One thing not many people know about me is that I have an eating disorder. I say this very lightly as I am no where near what I used to be but anyone that has had an eating disorder will know just how much it sticks with you.
I never had this officially diagnosed so I couldn’t tell you which one I had. My best guess would be bulimia or some other kind of binge eating disorder. I was lucky to be blessed with a fast metabolism so that when I do binge, I don’t pile on the pounds. This ‘disorder’ (awful word) has been with me for as long as I can remember.
I have memories of myself at about 6/7 years old, we would come downstairs and get dressed in front of the fireplace in the winter to keep us warm. It’s a very odd and specific thing to remember but I can recall incredibly clearly me and my sister standing there in the mornings. I would often squidge my belly and complain of me being fat despite such a skinny frame. I cannot remember the exact issue that was being investigated other than there being something wrong with my eating/weight but I had a series of blood tests done and analyses by doctors. They always came back with no answers. I believe they were just looking in the wrong places, it was my head they needed to look into instead.
I was so bad with my eating at one point that I had these ‘special shakes’. I used to love them, they were just banana milkshakes to me but very tasty ones! That’s all I’d have to eat in one day. I know now that they had specific nutrients in to keep me from becoming malnourished.
I have always hated my body. It’s my stomach that I am worst with. No matter how hard I try, I have never been able to budge that little bit of podge. It definitely doesn’t help nowadays when I have two medical conditions that cause bloating… I look back at how skinny I used to be and think I may have also been suffering with body dysmorphia.
I remember when I was first taken into care, my foster carers were told to watch my eating and my weight. CAMHS would weigh me weekly as well as take my blood pressure. My blood pressure used to be that low I was just on the cusp between dangerous and safe. Whether that was a result of my eating habits or not, I do not know.
It was quite easy at times to hide me having an eating disorder. I’d often binge eat, hate myself, stick my fingers down my throat. It was a very unhealthy cycle but people saw me eat so they didn’t tend to worry as much. When I was bad, I could feel the strain on my stomach. When you’re constantly forcing yourself to throw up, it starts to feel like you’ve ingested a handful of razor blades. Other times I just wouldn’t eat at all.
Thankfully, as I got older, the body dysmorphia began to fade. I don’t believe that it is entirely gone but it has enough so that my life may function normally. I have also learnt how to manage my eating disorder in a much more healthier manner. As long as I can exercise and keep my body in check, I am okay. I will even go as far to say that I feel confident in my own body at times. But, I must maintain a toned physique otherwise that nagging voice comes back.
In my day to day life, it isn’t too hard for me to stay fit and toned. With minimal effort, my body stays looking in a form that I am happy with without much work needing to be put in – thank you metabolism! I generally walk to most places which helps a lot. However, quarantine does not allow for this. I have found myself slipping back into old patterns.
We’re all stuck inside, we’re bored and have nothing to do. I think we are all guilty of eating just a little too much food at the moment, if you’re not then you must be an alien (please gift me with your willpower). I still suffer with the binge aspect of this eating disorder. I have found myself eating enough to feed an entire family and it’s all the unhealthy stuff. It’s almost like an addiction. I go to the shops with little money and know I am just there to buy bread and milk, every time I leave with at least some chocolate based snack and some actual food snacks. I trick myself into thinking that the food snacks are okay. I will eat almost everything I have bought in just one day, only to go shop again tomorrow making excuses that it will be a ‘cheat day’.
Because it has been a while, the throwing up and starving habits are long gone – at least I initially thought. I have been sat in my bed all day, every day, eating. I have been out of exercise routines since before lockdown healing from surgery. Before I knew it, I wasn’t fitting into a lot of my bottoms. I managed to break the zip just trying to do up a playsuit, not realising I had put on enough weight to struggle with clothes. When you don’t have many clothes, this is an incredibly frustrating thing.
Because I am usually quite slim, it doesn’t take much to not fit into my clothing sizes. Annoyingly, that does not matter to my brain. I have now found myself creeping back into those unhealthy thoughts. I cannot touch my stomach at the moment, when I do I feel like crying. Where I am used to seeing something flat and toned, I am now just seeing lumps and squish. I feel disgusted. I do not want to get back into the full on eating disorder mind frame again. Once it starts back up, it’s almost impossible to get back to the surface again. The worst part is with eating disorders is that you do not want to help yourself as you need to be skinnier.
I am trying my hardest to pick my exercise routines back up but this is difficult when I have been left weak from surgery. I also have some kind of problem with my knees that has become more apparent since being less active. Then to add onto that, my motivation isn’t particularly high as I am currently trying to battle a depressive episode with just medication. All of a sudden I have found myself making subconscious decisions to not eat, like I have gone straight to autopilot. It’s the easiest option.
I am just glad that I haven’t had the overwhelming urge to throw up yet, though I will admit the thought has been lingering.
This has been one of the hardest parts for me whilst stuck in quarantine. All of the issues I currently face as a care leaver have all been long standing issues anyway. It’s like we’ve all be training for this moment all our lives. It doesn’t feel hugely different to my everyday. It’s just those pesky eating habits.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please seek help. You can recover from it and live a normal life. Speak to your GP at your earliest convenience for specialist referrals or, for more immediate support, call an eating disorder helpline such as 0808 801 0677 www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk