Changing

Posted 04/06/2018

Hindsight is my worst enemy. I'm constantly regretting things I've done or said, no matter how big or small. Hindsight makes you look back too much, and not forward enough. So looking forward, I want to accept what I have done badly, and do things differently.

It's not that I didn't know the health risks. I researched enough, was told enough times to know that I was hurting my body, but sometimes you get to the stage where you stop caring. Not even necessarily stop caring, but you end up caring more about how you're feeling in your mind than in your body. It started with weight gain after a summer month spent in my second country, my mother's home, Japan. The problem was that the way that my grandmother shows love is through her wonderful food, encouraging second helpings and making any meal you desire. This meant that when I came home, I had put on a bit of weight. It wasn't until my mother pointed this out that I took a proper look in the mirror; at about age 11, weight had never been a concern of mine. My mum is a regular runner, so she encouraged me to do the same. Despite her protests that she only exercises to feel good, she tells me every time she loses or gains weight; I wasn’t the only one that was body conscious in my house.

At first, that’s all it was, just a bit of running. I'd never particularly liked sports; my coordination is terrible, so I could barely kick a ball, but running was manageable. Then I began to be more conscious of my weight, my round face, my big thighs. I grew to hate what I saw, despite the exercise and the fact that I was back to my original weight. There were only three things on my mind: food, exercise, and my body. I had a food diary, made salads, made rules. At first, I mostly just avoided unhealthy foods, but quickly, this became not enough. As the negative voice in my head became louder, the "rules" for eating became stricter. I ended up eating mostly fruit and vegetables or low-calorie snacks throughout the day, but had no choice but to eat the meals my mother cooked for dinner. They were rarely "unhealthy", but I had become terrified of carbohydrates like pasta and bread; to me they were the enemy, to be avoided at all costs. I ran or did circuit training excessively, constantly stepped onto the scales and refused to count walking or PE as "proper exercise". Looking back, I don't think I was happy or unhappy at this point, just obsessed.

November is when everything truly went downhill for me though. This was when I first purged, but I never planned for it to be a long-term thing. I can see how stupid my reason was, but honestly, it was because of a Christmas dance dress. It had taken me a long time to find a dress that I could just be content in, but as I spun around to show my mum the dress, she said that I couldn’t put on any weight as otherwise it wouldn’t fit. I know, she was only stating a fact, it fitted perfectly then, that was all. Yet my body-conscious mind twisted this innocent comment into a criticism, and made me decide that I had to lose weight before the dance, fast. Crazily, purging made sense. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to starve, especially as my mum would notice. To begin with, it was a choice I was in control of, but soon it became something I "had" to do. Sure enough, by the time it was the dance, I had lost weight, my waist was small, and I felt good; I felt a thrill when the number on the scales became lower and lower. I ignored my body's pleads though; the dizzy spells and constantly cold hands didn't matter. I was thinner.

It wasn't vanity, though. It was so much more than that. It was about control, safety, blocking out my thoughts and feelings. If I could just focus on eating and exercise, I didn't have time to think about school exams, failing, my grandfather's declining health, anything that was too much for me to handle.

I planned to stop after that, I truly did, but something about it was addictive. I was able to feel a sense of achievement easily with little work, and who wouldn’t like that? But eating disorders are strong and sneaky – they pull you in when you least expect, and the worse you feel, the stronger they become.

I'm still struggling, but just as it took a long time to become so low, it will take a long time to get back to where I used to be. Every day of recovery is a fight I overcome, and some days I lose, but most days I win. I have learnt so much from my experiences. I have learnt that mirrors and scales do lie. Mirrors contort into the shape that your mind believes you to be, whilst scales tell you that the number will never be low enough. I have learnt that in order to recover, I must allow myself to feel emotions instead of blocking them out and be able to be content in whatever weight or size that I happen to be. If I don't, I won't get better. I am only at the beginning of my journey, and I know it won't be the easiest, but it's already looking brighter. I still don’t like what I see, but maybe I will one day.

Contributed by Helena
Changing