This blog post isn't coming from a pace of education or a subject I have covered in my studies (yet). It's coming from a place of personal experience, from a place of feeling or emotion. This is a little personal and it might be a place you can learn, empathize or completely understand.
It's not a subject my family or friends necessarily understand or maybe even know or knew was something of a challenge for me. I'm also incredibly aware that there are people out there that have been or are in a far worse place or position than I have been in or am now in.
At 9 I remember running at school as a sport. I also played other sports but running felt more rewarding because I was just good at it (humble much). The intensity of running 200m as fast as you can was just the addictive. Other sports allowed me to train after school many days a week which allowed me to keep busy. My parents weren't really around so I had that freedom.
From secondary school onwards I became very aware of my personal appearance. I wasn't very 'good looking' in the magazine sense, so I was rather shy and kept myself to within my amazing friendships groups which changed as I grew. Looking back, the girls I grew up with towards the end of secondary school, I see we all had our own challenges.
From an early age I began cooking for my household, brother, sister and a mum. I made my own breakfasts before school every day and made my own lunches. I am super grateful for the fact we had that food to eat don't get me wrong.
My breakfast was always two pieces of brown toast, one with jam and one with peanut butter. A glass of milk and glass of orange juice. My packed lunch was a ham sandwich, a piece of fruit, a 'timeout' chocolate bar (do they still do these?) and a packet or crisps, maybe a yogurt. Dinner was mostly fajitas, pork chops and potatoes or something similar. Often the other option was an oven meal that mum would sort if need be. For me, this food became my stability. Something that was a constant, along with my sports.
Adding more Exercise
By the age of 13 I was exercising in my bedroom to burn more calories, to get a 6 pack, to have a nice body, because I didn't have a nice face. If I didn't do it, I had to reduce my food the next day or I had to walk the long way round to school. By the age of 16 I was walking EVERYWHERE to use more energy, to burn more calories. I joined the college gym to work out on our breaks instead of seeing my friends or studying. All I did was cardio; weights weren't something women did. By 18 I spent 30 or more hours in the gym daily, 7 days a week, sometimes twice a day. I would walk there (2 miles), having only 'allowed' myself fruit for breakfast because I needed to lose more weight, detox my liver, increase my fiber, 'earn' anymore food.
At 18 I cut out meat, removed all fats. No chocolates ever, no biscuits, no sweets or other 'bad' foods, I lived of raw food such as fruits, beans, vegetables. I never went out to dinner and if I did, I would pull apart the menu beforehand. I weighed under 8stone at 5'10". The level of exhaustion was however negligent in my need to control the exercise in order to eat. My hair would fall out, I had reflux a lot, the level of cold I felt was horrendous, I didn't have periods for YEARS, my nails broke all the time, and I became hairy on my body which shocked me, my skin was dry, I had no ability ot concentrate and I looked tired all the time. If ever I was given any chocolate.... I would have to eat it all. And I mean ALL. I would then binge on anything even remotely tasty, which would then turn in to a need to burn of this energy I had consumed. It was genuinely such a horrible place to be mentally. But the worst thing was that I didn't see how it affected me and my relationships.
To The Present
I'm now 34. I am able to reflect and understand why some of my personal relationships broke
down. When I felt like I had no control over a situation, the exercise and the control over food would be my go-to. I now also see, in hindsight, that not following my gut prevented me from healing. When something didn't sit right, I had to increase my training
, when I knew I was being lied to, I would go on a diet, exercise more and basically turn in to a bitch. But for me, not knowing or understanding what a toxic relationship was had kept me in a space to relapse back into my old habits. The less control I felt I had of a situation, the more I would need to train or control food.
Now I have a real open relationship, one where there is a safe space if something doesn't feel comfortable to talk and be heard. I am super lucky. There is a massive understanding from me as to the exercise I love doing for pleasure instead of punishment. Enjoying training but not putting pressure on myself. Food wise, I probably still have odd habits and patterns, but they do not control my life or me. So, my aim here is to help you see any habits you may have that might help you see any behaviors more clearly.
Exercising for the need to 'earn' food
Exercising to punish yourself for what you've eaten
Cutting out entire food groups or foods
Eating very little throughout the day or nothing at all
Binge and restricting cycles
Varied levels of fasting to gain control of food
Using weight loss, laxative, diuretic tablets when not prescribed
Use food to soothe your emotions
Have set patterns of eating, for example, you don't allow yourself to eat proteins with carbohydrates or set times to eat.
Using your health as a mask for disordered eating, such as allergies or intolerances or IBS
Being entirely obsessed with food and thinking about not much else
Focusing entirely on your body in a negative manner, thinking that being thinner will be better and resolve all your problems
Being obsessed with the number on the scales
This list goes on. There are so many avenues of how a relationship with food and/or exercise can take a hold of you.
If you think you have any form of eating disorder, talk to someone. Your disordered eating or your troubles are never 'not enough'. A great website is Beat - Help and treatment for an eating disorder - Beat (beateatingdisorders.org.uk)
We all have our own stories and journeys. Maybe your empathy, listening ear or ability to resonate with them can help someone one day.