JKG | jkgphotography.co.uk
Location: Five Guys, London
TW: Eating disorder, weight, self harm and childhood trauma chat.
I thought it was about time I spoke about my relationship with food.
The good, the bad and the downright ugly.
At 12 years old I was humiliated in public and called fat. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the sounds, the smell, my outfit and the laughter.
The laughter of people pointing at my stomach and that hot feeling when your cheeks go bright red. I took a long hard swallow
so that they didn't see me cry and I internalised that pain.
6 months later I'd lost weight due to binging and throwing up, or not eating at all.
I didn't know it at the time, but this is where my eating disorder truly developed, but I believe I have always had issues with food.
Right up until my late teens, I used food to cope. I was an emotional eater and food filled a void in my life. The void of an absent Father, the void of not feeling good enough, the void of not knowing how to articulate my feelings.
Food was everything to me. It wasn't fuel. In fact, I'm still learning as we speak, to see food that way.
Food was life. It was my comfort and my best friend and I chose it over everything. It made me happy but sad all at the same time. I didn't know it then, but I was abusing myself with food, but it was simply how I coped.
Some people choose alcohol or drugs. Food was my vice and my addiction and I pinned my self worth to it.
I grew up around people who clearly had disordered eating and unfortunately, the world as a whole views food with morals, which in itself is wrong. I believe I subconsciously took this information in more than others, and I found food not only an outlet for my pain, but a way to punish myself.
I was in a spiral of not wanting to eat, but then being so hungry and emotional and traumatised that food was the only thing that made me feel okay. My emotional needs were not being met as a child so I consistently felt empty. A binge would make me feel full, but the guilt would cause me to throw up so I'd be back to being empty. It was a vicious cycle.
As I got older and my dance training got more intense, binging and throwing up become impossible. I didn't have the time and I was so scared I'd start to gain weight that I was riddled with shame and guilt and panic. I also couldn't not eat because I needed energy to perform and after one fainting incident in the middle of dance class - that was enough to put me off. So I started self harming as a way to cope and release the pain I felt.
By the time I was 19 I'd quit dancing, and went back to overeating without throwing up. I was unhappy more than ever and completely and utterly depressed.
The weight piled on and on and on and for the next few years I spiralled and suppressed what was going on. I hid from the world when I could and other times I was out of control.
At 21, I started seeing a psychiatrist who told me in a round about way that weight loss would fix my problem. He confirmed what society had already told me and what I believed - 'I am too fat, too ugly and too fucked up. If I lose weight and stop fucking eating so much I'll be a better person. Life will be so much better and there might even be a million fucking pound waiting for me at the back of Topshop, right near the size 12 jean rack'.
Of course this was not the case but I went on a weight loss journey, must not eat a lot journey, ignore your hunger signals journey.
And in the beginning it worked. I lost 6 stone and things appeared to be getting better. I felt happier but unfortunately it was short lived. I slowly started to realise that there wasn't an end goal anymore. I could've lost all the weight in the world (and I did) but it still wasn't good enough.
Just one more pound..... please.
JUST ONE MORE FUCKING POUND.
I was hardly eating. I don't really know the amount of calories I was having, because I used points or syns (cheers weight watched and slimming world you absolute dickheads), but I know damn well it wasn't enough.
I started to obsess over writing and counting everything I ate. It was low fat or no fat, low carb or no carb. I also completely stopped eating my favourite food and when I 'slipped up' I was overcome with guilt.. so much guilt that I would cry and hope and pray the next weigh in would be kind.
I was slim... but it came at a cost. I was hungry with no energy and very little social life outside of going out and getting drunk - hoping I'd end up in bed with a hot guy that liked my new slimmer body and would give me praise and validation that I was good enough.
I was now 25 and after a lifetime of feeling empty - both physically and emotionally, something inside of me snapped.
And I mean snapped completely in half and shattered into
every aspect of my life.
I was done.
I don't actually remember what caused me to stop trying to lose weight. I think it was a change of circle and becoming friends with a few girls in the plus size community, as well as finding the body positive community too. Although I still secretly had very unkind and critical thoughts (which I later found out was an eating disorder), I tried my very best not to care - it didn't work.
