Stolen Years

Allowing myself to feel,

To cry,

To realise just how much you stole from me.

Peace, inner calm,

The strength to be myself.

The courage to admit just how terrified I was.

Sapping my self-esteem

Till I felt worthless, unworthy of any joy.

The feeling of dread

That they would all realise I was a fraud,

Not knowing what I was doing.

Seeming calm but completely out of control,

Wanting it to end,

But not knowing how.

Eating down the sadness,

Throwing up the fear,

Not knowing why

But knowing it was wrong.

Knowing they’d be horrified

If they ever knew.

Trapped in the cycle

Year after year.

So many years stolen.

So few remain.

Time to make them count.

It’s been a year!

On 24th July, 2021, I wrote the post “I binged today. Here’s what I learned.”

At the time, it didn’t cross my mind that I’d go a whole year without a full-on, painful, BED-style binge.

Yet here we are, in August 2022, and I haven’t binged like that since. There were so many points where it could have, and previously would have happened, and yet somehow it hasn’t. And I’m not even sure why.

I’ve certainly come very close. I’ve planned binges, bought binge foods, then put them away. I’ve had days when I just wanted not to feel, to numb myself, but used other ways to cope. And I’ve had days when I’ve eaten past fullness, just to take the edge off.

I’ve had plenty of days when I’ve hated my body, wanted to shrink it, trade it in for one that works properly and doesn’t hurt. When I’ve blamed it when something went wrong. I spent every day at my parents’ home in oversized and black clothes because when I packed, I was taking my anxiety about travelling out on myself.

I’ve delayed eating until lunchtime, even dinnertime some days. I’ve eaten nothing but binge foods every meal for days at a time until my body has screamed for something green.

I’ve eaten mindlessly. I’ve gone for weeks at a time without moving my body. I’ve had days when I’ve eaten nothing at all thanks to migraine induced nausea, and days where I’ve done nothing but graze.

But what I haven’t done is fall into such a pit of self-loathing that my only response is to binge until my stomach is so bloated and painful I could cry.

Why am I telling you all this? Because recovery isn’t about being perfect. Aiming for perfection can contribute to an eating disorder in itself. No, recovery is messy. It’s one step at a time, then sometimes three back. It’s learning as you go along: learning from mistakes, as well as successes. And it can look different every single day.

You take each challenge, each new experience as it comes. Leaping into the unknown, sometimes curious, sometimes terrified, holding onto the knowledge that whatever you face it won’t be as bad as before, when you were in the depths of the disorder, unable to see a way out.

Then little by little, the good days start to outnumber the bad. You face challenges, and change, and upset, and disappointment, and don’t automatically default to those old eating disorder coping strategies: bingeing, purging or restriction.

And one day, seemingly from nowhere, you realise that the eating disorder is no longer in control. It’s not screaming anymore. It’s a whisper, sometimes so quiet you can barely hear it. Sometimes it’s not even there at all.

It’s been a year since I last binged. My eating disorder is no longer in control. I’m in recovery. And I couldn’t be more proud.

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Eating as an act of rebellion (or you can’t smash the patriarchy on an empty stomach)

My food intake was controlled as a child.

It wasn’t as simple as being a chubby kid who’d been put on a diet. There was more to it than that. There always is. There were times when money was tight, and food had to be stretched to the next pay day. I was apparently a terror and wouldn’t sleep if I’d had too much sugar when I was little, so my parents restricted it. But the impact was pretty much the same. I didn’t feel like I had enough to eat. I felt deprived. I felt hungry. I craved the things I wasn’t allowed.

The control extended to the school day. I was sent to school with a packed lunch instead of having school dinners. So all choice was removed.

Then there were the words used. Second helpings or snacks meant being called a pig. When I said I was hungry, I was told I wasn’t. The concept of good and bad foods was ever-present.

T-shirt is custom from

And so I suppose food became synonymous with control for me. Taking control of what I ate was a form of rebellion. Eating in secret was a form of rebellion. Eating forbidden foods was a form of rebellion. Throwing away my lunchtime sandwiches was a form of rebellion. I was choosing what and when I ate.

