I admit it — I love my body! Call me vain, call me arrogant, call me a bitch. I don’t care. I’ve got every right to love every single part of who I am, from my stretch marks, to my narrow hips, to the mole on my right shoulder. It’s all mine, and it’s all beautiful. But before you go jumping to conclusions, this self-love isn’t something I had the privilege of being born with. It didn’t come to me overnight, and it still threatens to slip away from me on occasion. This self-love has come to me after over a decade of self-hate and self-abuse in the form of an eating disorder. It was a hard won love, and I’m going to hold on to it until the day I die.
It all started when I was 15 years old. I went to live abroad briefly, and while I was there, I developed an aversion to the local cuisine. I’d already reached a terrifyingly unhealthy 230 pounds through a diet of greasy, sugary (and delicious) foods. I wouldn’t touch a vegetable if it was the last thing on earth, and after my parents split, my dad didn’t have the energy to fight with me every night over what food I’d eat, so he fed me the crap I desired.
I don’t blame him or myself, really. We’re all simply a creation of our circumstances, and we all do the best we can in the moment with the tools that we have. But at that moment, I was eating the worst foods possible, and while abroad that just wasn’t an option. So, instead of eating the “healthy” food that I so hated, I starved. I survived on a chocolate bar a day and a can of soda to wash it down with. By the time my six weeks abroad was over, I had lost almost 30 pounds. When I got home, everyone noticed.
And that was it. That was when everything clicked into place for me. That was the moment I realized that food made me fat, and that not eating food made me thin. Being thin was my dream, and that dream was now within my grasp.
That year, I dedicated my life to my new-found “diet” of an apple a day (and this time, it did not keep the doctor away!). I shrank before everyone’s eyes, and people gushed at how beautiful I looked. By the time I hit 100 pounds, I thought that life couldn’t get any better. I suddenly had all this confidence and I wanted to go out with my friends to show off my new figure. Unfortunately, anorexia and partying don’t go in hand and hand, and I slowly saw the pounds pile back on.
Thankfully (sarcasm), there was always bulimia. Bulimia was my fall-back when my anorexia simply became too restricting. “I’m thin now! I want to live my life to the fullest!” I would think while scoffing down my third handful of nachos, “I’ll just get rid of these later and it’ll be OK!”
As I was entering into university, I had both these monsters clinging to my back and I couldn’t tell a soul. Instead, I tried my best to eat like anyone else would. I would go weeks without a blip, and then without warning, I would spiral back to whichever eating disorder was most convenient. I wouldn’t — or more accurately, couldn’t — talk about my disorder with anyone, I couldn’t even admit to myself that I had a disorder. I was in complete denial.
And so, I played the happy young woman. I traveled the world and smiled for the camera. According to my Facebook page, I had the best life a girl could dream of. Little did everyone realize that behind it all, I hated myself. I hated my body, and I couldn’t look at myself for too long. I hated food, it made me constantly nervous. I hated it all, and I just wanted to be normal. Eventually, I stopped reverting to my disorder quite as much. I was sick and tired of always being sick and tired. I gained weight, but I learned how to deal with that.
Things started to escalate again when I moved abroad for two years. I started to gain a lot of weight, and never having understood what a balanced diet looked like, bulimia seemed to be the only recourse. Of course, I still gained an ungodly amount of weight (because FYI, bulimia doesn’t stop you from packing on pounds) and I was 30 pounds away from hitting my peak – again. And again, I hated myself. I hated my body, I hated food, I hated my lack of self-control. I knew I had to do something. I knew that I had to find a way to fix this, and I knew it had to be a permanent solution.
So, the day after I moved home, I joined my local Slimming World. Slimming world is a slimming group that’s gotten very popular in the UK and Ireland recently, and unlike your conventional weight watching groups, it’s not about counting calories or points. Slimming World is all about eating, eating and more eating. Of course, it’s about eating all the right things — the things that make your body healthy and strong, and help you lose weight. Like all those dreaded fruits and vegetables I tried so hard to avoid as an angsty teenager.
So far, I’ve spent 5 months with the group, and my relationship with food and my body has been completely revolutionized. I’m no longer anxious while eating food, wondering whether or not it’s the right or wrong choice for my body. In fact, I’m more confident than ever when I tuck into my very substantial dinners because I’m safe in the knowledge that I’m eating a balanced and healthy diet.
I know how to have my treats in moderation, enjoying them for what they are, and not using them as a tool to medicate all the other problems going on in my life. I know my body’s thanking me for all this hard work because I’ve gone from a tight 12 US to a comfortable 6! And, most importantly, my confidence has skyrocketed. I’m no longer shy about getting in front of the camera, putting on a swimsuit, or acting like a fool with friends.
I’m confident now, and that’s not just because I’m a slimmer, leaner me (although that does feel great, too), but because I finally know how to love food, and in turn, I finally know how to love myself.