SOCIETIES NORMS / EATING DISORDERS BY AMANDA ALTHAM-MOSS
Year 7 was when I specifically remember first being more aware of the way I looked. Before this I was so carefree and didn't even think twice about my weight, my body or my facial features. Looking back, I know this was probably puberty, but I feel at that time I didn't have enough knowledge about this and the way it can make you feel etc. I was in the girl’s bathroom at school and looked in the mirror and noticed the dark circles under my eyes, my massive brows, my middle parting and low pony tail and then I started noticing my body and changes such as stretch marks and cellulite. I had 0 confidence and of course this is the time you start to have relationships. In year 8 I got into a relationship with someone and at that age maturity levels are low and unfortunately, I faced a lot of criticism about my weight. I was always more curvy and had a bigger bum and thighs and I was taught to hate that. I was taught to compare myself to others and that the ideal body was a thin one and if you didn't fit that category then you needed to take drastic measures to fit in!
I would do things such as eat 1 can of beans in a day, I'd try and get the biscuits out the house and would bike all the way to see Charlie to give them to her. I remember once sitting in my bedroom and placing a cookie on my bed and just looking at it and then I crumbled it up and threw it in the bin. In years 9-10 I went through a bit of a bad faze with people at school and I got a bit of hate. I would be called a whale etc, it was all aimed at my physical appearance so my confidence yet again was 0. I remember once I put my hair in a high ponytail and felt so unconfident and vulnerable because I felt everyone would comment and I remember being told a girl had said "her pony tails is too high". Another time I got a fringe cut in and some blonde highlights and someone commented about my highlights being ginger (I don't understand why that's a bad thing but hey!) And that the cut didn't suit me. I remember a time I put flicks at the side of my eyes with eyeliner and got so much hate for doing so, a couple of girls in my class at that time made me feel so unease and embarrassed by making comments. I also wouldn’t get changed in the changing rooms for P.E, I would go into the bathroom because I felt so self-conscious. There have been so many of these little times and I'm sure many can relate especially from school but those little comments stay with people forever. They are pivotal moments that shape a person and their lives. I can't remember how old I was but there was also a time I was sat in my house and my sister went outside to speak to a friend and I had an anxiety attack. I started crying and couldn't stop moving and had to go outside and stand with them to feel at ease. It was around year 11 that I started binge eating, I felt awful all the time and turned to food as my comfort. Of course, this was detrimental as I gained a lot of weight in a short period of time and yet again my confident was 0. I then left school at 18 and didn't have a job or drive, I had no goals or aspirations and felt so lost. The binge eating got worse as I just sat in the house eating all day. I had enough and due to lack of knowledge and guidance I then started weight watchers and restricted myself on that, I'd exercise every single day and lost I would say too much weight. I got to a point where I couldn't cope anymore, my periods had stopped and I felt so lethargic every day. So I started binging again and this cycle of self-hate and loathing has gone on for 10 years.
I tried every diet under the sun. I was a tired, moody, irritable and to be honest not very nice person. Poor Charlie took the brunt of it because I was a monster at times. Why she stuck by me I'll never know because I am not an easy person to be with sometimes. I had to have counselling where I was given the diagnosis of binge eating disorder. I struggled to hold jobs down because when I relapsed I wouldn’t be able to function or cope. Twice in my life I have seen no way out and didn't want to be here anymore and writing this now it makes me cry because I never thought I'd ever feel that low, but I just didn't see me escaping this. I was putting my body and mind through trauma and torture and all I wanted was to sleep and to stop thinking. I found it hard to make/keep positive relationships with friends because I had no confidence or belief in myself and would question everything. How could they like me if I don't even like me? I remember being sat training for a job and I was trying my new idea of not eating snacks between meals, so I was probably eating 900calories a day, if that. I felt faint, tired, my vision was blurry, my hearing went fuzzy, and I just couldn't function. I was too tired to talk and I just knew I could not go on like that for much longer so that lead to a binge. Restrictions through dieting and over exercising, having poor mental health, having no functional relationships, 0 confidence or motivation all lead to me becoming a person I hated. I would miss social events so I didn't have to eat/drink things I didn't want to, I obsessed about counting calories but the calories were set at a ridiculous target, I would get so angry if Charlie hadn't weighed out food for a meal she had cooked, I couldn't do anything spontaneous because it gave me anxiety, I was obsessed about how much I weighed and if I gained weight I'd binge (I know counterproductive!), I had an all or nothing mentality with everything which would cause very weird behaviour, I just couldn't control it. Everything effected the next thing; my whole life was consumed all because I had poor body image and so had poor behaviours with regards to nourishments etc which went round in a circle for years. At points I felt I finally had cracked it but soon I would relapse and have to start again.
