Loughborough PhD Social & Support Network

#SSN Open Letter – Making peace with food

I guess I was never that confident in my own skin. Never really liked my body. But also, never really said anything out loud about it because if I did, people would always say things such as “but you’re not fat”, “what about your belly, it’s completely fat!” etc. And maybe that was true to them. But not to me. This is not what I was seeing in the mirror. And nobody could change my mind about it. So, in my early 20s, I started developing a disordered eating (there is a difference between an eating disorder and disordered eating, and as I was never properly diagnosed, I prefer to use the later).  

I wouldn’t eat for days and then binge on anything I could find, while overexercising and walking kilometers a day to burn the little calories I was getting. Or I would just eat the bare minimum of calories (that I would carefully count every single day) to make sure that I was below or just at my basal metabolic rate. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of calories needed for your body to perform all its basic vital function (heart beating, breathing…) when rested. In short, it’s the calories you burn to stay alive while literally lying in bed all day. Eating below your BMR is dangerous but doing so while overexercising was complete stupidity. I fainted a few times and was on the verge of passing out while exercising on a very regular basis. But that didn’t stop me, mind you, because I was on a mission. 

When it all started, I was really lonely and far from my family and friends for months, so they couldn’t know what was happening. Even when I finally visited them, I was pretending that I was sick, or just not hungry. I would get pretty angry and annoyed when people around me (including my GP) mentioned anorexia or eating disorders. I was just being healthy you know, and trying to lose a little weight, nothing wrong with this! 

Food became my one and only obsession. I was constantly hungry and could only think about my next tiny meal which made it difficult to even focus on my lectures. I was also constantly exhausted and cold. I feared going out with friends, and if I did go out for a meal or drinks, I would make sure to exercise even more the day after to make up for it. I was eating very little during the week, and then allowed myself to eat an unlimited amount of food on Saturdays, where I would literally eat until I was sick. I was even trying to avoid seeing my friends on that day as it meant that if I was with them, I wasn’t eating and making the most of my “cheat day”. 

My housemates probably realized that something wasn’t quite right, but because I was getting so defensive when they talked about it, they just stopped mentioning it. And I really can’t blame them for it. 

It took me 2 years to come to the conclusion that I might actually have a problem with food. For some people 2 years might feel like a long time, for others not really. I guess that was the first step towards recovery and a healthier relationship with food. From there I started to reduce my physical activity to “normal” and tried to focus more on the health properties of foods, rather than seeing it as the enemy. I took me another whole year to completely stop demonizing certain foods, and even be willing to put some weight on. To this day, I still have episodes of binging, but I can definitely tell that my relationship with food is much healthier, and I LOVE EATING good meals! 

I managed to change my relationship with food on my own, by reading testimonies from other people who went through the same thing and by actively following people on social media whose content was more oriented towards overall health (mental and physical) and who promoted food as what is really is: a way to fuel your body and to provide it with all the nutrients it needs and as something to share with people you love.  

I am NOT recommending anyone to do this on their own. It was very difficult, and although I was lucky enough to get out of it on my own, it probably would have been much quicker with the help of a professional. I have lost so many opportunities and experiences with loved ones because of my obsession with food and exercise. And this could have been avoided had I sought professional help. 

I’m also slowly coming to forgive myself for this. For so long, I was angry at myself for being so hypocrite and selfish, purposely starving myself when so many people around me and around the world don’t have the means to eat. 

If you’re in a similar situation, please do talk to someone about it. Try to find whatever help you can, especially medical/professional help. Nobody will judge you, and you’d be surprise at how much people want to help. You don’t have to do this to yourself. You don’t have to be on your own. It is possible to be more at peace with your body and mind I promise. You’ll get through it, and you’ll love what’s on the other side! 


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