What you probably know about me is that I am genuinely passionate about making fitness and good health accessible to everyone, everywhere and that I truly believe in living a fit, healthy and balanced life, rather than one focused on achieving a particular type of physique. But what you probably don’t know, is why. Well today you’re getting the back story, so strap yourself in.
I made myself throw up for the first time when I was 17 years old, and I did it pretty regularly until I was 24… that’s seven years of treating myself with a serious lack of respect. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite a clean break from then either – there were slip-ups and backslides at different points in my life (I’m 34 now) and I know that – even though I haven’t had any issues in years – I’ll always need to be conscious of my relationship with food.
I have no idea why I started; sometimes I look back and try to find the catalyst, but honestly, I’m not really sure that there was one, beyond the fact that I was getting to the end of high school and life as I knew it was about to change. I had a strong and supportive family around me (none of who had ever had any food or weight-related issues), I did pretty decently at school, wasn’t overweight, played a lot of sport and would never have called myself a perfectionist or a control freak.
I think I surprised myself the first time I did it… it was easier than I expected it to be. So I did it again. My bulimia (not that I would have called it that in those first few months, when I was still in denial that anything was wrong) took on many different forms over the years. Mostly I would binge and then purge, but then at other times I would eat normally and then purge, and I remember one small window of time when I was severely restricting calories and then purging.
In hindsight, I can see that my eating disorder was a control mechanism – it got worse the more out of control I felt in the rest of my life, and I was afraid to ask for help because on some level the control gave me comfort and I wasn’t ready to lose it. But one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t always be in control of things, and actually that’s ok.
Bulimia is a lonely disease. It’s also highly stressful, not to mention physically and emotionally exhausting (and FYI, really not an effective weight loss strategy – I’m fitter, stronger and leaner now than I was at any stage during the eating disorder). If I was eating with family or friends I would constantly be thinking about how I could escape to a bathroom after the meal. And if it was a planned binge – one where I would go out and buy food for the explicit reason of throwing it up later – I literally did not taste the food… it was a means to an end. I was on an emotional rollercoaster, and there’s no doubt I seriously impacted the people around me too. And even though I tried to stop multiple times each week, something would always drag me back in.
I don’t think there was a defining moment that made me stop. I guess I just got to a point in my life where I felt strong enough to do it. The sad thing is that if I’d put my hand up and asked for help, my family and friends would have leant me their strength so I could have done it much earlier.
I think one of the reasons I haven’t talked about my eating disorder until now is that I have never wanted it to define me. But I believe it’s increasingly important for us to talk about mental health issues more openly, and I would hate for people to think that I’m embarrassed by it. And while my story is my own, unique story, I bet there are parallels out there for lots of young girls and boys (and grown women and men) who have been through, or are currently going through, something similar. And if sharing some of my story encourages one person to ask for help, or gives someone the courage to reach out to a friend or family member and ask how they’re doing, they then I think it’s worth sharing.
So thanks for reading guys; the Lazy Girl Fitness community is a really special one, and one I feel lucky enough to be part of. Be kind to yourselves, look out for each other, and please, try to find the courage to ask for help if you need it.
p.s There are lots of resources out there for anyone who’s looking for help. As a start, The Butterfly Foundation offers support for people suffering from an eating disorder or body image issues and Beyond Blue is a really great resource for people living with anxiety and depression.