This is a difficult post for me to write as I have never fully opened up about my experiences with disordered eating. This is an unfamiliar story for most people, so even if you can’t relate I hope that you can take something from this.
Here goes nothing…
Growing up, I had naturally always been a very slender child. Despite having a predisposition due to my genes, I was also a competitive gymnast with a relatively small appetite and a very fast metabolism. I experienced bullying from a young age, with classmates commenting on my body weight and appearance, telling me that I was ‘too skinny’ and that I had the body of a boy. I was only around 10 or 11 years old and to be honest at this age I paid no attention because I felt confident and genuinely happy in my life, with a great group of friends and an abundance of talents (which of course I loved to show off.)
However, as I grow older and reached 13/14 years of age, things started to change for me. My friends at school had started to fill out and become more shapely, and it seemed as though everyone was starting to buy their clothes from the adult sections in clothes shops, whilst I still fit into age 11-12 kids clothes. The magazines I read (such as Black Hair and Beauty) didn’t show the familiar Western ideal of a Size 0, Kate Moss-esque model, but instead depicted curvaceous black women with big bums and thick thighs. My figure was so far from this, and despite my friends at school aspiring to be stick thin, it was never something that appealed to me. Although I didn’t hate my body at this point, I started to notice how different it was from those around me, and comments such as ‘chicken legs’ and ‘stick figure’ had slowly started to affect me.
Fast forward a year or so and everything changed for the worse. I finished school and started college with a class full of people who were much older than me and naturally much more developed than I was. I was studying music and a huge part of my college experience was performing in front of others, which I absolutely hated with a passion. People would say things like ‘wow you’re so skinny!’ or ask questions such as ‘why are you so skinny?’ and each time I heard a comment like that, it felt like someone jabbing a sharp needle into my ear. I didn’t have an answer for anyone. It wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t ‘wow’ because I absolutely hated it. Most of the people I encountered aspired to look like me and so if I spoke up about my body image troubles, I was quickly silenced.
I remember the exact moment when self hate completely took over my life. I was in Urban Outfitters shopping with my cousin and for the first time I saw myself in an upright, full length mirror and I felt like bursting into tears. I looked so much skinnier than I thought I was, and now I could see why people made the comments that they did. To me, it looked as thought my knee caps pultruded through my skin and I could fit both hands around each thigh. I was 5ft 8 and barely fit a size 4-6. That same day, I went home and put all of my shorts, skirts, leggings and jeans into a black bag and on top of the wardrobe. I stuck to wearing harem pants, tracksuit bottoms and baggy jumpers for about 3 years. Anything to bulk me out in some way. I couldn’t stand the thought of tight clothes gripping to my ‘lifeless figure’.
I spent the majority of my time Googling ‘why am I so skinny?’ and ‘how to gain weight‘ instead of studying for college or practising self confidence. I visited pro-ana websites and Instagram pages and would tell myself ‘This is what you look like. This is disgusting’. I weighed myself everyday (sometimes twice a day) and measured my arms, waist, thighs and hips around 3 times a day. I stopped exercising and would even avoid walking anywhere in case I burnt too many calories and lost any of the little weight I had.
It was around this time that I also started to develop my dangerous eating habits. I would eat and eat as much as I could in the hopes of gaining weight until my stomach couldn’t take the amount of food I was trying to consume and I was sick. This happened at home, at college and in restaurants. I also started to develop a very deep-set anxiety around eating for fear of being sick, which meant that I could barely eat anything without feeling unwell. If I could barely eat anything, then I wouldn’t gain the weight I ‘needed’ to. It was a vicious cycle which kept me in a deep depression for a very long time.
It was a downwards spiral from here and I developed a dangerous mindset of ‘I eat to gain weight. If I can’t gain weight then I wont eat’. There was a month or so where I would eat 1 or 2 things everyday, and some days I would just drink diet coke. I hated food because it couldn’t give me what I wanted and I hated my body because it wasn’t what I wanted it to be.
I started speaking to my therapist at the time about my issues with my body weight and body image and together, we started working on my self confidence. Slowly but surely I was able to lift myself out of the black hole I was living in and I started to enjoy eating food again. Looking back, I realise now that my therapist showed me a knew path which was a journey to self acceptance and self love, however, now that I could eat happily again, I decided to take matters into my own hands. At this point I had hit rock bottom and I didn’t even realise at the time. To avoid being sick from eating large amounts, I would try to consume 3000 calories each day by drinking weight gaining supplements and making calorie heavy protein shakes. I started taking weight gaining medicines which I bought online and weighed/measured myself even more excessively than I had before.
After week 1 of my strict new ‘diet’ I had already gained 10 pounds. Over the next few months, although I was starting to put on weight, I still found ways to criticise myself and I felt like shit all the time – mentally and physically. I still received comments on my weight from close friends and family and I still wasn’t the size I wanted to be. With uni just around the corner, I had to make a tough decision. Was I going to let this control my life and everything I do? What I wear? Where I go? I was fed up of living for validation from other people and I just wanted to enjoy myself and be happy. I neglected my ‘diet’ here and left the scales and measuring tape at home when I moved away from home in 2015.
The rest is pretty much history now. I started living for myself and just enjoying everyday. It was difficult not to think about my appearance and some days it still is. I have been to many workshops on body image and self confidence and have even received self-esteem therapy to help come to terms with who I am.
Over the past year or so, I finally became who my younger self wanted to be. 2015 me would rejoice at the fact that I am now a size 12 to 14 and around 4 stone heavier than I was at my lowest weight, but 2018 me knows that none of it really matters. I now rejoice at the fact that I’m about to graduate and (hopefully) go on to do my masters. That I have an amazing boyfriend and friends who love me unconditionally and that I have so many different talents and skills that I can offer the world regardless of how I look.
It is never easy, but self acceptance is the most important factor in your life, and you must never change yourself for other people. My advice is to be kind and try not to comment on people’s appearance. You may not think much of what you say but you don’t know how it will affect someone. Avoid making comments like ‘Wow you lost so much weight, you look great!’ or ‘Omg you are so skinny!’. Something which you may see as a compliment can be triggering to other people and can have a negative impact on their mental health. Everyone has a different story and even if you don’t know someone else’s, just be kind and respectful.
For those who are suffering from disordered eating and poor body image, stay strong and believe that things will get better ♡
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
N.B. I refer to my eating habits as ‘disordered eating’ throughout this post as I never received a formal diagnosis for a specific eating disorder. If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from disordered eating or an eating disorder visit the following links for more info and support: