Eating disorders aren’t always obvious: my experiences 

*Trigger warning: eating disorders, disordered eating and vomit* 

I think this post has come at a convenient time as we’ve just seen the release of the Netflix original movie, “To The Bone”, this month – a film, based on true events, about a girl with anorexia and her journey to recovery. Which I actually enjoyed – though it’s definitely not without it’s faults but I think they did a great job on a whole. But anyway, I’m not here to discuss the movie (if you do want to discuss the movie, please leave a comment as I’d love to hear what you thought!), I’m here to lay myself bare and talk about my disordered eating throughout my life. 

It’s not an embarrassing topic and along with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, it’s something we should be talking about more. Because eating disorders are just that, a mental health condition. They’re not shameful and anyone who has been through an eating disorder will know how incredibly difficult it is. Today I want to look back into my different types of disordered eating throughout my life and show that not all eating disorders come in the form of anorexia or bulimia. They’re not all “obvious” and it’s important to remember that.

Attachment: When I was young, like Primary school age, I was super attached to my mum. I hated being without her and I hated it when she went out without me. My first bout of disordered eating came when I was abot 8/9 when my best friend at the time invited me to spend the day at her grandmothers charity shop. It was only around the corner and it would have only been for a couple of hours. I worked myself up so much and got so worried (because I wouldn’t be with my mum) that I stopped eating.

Aftermath: I didn’t end up going but by then, my disordered eating / anorexia had firmly settled in. I felt better mentally, my mum told me if I didn’t want to go I didn’t have to and that’s fine. But I had gotten so used to not eating, I physically couldn’t anymore. I didn’t want to eat and everything I did, I involuntarily threw back up and I specifically remember my Nan telling me one day I was going to wake up and be a bag of bones.

Recovery: I was forced to go to the doctors and I was told to make a food diary. The only thing I could bare eating was turkey dinosaurs and potato smiles. So that’s all I ate. But I kept it down and filled in my diary. Over time, my eating got back to normal. I had another bout of the exact same hung a few years later but I can’t remember what caused that one.

Boys: Fast forward a good few years to my teens. I started getting boyfriends – obviously not serious ones but still boyfriend’s nonetheless. And I found suddenly, I couldn’t eat in front of them. Not because I was worried about looking greedy or anything like that – I was pretty confident in myself – I physically couldn’t eat in front of them. I would have to force food into my mouth, try and battle away the nausea and then throw it back up after dinner. Involuntarily. It was like my body was rejecting food every time I was with a boyfriend. It wasn’t any one specific person either, it was more or less all of them.

Looking back: My last 3 relationships (my current one and my previous 2) I haven’t had this problem with, thankfully. This mostly occurred between 13 and 16. I don’t know what changed, a switch got flicked and that part of my psyche turned off. But I’m always baffled looking back at that part of my life because still to this day, I don’t know what was wrong with me.

Self esteem issues: When I hit 17 / 18, I started going to the gym and watching what I ate. I was very active, I did a lot of P.E, I was always out and about and I went to the gym multiple times a week. When it came to the time when myself, my boyfriend at the time and a few friends booked a holiday abroad, I went into complete overdrive. I would often go to the gym twice a day and limit myself, some days, to 800 calories a day. I was so bored of lettuce but I was doing all of this because I wanted to look the best in a bikini. I got it in my head and it wouldn’t go. Looking back, I had a great figure. I would kill to have that figure now. But what I saw with my own eyes didn’t match up to what I actually looked like and it was getting borderline dangerous. I hate myself for doing that.

Anxious eating: My whole life I’ve never been able to eat when I’m nervous. And since being diagnosed with anxiety, that’s got a hella lot harder. When the simplest things trigger huge bouts of nerves, it’s hard to function. I feel sick, the thought of food makes me want to throw up but at the same time, not eating makes me more anxious. So I find myself swallowing my food down with water because I physically can’t chew it.

