Reflections. Regrets. Repairs. I’m Ready to Talk About Food
A confession by Annabel Lindsay, Creative Lead at Mindless Mag
CW/TW: This article discusses eating disorders which may be triggering or distressing to some readers.
I'm diving in at the deep end here. No holding back. This is a first confession of a long struggle and uphill battle for a healthy, happy food relationship. For a long time, there was me and my body. ‘Me’ was composed of hope and desires for the future. ‘Me’ was always trying to be better. But ‘me’ only existed in the trying. My body was often in the way.
For myself, it was only when I broke down over the small indulgence of a cookie that I had to accept, food was the enemy, and I had fallen victim to my obsessions. Image obsessed, I was determined and prepared to take drastic measures to transform. However, this was not always the case…
Born into a family of food lovers, as a young girl, I rarely shied away from food. I was the kind of girl who’d visit the food table at a social occasion, for second helpings, before smugly shuffling away with a rewarding taste of satisfaction on my tongue. Moving onwards through the first part of my teenage years I was blissfully immune to body neuroses. But as I entered my mid-teens, I became acutely aware of myself, particularly how I looked.
Somewhere over the summer holiday of my sixteenth birthday, I started using Instagram, the endless self-comparison began and my relationship with food soured. I slashed down my calorie intake to that of a child and became physically unsettled by even the notion of exceeding that limit. It’s safe to say I was no longer eating calories- I was eating numbers.
At this point I had justified several reasons to starve myself, but above all else, I wanted to be skinny. I was hungry for thin and starving for perfection. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before my mental state translated into physical change– although I didn’t see this myself. ‘Hey skinny bitch, where you disappeared to over summer?’, a school friend greeted me with after the summer holidays. My distorted mentality upheld this as compliments to my progress.
Yet the thought of people uncovering the truth genuinely churned my stomach. I was unable to process what had gone wrong. There appeared to be no trigger cause. No excuse. No reason. Just an emptiness I was trying to fill by striving for my unhealthily idea of perfection. Fury and frustration possessed me as I was unable to comprehend how with every pound lost, I hated myself that little bit more. A close friend even said to me: ‘what number will the scale have to read before you’re finally happy?’. I processed that before thinking to myself: how can happiness ever be defined by a number, because that number might never be good enough?
Trapped in this vicious circle, even relationships at home began to breakdown. With persuasion from my family, I finally went to see a doctor, where I was warned, ‘If you lose any more weight, your periods will stop’. By this point, you could see my ribs through any tight-fitting top, my skin was inflamed, dry and flaky, my nails were breaking at the slightest knock. I was eating so little that no amount of sleep could free me from the shackles of exhaustion. I even became too tired to attend my exercise classes (oh the irony). And still… still I wasn’t thin enough.
Despite outpours of concern from every direction, I had never felt more alone. What’s more, I didn’t even feel worthy of help. I didn’t think my situation was bad enough to warrant or deserve help. But with the support of those closest to me and the commencement of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I reluctantly began my road to recovery.
The hardest part of anorexia recovery is that the process itself involves facing head-on into the very fear that perpetuated my bad habits in the first place- the fear of weight gain or being considered overweight. I’m not going to sugar-coat it and say that recovery was easy. It was a process that required me time and time again to face my inner demons. Sometimes I’d win. Sometimes they’d win. But I knew deep down, I couldn’t be defeated because in my current state, I saw no future worth living. I was desperate to break free. To break out of this isolated shell and fly away from my food-controlled mentality.
Over several years, it was a series of fuck-ups followed by asking myself: ‘Do I enjoy thinking about what I eat 24/7? Do I enjoy being hungry all the time? Is this a game I like playing?’. 5 years on since my initial intervention and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my physical and mental health. Occasionally, I’ll stand in front of the mirror, pondering on the ways I wish my body were different. I may never be 100% happy with how I look. But I can finally say that I have found my food freedom.
There are still days I wish I was thinner, but not at the expense of my health. Not at the expense of my happiness. Body image consciousness has been taken to the extreme by the media. Radical diet fads and crazy exercise plans may be someone’s cup of tea but after my past with food, I can honestly say that I am finally accepting the way I look and embracing all of me. Alongside this newfound acceptance I’m also unveiling a newfound confidence and I genuinely like where my relationship with myself is heading.
I think we could all take a more laid-back approach to body image and loosen the reigns on body emphasis. For me, I’m happier now thinking about pizzas, indulging in a chocolate cake, and enjoying exercise as a celebration for my body, rather than a punishment. And my weight? Well, that doesn't matter anymore– my body is no longer in the way.
So, join me on a little toast of acceptance. 'Here's to me! Me in any shape. Me in any size. Me in any form. Me with a salad. Me with a pizza. Me with curves. Or me without. Here's to me and my remarkable body!'
Words: Annabel Lindsay
Image: Courtesy of Pinterest