My Eating Disorder
(Trigger warning: this article is talking about my weight and eating disorders)
It may or may not be news to those who are friends or have followed me on my blog or my Instagram that I have put on a lot of weight in the last year or so.
I've just made the decision to make changes and I wanted to share my journey with you and the personal discoveries I have made about myself and the reasons why I think I have gained this weight.
I started to gain weight at the beginning of my new relationship just over 2 years ago. In the beginning, I think it was a combination of reasons and so I wasn't worried about it. I was going through a divorce, moving in with my new partner and became a step mum to three kids so had alot of emotional stuff going on. On top of that with the new relationship, we were going out a lot, eating out and drinking and enjoying life. I saw nothing wrong with that and didn't think it would have much impact on my body. My man also loves my body and has never said a bad word about it, he always makes me feel attractive and so I wasn't paranoid about maintaining a certain size.
About a year into the relationship I hurt my back at work and as someone that has always been supremely active and known for running around like a chook with its head cut off, this slowed me down a lot. I found myself limping around much of the time and wanting to always sit or lie down. This became the norm and so it would make sense I would put on weight as I wasn't as active as much as I wanted to be.
Then my brother got cancer and he died very quickly from the moment I was told he was ill. This was painful enough but also brought up a whole manner of childhood stuff I won't go into but it only served to make my mental health worse. I felt very alone and like everything was just piling up and I wasn't catching a break so to speak. To those around me I was probably putting on a brave face, but really what choice do you have when you just have to keep going? In all of this, I wanted to continue blogging but I felt more and more like I didn't have the energy or the enthusiasm for life to pass on that I had before and I'm someone that cannot fake it. The best I could do was continue to use Instagram which in many ways was cathartic. I also started photographing and styling other people and it helped me feel at least like I kept my foot in the door.
So in about two years I have put on over 15 kg and rising ( at my slimmest I was 23kg below my current weight). Before this period I was very fit and healthy and you can see by my posts like this post here . But this isn't as much about my weight on the scales as it is more about the reasons for it.
October 2015 I was at one of my healthiest and fittest of my life at 38 years old.
A little background on myself. I have always been slim and that continued into my 30s while I witnessed people around me gain weight. This often seemed to irritate them but they were not aware of my journey.
I had an eating disorder from puberty and through my teenage years until about 16. It reared its ugly head several times in my 20s. It took until my 30s to acknowledge it for what it was. The realisation I have come to is that often women who have had eating disorders like anorexia often swap it for another eating disorder or overeating. Finding the balance is a challenge and I had finally found it in this photo you see above. I ate well and felt nourished, I never felt like I was missing out or having to deny myself treats. I still had junk food occasionally and chocolate. I was fit and felt like I could outrun a zombie if I had to! I had a healthy relationship with food and my body. A friend of mine who is a personal trainer was a big help in this journey improving.
Then life happens.
And it happens to all of us.
Sometimes you can keep powering on and sometimes you find an outlet for your pain and it eventually became food for me. And it took me a long time to face it and recognise it for what it is. Whether that is denying yourself food as a way of control or to disappear or whether you eat a lot to stop the thoughts in your head
Some of the messages I got when I was slim, at all different ages:
" We should call you Anna ( for anorexia)"
" Hey, shredded! You are so skinny if you stand sideways you wouldn't even know you are there"
" Your legs look like sticks, ewww"
" Are you sick?"
" You're so lucky you can eat that ( insert any food) I would gain 5kg just looking at it"
" You shouldn't be here, this place is for people who need to lose weight. You clearly don't" ( A woman I don't know approached me at the gym said this to me)
No doubt there will be people reading this and saying 'boohoo, get over it. Try being overweight and see how that feels'. Well here is my opinion. No one has a right to say just hurtful things to someone and then use the excuse they are 'trying to help them'. It is no different to a person bullying someone who is overweight with the excuse that they are 'concerned about them'. I call bullshit. It just makes you a bully. Pure and simple. These kinds of remarks to someone, no matter what their weight is hurtful and not helpful at all.
