Hi! I’m Soph – a 21-year-old blogger studying Sociology at Edge Hill university. I’ve struggled with mental health issues for pretty much the entirety of my life, and today I want to speak to you about my struggles with food. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder at around 15 years old, but I started struggling at around 13.
It began as a ‘diet’, which is what I continued to think it was. Even when I was on the brink of death refusing to feed myself, all I could think was ‘Why can’t everybody just leave me alone? I’m just dieting and losing a bit of weight, just like everyone else.’ See, the problem with diet culture is that it’s everywhere; the media, your family, your friends… everywhere. More often than not, we grow up being told fat = bad. This is such a damaging view to have, as being underweight is just as unhealthy and dangerous as being obese.
Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked! I began counting calories and restricting my food intake at around 13, and it was at around 14 that those around me really began to notice. I constantly believed those trying to help me were the enemy, and my disorder was my friend. My disorder was the thing that wanted the best for me – everyone else was just trying to sabotage my progress. It sounds insane now I’m writing it, but when you’re that unwell you can’t think rationally.
People around me would constantly try to make me eat food, as if that would make the whole issue go away. Oh, Sophie ate something? She must be cured! The problem with this is that eating disorders are a mental illness, not physical. I developed an eating disorder as I desperately needed to control something in my life as everything else (school, being bullied, my anxiety and depression) felt so unbearably out of control. So, I controlled my calories.
Or at least I thought I was controlling my calories. In reality, this disorder began to control my life and left me more out of control than I’ve ever been. It may seem as easy as ‘just eat’ but, trust me, when you’re in that mindset, eating food just seems impossible. It’s completely irrational that something that comes so naturally to most humans is so hard for someone with an eating disorder, but that’s the whole illness summed up: irrational.
Fast forward a few months to around 15-16, which is when I started binging and purging, whilst continuing to over exercise. My body was trying to make up for all the food I had denied it for 3 years, and it’s way to do that was through binging. My brain couldn’t handle the thought of having all this food inside me, so I started purging. This is by the far the WORST decision I have ever made. Purging is so dangerous and downright disgusting. There is nothing comparable to the pain and if anyone is thinking about starting, please don’t.
Binging and purging made me gain a lot of weight, so guess what? Everyone thought I was better. I wasn’t underweight anymore, so of course I’m better, right?! Wrong. So very, very wrong. I was more unwell than ever, and I couldn’t stand being inside a body that I didn’t even recognise anymore. This is when my body dysmorphia became rampant, as I didn’t feel I belonged in my body anymore. I had genuinely no clue what I looked like – everyone was saying I wasn’t fat when all I saw when I looked in the mirror was an obese girl I didn’t even recognise (I’m not even exaggerating).
Fast forward to now – I’m 21, I study at university and I run my own mental health & beauty blog. I’ve struggled quite bad with my depression and body image for the past few years, and still do, but my medication seems to be guiding me on the right track. I actually see a future for myself now, which I never thought I would. I still struggle massively with food and my weight, which you wouldn’t expect as I’m not skinny. I still very much have an eating disorder, and I always will. What’s important is that I tell people around me, E.G. doctors, when it’s getting out of control again and allow them to help me, because I will never allow myself to go back to where I was at 13 years old.
If anything, I hope my story can help you feel less alone. The earlier you recognise the signs of disordered eating, the better. Believe me when I say that your family and friends begging you to eat want the best for you. They are trying to save your life whilst your eating disorder is trying to kill you. You don’t have to be underweight to have an eating disorder, and anorexia and bulimia aren’t the only serious eating disorders. If you’re really struggling, get yourself to the GP and explain what you’re struggling with. I really hope everyone reading this is doing okay, and my DM’s are always open. Stay strong. ❤