I think my eating disorder and body issues started when I was in my early teens or even younger.
As a dancer I can clearly remember a ballet teacher telling me that I needed to “lose those boobs” if I wanted to be a serious ballerina.
I can remember idolising ballerinas who were stick thin. Looking back now I can see that I already was too but I started to hate my body and wished I looked a different way.
I can remember another older girl that I used to dance with telling me she used to eat and then just make herself throw up after. ‘What a great idea’, I told myself. This was when I was about 13. I tried many times to make myself sick but I just couldn’t do it.
What I could do though was not eat and I was really good at that. I never ate breakfast anyway so all I needed to do was avoid a few other bits and pieces here or there, throw my school lunch in the bin on the way to school or pretend I was sick at night so I didn’t have to eat.
Fast forward a couple of years and this is where my problem really started and then escalated quickly.
It was time to buy a formal dress and I found ‘the one’ (the dress I mean). I was truly in love. I tried it on and it fit but I can clearly remember a voice in my head telling me that I would look better if I was skinnier.
It was like something flicked a switch in my head and I became obsessed. This time around I was determined I could make myself throw up. Not only did I make myself throw up but I became even better at not eating and I also worked out by googling that I could take laxatives to lose some extra weight. As you can imagine this was a dangerous combination and one that I became really, really good at hiding – most people in my life still wouldn’t have a clue that I did this.
My obsession didn’t stop after my formal, in fact I think this was where it really began as I had just started getting “good” at controlling my eating, throwing up and starving myself. Around this time, I became a pretty anxious person and being able to control my eating was a way for me to control and hide my anxiety. If I felt like things in my life were out of control – boys, friends, school, work, family or anything I knew that the one thing I could control was my eating or lack of.
This went on for years and I was really good at hiding it. I could throw up and compose myself within minutes, I could take packets of laxatives and blame it on something I ate, I could run and run for hours on end and over exercise and I could starve myself and blame my headaches and dizziness on the fact that I suffer migraines.
It took me years to realise or accept I had an eating disorder as well as severe anxiety and depression.
I was about 19 or 20. I was having stomach pains that turned out to be ulcers from the ibuprofen I was taking on an empty stomach to treat the headaches I was experiencing from not eating.
I was seeing multiple doctors, but eventually I found a psychologist I could trust and she was the only person I could tell.
When my psychologist told me I had an eating disorder I didn’t actually believe her. How could I? When I looked in the mirror I still saw something that I didn’t want to see.
It took me a long time, a lot of counselling, medication and relationships that I destroyed and people that I hurt along the way to overcome or manage these eating disorders and the anxieties that came along with them especially because I never had the guts to tell anyone about my issues. But after a few years I did learn to control them.
Then I fell pregnant. When I was pregnant, I suffered hyperemesis gravidarum. I was so sick and not eating which caused me to have severe antenatal depression which I can see now was brought on by the fact that my focus in life was back on my body, food or the lack of food.
It surrounded me every minute of every day. If I ate I was violently ill, if I didn’t eat I was even sicker and doing harm to my baby. Don’t get me wrong everyone had the right intentions but there was this constant talk of food and what I was eating and the way I looked.
In the end, I literally drove myself to a point where I was so numb, a point where I couldn’t feel anything towards pretty much anything but in particular food or eating or nutrition at all. It became a process again, eat, throw up, eat throw up and this triggered those old self-hate voices. I just kept telling myself get to the end of this pregnancy and you will be fine.
There are two parts to this story one has to do with the psychological feelings towards food and the other is the physical for me. I have irritable bowel syndrome, a dairy and gluten intolerance and am highly sensitive to a lot of other foods because of the damage to my stomach.
Every meal for me can be a nerve racking experience because I get scared of how I will feel afterwards, both physically and mentally. Different foods do different things to my body physically and it seems to be an ever growing list of things that make me feel unwell. It is a constant battle in my head with voices of self-hate and also the voices telling me not eat this or that because of the physical way it will make me feel.
It is all a control thing for me, I know that. I learnt that over the years with my psychologist. I know that somewhere in my brain I get a secret kick or satisfaction out of being able to control that part of my life.
Being a new mum can you feel like you have lost control over the life you created so when you find something you can control you want to grasp it and hold on to it.
So that is my back story but where am I now?
From the moment I held Millie, my daughter, in my arms I knew I had to change. I never ever wanted her to feel the way I did about myself and my body.
Over the last year I have learnt to love my body and I have actually become proud of it. I have realised there are more important things in the world than your appearance and I have used my energy to create a community online where I can share my love of health and fitness and help spread a message of self-love.
One of the reasons why I studied personal training almost 10 years ago was to find a way to use what I had learnt from the mistakes I had made to help others find a way to be healthy and happy with themselves and not have to go down the same path as me even though at the time I first started I wasn’t practising what I was preaching.
I use fitness as an escape and a cure for my anxieties and depression and I want to share that with every woman that I can. I want to show other women that it is achievable to stay active while being a busy mum. I want every woman to know that if they move their bodies they can free their minds.
If you or someone you know needs help with eating disorders, you can get help at the Butterfly Foundation.