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My Secret Relationship with Food

by C
(Coventry, United Kingdom)

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with my relationship with food and how I got to be in this place.

I went to a high-achieving all girls' school where there was a lot of academic pressure and pressure to match up to my peers in how I looked. I grew up quite happily and successfully in this environment and the problems only began to develop one year into a relationship I started at the age of 16, my boyfriend was very invasive into my life, constantly undermined me and made me feel very vulnerable and isolated. This stress made me feel often very depressive and I would often go on long walks, sit somewhere quiet and cry because I felt like there was noone who really understood what I was going through. When the feelings became so intense and I tried to slowly get my life in order I became angry with myself for eating food that was preventing me from losing weight and getting my life back on track. In late 2010 I first made myself vomit after over-eating one evening at home. My boyfriend at the time would frequently comment on my weight and grab bits of fat on my stomach, I was only 17, 5 foot 8 and weighed X kilograms. I began the cycle of purging once I felt that I had eaten too much, because when large amounts of food were served at home and I ended up eating them (my mum and boyfriend were both overweight and often indulged too heavily in massive quantities of food) I would feel incredibly guilty and would secretly make myself sick.

This happened increasingly I originally thought it was just something occasional, to get me through a very dark time in my life but it became frequent, once every week or two and I got scared and told my boyfriend about it. He immediately told his parents and mine and several friends that I didn't know very well that I had lots of problems and was difficult to deal with. My mum, although she is a psychologist, told me that I was being greedy, that this was a symptom of consumerism in Western society and that I really should just stop doing this because it was silly and everyone believed I was just trying to get attention. That wasn't the case at all, it had taken me a long time to tell them and I could not defend myself because if they asked me whether I had been sick, I would lie. My mum would come out of the downstairs toilet, tell me to stand in there and say it smelt of sick, I would say it didn't and that I hadn't been sick in there (this was true, I had been sick that day in the upstairs bathroom). I decided that I had to get out of the abusive relationship with my boyfriend which was becoming increasingly difficult as I was feeling quite suicidal as he was putting me under all sorts of pressure with his own personal problems. I decided to end things with him days before I went on a month long volunteering trip to Namibia so that I would protect myself from his reaction.

In my month in Namibia I did not binge or purge for the entire time and felt very content and happy, though I did resist the urge to do so. When I returned I had put on Xkilograms and found this hard to deal with as I started university, i gradually got into my secretive eating and purging habits as I felt that I was too fat and still felt deeply hurt by my previous relationship, even though I had stopped all contact whatsoever after the breakup. I began to binge and purge frequently and over Christmas told my mum again that I was having problems, which fell very much on deaf ears I thought a lot about calling up a helpline or seeing my GP, but was too sacred. I ran a half-marathon at New Year to raise money for the Namibian charity, although in hindsight the training only increased my inclination to binge and then over-exercise. I was very angry with myself at Easter and decided afterwards to try to sort my life out and get away from my bulimia, I had two months of not purging but found it very difficult to resist the urges, and just today I have binged and purged again which has made me feel very ashamed and upset. I am scared how I am going to cope with my university exams and the stresses involved. I have started a relationship with a lovely guy from University, who I believe really and truly cares for my wellbeing. I realised that I love my new boyfriend very much and that he has really helped me to recover from the stresses of the past two years, though he doesn't know quite how much because I hardly talk to him about it besides vague details. I really want to tell him about my bulimia and how difficult i find it to deal with, but am finding it very hard to find the courage to do so, but I hope that if he knows he will help me and not just ignore it or be disgusted with me like everyone else has been. However, for the next two weeks he has some very important exams so I feel like I have to wait until after they finish to tell him, but I am scared that in that time I will slip back into being unhealthy again and then won't want to tell him.

I really do not want to see anyone professional about this, I am too scared of it being on my records and holding me back from doing things that I want to in my life, I am also terrified of telling anyone who does not know me, I have always been very high-achieving and hate to be a failure. Also I am not even sure I can be classified as having bulimia because I do not purge and binge as often as twice a week, when It has been realy bad I have about twice in one day but it can vary greatly, although I do think about doing so often and have to resist the urge with difficulty. So in that sense, this is me, and I think I might have bulimia, although I tell myself in my head that this is not really a problem and I am dealing with it. I am actually not dealing with it and wish that people who I love would understand how I feel.

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Article by Shaye Boddington
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