It’s been a tumultuous past few months – general job stress, failed relationships, angsty teens…but, after finally get support for my mental health over the past years and through the unwavering kindness of family, I feel like I’m finally in a place to get back to my physical fitness and health.
I’ve always been a binge eater, even as a very small child. My mum tells me of how I’d always come home from birthday parties and throw up from having eaten so much. Since the age of five the image in the mirror has never reflected my actual weight, always being ‘too fat’ and ‘too big’. I’ve flirted with fasting, extreme diets, and a shiz tonne of binge and comfort eating for most of my life, trying to self-soothe from my constantly unhappy state of mind, which eventually turned into a full-blown eating disorder at the age of 17.
I was obsessed with getting my BMI to 20.00; my BMI was 20.3, but that wasn’t ‘good enough’. I counted every calorie, restricted, over-exercised, broke down in tears whilst looking in mirrors (or otherwise totally avoided them), and eventually burned myself out so much that I developed tonsillitis, conjunctivitis, and the flu in a single week.
By the age of 21 I finally sought professional help and was given my first couple of anti-depressants (Zoloft), and I stopped hating myself. It was like my mind had calmed down. All the self-hate gradually ebbed away.
Now, I didn’t become a narcissist and think I was the bees knees – I am still perhaps too aware of my flaws – but it seemed that my self-hate was what motivated me to keep thin (thin, not healthy), and I stopped exercising, continued my binge-starve cycle, and gained a bajillion kilos.
Not quite a bajillion, but it it is a very unhealthy number on the scale.
After moving to England I decided the it was time for me to lose weight, with the goal of becoming fit and healthy rather than coveting thinness and jutting bones. I didn’t want to fall back into bad calorie-counting habits (which I did a couple of times, but I’m trying to be less hard on myself and forgive that, seeing as this has been an eight year addiction). I wanted to be ‘normal’. I didn’t want to hate food anymore. I wanted to be healthy and strong and happy. I’ve finally come to like the person I am on the inside, and now it’s time for that person to be on the outside.
(on a related note, I remember wanting to my ‘dead inside’ depressed mind to be reflected on my outside – I wanted to be skin and bone; I wanted to look dead.)
So I’m currently on instagram (@niamhlah) and have been using the tag #noED – not sure if this has been used before, but to me it means not going back to that horrific, exhausting way of life from my disordered eating days, which I’ve found immensely difficult whenever I’ve tried to lose weight in the past; instead, I want to have healthy habits, enjoy exercise, enjoy myself, eat food and not hate it, and look after myself. I want to respect myself.
I’m going to (attempt) to post updates on #noED with things that have helped me. Maybe other people who’ve experienced disordered eating might find something helpful?
I’m not too sure about posting current weights and goal weights and weight loss numbers, but I’ll think about it.
- NOT weighing myself every day: this is hard, as I want to confirm with myself that I haven’t gained (which used to be a very big fear), and that I haven’t stayed the same weight (which also used to be a very big fear!). I admit that I have weighed myself a little too often this week, but as of Thursday I’ve decided not to weigh myself ’til Sunday, which gives me three days. I guess I’ll have to wean myself off my anxious relationship with the scales.
- NOT calorie counting: to be fair, I do calorie count – but at the end of the day. I don’t pre-plan my calories for the day or the following day, I just limit myself to a couple of option that I can slightly vary, like eggs on toast (maybe today with baby spinach, maybe scrambled tomorrow…maybe I’ll try those banana-egg pancakes??) or porridge. I feel more comfortable having a general idea of what I’m going to eat, but not forcing myself to have a particular food when I don’t want to, just because I planned in the day before. I add them all up before I decide on dinner, and it seems I’ve been doing well and making healthy choices, as I have a solid and healthy amount left to feed myself with.
- NOT eating or buying ‘junk’: as much as I’d like to snack on those tasty, tasty foods, I’ve made a conscious effort not to have ‘crap’ in the kitchen. Being poor and single kind of helps, as I’m limited to what I can buy and don’t need to buy a lot of it. I’ve taken to eating a square of super dark chocolate (Lindt 90%), and even though I don’t particularly like dark chocolate, it appears to be helping curb my lust for sweet, sweet candy. Plus it’s supposed to be good for you. And drinking green tea – now that I actually brew it as it’s meant to be (I used to leave the tea bag in…no wonder it was so bitter) I really enjoy it. I’ve a passionfruit and mango one in the morning, jasmine during the day, and a salted caramel one in the evening. I’m also making an effort to eat clean: less processed foods, more happy foods!
- Carbs, fat, and protein are NOT the enemy: there’s some cray cray fad diets out there, and I’ve probably tried most of them. Carbs are good. Carbs make me happy, and even the psychiatrist has talked about the emotional/physical effects of eating carbohydrates, especially when taking antidepressants. I honestly can’t do Atkins or other low-carb diets; I get really, really, really grumpy, which then leads to an emotional eating session. Presently, I’m trying to eat my carbs in ‘whole’ form, with fruits and vegetables and the occasional piece of wholemeal bread (yes, bread – a food I had once feared). I eat eggs – with the yolk!! – and have a slice of dairylea cheese on some rice cakes as a snack/treat. I’m even eating nuts…yes, I’ve just listed three common fear foods and I’m eating them all, sometimes all of them in the same day, and I’m still seeing progress in my health.
I wonder how many (if any) non-disordered eating people will read this and think, ‘this is ridiculous…those are normal foods that you’re supposed to eat!’, but I know, sadly, that a lot of people are out there like me, with a past of painful, dysfunctional eating. I wish food had been easier.
But I want to be better. I don’t want to go back. I want to be happy and healthy, inside and out.
PS: Using the tag ‘diet’ but not thinking of it as such – doing the ‘lifestyle change’ mentality!