Except I wasn’t, was I?

I was a child, already stuck in a binge / restriction cycle. Skipping lunch then using my pocket money to buy chocolate on the way home. Hiding food in my room to eat when I needed comfort, when I needed not to feel. A child whose waking thoughts were dominated by food.

I wasn’t rebelling. I was ill. And I was a product of the society I grew up in.

And I grew up into an adult whose waking thoughts were still dominated by food. All those years, all those decades spent restricting, bingeing, purging, obsessing, hating myself, hating my body, wanting to be thinner, which I equated with more attractive, but unable to stop myself from stuffing my face. Ashamed, so deeply ashamed of my lack of control, disgusted that I had no willpower, distraught at my failure to be what society expected me to be.

Fast forward to June 2022, and this story starts to take on a new meaning. It becomes a cautionary tale. A parable of the patriarchy’s attempts to control females and marginalised groups, and their bodies. To keep them in their place. To re-assert and affirm its power. To shut us all up, because we are starting to shout too loudly and threaten the status quo.

In my fifty years on this planet I have never known a time when there have been such extreme attempts to control people’s bodies. Fatness has been categorised as a disease in its own right. Unprecedented numbers of people are having parts of their stomachs removed to meet society’s expectation of thinness. Others are going under the knife to appear younger or change their body shape to this year’s ideal. People are having their fat literally sucked out. People are taking pills with horrific side effects in an attempt to lose a couple of pounds.

You can’t even escape diet culture when buying a birthday card.

Diet talk, and diet culture, are everywhere. It’s impossible to avoid. Calorie counting is now sanctioned and encouraged by the UK government in every environment where food is present. The mainstream and social media bombard us daily with advice on what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, when not to eat, all to meet the ideal of a thin and healthy body.

But whose ideal are we trying to attain? Who benefits from all the money spent on the surgeries, pills, protein powders, supplements, and superfoods? And is all that time, effort and money actually making us any thinner and healthier?

Whose ideal? The ideal of those who hold the power, of course. Who benefits? Again, those who hold the power. The people who benefit are the diet companies, the drug companies, the beauty companies, and the rich, mostly white cis men who own them. And then in turn, the politicians and lawmakers they fund using their profits.

And is it making us any thinner and heathier? Study after study says no. We’re being sold lies. There is no effective long-term method of weight loss for 95-98% of the population. These methods are all much more likely to make people fatter in the long term. The most common result, weight cycling, increases the risk of a number of health issues, including the diabetes we’re all so desperate to avoid. And the impact isn’t just physical: psychological impacts include a massive rise in the number of eating disorders like mine.

But the benefits for the patriarchy aren’t just financial. People’s obsession with weight loss (and by people I mostly mean those identifying as female) is helping to ensure that those in power stay in power.

My eating disorder, my constant pre-occupation with food, took away my voice. I had nothing to say. I didn’t have space in my head to even figure out what I wanted to say. I didn’t believe in myself, didn’t have enough self worth to think that anyone would want to listen even if I did speak up. I was fat, useless, a failure, because I couldn’t control my eating. Even at the times when those around me considered me a success.

I know dieting isn’t an eating disorder. There are clear differences. But I’ve dieted and restricted, and I’ve learned about its impacts in recovery, and our bodies and brains fight back with hunger and preoccupation with food. We are hard-wired to seek out food in times of famine, and dieting is essentially a time of famine. Non-essential systems in our bodies shut down. We lose muscle mass. All of these things hold us back, keep us down. They rob us of strength and brainpower to think for ourselves and fight for our rights.

If our values are based entirely around the way we look; if our self worth is based on achieving an ideal body, yet the ideal is constantly changing and unachievable for the vast majority; if our brains and bodies are being starved of nourishment as we attempt to become that ideal; if our self-worth is purposely stripped away because we are failing our life’s purpose; how can we find the strength and capacity to examine and unpick what is going on in the world, to look for alternatives, and to fight back?

It’s time to fight back. Fundamental human rights are being eroded right now. The right to autonomy over our bodies, the right to refuge, to freedom of speech, to protest, to live and love according to our own values and beliefs.

