Finding Food Freedom
Here's how I've grown from eating ice cubes for breakfast to finding food freedom...
My negative body image began when I hit puberty and my body started shifting from the skinny child I was to a more full and curvy figure. The girl I started to see in the
mirror didn't match the expectations I'd made for myself and those that I felt
others had of me. I felt alien in my own skin. I felt out of place, as if I was a stranger living in the wrong body. I felt like my body was taking me further and further away from the security of being accepted and loved. My body was no longer just something that enabled me to live and dance and study - it had become a symbol of my worth as a human being.
I'll talk more about all that as I continue writing on my blog, but the short of it is that I ended up searching for a way to cope with those negative feelings about my body and myself. By the time I reached sixth form, I had developed an obsession with food and exercise. I believed that, as long as I did everything in my power to workout as hard as possible and control my diet as much as possible, there could be nothing left to stop me from being loved, accepted and praised.
My weightloss began with MyNetDiary, a calorie counting app that took years for me to ditch. Initially I was eating the 'recommended' daily intake for my weight and activity levels. Then I started working out before school, going to the gym after school, and squeezing in a session on the treadmill before heading to ballet class. I did not increase my energy intake. Instead I told myself that I was different from everyone else and didn't need to fuel my activity levels. I exercised more and more, and ate less and less. I felt relieved every time the number on the apple representing my total caloric intake was lower than the day before.
I felt even more reassured when I started seeing the number on the scales drop down, down, down. The scales became my friend once a week, then once a day, then every time I stepped into the bathroom. One month into tracking my calories and my weight, my period disappeared. Six months later on holiday in Hawaii with my family I was eating ice cubes and doing ab exercises first thing every morning. I was proud of my abs, I was proud of the comments I got on my instagram posts, but I was still unsatisfied and fighting for more.
In September 2017, 3 weeks into my first term in full-time vocational dance training, I was brought into the office at dance school and told I wouldn't be allowed to attend classes unless I did something about my weight. I'd lost 14kg. I wasn't there in any of my classes - my body was there but I couldn't focus on anything, I couldn't remember anything. I didn't have the energy to remember anything, or feel anything. It's taken me 5 years to feel all the emotions we're meant to feel as humans.
As I'm writing this I realise I'm not writing about finding food freedom, I'm grieving over everything my eating disorder took away from me, and also everything it gave me. I've broken down more in the last 2 months than I ever have in my life. People say I'm strong for writing about this, but I don't feel strong. I feel so scared. I'm so so scared now that my life isn't controlled by food restriction and exercise. I'm scared by all the anger, all the exhaustion, all the grief. And that makes me feel weak, because I have a family, I have a home, a job, friends, a boyfriend who I keep hurting with all the breakdowns. Some people don't have any of that.
I'm not sure whether to post this or not, but I hope I will. I need this blog to be honest and unfiltered. I need you to read this and share it with everyone you know who is going through something similar. There are too many of us struggling with disordered eating, negative body image and exercise addiction, and that needs to change. If you're reading this and fighting your own battles, cry with me like I have this afternoon. Let it all out, and make all the noise and snotty mess you need. Feeling pain is infinitely better than starving yourself into feeling nothing, even if it's so much harder to feel.
Keep fighting, and I will too.