I believe it is important to talk about eating disorders because they are a serious mental health issue that also affects your physical health, and it has always been something that I was embarrassed to talk about for fear of being judged.
This is my story, and how I overcame my eating disorder.
At 14, I changed from a carefree kid, who wore no make-up, skinny jeans and Pokemon t-shirts to a self-loathing, insecure and destructive teenager.
I had never weighed myself or dreamed that my body was different. I certainly didn’t look in the mirror and see someone who was ‘too fat’ staring back at me… but that all changed.
One day I went to town to hang out with my friends and drink milkshakes. My best friend invited some boys along. She decided to go into a cafe with these boys to get some takeout food and I waited outside. When I looked through the cafe window, I saw them both pointing and laughing at me. Confused, I asked her why she was laughing. She replied ‘We just noticed you have quite a big bum’.
This is something that may not seem like a reason for someone to develop an eating disorder. But as a young girl, it is something that embarrassed me and made me question how others perceived my body – so I skipped meals and made excuses not to eat.
About 2 weeks later, I was about to leave the house for the park to meet my friends (on a hot summer’s day), and someone in my family told me that I should change because I had put on weight and I looked silly wearing shorts.
I tried to laugh it off and pretend it didn’t bother me, but then they said: ‘Ii’m not the only one who thinks it’.
I felt like the whole world was trying to tell me I was fat. Is this why boys didn’t like me, but they liked my friends? How long had I been fat? Why didn’t I notice I was fat?
The truth is, I was a 14-year-old girl, who had always been skeleton-like in stature and now my body was changing. I was still a size 6/8. I wasn’t fat.
I became very ashamed of how I looked. I skipped meals, made myself sick (if I did eat) and started to take drugs to suppress my appetite. Sometimes, I would tell my family I was eating at a friends house, and sit in the park for an hour or 2, just to avoid meals. When I did eat out with my friends, I would have to sneak off to the bathroom after.
I went from getting A’s and A*’s in school to failing and staying at home because I was so ashamed of how I looked.
Mentally, the eating disorder made me extremely depressed. I became detached from everyone I cared about and thought I’d be better off dead.
Physically, I was drained, I could barely concentrate in school, I was throwing up blood and I stopped having periods.
My family didn’t know what to do and my relationship with them broke down. I lost friends and I was extremely alone. I thought if I carried on this way, I would die.
After years of living with an eating disorder, I decided to recover when I got into a relationship with a chef. Ironic, I know.
He took me to a nice restaurant where his friends worked. The starter came. I managed a few spoonfuls before I was full.
The main came and I tried so hard to eat it and I could only manage a bite. Any more, and I felt I would be sick from ‘over-eating’. I went to the bathroom and when I came back, I heard his friends talking about me in the kitchen and how ridiculous it was that I only ate a few mouthfuls of food.
I was so embarrassed and I didn’t want to offend them but I hadn’t eatn a meal in a long time, let alone 3 in a row.
That was the turning point for me. I ate as much as I could, regularly throughout the day, and tried to get back to a normal routine. It was hard, and during that time, as I watched myself gain weight, I occasionally doubted if I wanted to recover; but I was ready to be happier and live a normal life.
Having an eating disorder doesn’t make you ‘vain’ or ‘crazy’. It can happen to anyone and I hope I can make people aware of the consequences of body-shaming and give hope to others who are suffering.
And, I do have a big bum… but I am not fat.
It has taken years for me to accept my body, and I am learning to love it more each day. We all have bad days but it is important to never put people down for how they look and not put yourself down.
Eating disorders are not glamorous. It was the worse part of my life and the thing I am the proudest to have overcome.
Words by Grace Mathias