In school we are not taught the basics. We all react differently; we all have different experiences. I think both parents and schools should be more proactive in educating children on LIFE. Letting them know they are there to listen and educate them on puberty and how it can affect you. We had sex education which teaches you all the physical but what about the mental impact? Becoming more aware of your body and what about the social influence, the bombardment of all these so-called perfect celebrities/models. Why aren't we told it's all airbrushed and it's not physically possible to have unmarked/unblemished/untextured skin and that beauty is unique to all of us, I love the saying about the sunset and a flower both being completely different but both beautiful.
So here we are March 2021, I was 11 years old in year 7 and am now 28 - 17 years all in all it has taken me to get here. I now exercise because I absolutely love it, I love feeling strong and energised. I love hitting PBS and working on my balance and flexibility. I couldn't care less about how much I weigh or having stretch marks and cellulite. I care about physical performance and having a hobby I enjoy! My mental health has improved dramatically, I have a passion and goals and feel incredibly proactive and productive. With regards to nutrition, I see food as fuel, to give me energy when exercising. To be enjoyed socially with friends and family and to be able to take part and be present in special moments. It also gives me energy to actually talk to people and take genuine interest and be the quirky crazy me who doesn't shut up. I don't think about food anymore unless I'm hungry because I'm eating ENOUGH and eating all the foods I love, no rules, no restrictions, no plans, no points, no syns.
So when people don't understand why I'm so anti-diet I hope you get it now. Not everyone has a negative journey like I have and my opinion is, if it works for you then I'm here for that but just be aware of what can happen and how it can affect you in the long run. If a diet is making you say stuff like 'cheat meal', 'cheat day', 'let me take the bread out my roll so I can have two option B's', 'I just need to do a wee/poo so I don't weigh as much', 'I'm not eating much today because it's weigh day', 'oh going to try a new diet today because the other one didn't work', 'I'm so hungry but I'm not eating a lot today because I’m going out for a meal later', 'I can't eat that because I can't track it', 'let's go for a meal at a generic chain restaurant so I can track it', 'I can’t eat a certain food group because it'll make me gain weight' - just think... Is a diet honestly working? You do not have to go on a diet to lose weight, you don't even have to lose weight. Question yourself, why is it that you want to lose weight? If it is genuinely for yourself to improve your health or to feel more comfortable then that's fine and you can lose BODY FAT by being in a small calorie deficit, you don't want to lose 4+lbs a week! You want to be eating as much as you can whilst losing no more than 0.5-1lb a week. This takes time though; it takes time working with a professional to help you find your individual calorific need. It takes hard work and dedication but there is a better way to improve your health and overall physical appearance than going on a diet.
Stop body shaming yourself because you never know whose listening. Stop making comments and sharing quotes about how you need to lose weight before you go on holiday or that in lockdown you’ve gained loads of weight because you thought you wouldn't be out in the summer, stop body shaming others for being overweight when you don't know their story. We all need to come together in this movement, highlighting that all bodies are acceptable and perfect in their own way. Follow body positive influencers, surround yourself with likeminded and supportive people. Do your research online and read books. I had to do all of this and it takes time, but I have finally got there and so can you.
If withholding your comment could save a life - would you still comment? I would take a guess that would be a no.