People and food can have complicated relationships. If you don’t and never have done, please, count yourself lucky. But if you have, please know that it’s okay and not embarrassing. Anorexia and bulimia are heart breaking and it’s good that they’re being talked about more now (although still not enough), but disordered eating goes much further that just those two titles. No eating disorder is better than the other. It’s not a competition. But there are so many strands of disordered eating, it would be impossible to count. I feel incredibly vulnerable talking about this but I hope you’ve gained something from this post. If you think you’re suffering from an eating disorder, please go to your GP. If you can’t, call a helpline or see a therapist. But please seek help because there is help available. Similarly, I’m obviously not a professional but I’m always around as an ear to listen if you ever need to talk.

Peace out ✌🏻 

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36 thoughts on “Eating disorders aren’t always obvious: my experiences 

  1. So brave to talk about something so personal! I have suffered in very similar ways as you have, it definitely needs to be talked about more! Recovery is difficult but it is possible! Xx

  2. This is such a bloody brave post- I’ve been trying to write and post my own about my experience with anorexia and bullimia for a while but so far I haven’t been able to do it.
    I agree so much about there being more to eating disorders than just anorexia and bulimia. There is actually a medical term- Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified- but it’s still very constrained by specific ‘rules’ about what the patient should be. I think this really stops people getting help, which is hard because even when you’re not necessarily meeting the ‘requirements’ for something like anorexia, you can still be very depressed and/or damaging your body.
    Sorry to ramble, I honestly could talk about this subject all day! I wish so much that we had moved on more as a society with our relationship with food and our body image, it completely infuriates me.
    P.S- I wasn’t keen on the film, but I think more because I was cringing at the memories it brought back. It wasn’t *so* bad when you think about how bad the reviews said it was!

    • Yeah I agree, I hate every has to fit into some kind of box in order to be diagnosed. I think it was incredibly accurate in terms of what the characters were doing but can see why it would make someone who’s been through it cringe but they did have the trigger warning at the beginning which I really liked.

  3. Thankyou for sharing this Jenny, it’s so personal. I can totally understand this, I’ve always had really bad relationship with food/ self esteem/ boys and body dismorphia.

    Kayleigh Zara 🌿www.kayleighzaraa.com

  4. So brave of you to talk about this. I’ve always had a complicated relationship with anorexia and body dysmorphia, and whilst I’m much better now, obviously it never completely leaves.
    On another note, I agree with you that while there were some issues with how To The Bone was done, I think they actually handled it very well. After 13 Reasons Why I was very scared of being triggered again but I found To The Bone was pretty well handled. I personally think they should have let lily collins stay at her usual (very slim) physique because it shows that someone doesn’t have to be stick thin to have an eating disorder – but that was one of the only major issues I had with it. x

    • I see what you mean but for her personally, she was stick thin and she didn’t eat which caused that. There were others in the house which weren’t stick thin which is where the diversity lies I think. I think for her character and being so thin, it was the shock value. Plus, it was based on a true story and that’s what may have happened so they would have wanted it as accurate as possible I guess. I’m glad they put the trigger warning right at the beginning; not for me but for other people. I personally LOVED 13 Reasons!

      • I can understand that side of the argument, I guess thats what some people are arguing is unsafe though. My main issue with 13 Reasons was showing the suicide, I think it was a very dangerous idea.

  5. Well done you for writing this post, and for showing another side to eating disorders that isn’t the romanticised Cassie from Skins version. Relationships with food certainly can be tricky.

    I haven’t seen To The Bone yet – I’m still feeling a bit fragile after 13 Reasons Why, which did trigger me quite a bit. I’d be interested to maybe read about your thoughts on TTB at some point!

    Alice x | http://www.invocati.co.uk

    • A lot of people are comparing TTB to 13RW and they’re honestly so different. I personally loved 13 Reasons. But I think To The Bone was much less “dramatised” and much less produced for entertainment value but for actual education and showing a very real side to ED’s. Of course it’s not without its flaws though!

