I used to have an “about me” page which gave the usual bog standard outline of how my blog/website and overall food obsession, albeit now a healthy one, came to fruition.
What it didn’t really do was give a whole lot of insight into the real girl behind the lens.
As a late comer to the Instagram world I finally got around to posting a “transformation story” though unlike the vast majority, mine was both a physical and mental overhaul. I kind of just assumed that people knew my story, the battle I’d been through, the many ups and downs, and hurdles I’d overcome, including those that ended in me falling flat on my face many times over before finally having the courage and strength to make that much-needed leap.
I went through the mill to be quite honest, something which I wouldn’t have really admitted to, but rather just put the facts out there. It was hard, at times I thought it would never get better, I almost gave up on more than one occasion, I relapsed many times over and was dishonest, to not just everyone around me, but most importantly myself.
When it comes to “telling my story” I struggle with where to start and then once I do I worry that I may miss out some crucial piece of information, the piece of the puzzle that might just resonate with someone out there.
In short, I suffered from eating disorders for the best part of 12 years. From the tender age of 13 my mind was warped. I was unhappy in my own skin and found solace in food, at times the restriction of it, at others the binging and purging of it, which inevitably led to fluctuations in my weight and subsequently tore my character, self-esteem and body image apart.
No form of conventional therapy helped me find my way out but rather a true desire to get better.. I managed to destruct my addictive tendencies, and fight for my life while at the same time maintaining my character, passions and creativity which focus around food, health and fitness.
I clung to many different styles of eating along the way which in hindsight was part of the process and for me it was crucial to the success of the lengthy journey. It provided structure and a means for me to slowly introduce foods based on my own desires, listening to both my body and mind rather succumbing to external pressure. Having been down that road previously I know it doesn’t work long term and inevitably led me to compensate by restricting or over-exercising as I endeavoured to regain control.
Physically I lived a maintainable life for many years which I had kind of resigned myself to living indefinitely but then I hit a wall.
I was overtraining to the extreme. Yes I was eating regularly, I’d managed to stop binging and making myself sick, but my life was so incredibly restricted and I felt fatigued all the time. I was living off adrenaline and I just couldn’t do it anymore. Gaining weight, losing control, and giving in to the prospect of just being seen as “normal” was my only option. The real turning point was actually giving up my 3-4 hour, 6 day a week gym training schedule and handing myself over to a strength and conditioning coach. It truly changed my life and my mindset. It didn’t happen overnight but 12 months down the road and I can say, hand on heart that I finally feel free.
I got caught in a cycle. I had a better relationship with food but had thrown myself so deep down the road into exercise, high intensity cardio, strongman style training, lots of intervals, the works, I feared if I gave it up I would end up down the restrictive route with my food again as I would struggle to prevent what I thought would be an inevitable substantial weight gain.
What I want to make clear, in an effort to reassure the many people, women and men, out there that may not necessarily be suffering from an eating disorder, but have an unhealthy relationship with food or exercise, is that your body is smarter than you think. Mine was in a state of constant stress, I was getting far from an adequate amount of sleep, over training to the extreme, and seeing no results or changes to my body or fitness levels as a result.
I weaned myself off exercise. Cutting the cardio down from 6 sessions to 3, then cutting it to one and the limiting myself to 20 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes…and now I do none. No cardio, nothing high intensity really, occasionally I might push a prowler a few times at the end of a strength class but it’s far from a regular occurrence.
I didn’t gain weight when I reduced my exercise, in fact I lost weight. I had to increase my calories almost twofold in order to achieve and maintain the weight gain and muscle building I’ve seen in the past 12 months. I went down the route of some macro tracking to keep myself accountable. Not obsessively but rather productively, focusing on food as fuel and making it my mission to finally the build the muscle that I’d outwardly been suggesting I was seeking for many moons but deep down hadn’t quite signed myself over to that phase of change.
There are still times when I feel a little uncomfortable in this new body. My body, which continues to grow and not because my weight gain has gotten out of control as it did in the past, but rather because I’m proactively seeking it and achieving my goals. In times of doubt I remind myself of the despair I felt many times over, and the absent distracted life that was leading me down the path to an early grave. Blunt, perhaps, but true.
I could spend an eternity going into the detail of the low points, the behaviours, actions, all of which could equally be labelled with regret. I choose to take it all as a learning experience because one thing I have learned is that you can’t live in the past. I opt to switch off from worry, to take actions, deal with anxieties, and breath through my emotions.
What benefited me greatly was looking at other people’s success stories, not necessarily with eating disorders but just with life in general. I don’t need to, nor do you need to know the hardship, the woes… It’s the surfacing from it all, moving forward and taking on life element of the whole saga that will hopefully inspire and encourage others to pull through and to create their own positive life changing transformation.
I feel so incredibly healthy, my energy levels are through the roof, the dark black circles have lifted, there is light behind my eyes, my skin glows, I sleep like a baby and my mind is finally present. I’m far from perfect and I mean that in every sense. I don’t claim to live a perfect life nor do I seek it. I don’t have all the answers, I have experience, hope, strength and courage and I finally feel confident enough to shout about it.
I have been guilty at times of being a little blase about my journey at times in the past, putting it in the category of one of life’s struggles” which I’d overcome and could reflect upon but that was just life. An experience somewhat commonplace in today’s society so therefore nothing to draw attention too.
Part of this was founded in the fact that I hadn’t quite let go and I didn’t want to be found out. I claimed to be an open book and felt to admit I still had problems would break my superwoman facade.
I was of the logic that only if I was fully recovered would I be “qualified” to offer any sort of advice to others. I feared people would make judgements about my actions, hobbies and life in general given too much of an insight into the still slightly messed up mind behind it all. I realise now that vulnerability is inevitable. To change, to grow, to allow light into my life and to feel truly happy I needed to let my guard down. The possibility of getting hurt is an inevitable part of life, but building a fortress around yourself, or as I called it, a “bubble”, means missing out on actually living.
Here’s to life and continual growth in every aspect of my being.