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How I Learnt to Eat

It wasn’t easy.

Something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember is my weight.

I’ve always hated my body, and can clearly recall lying in bed at the age of 9 thinking about how when I grew up, I’d be skinny and beautiful.

My current weight is healthy and normal for my height, and the eating disorder I’ve suffered with for almost 10 years now isn’t gone, but is liveable.

I’ve binged and purged, fasted, been obsessive about spending 4 hours in the gym doing intense cardio every day and regardless of the weight I’d lose, I’d still look at myself and hate what I saw.

Regardless of how skinny I got, even when relatives and friends were telling me I look unhealthily thin, I was still, in my eyes, a fucking beast. A horrific mass, taking up too much space, an uncomfortable knot of a human being.

Eating made me hate myself, it made me ashamed of how weak I was. I’d lie in bed at the end of the day and tug at my body and cry, thinking through intensely every single thing I’d eaten, hating myself for it.

It wasn’t because I wanted to be like anybody in the media, it wasn’t because I had any body I truly desired, nothing about what I was doing to myself had any real goal.

That’s something I think is commonly misconceived by people who don’t suffer with an ED, I didn’t have a goal weight, I wasn’t trying to achieve a perfect body, I just hated myself and the way it manifested itself was through controlling my relationship with food.

My life from a young age has been chaotic, I always had a poor relationship with both parents, something I’m just now overcoming. My mother was incredibly strict, my father incredibly lenient. I stopped living with my mother at the age of 13, and was sent to live with my father. His girlfriend of the time and I really did not get on, so I moved in with my grandmother at the age of 16. I moved around a lot as a child for many reasons, and then my teen years were never truly rooted anywhere. I never had a place really that I could call home.

My problem wasn’t with my body, it was with a lack of control I had over my life. My eating disorder was a way for me to regain control in some small way. I’ve seen the pictures of scarily underweight women suffering with anorexia and I didn’t want that. All I wanted was one small element of my life I could dictate. That element for me was my body.

Something about my eating disorder which contradicts the common rhetoric is that social media actually really helped me.

Posting on Twitter and Instagram and having people I don’t know offering me support and guidance was so beneficial to me. It gave me an outlet that I hadn’t experienced before. Sure, I’ve visited several psychiatrists throughout my life but being able to communicate directly with people who knew what I was going through was so freeing to me. Knowing I wasn’t alone, but also recognising that what I was doing wasn’t the norm.

Before I really spoke about it to people I’d never really thought about what I was doing, I’d never seen myself as having an eating disorder, I’d never thought about it properly.

Obviously my recovery wasn’t as simple as speaking to people on the internet about it, and obviously I’m not just magically recovered. Even when I was aware of how ill I was I didn’t want to stop being ill, because I couldn’t think of anything worse than losing control of my weight, and even to this day I still fight the urge to fast, or to purge.

It took me almost a year to get to where I am now and while I don’t actively restrict anymore, I still have far from a healthy relationship with food.

At my worst I would spend my time making excuses to those around me about why I wasn’t eating. I’d say I’d had a big lunch or I just wasn’t very hungry that day, I didn’t feel well, my plate looked full still because the portion they served me was HUGE so I’m already full. Searching for some way to get them to just fuck off. Who were they to try and force me to eat, it’s my fucking body it’s my domain it’s nothing to do with anyone else.

Not eating and working was difficult, I’d feel lightheaded, dizzy, and sick but have to try and get through an 8 hour day standing and communicating with people. I was constantly exhausted, cold and foul tempered.

My boyfriend would try and check that I was eating throughout the day, so I’d buy food, take a bite or throw half away and send him a photograph to “prove” I’d eaten, though I hadn’t. I didn’t see any of this as an issue. I thought everyone was being melodramatic, nosy, and controlling. I wanted everyone to just let me live my life.

Social media didn’t just give me a way to vocalise my feelings and communicate with people who understood, it also taught me how to love myself.

Through all the bullshit, the people who contact me and follow me on my social media platforms are beautiful and supportive and made me feel like I was of value and that I wasn’t completely alone.

Having people you don’t know celebrate you for the things you say, the art you create, the clothes you wear, your body, your mind etc. gives you such a warm sense of belonging.

People out there who are struggling are being helped by others who have their own issues, social media is raising a generation of compassionate and kind people. People who are appreciative of who others are. People who appreciate identity.

The one thing that helped me overcome my eating disorder the most was the recognition and appreciation I received for just being me, because that was enough, and I’d never known that before. 

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