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I truly enjoyed reading your first-hand account of your disordered eating issues. It’s imperative that people like you create this conversation cause you could easily reach someone who’s going through their own battle right now. I wanted to analyze what you said, but I have 1 constructive comment: please don’t hate yourself for where you’ve been. I’ve self harmed and drunk myself into stupors and hurt people I love, and I used to hate myself and that would make it worse. I hope you can find peace with what you’ve gone through and not hold any malice towards yourself because you were only doing it to survive. You found an unhealthy way of coping but now look how much better you are! Never hate yourself ❤

    • Thanks so much for a lovely comment! I don’t “hate” myself as such, for the majority of it, it was just my phase of 800 calories a day I look back and am really ashamed of myself for. But you’re right, we can’t change what happened so onwards and upwards (: xx

  7. I love how you aren’t afraid to make awareness of these issues. My mother was bulimic and deflected her body dysmorphia on to me. At the age of 10 she had me on diets and training, I have a 9 yr old and wouldn’t put her on a diet. I was really skinny but Mum couldn’t see it due to her own issues. It got to the point that I was addicted to exercise and if I had a binge sesh (which in my mind was every meal I ate) I would take laxitives. This continued well into my 20s and suddenly I realised I had an eating disorder, I always thought bulimia was solely vomiting I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that taking laxatives when I ate was exactly the same thing. I was on about 700 cals a day and my body went into starvation mode and I took very ill, ended up with a virus that lasted over 6 months. I had full blown laryngitis as a result and if I tried to raise my voice, for folk to understand me, I would have passed out. I couldn’t walk more than a couple of steps and my mouth was covered in cold sores. My immune system was completely effed.
    I now don’t have the best relationship with food but I no longer punish myself for over eating, other than telling myself I shouldn’t have done it.

    • Goodness me that’s awful Lisa, I’m so sorry to hear you had to go through that and at no fault of you own. I think you have such a healthy approach to dealing with difficult issues and your own children. You should be incredibly proud of that and I hope you’re doing much better xx

      • I felt so sorry for my poor mum, she could only see fat on everyone and she was positive that when she was 16 she was so fat that she smelt. I remember showing her a school picture of herself about that age and she started crying and no matter how much I tried to tell her how skinny she was she couldn’t see it. She was raped and got pregnant though and I think that is what triggered it with her. It was very sad that she had to live like that. I am very fortunate that I had my husband to help me but she had no one, I don’t believe my grandparents realised what was going on with her health. Bless her, she didn’t have the easiest of a life.
        Thanks hun xx

  8. I came across your post as I was doing research for my own blog post. I recently watched To the Bone a day or two ago and kinda loved it. I have depression and I feel like there are definitely some similarities. I was trying to write a post about how the two are similar but never having had disordered eating or an eating disorder I feel like I’m treading potentially dangerous ground. Any advice when it comes to writing on this topic if you don’t have personal experience? Should I even consider posting this or would it be too offensive/insensetive to those who HAVE had those personal experiences? Any advice you could give me would be very helpful.

    • Hmmm it’s a tricky question. Personally, I wouldn’t write something I didn’t have experience of or compare something I DID have experience of to something I sensitive, which I didn’t (like an ED in your case). It obviously very much depends on how the post comes across; as long as it’s sensitive, has trigger warnings and so on then it could work. I don’t really have an answer for you I’m afraid!

  9. Also absent my long rambling reply. This post is brave, inspiring and awesome. We need more people to post about stuff like this so our society stops considering such stuff so taboo and starts seeing people as normal not as weird or crazy or hey we’ll treat you and you’ll be better/cured now right?

  10. Thank you for sharing your piece in eating disorder recovery. I started my blog (myboldspirit.com) as an outlet to write and get my artist part up and running. It is a joy to create. I noticed this post while searching ED yet I notice your blog covers travels and other subjects. How have you determined your niche to gain an audience?

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