Isobel’s story

As I was growing up, I paid very little attention to my weight and appearance. Despite the bullying at school, it didn’t bother me in the slightest what others thought of my body figure and it certainly never stopped me enjoying my food. Never in a million years did I think that an eating disorder would become part of my life.

How it started

My journey with bulimia began in 2014, in young adulthood. I couldn’t have been happier at the time because I was finding my identity, taking control of my life and learning new things. I found my passion for walking, nutrition and the gym. Soon enough, with my new hobbies, I started to lose some weight. Everyone noticed and the compliments and congratulations were piling in. I felt so proud, and it was brilliant to be making others happy. I didn’t want to let anyone down, and my diet became stricter and stricter until I was only consuming blueberries, spinach and walnuts. I eventually added a little with more variety such as carrot and tofu, but my diet was still extremely restrictive.

Shortly after moving house in 2016, my exercise regime became an obsession. I would go to the gym twice a day, every morning at 6am for two hours’ cardio, and then an hour of resistance training in the afternoon.  As much as I love fitness, too often my tired body just wanted to do one hour a day or even less. But I had no choice – I was only “allowed” to eat if I’d burnt off the calories.

I started to binge eat and it became worse and worse. I felt shame and guilt when binging but couldn’t stop. A voice in my head kept telling me to eat and eat. I was so scared of any weight gain, leading to more excessive exercise. I began to purchase weight loss pills and laxatives. Taking pills after every meal became a habit and I felt so fat and greedy if I didn’t take them. This pattern continued for almost four years.

My turning point

In 2020 I met a nutritionist, and after a short zoom with her, I felt so understood without being judged. I find her so special because she has lived with bulimia and made a full recovery.

In mid-2020, I started to accept that I didn’t have to over-exercise to be entitled to eat. I was able to cut back to just one hour of exercise a day. My greatest achievement has learning to eat more throughout the day, so I wouldn’t binge at night. Sure enough, it is a big challenge, but I don’t want every evening to be tearful and embarrassing. I’m definitely making progress and learning to listen to my aching muscles more and take a break!

“Eating disorders are life-controlling and extremely mean. But with the right support, recovery can be achieved.”

I’ve tried various therapies and all have been a struggle. I disliked food diaries and meal planning. The embarrassment I felt when I read about my binges, and not being in the mood to eat what was planned made the binging/purging worse.

I recently started with a counsellor from a mental health programme, and she asked me a common question: “why are you binging?” I could immediately answer: “stress, lack of purpose and boredom.” But what is the solution?

So she asked me, “what are your values? Spend 15 minutes thinking about your values and how they make you feel.”

I did the activity, and found it VERY interesting. Simply knowing my values was able to tell me about my identity, what I want to do with my time, and what will give me purpose. Doing so, will clearly make me a happier person, hence reduce the desire to binge.

I still have a long way to go in finding this opportunity to achieve my values regularly, but already keeping busier and doing more of what I enjoy has reduced binging frequency.

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