I remember very distinctly the first time I looked in the mirror and thought to myself that something was wrong.
It was like I’d gone my teenage years oblivious and care free never feeling the need to worry about my hair or body to suddenly picking myself apart overnight.
I had a great group of girlfriends, we all supported each other and had fun. No one was superficial times were different then. I was a great student and excelled at sports and athletics. I didn’t think I was fat I don’t think I ever thought I was fat. But for some reason, that only came to light much later, I set upon a hidden self-destructive path of starvation and purging.
It was one of those days, I had spent the day studying and preparing for a year 12 English SAC.
My brain was fried but I needed it to be perfect, it was my favourite teacher and subject and I knew the other girls where going to bring their A games. Year 12 English was a big deal. Being a teenage girl was a big deal. I needed to be smart, cute, funny and talented at something.
It was dinner time in our house, I sat down, looked at my plate and felt repulsed. I had no appetite, id eaten a piece of toast and a box of sultanas when I felt dizzy, and that was it for the day.
I picked at my plate while my step dad had a dig at me for being so wasteful. I forced it down.
30 mins later…. I made myself sick and it all came up.
This was a pattern that would continue. It was sporadic, there was no method or thing that set me off. I could eat like a normal teenager for a week, then have a few days where I was completely out of control, binging, purging or just not eating at all. I liked feeling dizzy, it was a control thing, it meant I was in control, my pants were loose which meant it was working.
There was a point where I had a boyfriend and I completely stopped for months. But I again fell back into the trap.
It was into my second year out of high school when I reached out for help. I was working in a pharmacy, living on one meal per day and generally not coping emotionally. I remember talking to my house mate and best friend at the time and she was trying her best to support me but it was too much for an 18yo to deal with. We went to my manager and she suggested I go see my GP straight away.
This was my turning point and I will forever be grateful for their support.
I went to my GP. I’d been seeing her since I was 15 and she knew me well. She referred me straight to a councillor who specialised in eating disorders. I remember feeling hope that someone was going to tell me what to do and hopeful that I’d be ‘normal’ again.
Well, wasn’t I disappointed? The hour appointment went by and all we spoke about was my family tree, and history and I left feeling like I was never going on have a handle on this.
I was 163cm and weighed 48kgs. I just looked obviously unhealthy and I’m sure my unhealthy obsession with skinny eyebrows didn’t help lol!
I decided I needed to try understand this beast myself and immersed my self in books and anything I could to find information.
I was quite shocked to discover all the health implications and things going on under the surface. Let alone the long-term issues from eating disorders. I also discovered that trauma can have an impact on an eating disorders beginning when their seems like nothing was wrong.
This was the part where I realised, I was the ONLY one who could fix this. I didn’t want to have long term damage. It was a slow process. The binging and starving and purging took around 6-9 months to stop. They became further and further apart until one day I remember going to the bathroom and thinking to myself “what the f*#k are you doing Nicole?” and that was that.
I wish I could say the emotional side was as simple. The more I investigated it the more I realised I had actually had these unhealthy thoughts for a long time, I just was not aware how long it would go on for. I battled with my mind a lot. Especially that first couple of years of recovery! The constant worry about if food was making me gain too much weight. I over compensated by walking EVERYWHERE. Id go for hours to burn off the calories (another eyeroll)! I just wish I could go back in time and direct myself to where I needed to go quicker!!!
I was eating but I wasn’t really fuelling myself properly nor did I know how to!
This is where my personal training history began! I discovered resistance training!! I enjoyed it so much I decided I wanted to learn more!! So I enrolled to study! This was effectively the best thing I did back then, 2007 I became a personal trainer!!!
I still had a lot to learn but I got the idea that food was not the enemy. FINALLY!! I could eat a lot of good food, exercise (NOT obsessively) and feel amazing inside and outside!!! I learnt how to nourish myself and started taking Glutamine to help repair my gut health and improve my recovery and protein powder as i wasnt getting enough.
12 years later, I’m now 33. I’ve got three children, I’m divorced and have what I would call some decent life experience. I’ve felt it all emotionally, I’ve learnt a lot. And one thing I can say is that emotional stress or traumatic experiences is what triggers this thought pattern in my brain. It’s a form of controlling my life when everything else falls apart around me! If only I knew at 17 that it would all be ok!!
I am so grateful for this journey. It brought be to where I am. I am fortunate I recovered and I have no long term issues. There are many people out there who never break free. It tortures their minds and often takes their lives.
Some Facts for you;
- The number of people in Australia with an eating disorder at any given time is estimated to be 913,986, or approximately 4% of the population (Butterfly Foundation, 2012).
- Of these people, 47% have binge eating disorder, 12% bulimia nervosa, 3% anorexia nervosa and 38% other eating disorders (Butterfly Foundation, 2012).
- Females comprise around 64% of people with an eating disorder (Butterfly Foundation, 2012).
- In comparison to the general population, mortality rates are almost twice as high for people with eating disorders; this rises to 5.86 times higher for people with anorexia (Arcelus et al., 2011).
- Suicide has been identified as a major cause of death for people with an eating disorder (Pompili et al., 2006).
- Between 1995 and 2005 a South Australian study showed the prevalence of disordered eating behaviours doubled among both males and females aged 15 and older (Hay et al., 2008).
- The prevalence of eating disorders is increasing amongst boys and men (NEDC, 2012a).
- Approximately 15% of women will experience an eating disorder at some point during their life (Wade, 2006).
- An estimated 20% of females have an undiagnosed eating disorder (NEDC, 2012b).
- Eating disorders are the 3rd most common chronic illness in young women (Yeo & Hughes, 2011).
If yourself or someone you know need advice, help or just for someone to listen the below website offer a range of information and helplines!!
Remember you are loved, i know it's difficult but i am proud of you so don't give up!!
Lots of Love xx