And in order to fight back, we need to eat. Regularly and unapologetically. We need to accept that it is OK to take up space, as much space as our fed bodies need. We need to redefine success so it’s no longer about shrinking, and becomes about growing. About finding new values and aims, about finding our voices, about figuring out who we want to be, regardless of what we weigh.

These were the principles of my eating disorder recovery. They have served me well, and helped me learn. They have given me self worth, a voice, and the courage to use it.

Those principles taught me that eating is an act of rebellion, not in the way I thought it was as a child. No, it’s much broader and more powerful than that. Because you can’t smash the patriarchy on an empty stomach. And that’s why the patriarchy wants to you stay hungry.

Fury, fibromyalgia, and the big fat Twitter storm

I woke this morning from a dream where I was manhandling a doctor who had looked at my body and laughed when I told him I had had an eating disorder. Screaming in his thin, male face, I grabbed him by his collar and wanted to smash the back of his head against a wall…

And in that instant knew why I’ve been “off” recently. Why I haven’t been eating properly over the last few days, ignoring my body’s requests for nourishment and instead feeding it either too much or too little beige food. I knew why I’ve been avoiding feelings over the last few weeks, as documented in my last post.

It’s because the feeling I’ve been avoiding is the one I’ve always been the most afraid of: anger.

So where is it from? The white-hot fury I allowed myself to feel in that dream. The lump in my throat as I type. What has caused it?

There’s my recent diagnosis. I have fibromyalgia. I finally have to face the fact that I’m not going to get better. There’s no cure. My constant pain, fatigue and other weird and wonderful symptoms will be with me for the rest of my life. Now I finally know what has been wrong for the last four years, I get to go through the difficult process of grieving the permanent loss of old, healthy me. The me who didn’t know what they had till they lost it. The me who wasted all those years of physical good health punishing themselves and their body with an eating disorder.

It’s a lot to take in. And anger seems like a perfectly natural response. But there’s still that part of me who is terrified of the emotion. And I’m certainly scared to publish a post this raw after all those decades of eating down and hiding my darker side from everyone in my life.

Because let’s face it, we’re all taught that girls are “sugar and spice and all things nice”. The image of a chubby little girl screaming into the abyss with uncontrolled fear and rage is unacceptable in our society. So I didn’t. I buried this and every other feeling with food instead. Because I felt like I never really fit in, but maybe I’d be tolerated as long I acted nice and played by the rules.

But where did playing by the rules get me? Living a lie, hating myself, alone, in mental and then physical pain? Looking back, the trade-off wasn’t worth it.

I don’t want to play by the rules any more. The rules aren’t fair. They change depending on who you are, how many privileges you hold, what you LOOK LIKE! As if that has any bearing on whether you are a worthy person or not. Especially as I’m learning that the more privileges a person has, the more reluctant they appear to be to look inside themselves and acknowledge the harm they cause.

Oh yes! The recent Twitter storm between its fat and eating disorder communities has forced me to face a lot of things I have been hiding from my whole life. It was yet another place where I wasn’t always quite comfortable in the community I had found. Another place where I felt the need to play nice to fit in. To bite my tongue and ignore the occasional red flags.

And then, in a flash, my online world was being torn apart. People my size and bigger being accused of bullying, lies, and aggression for daring to challenge the status quo. Being gaslit when they spoke about their experiences. Thin people – medical professionals no less, insisting on perpetuating the myth that they were there for those very same fat people, while simultaneously practising and teaching “o*sity medicine”, which is specifically designed to wipe fat people from the face of the earth.

It’s been ugly and upsetting and it’s forced me to question everything I thought I knew. While those who hold all the power have refused point blank to listen, or change, because they can. Because change is not to their benefit.

So I’ve had enough. I’m playing by my own rules from now on. If I need to scream and shout and be angry, I intend to try to do this. I’m not going to take those emotions out on myself any more, because there are way too many people ready and waiting to do that to me. Telling me those feelings aren’t justified, that it’s all in my head.

I know there are people who will be upset by this, but I have no choice but to deal with the fallout if I am going to be my authentic self, if I am going to try to help make this world a safer place for fat people like me.

