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What is control anyway? - Isla's story

My story started way back in 2016 when I was about twelve years old. It started with a small diet to lose a few pounds so that - I thought - I could fit in at ‘big school’ and be more popular. Of course, this was never the case. Throughout years 7-8 I started eating less and less and, although I lost weight, it was never enough. I couldn’t even see the change myself and so I started changing my diet drastically.

My rapid weight loss caused concern from my friends but my family praised my new appearance and so I continued these behaviours and increased my restriction. Soon it became my form of control. I relied on it and couldn’t see life any other way. Fuelled by compliments, I continued. ‘Well, it wasn’t that bad anyway?’ I thought.

How wrong could I have been.

This constant cycle never ended and there I was at 17 years old stuck in the same pattern that I created 5 years ago. In fact, things got worse, I was no longer able to restrict so heavily and began to purge instead. My friends concerns grew and my family were still totally unaware. After all, I was so scared myself that I didn’t feel able to talk to them. My boyfriend at the time advised me to seek help and so with his support I decided to reach out to a teacher at my sixth form, so that I could take accountability and attempt to recover from my ED.

Due to school policy, this had to be reported and although I have no regrets about making the decision now, at the time I did. I felt that I had lost all control and so spiralled further. I decided it ‘hadn’t worked’, when in reflection I was self-sabotaging to maintain my eating disorder and what I thought was control. I started running excessively and this caused me to become continually tired and faint. This continued for about a year and my half-hearted attempt at recovery caused me to feel like there was no way out. With a lot of support from my school, however, I was able to discuss issues that were the causes of my eating disorder. They also introduced me to Beat which helped me manage my thoughts by using the one-to-one chat. For this reason, I am so pleased that I did decide to talk about it back then.

It was only when I started university in 2023 that things truly got better, I realised how much of my family home centred around diet culture and how this was affecting things. I jumped fully into recovery and started pushing myself more than I ever had before. I also joined societies and socials that made things a lot easier as I found I was enjoying my life far more than I ever had before. After a while, I stopped thinking about food so much and it became far less of a problem. Of course, there are still occasions where the thoughts flare up, but Beat has been so useful in managing them as it made me realise that I was not alone.

I don’t remember exactly when it happened but at some point, I realised that control is not restriction. An eating disorder is not a method for control. It takes your control away, and although initially can feel helpful, is never worth it. The freedom that I have felt since letting it go outweighs any positives I could have seen from it, and I am so pleased of what I have managed to achieve since. My only regret is letting it consume my life for so long as I lost my teenage years to an eating disorder. But if anything, this regret has fuelled my recovery as I am determined not to allow it to take anymore time away from me.

Please don’t let an eating disorder take away your life, its not worth it. Don’t let a lack of diagnosis prevent you from seeking help for so long like I did. As much as you believe you’re in control, the truth of an eating disorder is that it is controlling you.

Contributed by Isla

If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this story, or are concerned for yourself or a loved one, you can find support and guidance on the help pages of our website.

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