My history with eating disorders began nearly ten years ago, in my teens. I had always been smaller than my classmates — shorter, skinnier, and petite. However, as my body began to develop I was gaining inches and pounds all over my new body and found these changes hard to deal with.
I started by restricting my food intake. I’d try to skip breakfast and barely eat lunch, often hiding food. Of course, by the time I got home I was absolutely starving and so would binge on whatever food, usually junk, I could lay my hands on. This pattern continued for years – half starving myself then binging – although I covered it up well.
Then, one day, I read about a girl with bulimia. It seemed so obvious to me then, the solution. Eat what I wanted and then just get rid of it with a simple flush of the toilet. It was when I was at university that I first purged, after eating two chocolate bars and a whole tub of ice cream. It seemed so easy. I’d got rid of those troublesome calories just like that and I felt not only thin but also a kind of elation, like I’d somehow discovered an amazing secret.
That secret was bulimia and it became my coping mechanism. Problems with my boyfriend? Problems with my family? Problems with my studies? No problem! I’d binge and get a rush from eating so much food and then get an even bigger, better rush after getting rid of it all. Gradually, it got worse and worse and I found myself purging throughout the day, often starting after eating breakfast. It had become all about control. I couldn’t control everything in my life, but I could control this one aspect.
Looking back, I always knew what I was doing wasn’t healthy, wasn’t right, but no-one seemed to notice and as long as I was getting away with it there was no way I was going to stop. Despite the health implications and the depression and anxiety, I carried on into my mid-twenties, acquiring a husband along the way even though on what should have been the happiest day of my life I was purging, on my hands and knees, my wedding dress all around me.
One day the inevitable happened and my husband caught me ‘in the act’. I will never forget the look of shock and horror on his face, although it was his strength that enabled me to seek help at Phoenix, where I spent eight weeks basically re-learning how to live my life without bulimia. Working with nutritional therapists, I was able to completely change my relationship with food and came out of treatment a healthy weight for the first time in years.
I now have a range of other tools to help me cope with life’s stresses – especially yoga which I was introduced to at Phoenix – and love nothing more than cooking for friends and family…something which would have been unimaginable a few years ago. Looking back, so much of the last ten years are tainted with memories of binging and purging although now I am able to look forward to a future and the chance to make fantastic memories without the shadow of bulimia.