hate to see him get skinnier…but I could never understand why me being skinnier wasn’t the best thing ever.
Currently we are trying to eat healthier. This is not from an eating disorder perspective, this is from a ‘I want to feel better about myself & be healthy’ perspective. I don’t weigh myself and I refuse to be in photos now, I have for years.
I want to be healthy and, yes okay, a little skinnier…but I’d settle for 10 stone instead of 6. I can’t decide if that is progress or embarrassing.