There's a part of my life that I never really speak about but am now ready to share and talk about, is the fact that I struggled with an eating disorder for 3 years during my time at University and subsequent issues with disordered eating.
The disordered eating and terrible relationship I had with my own body permeated all aspects of my life. It started to affect my social life as I would try and plan my week around food and didn't want the temptation of overeating, it affected relationships I had with my girlfriends, especially those who were naturally slim and who could eat anything they wanted. It affected my approach to exercise, I would exercise when I was exhausted and ill to burn off calories, rather than for the enjoyment of moving my body.
For some of my closest friends and family, this may come as a shock, especially as usually I'm pretty upbeat and in good spirits. It's taken me so long to muster up the courage to speak about this openly, fear of being judged and also ashamed, for me an eating disorder felt indulgent and wasteful. So you can imagine it got quite lonely holding onto such a big secret. I've been sitting on this blog post for a while and kept putting off sharing it until I didn't want it hanging over me any longer. It was always easier to talk to strangers about my eating disorder than friends, and so much time passed there was never a time I felt I could bring it up.
After not speaking about it for several years it felt like time to share it with everyone else. After all, it has had a huge impact on the person I am today and was a big part of my life. Keeping it hidden felt like I always created barriers with people, like I never let them know the whole me even if I told them most things going on in my life.
So now that I've left all that behind me and have a much better relationship with food and my body, I want to share because it feels like I'm shedding a layer and really moving on from that time of my life.
I don't remember the first time I made myself sick after I had eaten. But for 3 years on and off I was in the vicious cycle of dieting, bingeing making myself sick and repeat. I would choose foods I knew would come up the best like ice cream and always feeling so awful after.
It made going back home difficult for me, as an Asian family, our connection was based around food and at meal times, they'd always be so much food and so I'd end up eating until I was so so full. There would always be plentiful snacks and ice cream in our house as well and when you deprive yourself of foods, you often get cravings which leads to bingeing.
This cycle continued until my final year of university. I had an Easter Ball and was so worried about fitting into my dress for that whole week I was super strict with my diet and deprived myself of all the food I really wanted. The day before it I remember walking home from university to my flat in Kings Cross and buying all the food I really wanted, specifically a toastie, a huge bag of crisps, some chocolate and granola. I ate it all. Then the panic set in and I started trying to make myself sick, panicking again because not everything was coming back up. The next day I woke up and burst the blood vessels in my eye. I had to lie to everyone, even my best friends and family, that it popped because I had sneezed so hard.
That was the turning point for me, the clear message that enough was enough. I was truly damaging my body and after that I never made myself sick again.
So while this was a huge step forward, my relationship with food was still as bad as ever. I was still bingeing and feeling guilty about what I ate and dieting. It was all unsustainable.
During that time last year, I met my friend on a surf trip in Morocco and one a beach walk we started talking about our experiences with our bodies and food. I hadn't known her for long but I think she was the first person I had spoken openly about my eating disorder with.
Soon after that I started seeing a Counsellor to help me find freedom with myself as I was sick of the constant dieting and bingeing cycle. I was tired of feeling shit about my body, worrying about how many calories I was eating, looking at myself in the mirror and pinching the fat on my body. Enough was Enough. Especially as a yoga teacher, I needed to practice what I preached. I couldn't share authentically with my students about self love and acceptance if I wasn't there myself.
I've learnt a lot since then and a lot has started to shift in my life since doing this work. I learnt that I was looking to food for comfort and connection. I used food to numb my feelings so I would feel full rather than feel my emotions. Food was a friend, a companion at times when I was lonely. I didn't realise that the thoughts I had about my body and my relationship with food were not 'normal'. I was so used to talking to myself so harshly and it became the norm and I became desensitised to it.
I still get moments of complete insecurity, I still compare myself to others and occasionally wish I could have someone else's body. But now I catch myself. If I'm on Instagram and start to feel bad about my body, I quickly put my phone down. If I'm with my friends and start comparing myself unfavorably to them, I literally say in my head 'STOP, Enough.'
I've been able to cultivate better relationships with girlfriends without any competition or jealousy about how they look and also better friendships too just because I'm becoming more open and finding it easier to express what I'm feeling.
I think that this is a really widespread issue. I'm no expert I don't know how to solve it for everyone, eating disorders are so complex and individual. But what I do know is that I want to be there to support other people and just chat. I hope I can help even even one or two people. So if you're ever feeling down or want to share something, I'm a good listener. Sometimes it just feels good just to get stuff off your chest. No judgments.
So if you've managed to get to the end of this rambling post, it's been cathartic and thank you for reading. I feel lighter knowing that you know me more.