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Can food be my friend?

My entire life I have been fat. I remember when I was about five or six my Mum talking about other girls in my preschool and primary school classes and saying 'it's unnatural to be that thin, you're a healthy weight'. I also remember reflecting to myself one day that I liked being at school, because there were no mirrors to catch my reflection in. So much for 'healthy' self-esteem. My weight steadily increased throughout childhood due to overeating and little exercise - in year I was about Xkg, in year 7 I was Xkg, by the time I got to high school I was 165cm and weighed X kg. At one point during high school I lost X kg though The Body Shaping Diet then put it back on and then some due to being home alone after school with a massive supply of food and only once weekly tennis lessons for exercise. I was unhappy but functional - I graduated with an OP2 and left for a backpacking gap year in Europe.

For the first two months I sat in my obese cousin's home in England,the capital of cardboard food, alone and too scared to explore for fear of getting lost. When I got the guts to backpack I had a low budget and poor nutrition but I walked through cities all day, had great experiences and was happy. Then I worked as an Au Pair (live-in childminder)in Italy with a family anxious to leave me with happy memories. I ate five chocolate croissants for breakfast, made secret trips to the village shop to buy loaves of sultana bread and boxes of biscuits in addition to the meals the Italian Mama would prepare. I did 200 sit ups every night because I thought that would make it ok - my education was sorely lacking in some areas. At the end of the year I flew home at about X kg and a practiced binge-eater. I moved to the city for university, in a course with 100 beautiful and thin girls and 6 boys enrolled. University was the ultimate self-esteem drop. Walking beside gorgeous girls every day, believing that any male attention was negative or pitying, I dived into binge eating more because hell, if I'm not hot then I might as well get happy. Short term happy anyway.

One day after a few weeks of being really unhappy with my image I just decided to stop. It was lie a switch in my head flicked. I ate carrots, lentils, apples and lettuce for about two months. I very occasionally ate an entire loaf of raisin bread sitting in my room, and I still drank alcohol, but I lost X-ish kg in no time. It was only then, aged 19, that I discovered kilojoules/calories. I had a way to regulate my weight loss! I kept it to X kj per day, walked for 40 mins and did 30mins of situps, pushups, etc every night. Then I found about about protein and ketosis so ate nothing but protein powder, coffee beans and the occasional carrot. Another X kg gone in less than a month. Over the uni holidays I was alone more than usual, and my old friend boredom brought back the binge. I'd feel so much pain in my stomach that I had to throw up, then I'd feel empty and eat more. When uni began it reduced, but the habits were there. As stress levels rose with assessments etc so did my binges. By this time it was so habitual that I accepted it. I planned to binge, drank water with everything to make purging easier, experimented with laxatives, and gained weight steadily. I binged every day, purging up to ten, fifteen times daily. Thousands of dollars were spent in a few months on binges. I couldn't control my hunger impulses and knew I was bulimic, neglecting study, withdrawing from life and mentally unwell. I had only one priority and that was to feel good.

The money and weight gain drove me to seek help from a uni counsellor, and then a GP. Unfortunately this was in the lead up to my second year final exams and study-stress was a major trigger factor. I had also missed months of lectures/study from sitting in my room bingeing rather than going to uni. But I made some progress - my binges weren't every day, I even had some two-day successes! Which is where I am now actually, still in the lead up to exams I may well fail, still waking up five times a night during dreams that I've been bingeing, still having days where I eat four muffins, six packets of chocolate biscuits, two packets of sweets, two pizzas, two loaves of bread, two packs of cheese, a tub of mayo, 3L milk and some muesli to round it all off. I'm still terrified of adding carbs into my 'good' diet as if it would be worse than the binges.

BUT...I have told my parents. I have told my closest friends. I am seeing a GP. I have applied for a year off uni to get sorted out. I have joined a gym. And tonight I do not feel lonely and disgusted in myself because I have cried for hours over reading the stories and thoughts of other people with bulimia for the first time. I do feel stronger, I do feel more positive and I do feel understood. It's hard, at times impossible to think ahead of how my life is going to be better as I recover but I know it will happen and that my priorities will become being happy enjoying life rather than being unhappy enjoying food.

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Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of your-bulimia-recovery.com
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community


The Bulimia Recovery Program