Looking at me, I don’t think you would assume I ever suffered from an eating disorder. In fact, looking at me and judging me at face value, I would assume you’d think I had it all together – mentally that is. But nobody – absolutely NOBODY – has it all together, in any sense of those words, and I guess that’s just the beauty of being human.
I still don’t associate with the words ‘eating disorder’, and nor do I associate with the terms affiliated with them. For some reason, despite the lack of food and overexercise I endured throughout my teens, or in more recent years, the purging of any sugary substance I let touch my lips, I don’t label myself as ‘anorexic’ or ‘bulimic’.
Perhaps that’s wrong, perhaps that’s right, but being unable to connect with those labels, means it will make no difference what I would call my disorder. All that matters is that I am now aware it wasn’t healthy behaviour, and I am no longer under the thumb of it.
I think anyone who has suffered from disordered eating recognises that it can be difficult to fully get over, but awareness of relapse, or removing yourself from situations that will make you struggle is key to recovery.
What does this mean post lockdown? Well, for one, that means that I refuse to set foot into a gym. I know that as soon as I walk in, the panic at being around so many people after this time, combined with comparing myself to any person next to me will break everything I’ve spent so long building.
All this time I’ve been allowing myself to eat what I want when I want and trying my hardest to not feel guilty. I’ve been working out for enjoyment purposes, rather than to punish myself. I can now do quite a few damn good press-ups (if I do say so myself!) and I was physically unable to do that years ago.
Most importantly, I don’t feel trapped in my head and I don’t want to do anything or go anywhere where I can risk feeling like that again. What do I mean by this? Well, imagine you’re at a party, and biscuits are being handed out. 15-year-old Emily would deny her of the biscuit despite wanting it oh so badly. 23-year-old Emily would think, yes I want that biscuit! Why shouldn’t I have that biscuit?! Let me have five of those biscuits! And then feel ashamed of herself…and throw it up in a toilet – and then feel guilty for throwing up.
The endless cycle continues. If I go to the gym and start comparing myself to every beautiful person exercising next to me, I won’t be able to eat biscuits again without feeling guilty – and I’ve only discovered I am the queen of baking. So I’m going to decline that gym membership and spend that cash on some yummy chocolate.
Another thing I’m going to refuse to do is to engage in ANY post lockdown weight chat if I feel like I’m feeling anxious about myself. It’s not that I can’t talk about weight loss, I love picking up tips, tricks and specific people to follow on social media for toning exercises.
Despite the fact I would like to lose a few pounds and feel better about myself, I want to ensure it’s done healthily and in the correct way. It’s when people start talking about diet plans, and a lack of food SPECIFICALLY to fit into a bikini – that I feel like I should be doing that too.
That’s nobody’s fault, people can do and say what they like, but rather than let that trigger me, I’m going to nod, smile and change the topic if I feel anxious – whereas before I might let that be the catalyst for a lettuce leaf for lunch.
Lastly, I’m going to attempt to be kind to myself. I’m lucky that COVID19 hasn’t affected any of my immediate family – but that’s not the case for everyone. I’m lucky that my body functions well and my health is good. I’ve put on the weight due to lockdown but also because of my antidepressants.
Despite that, I would rather have gained than to feel how I felt two years ago – so I’m fine with it. Also, I’m not sure who I’m trying to impress, but anyone would be lucky to have me – including myself. I would much prefer to be an Emily who can exercise at home, be strong and enjoy food than Emily who would constantly punish herself for enjoying life and eating whatever she wanted.
If anything, we’ve learnt life is so damn short – food is one of the pleasures that we should savour and not punish ourselves for. I, for one, am going to enjoy my banana and chocolate chip muffins, keep working out at home and keep working on being the healthiest I can. If I feel guilty about food, that’s okay; it’s not a linear journey.
I’m just trying to work on not acting on my thoughts that tell me I’m overweight, no matter how commonly they might occur. There are some really good helplines out there like SHOUT and BEAT, as well as my friends that can listen – but I’m in a much better place than I was, and I’m going to keep going.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please do speak to your GP, a family member, a friend or contact SHOUT or BEAT for further support.
We are not alone.