So accept me as I am, an angry fat person. A person with unpleasant thoughts and feelings. A person who’s not always going to play nice. Or don’t accept me at all. I’m going to have to find the confidence and self-belief to live with that as best I can.

Because this is too important. Fat people exist, we’re not going anywhere, and the status quo is hurting us. We deserve better. We deserve to live our lives in safety. We deserve the same access to all spheres of life, to our basic human rights, as straight size people. Weight stigma is a legal form of discrimination. It’s even government sanctioned, FFS! All so that some multi-privileged middle-aged men can get even richer than they are now.

So those people on Twitter hoping I’d just shut up and go away have failed. I’m not going anywhere.

If I have to live out the rest of my life fat and disabled, then I’m going to do the very best I can to make it count. And if that means unleashing my fury and not playing nice from time to time, so be it!


It’s been a few weeks since I last wrote a post. I’d convinced myself that I’ve been too busy. And it’s true, a lot has happened since I visited my parents.

I’ve started a new job, which has meant a lot of new things to learn. I’ve started physiotherapy, and been diagnosed with fibromylagia. I was caught up in a rather nasty Twitter storm. I attended a real life Mental Health event after over 2 years of campaigning online and appeared on a podcast for the first time. I’ve met up with friends. And on top of all that, there are a couple of eating disorder projects I’m contributing to in the background.

It’s fair to say there’s been a lot going on.

But I always find the time to write when I really want to. So today I turned on my computer and asked myself why.

And the reason? I’ve been avoiding, of course. The amount of online shopping I’ve been doing should have told me that. Or the amount of mindless scrolling on social media. My new ways of numbing myself now that binges have taken a back seat.

The sheer amount that’s been going on means I’ve got a lot to process. A lot of emotions to feel. But just doing everything I’ve been doing with chronic pain and fatigue is exhausting in itself. And on top of that, I’ve been really tired of feeling so much.

I’ve made a few breakthroughs in the last few months, and that’s amazing. But I had feelings fatigue. I just needed a break, to avoid and feel numb until I have the emotional energy and resilience to start processing again.

The last couple of weekends, my body has forced me to have a break. My migraines have returned, enforcing bed rest and cancelled plans. I’m still waiting for the new medication the rheumatologist advised and hoping it helps with the fatigue and lack of energy. Until then, it was inevitable that my body would rebel against the new stresses it is under.

Because change is stressful. Even positive change. And I know I probably haven’t helped matters by refusing to face that.

I’ve been focusing on getting through, and riding the worst of the thoughts and feelings as best as I can when they come up. But avoiding the rest.

I will return to processing and healing soon, I know I will. I’ve come too far to give up now. But I’m tired, and I need an rest. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve pushed too hard and too fast before in my recovery and it never ended well.

So I’m allowing myself to take my time, and avoid if I need to, while I get used to all the positive changes I’ve made recently in my life.

If you’re feeling tired and in need of a break, too, know that it’s OK. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever get there. It just means that all journeys need breaks, stops along the way, so you can rest, recover, and make sure you’re still on the right path.

Never discount the power of rest and recuperation. It will give you the strength you need to continue on the road to recovery. And if the rest includes a little avoidance, then that’s OK, too.

The Day the Music Died

TW: eating disorder feelings and behaviours.

I met him one drunken night in my favourite bar.

Photo by Pixabay on

He was there to play a short acoustic set and afterwards, we got chatting. About music, life, the usual drunken things. I gave him my number and a few days later, he called and asked me out.

Not long after (maybe not long enough after), we moved in together. It was all going so well. Until it started to go wrong.

My grandfather passed away. He had been my safe person, the man I looked up to the most. And then I fell out with my father. In a matter of months, I had lost both of the male influences in my life.

Of course I didn’t process the loss. I tried to bury it instead. With alcohol, cigarettes, and of course, food. I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. Looking back, I’m not even sure if I’d got over my first bout of depression, or if I was in my second, whether it was grief, or the binge eating disorder taking over. I know I didn’t talk to him about it.