I had put up with a lifetime of bitchiness and catty remarks because of my weight. In my 20s a former employer used to pick on me constantly about me making an effort with the way I looked and would tease me in front of other employees and ask me why I was trying to look like a model. I wasn't, I was just being me. The result of this is that I stopped wearing makeup to work, took to wearing my glasses the whole time, my hair back and I wore daggier clothes to avoid any comments about my looks. I was trying to become invisible. It was the same reason my eating disorder as a teen started in the first place.
This brings me to another point. I have spoken at length to friends who have told me when they have gained weight they have felt invisible. It's like a vicious cycle as they then stop making an effort with what they wear etc to not draw attention to themselves. Like they are not worth looking at or don't want to be ridiculed. With this small amount of weight, I have put on I have gained more of an understanding of this feeling. I can also relate it to being anorexic.
There is a huge difference in how clothing fits from when you are a size 8 to a size 12. Everything is too short and your cleavage is a lot more noticeable so changes the whole look of an outfit compared to when you are slim. In my opinion everything feels that much more uncomfortable. I am getting rashes where I never got rashes, everything cuts into me no matter what size it is and I feel hotter all the time.
Fit and healthy climbing mountains.
Hence the point I got to where I thought enough is enough. I don't feel good about myself and no amount of positive 'self-talk' will change that.
The fact is if you don't exercise and you eat too much of the wrong things it DOES affect your mental health, not just your physical health. That is a fact. The same goes if you don't eat enough and don't nourish your body. You are not valuing your body and its worth.
I am happiest when I have boundless energy. I can go on an 8 km walk and not feel like collapsing. Be able to dance for 3 hours straight. Be able to wear anything and not feel like its uncomfortable. This is my journey and I have every right to say I am wanting to do and be better.
This is something I wrote late one night after realisations. It is something to ask yourself if you are on this same journey whether it is an eating disorder or overeating:
Are you loving the person you were pre-weight gain or pre extreme weight loss?
Did an event happen that made you question your worth and whether it was your fault? Did you subconsciously decide the way you looked had anything to do with it? Did you feel the need to alter all semblance of self?
Pictured here on the right with my best friend. I was in High School, 13 years old and in the grips of an eating disorder. I would pretend to eat breakfast but I was putting it in the garbage disposal, would throw out my lunch and then throw up most of my dinner. I was surviving on a couple of biscuits and some milk most days. I literally wanted to disappear.
Eating disorders including overeating are extremely complex and everyone's journey is different.
But I realised that my past was holding me back. I was scared. Scared that if I started to watch what I eat that anorexia would once again take hold. So I just didn't want to face it. I was putting on more and more weight. Food ( and alcohol) was my band-aid to numb any feelings I was sick to death of a feeling. Comments from well-meaning friends when I said I wanted to lose weight, telling me I looked okay didn't help. They just reinforced the feeling of not knowing what is right for my own body. And that was my greatest fear. All my life people have told me what is right for me. And I want to take ownership of it and trust that I know what is best. I have to have faith.
So I put in place some rules for my self.
1. No over - exercising. In the past, I would become obsessive about exercise to the point of hurting myself. I am working on my health with food first. I just go for walks at this stage.
2. No starving myself. I worked out a safe amount I am allowed to lose per fortnight and 1 kilogram is what it is. Any more than that is dangerous, especially when you have had a complicated history with food. Then I worked out how many calories a day I can have that is in a healthy range to slowly lose this weight.
3. Keeping a food diary with calories so I can take notice of what my triggers are for eating that are not because I am hungry. ( I found I was eating more junk food with a lot of calories that did nothing for me when not hungry but just wanting a distraction from stress).
4. Have someone I trust to keep me accountable that has my best interests at heart, that knows every step I am taking and knows my past history. That is my partner. No one else can judge me as they don't see or know everything I do.
5. Positive self talk and recognising the reasons things have happened yet not dwelling on them and blaming myself.
I am only about 4 weeks into this journey but so far so good. Everything is on track. I've made great strides in recognising triggers. Headaches are disappearing. I am not feeling so bloated. I'm craving healthier foods.
The hardest thing has been facing issues and self talk that I was blocking by eating food. Acknowledging those feelings and sorting them out. Letting go of guilt and embarrassment. Knowing that I have a bright future ahead.
This is just the beginning of the journey and I hope you may learn something for yourself.
I will keep you updated on my progress.