When I started writing this, I thought it was going to be about exercise and positive attitude. It’s not. What follows is my history of disordered eating. For some people (and me for a long time!) this is an absolute no-go zone. I have included no measurements other than a dress size, so don’t think you’ll find any here!
Feel free to leave this page and enjoy some happier posts.
This is the reason I am raising funds for the Butterfly Foundation. Running got me back on track, and I want to help others who’ve been down this road. Consider donating, or sharing the information with friends.
As a child, I was a world-champion binge eater. Mum and Dad made great, nutritious meals, and I would sneak 5 chocolate bars and a couple of biscuits back into my room. I think they knew I did it, but I was so skinny throughout my teen years that it didn’t seem to matter what I ate, or in what quantities. It was a habit that stuck with me. And habits are really hard to break!
When I finished high school and moved to Canberra for university in 2007, I ate and ate and ate. I was following a vegetarian diet at the time, but I was eating WAY more than I needed to. I have never been overweight, but I was maintaining an unhealthy lifestyle.
I remember eating an entire packet of Tim Tams (amazing, decadent chocolate biscuits) one afternoon, and then heading out to an aerobics-dance session (one of the few times I exercised in first year). At the end of the class, the instructor, by pure coincidence, shouted
‘everyone in here has just burnt off two Tim Tams!’
Having just eaten 11, and not intending to stay for another 5 hours, I realised that my eating habits were a little bit out of whack.
But then I fell in love. And Mr The Rake and I spent our time bonding over wine, m&ms and pancake shake. By the time I got home to Melbourne that summer, I was shocked to see myself in my old bathroom mirror.
Like everyone before me, I decided it was time to do something. I half-heartedly jogged for 10 minutes a couple of times a week, took a desk job over the break, and continued to eat massive portions of food.
Having failed to lose weight over the summer, I went back to college in February with a renewed desire to lose weight. AND get amazing marks. I just about drove myself into the ground studying.
In an attempt to ‘diet’, I tried to cut down my breakfast size, and eat a can of tuna and an apple for lunch every day. By the time I got home in the evenings, I was starving. At our canteen they sold big cups of lollies for $1. I bought one almost every night.
You can probably guess what happened. Despite my efforts, I didn’t lose much weight, and the pressure I put on myself at uni wasn’t translating into better marks.
Before I knew it, it was 2009 and my 21st birthday was only a few months away. Like many people, nothing motivates me more than a deadline. I decided I wanted to be a size 8 (US 2) by my 21st. At the time I was a 12. I started to count calories, cut fat out of my diet, minimise carbs, and hit the gym daily, often waking up at 5:30am to fit in a big workout before class. I would visualise a tiny black dress I wanted to wear, and that got me through the gnawing hunger pains I would get at night time.
One night, about two weeks from my birthday, I remember getting up in the middle of the night, wearing only my underwear. I had lost track of time completely, and I felt terrible. But I could see my hip bones. And my ribs. When I squeezed my side there was no fat.
Later that week I bought my 21st dress. It was a size eight.
I had met my goal, but at what cost?
I’m surprised that Mr The Rake stuck with me through that period of time. I kept my weight low for over a year. I realised I had a problem, but I didn’t know the extent of it. It wasn’t until I travelled to Europe in 2010, totally unable to control the caloric intake of every meal, that I completely lost it. Ironically, it was a time when I lost weight, because of all the walking tours we were doing.
Mr The Rake and I finished our European adventure at a wedding in Scotland. No, not our wedding!
When we arrived back in Australia, jet-lagged, unwell, and generally dealing with post-holiday blues, I spiralled into a deep depression. I was unable to get out of bed. I didn’t want to eat – losing even more weight – and I was totally controlled by the obsessive thought that I was fat, undisciplined, and unintelligent.
Mr The Rake took me to see a doctor, who referred me to a psychologist, who told me to take time away from uni. Bit by bit I clawed my way back to reality. I got a new job, I made time to see friends, I ate cake, and gradually I started to lose the obsessive desire to be as thin as possible.
Oddly enough, running has had a hugely positive impact on my lifestyle and body image. After a terrible 12km one morning, it occurred to me that the night before, I had only eaten a small chicken salad. That was the point that it finally clicked. To give my body the energy it needed, I had to fuel it. Much as a car needs petrol, I needed to eat – and eat the right stuff – in order to feel good and perform at my best.
Eating without anxiety isn’t always easy, but at least now I want to do the right thing by my body. So bring on the carbs. Bring on the chocolate. Bring on the cake. I’ll do whatever it takes to feel happy, and to get across the finish line in October.