I gained weight, and became more reclusive. I made excuses not to go with him to his gigs, for nights out with friends, to visit his family, because that was my only chance to binge in secret. I was closed off, secretive, and sometimes resented his presence because it meant I couldn’t binge.

Of course this is a simplification of a complex relationship. But it was never going to work. I was living a lie, terrified he would find out who I really was and stop loving me.

Then one day he told me me had feelings for someone else. That she reminded him of me when we first met. And for the first time since I was a small child, the emotions came flooding out. I cried, I punched him, and I threw him out, unable to deal with what was happening.

Photo by Jessica Lewis Creative on

And when he left, music left, too. In a way, literally, because he took my favourite albums, but also because I couldn’t bear to listen. I didn’t want to hear any of his songs, nor any songs that reminded me of him, of our failed relationship, of how angry and sad I was. The feelings were too raw. I buried them the only way I knew how: my eating disorder morphed into bulimia, I was chain smoking, and I started going out drinking again.

Later, I met someone else. Someone who wasn’t into music. And I forgot the part of me that loved it, this backdrop to my earlier life. I forgot the small child who loved to dance and sang in school plays in that time before she hated herself too much to intentionally attract attention. I forgot the teenager who chose her university based on its music scene. And so, even in my single years since, I’ve never returned to music.

Then a couple of days ago, I heard one of my favourite songs from the time I was married. From an album he had taken with him, that I haven’t heard in the decades since. And in that strange way music does, it triggered the gut-wrenching grief I couldn’t face at the time.

These feelings are some of the hardest I’ve had to face through recovery. They are physically painful. They are suffocating, all-consuming. I’m finally starting to understand why it’s called heartbreak. The pain in my chest, the heaviness in my stomach that won’t stop…

For the first time in a very long time, I am battling the urge to make myself sick.

Photo by Bob Clark on

And I am beginning to realise that maybe I was remembering it wrong. Maybe it wasn’t the dieting that led to the bulimia back then. It was the grief, the sadness, and the pain. The restricting and the purging were my physical responses to the emotional pain I was in. I was trying to lift the deadweight in my chest, literally force it out so I didn’t have to feel like that anymore.

I buried the pain so deep I didn’t remember what it felt like. I buried it so deep it took two whole decades and years of work towards recovery to resurface.

And now there is no way out but through. But I have to believe that this pain means I am finally close to full recovery. I am trying to accept it, lean into it, and learn the lessons it is teaching me, even though it is so very hard to do.

It’s time to let go.

Well, this is a lot!

After two years of lockdowns, isolation, boredom, and self-reflection, it suddenly feels like someone’s pressed the fast forward button on my life. As if I’ve gone from zero to 100 overnight.

So many amazing things have happened over the last few weeks! I’ve got a new job. The Instagram and Twitter accounts are doing better than ever thanks to unexpected support from much bigger accounts. (If you’re reading this, thank you so much!) I’ve left my small part of the UK for a holiday abroad. I’m seeing a physiotherapist when I get back to help with my pain…

So I should be on cloud nine, ecstatically happy, relieved that so many things are going well, right?

I am. I really am. But recovery isn’t always that simple. This is A LOT. Way, way too much happiness and gratitude and excitement to deal with at once. I’ve never had to process quite this much at the same time before. So I’ve reverted to anxiety and overwhelm, and the ED is trying to find its way back in.

It’s most noticeable in how I feel about my body. I loathe and detest it right now. I hate how it feels. The amount of space it takes up. I shudder with disgust every time I catch my reflection, so I’m trying to avoid mirrors.

My eating and appetite are all over the place. I’m going between days when I’m so anxious my stomach is in knots, and days where my body is screaming at me to eat to make up for the anxious days.

Of course there’s the tears. Always the tears. Because that’s still how I release most emotions.

It feels like the ED is asking how dare I be happy? Reminding me that I’m unworthy, that I don’t deserve all the wonderful things that are happening to me right now. Reminding me that I’m all the awful things it used to tell me I was, and not who I’m starting to believe I can become.

Well, the ED can eff off! I’ve worked too hard and too long to let it back in. I’ve worked hard for these successes, this happiness. I’m not giving up now.

