When I first lost weight due to Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and my stomach problems, I was strangely ‘proud’ of it, due to our strange society priorities where weight loss is apparently a constant goal. After years of a downwards and extremely dangerous spiral that almost cost me my life, I was forced into recovery. I was discharged incredibly quickly just before my 18th birthday as my mental health nurses didn’t want me to come under the Adult Services. This came at a cost though and, in some ways, was quite unethical. Although I had physically recovered, I hadn’t mentally recovered. I was rushed into recovery and wasn’t given the proper tools to cope in the long term. This led to me to continue with my unhealthy relationship with food – and exercise – until I had surgery.
I knew I didn’t want to go back to how I was – isolation, destroying relationships, missing out of everything and, generally, not having a fulfilling life. But I was terrified of being free, I suppose. I was terrified of letting go of my eating disorder. It was a twisted comfort in my ear. So it evolved into orthorexia; an unhealthy obsession with eating “pure” and “healthy” food and exercise. I still controlled what I ate and how much I exercised. I had ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. I ended up being obsessed with eating only ‘healthy’ things, eating my five-a-day (at least), walking at least 10,000 steps a day + running. It wasn’t about counting calories or losing weight anymore. It was about maintaining the weight I’d lost and not getting bigger – at any cost. I appeared to be ‘so healthy’ and ‘so disciplined’. People were even impressed by my efforts: “I wish I could be as healthy as you, Charlotte”, “I wish I had the amount of motivation you do”… little did they know. It looked like I was being healthy but, in reality, I was far from it. I did lose more weight, just more gradually. Orthorexia isn’t even currently recognised in a clinical setting as a separate eating disorder, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t dangerous – because it is.
Only now, by embracing every kind of food, not forcing myself to exercise if I don’t actually want to and not overthinking what I’m doing all the time, am I truly happy and free. I now eat what I actually want to eat and I exercise when I want to, to make my body strong – not to burn calories (I’m still trying to gain back the muscle I lost due to anorexia). It’s taken years and years of work but I got there; and I know you can too, if you’re relating to any of this.
*If you or someone you know is struggling with this or any kind of eating disorder, there is so much help and support available. Beat (click here) , the UK’s eating disorder charity, has a lot of resources and information – as well as lots of support in a variety of forms – that can really help you and your loved ones. Take care of yourself. There is hope. Recovery is possible, I promise.