Although I was eating more of what I liked, I was riddled with guilt and shame and still completely in the diet culture sunken place.
My body image issues were horrendous and my anxiety was even worse.
I just kept pretending everything was okay when it wasn't. Everyday I was reliving my trauma and everyday I imagined what it would be like to not be alive anymore.
I hated food now. It was my addiction and my mortal enemy. Every meal time was a battle and I would never win.
I was exhausted and sad and sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Why can't I just not eat? Why can't I just be thin?
And then I met Emmy and little did I know that my world was about to be turned upside down. I was about to find out that I wasn't crazy or weird or fucked up. I was just unwell and had been misdiagnosed and mistreated my entire life..
2016 was the year my life changed.
In June I was diagnosed with PSTD and an eating disorder. In my opinion the eating disorder was a mental manifestation of my childhood trauma. If you're wondering, my ED is disordered eating with binge eating tendencies and an anorexic mindset. Complex stuff!
Holistic and spiritual treatment began at The Recover Clinic and I was convinced I would be put on a diet plan, told to make note of everything I was eating and made to lose weight. How wrong I was. I learned that my ED was an unwell coping mechanism, so to take that away from me would do more harm than good, so we worked on dealing and processing my trauma.
It was over a year of solid hard work. I had to be vulnerable, trust my instincts and unlearn everything I had been taught throughout my life. I had to learn to be kinder to myself and to love myself - the way I am right now. I had to forgive people even though I didn't receive an apology, and I had to recognise my feelings instead of ignoring them. I dedicated my time to exploring, learning and listening to my thoughts, and with the tools I had learned from Emmy - my therapist, I was able to process my pain. I was able to understand what had happened to me and in time become at peace with it.
I started to read up on diet culture and food and why the world is so obsessed with being thin. I learned that the diet and weight loss industry had brain washed us to believe we weren't good enough, so that they could sell us the solution and make a fuck ton of money. Billions in fact!
I understood that I didn't need to count calories, or punish myself with food and all of this started to make sense, once I had filled my life with something.
Once I was no longer empty.
I was then introduced to 'intuitive eating', which is where I'm at now. Intuitive eating is listening to your body, trusting your body, and eating what you fancy and what you believe your body needs. In the beginning it was super hard, because I was SO used to ignoring hunger and eating what I believed was 'good' food. Now I know that food has no moral value, and all food is good food and what an amazing enlightening moment that was for me.
During therapy, I connected with my inner child so that I could heal her pain. That manifested into me eating like my childhood self. Beans on toast, ham sandwiches, chicken nuggets, spaghetti bolognese - to name but a few. I knew it wouldn't last forever and that I would start to eat things with more nutritional benefit eventually, so I tried to just eat whatever I wanted and enjoy the journey I was on.
When I began to heal, I naturally started to eat other food. I would wake up in the morning and tell myself 'you have the permission to eat anything', and then breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks would be whatever I wanted to have. Some days were hard because I wasn't used to the freedom so I would freak out and my ED voice would tell me not to eat anything at all. When that would happen I'd try my very best to empower myself with eating anything.
I won most of those battles.
I left therapy a few months ago and since then, I am still enjoying my new found freedom. I still need to learn to cook and eat a more varied diet but recovery and healing takes time and I'm very proud of how far I've come. I try to eat when I'm hungry and eat whatever I fancy. I recognise when I'm full now, because my life is full in other ways. Some days I don't eat much, some days I eat a little too much and some days I eat just enough - but as long as I'm eating when I'm hungry, and until I'm satisfied - that is what well means to me.
As I enter 2018 I am in recovery from a lifetime of disordered eating and honestly, I can't really express how wonderful that feels. Christmas time is always a challenge for me, but I feel strong and confident and I have all the tools I need to cope and make it through.
To any ED sufferers or to any of you who simply don't have a well relationship with food - I get it and you're not alone. It's also not your fault either and I hope one day you are free, happy and thriving. Until then - I am sending you the biggest hug ever.
If you need further advice please visit my help page here.