Of course I’m overwhelmed. Change is scary. Even good change. And my life is a little upside down in the best way right now.

So I’m trying my best to ignore the ED thoughts and feelings and enjoy the successes. And maintain the hope that one day the voice will go away.

It’s difficult. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s a lot less uncomfortable than life with an eating disorder. And what is the point of recovery if I don’t push myself to live the sort of life I always wanted, but never believed I deserved?

Life is too short, and I’ve wasted so much of mine already. So I’m going to have to learn to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable for a little while.

Because when I do, it seems that good things happen…

O***y Day, weight stigma, and triggers

Content warning: eating disorder and intrusive thoughts.

I’m going to start by saying how grateful and happy I am to have found the online ED recovery community. I have learned so much from being a part of it, and have been at times overwhelmed by the welcome and support I have received.

However, there have been just a couple of times when I have felt uneasy, and not quite able to pinpoint why. The last couple of days have clarified where those feelings came from.

Yesterday evening I listened to the first #TheBigEDChat, organised by some of my favourites on Twitter. The subject was Diet Culture and Weight. I’m not going to lie. The first 20 minutes were difficult and triggering, and I know I wasn’t the only one to feel that way.

Later on, I came across the #BeatWeightStigma campaign, highlighting the weight stigma in the UK’s biggest eating disorder charity. Horrified at their stance on o***y, I joined the cause.

But this was all fine. I’m used to comments from people, often well meaning, who do not understand the experience of those in bigger bodies, and I don’t let it get me down any more. I’m used to weight stigma in the medical community. I’m 7 or 8 years into my recovery journey now. And after all, I will never understand thin people’s experience fully either, because I haven’t lived it.

Then this morning I awoke to World O***y Day, and the second I looked at my phone, I saw an article from an ED charity about the similarities between eating disorders and o***y. It was all downhill from there. I had hit my tolerance limit. Here are my feelings, thoughts and actions from that point.

Disappointment and anger. I posted a couple of tweets. Then regretted them because I didn’t want to upset anyone. I stopped myself from deleting them, because I am entitled to my feelings. And because how I was feeling showed that weight stigma causes harm.

Today was my day off, but I had plans to meet my work colleagues for lunch. Without thinking about it, I skipped breakfast, falling back into old habits of “compensating” for food later on.

I went upstairs and showered. I looked in the mirror, hating what I saw. Body checking, I turned sideways to see how big my stomach looked. Of course it looked enormous. I wanted to slice it off; I’ve hated it my whole life.

I chose oversized clothes to hide that stomach from view. It was the only way I’d be able to leave the house when all I wanted to do was hide until I can lose some weight, make my body palatable to all those people pathologising it online. I don’t feel safe, I feel vulnerable. I want to cancel, but that would be letting them win.

I finish getting ready and start driving to the office. I notice intrusive thoughts I haven’t had in a long time (they always popped up when I was driving – the ones that told me to turn the steering wheel the wrong way).

I got stuck in some roadworks for ages. I am simultaneously furious and relieved. Because I am going to be very late, and because that means I will miss the food.

I arrive after everyone has eaten. I have a good time and enjoy chatting to everyone, mostly distracted from the thoughts I had earlier. I accept a slice of cake. I check social media a couple of times, relieved that no-one is upset about the tweets. I take some leftovers when I leave to have for dinner.

The entire journey home I am bombarded by thoughts about stopping to buy binge foods. I actually need a couple of things, but decide to shop tomorrow. It’s not safe to go into a supermarket today.

I get home and realise I am dehydrated. In my ED days, I used to avoid drinking sometimes so my stomach would look smaller. I hadn’t even noticed I had done it today.

So I’ve drunk a couple of glasses of water, had those leftovers, written this blog post, and chatted to a couple of friends. I’m finally feeling more like myself and less like old, ED me.

Because these were the thoughts of old ED me. Less powerful, and not acted on. But they are still there, lurking in the dark corners of my mind, waiting for those triggers so they can try to take hold again. And yet society, and even eating disorder charities want me to invite those triggers through intentional weight loss.

