EATING DISORDER AWARENESS WEEK: MY STORY
Today marks the end of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, an international awareness event created by BEAT, a charity that works to fight the myths and misunderstandings that surround anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders.
I’ve never really explained the troubles I had with food and how it led me to do what I do today working as a Nutritionist and Life Coach and specialising in Intuitive Eating, Self-love and Female Empowerment - but my early story really did shape who I am today. This year, this awareness week feels especially poignant having spent the last 9 months growing my daughter and nurturing changes in my body that has once again, taught me oh so much. Years ago, putting on a few pounds would have sent me into turmoil. Now, I fully embrace the gain, knowing in doing so I am nourishing my unborn child and with it, learning to live with and love the vessel I myself was given at birth. There are many more changes for my body to come, and I welcome these with love too.
I wanted to share this story with you; I feel as a practitioner it is important to be transparent about the path that led me to this specialism. I hope to support (in any capacity) all of you on who are on a path to find a kinder connection to your body and break free from issues surrounding food.
In my view, eating disorders come in various forms. It is not as straight forward as anorexia or bulimia - there is a number of grey areas in the middle. Living with an eating disorders or struggling with body image can take over your life in so many ways and at times, I felt trapped in my bubble of control. What I do know for sure is that there is a way out. It may not be straightforward, it may not be easy, but it is possible. I know this because I found my way and have embraced this way of living since.
Today I’m sharing a few things I wish I had been able to tell myself then in order to overcome my disordered thinking and find the path to living a life free of body shaming and battling food. Here goes…
I had two bouts of disordered eating, one at age 14 and again in my early 20’s. From what I’ve learnt in my clinic, many other women begin to see food differently after the years of puberty. As our bodies change, many of us become overwhelmed and in a bid to control these changes, we begin to control the one thing we feel we can: food. Skipping lunch. Saying I had eaten to skip dinner when I hadn’t. Eating smaller portions. Throwing up when I got caught out and had to eat. I would weight myself 5 times a day - before and after purging - even after a number two (well it’s weight right?!). The result on the scale meant everything to me. It was like it gave me purpose. The smaller I became, the more in control I felt.
At 16 I moved to London. I was a woman obsessed with food. I would count calories, starve, binge, get rid of anything I had eaten too much of with purging, and this process went over and over again, day in and day out. For me it was a sense of self-control that enabled me to feel in control of areas of my life I felt out of control with. Whilst I yo-yo’d with my diet, I naturally gained weight as booze and partying became the top of my priority list. It stayed that way until my mid 20’s.
Whilst I grew out of the starving and bingeing, this time it turned into an obsession with being ‘healthy’. I was going to the gym 7 days a week, only eating carbs at breakfast time (and that was only 3 tablespoons of oats) and on the surface, I looked like a gym bunny who loved fitness. I knew everything about ‘superfoods’, the latest diet and training but inside I was still a mess, tearing myself apart with control whenever it came to meal times, meals out and drinking alcohol. I truly believe this was worse than before. At least then those around could see I was struggling. At uni I was almost praised for how ‘healthy’ I was.
Growing up had a huge part in my healing process, as did therapy and training to be a nutritionist. The more I learnt about my body and the processes it goes through to keep me alive, the more I respected it. I trained as a yoga teacher and in meditation, which allowed me to connect to my body and my intuition. Eating and living intuitively all made sense. I wanted to feed my body what it needed, not by what the latest fad trend said was good for me. I began living intuitively, eating intuitively, teaching intuitively and I haven't once looked back.
So whilst I realise that for many with disordered eating, the road to recovery is long, here is what I wish I knew back then.
We are so much more than our bodies
Media sensation, hashtag fitspo and the rise of the selfie - our world and the relationship we have with ourselves has become more about what we look like and what we are wearing, than who we really are inside. Our world is outwardly focused and full of dead promises, until we take the time to learn and understand that we are so much more than our bodies. Often we are led to believe that there is something basically wrong with our bodies, and aspects of us - odours, shapes, processes such as our periods - are unacceptable. This degrading view of the female form has made us either afraid of our bodies or disgusted by them. There is no one quick fix to obtaining this ‘perfect’ body but the more I have learnt that we are so much more than our bodies, the more I’ve learnt to love myself unconditionally. How we think, treat people, serve others, do good - this means so much more than having a six pack or toned bum. We must embrace our femininity and balance the masculine and feminine within us.
Embrace your imperfections
People come with a whole range of body shapes and sizes and those who you may consider owners of 'flawless' and 'enviable' bodies, which may be fuelling our self-hatred, are often also queuing up to confess their own struggles with diet, self-image, body dysmorphia and yo-yo dieting, and the impact that this has had on their friendships, relationships, and even careers. If we continue to strive to be ‘perfect’, we are on a never-ending road to failure. THERE IS NO PERFECT. The quicker we learn to embrace our imperfections, the sooner we meet self-love and the sooner we can rid of negative thinking and body shaming.
One bad meal does not make you fat
One bad meal doesn't make you fat, just like one good meal doesn't make you skinny. Sadly it’s not that simple; it’s not all or nothing! I literally used to calorie count to the T. The more I’ve found balance and learnt to live and eat intuitively, my weight has stayed the same for years. Even now at ‘special’ occasions, I don't overeat just because its Christmas and that’s what people ‘should’ do. I eat when I’m hungry and I don't eat when I’m not. Okay, it took me years to get here but how empowering to have found that sweet spot.
Sharing is Key
I lived in my own world of control and never once felt I could speak to anyone about it. It was my little secret and took a long time to own up to how I was feeling. I deeply wish I’d have shared more and been encouraged to express my emotions. You don’t have to start a blog or talk about your eating disorder on platforms, but tools like journaling, talking to a trusted friend or seeking help from a nutritionist or specialist can help remind you that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Knowledge is Power
I wish I’d have read less of the glossy magazines about ‘superfoods’ and more about eating disorders to understand why I had these issues in the first place. Training as a nutritionist was a huge turning point for me - I just couldn't believe what my body did for me each second of the day. I had a new-found respect for my vessel that stopped me obsessing about food and instead, eating the right food for nourishment and true health, not the health I had obsessed over for far too long. The best way to conquer something, in my opinion, is to know more about it.
Comparing is endless, and useless
Comparing yourself against what other people eat and what other people look like will get you nowhere. Every BODY is different. What my friend Emily eats is very different to how I eat. She is 6 ft and leggy. She has always been able to eat what she wants. I am shorter, have large hips and big boobs. I used to compare myself and believe there must be something wrong with me. I must have adrenal fatigue, or thyroid issues or a bad lymphatic system - anything to blame the fact that I found it a struggle to lose weight. Little did I know at the time that all my dieting in former years had ruined my metabolism. I've learnt that we are both unique. All of my friends, the clients I see in clinic, women I meet on the street - we are ALL unique. What works for you may not work for them. There’s no comparison when it comes to size.
OWN YOUR BODY. EMBRACE YOUR BODY
My next Intuitive Eating and Living 6 Week programme launches 1st May 2018. It’s a live webinar starts at 7pm each week, and is recorded incase you miss it. The programme includes a Skype 1-2-1 session with me, plus meditations, handouts, reading material and a ton of inspiration for self-love. For further information head here
Much love, PANDORA X X X