I’ve changed my exercise routine recently and my jeans have become a little looser, so yesterday, I decided to pop into H&M on my way home to see if I could pick up a new pair. I left the shop in a trembling rage and this is why:
Perhaps you think I’m overreacting. Is it really that much of a big deal? Well, yes actually, to me it is a very big deal because some years ago, not being able to squeeze myself into a pair of jeans labelled size 12 would have sent me home in tears and sent me to bed starving hungry and hating myself.
As a naturally private person, not many people are aware of the real reason I began a career in nutrition. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing this for some time now, but I don’t think I should be embarrassed or ashamed anymore – even so, I’ve got sweaty palms right now! Thank you H&M and your appalling clothes sizing for giving me the courage and determination to talk!
During my teens I was a serial self-hater, envious of girls who were skinnier than me and constantly wondering why I’d been cursed with a love of food and a brain-twisting hatred of my own body. I left for University and was finally left to my own devices in the kitchen. Things took a turn for the worse and my relationship with food very quickly deteriorated. This quickly led me to become depressed, anxious and quite frankly, for my family, boyfriend and best friends, an unbearable person to be around. Some time passed and I was eventually convinced that I needed some help.
Medication and counselling didn’t seem to be working and I spent my days hopping on and off my scales and wondering how to burn off the last meal that I’d weakly given into. I’d exercise furiously when I was home alone, jogging in front of the telly for hours at a time or setting myself impossible numbers of times to run up and down the stairs and at times, I’m ashamed to say, I would resort to other means of expelling the dreaded calories from my body. I was constantly thinking about food and how to avoid it, without letting anyone know what I was up to. I didn’t want people thinking I was insane!
Weighing out cucumber slices and counting out lentils (I quickly convinced myself that this behaviour was normal for people who wanted to drop a few pounds) meant that I lost a couple of stone in a short period of time and my mum (someone I did confide in) convinced me to return to the doctor who swiftly referred me to a clinic for eating disorders. I was mortified. Not because I’d been referred, but because I knew the other girls who were already at the clinic would laugh at me; I was definitely not skinny enough to be referred to a clinic! In tears, I explained this situation to my mum and not long after this, I finished University and moved back home.
After ‘the referral’ and my reaction to it, it seemed some tiny bit of logic at the back of my brain finally made itself heard and I asked myself what I was playing at. I was about to lose my friends, my boyfriend, my family and if I wasn’t careful, perhaps one day soon, my health. The medication I was taking helped me out of a black hole and I began (much to my distress) to put the weight back on that I’d lost. I wasn’t happy about it but I had decided I wanted my life back and to have my life back, I had to eat and ‘be normal’.
I came across a job in a gym, perfect – I could talk about food and exercise all day long now and decided almost overnight that I was going to study Nutritional Therapy. This way, I could obsess over food, find out the magic answer to weight loss and everyone else would think nothing of it!
It turns out that studying Nutrition was the best form of therapy I could have gotten. I began to understand food; it wasn’t out to sabotage me at all! It was incredible how everything that goes into your mouth affects your body, right down to the cellular level and your mind. I started to understand how, nutritionally, I’d worsened my depression and anxiety by removing fats and proteins from my diet and how I wasn’t going to be able to sleep if I didn’t consume carbs. I slowly learnt to love food in a new way. I befriended it.
It took a long time to let go of the ‘demons’ in my head when it came to food and I did have a few set-backs along the way. Those closest to me know I still get a little panic-stricken when someone else cooks for me (I’m hoping one day they’ll learn to love me interfering in the kitchen…) or when meal plans are changed last minute and unfortunately I still have issues with anxiety, but I’ve come a VERY long way when it comes to my relationship with food and I strive for health now, not bones.
So there we have it, now that I’ve shared my secret story I feel like I have the go ahead to fight for all the young people out there who are also affected by a negative body image. The first step for me, after ‘jean-gate’ last night is to disprove ‘the perfect 10’. Keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming post whereby I will show you just how negative clothes shopping can be.