If my set point were lower, if I had recovered into a smaller body, I would receive nothing but praise for what I have accomplished. But it isn’t, and I haven’t. I am fat, so I have to accept that I will have to face weight stigma for the rest of my life.

Even so, I will not let the ED thoughts, diet culture or weight stigma win. I deserve recovery, just as everyone with an ED does.

Sending love and strength to everyone affected by today’s anti-fat rhetoric.

A BED Post blog special for EDAW 2022

Why eating disorder training for doctors is so important: a patient’s perspective

As I type this, Eating Disorder Awareness Week has not even started. Yet there are already arguments on social media about this year’s campaign, which aims to increase training on eating disorders in medical schools.

It is not my intention here to contribute to the arguments or criticise medical professionals. But I want to raise awareness of the impact training can have on patients with diagnosed or undiagnosed eating disorders, both positive and negative.

These are some of my personal experiences of medical appointments as an ob**e adult female with Binge Eating Disorder.

GP appointment, mid noughties. I told him that I was struggling with eating. I couldn’t seem to stop, I felt out of control, and my weight was increasing. He gave me a diet/healthy eating leaflet, and recommended I join a gym. I tried to explain that I had dieted before and knew what to eat – I had even studied nutrition at school. He told me to try again and cut out sugary snacks.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

Impact: I avoided the doctor and didn’t raise the issue again for years.

GP appointment, 2014. I spoke about how I had struggled with food for a long time, and couldn’t stop once I started eating sometimes. I told him how much weight I had lost on anti-depressants. He asked me questions and told me he thought I had Binge Eating Disorder. He referred me to the local Eating Disorders Service.

Impact: I received 2 years of specialist treatment, which started my recovery process.

Rheumatology appointment, 2019. The nurse took me into a room and told me to sit down so she can take my blood pressure. I didn’t realise that I was being asked to sit on a scale, and the nurse did not ask for my consent to weigh me. She asked me if I wanted to know my weight. I disclosed my eating disorder and asked not to be informed of my weight as this could be harmful. She noted this on my chart.

A few weeks later I received a letter from the consultant. It included my weight, and I realised that I had gained more than I realised. It also indirectly blamed my joint issues on that weight.

Impact: a relapse, with regular binges, which lasted for several months.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Follow up appointment, 2019. I let the nurse know what happened and declined to be weighed. She apologised and said she had not realised it would be in the letter. The rheumatologist made multiple comments indicating I should lose weight. I disclosed my eating disorder again. He made no comment.

I left the hospital in tears. I called the department to complain and requested a different consultant. I was told my case would be transferred.

Impact: I spent a further two years without treatment and in pain. My bingeing continued, although I continued to work towards recovery.

Telephone GP appointment, 2021, because I hadn’t heard from the hospital. I explained the story to the GP. She offered to refer me to another hospital, and took the time to ask how I was managing my eating disorder symptoms due to the pandemic, because this was a difficult time emotionally. We discussed my coping and support mechanisms and she told me to call if my symptoms worsened.

Impact: I felt heard, supported, and able to trust the GP.

Nurse appointment, 2021. A few months later I discovered I was eligible for the vaccine due to my BMI, so I called my GP Practice. I was told I needed to be weighed. I went in to see the nurse. I disclosed my eating disorder and she made sure that I couldn’t see my weight. She took the time to check I was managing and tell me how well I was doing during lockdown. When I asked what my BMI is, she didn’t tell, me, saying she would work out what it was after I left.

Impact: I felt supported and reassured that I would not be judged if I relapse, or for my body size.

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Hospital appointment with a new rheumatologist, 2021. I was not weighed and treated in a weight neutral way. He offered me pain medication. The tests he referred me for showed that the previous rheumatologist had diagnosed me incorrectly.

Impact: no relapse and reduced pain due to the medication.

You may have noticed that I disclosed my eating disorder, or eating disorder behaviours, at every one of these appointments. Over the years, I have learned to make a point of disclosing. It is the quickest way for me to find out if I am in a safe space. And by this, I mean that it tells me whether the medical professional has received training in ED. Because that training ensures that my health, and not my size, becomes the primary focus. Because weight stigma is real, and it can trigger a relapse.

You will also see that the majority of experiences I have had were positive. There are many, many understanding healthcare professionals out there. But those two or three negative experiences had far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on my overall health. And they have left me feeling the need to protect myself and my mental health every time I visit a new healthcare professional.

This is why I stand behind BEAT’s campaign this Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Because if one more person is diagnosed before their ED becomes chronic, if one less person relapses because of a doctor’s thoughtless comments, I will consider it a success.

I waited over 30 years for a diagnosis. Recovery has taken 8 years. I don’t want anyone else to have to endure that. Increased training in medical school will help ensure that no-one will.

So please consider supporting this year’s campaign. Go to BEAT’s website and sign the petition. Follow the campaign on social media. Let’s make every medical appointment positive for people with ED.

Lessons in love

The thing about recovery, and stopping eating disorder behaviours, is that it brings stuff up. It leads you to re-evaluate your life, the life lived in the shadow of an eating disorder. It makes you question everything, especially if you had an ED for a long time, like me. How much was my life shaped by my ED? Who am I without it? Who do I want to be?

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And with Valentine’s Day approaching, my thoughts turned to love and relationships.

I have spent my life “failing” at love. Everyone round me encouraging me to couple up, find a partner. But feeling uncomfortable about it, being fiercely independent. Struggling and often unhappy when I was in a relationship, but not really knowing why.

So, I went back to the beginning and started looking for the reason.

If I’m honest, I didn’t have much in the way of good examples when it came to relationships. I would describe my parents’ marriage as tempestuous. I never really saw my grandparents together, and my aunts, who I saw a lot, were both widowed.

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I escaped into books as a child, into wondrous alternative realities. When I was reading, the world around me didn’t exist. But those books and fairy tales fed me lies about love and romance, about knights in shining armour coming to girls’ rescue, about love at first sight, great romances. And crucially, they didn’t say what happened next.

I had no idea how relationships worked. But I knew I didn’t want one that involved a lot of fighting. So I went along with what my partner wanted. I stopped having opinions, I “put up and shut up”, and in the process, in each of my relationships, I lost who I was. If I even knew who I was in the first place.

Because what else could I do? Let the guy get to know the real me? The greedy fat pig who binged every time their back was turned? That would have been a disaster. No way was I going to let that happen.

There’s an awful lot of talk these days about loving yourself. It’s mooted a lot in the body positivity community. It’s not a concept I grew up with, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a big ask when we’re surrounded by constant messages telling us we’re not good enough unless we buy product x or y.

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I’ve never loved myself, and I doubt I ever will. Love is a strong word. I accept myself as I am now. Most of the time I like myself, but love? No, not really. But I don’t see that as a major obstacle. It hasn’t prevented my recovery, and it certainly didn’t stop me from loving those I have had relationships with in my life.

No, the barrier wasn’t that I didn’t love myself. It was that I believed no-one else could. That I was unloveable. Worthless. A fat, ugly, overemotional mess who sometimes had thoughts so dark I didn’t dare speak them out loud.

And so I spent my relationships second guessing what my partner wanted. Never revealing my awful, true self. Becoming more and more unhappy, increasingly lost, until they gave up and went off with someone else.

And because that was what I believed about myself, I struggled to accept love. I never noticed when someone was interested unless they actually told me. I’m ashamed to say I even dumped a couple of men who came across as too keen. They were clearly suspect if they were that into me – their judgement was flawed.

So this is what my experience has taught me:

You don’t have to love yourself to have a successful relationship, but you do need to feel worthy of love.

And you know what? I think that’s something I can achieve.

I don’t know if I will find love again, but if I am lucky enough to be given the chance, I will not hide who I am. That person will get to know the real me. The me who still struggles with dark thoughts and bad body image sometimes. The me who gets bad tempered when I’m tired and in pain. But also the one who has found the joy and self-acceptance I never thought was possible. And I hope they will feel able to show me who they really are in return.

Because maybe that’s the love I was missing out on all along. If only I’d felt worthy of it.

Whether you’re single, in a relationship, or still working on feeling worthy of love, Happy Valentine’s Day!