Anxiety and food (or a lack of)

Happy lady Christmas 2017

I have always been a short but chubby lady. And up until I was 21 – I was so totally happy with that. I literally looked at my body and thought “I bloody love you you sexy Mumma” – cringe – but true.

I wasn’t a size 8 – but I literally wore whatever I wanted to, whether it suited me or not. I liked clothes, therefore I would wear them. I literally had so much fun dressing myself and just being in my own skin.

Life was all about having fun. All I cared about was getting through uni and being a happy bunny. My life consisted of planning outfits to go out, going out, and making sure I had enough money left over to drunkenly order a pizza at 3am.

Of course I wished I could’ve been skinny, and look good in a bikini – but I didn’t have the money to be galavanting about the place on holiday so it literally didn’t matter. People have to wear clothes, I wear funky clothes from the charity shop, I look good.

I’ve never been someone to go out looking for male attention, and the opposite sex is utterly feared and avoided on a night out. I dressed up good for me. Sure, I was a tinder queen – but I sure as hell wasn’t worrying if my matches cared that I wore a size 12 jean.

Then I hit 21.

The happy go lucky life style that came with uni had gone. It was time for my life to begin for real. I got myself a job, and this meant I could now afford a holiday! But shit – that also meant needing to get into a bikini.

Obviously, after spending my whole life living off EMA and student loans, the whole monthly wage thing was absolutely rad. Now I could have proper direct debits. Like, I could actually afford to do shit other than pay for my phone, pay for Alfalfa’s pet insurance and drink cider and black at a grotty pub. Hello gym membership! £31 a month – I’m ballin!

Now whilst looking back, it’s easier for me to see how I’ve always had anxiety. I literally didn’t fear the gym so thought I was totes fine. Anxiety is only socially isn’t it? I’m just me doing some exercise. I got my headphones in, I’m doing my thing to some music – all is great! Never did I realise that the “healthier” I came, the more unhealthy my mind would become.

I’d suddenly realised that I could actually control my life. I’d got myself a job and was doing great – but to be honest – the pressures of working in education SUCK. What better way of burning off that adrenaline and stress than hitting the cross trainer?

The more I saw results of my working out, the more I had this desire to push on further. Finally, I had pure and utter control. So much of life that I’d repressed had been totally and utterly effed up, and I’d always had to dust myself off and carry on going. Going to the gym was never going to mess me about. It was always going to be there. And it would do exactly what I wanted.

Obviously, the more weight you lose, the more compliments you gain. “Oh you look amaaaazing”. As far as I was aware, my council house lifestyle had never been the envy of anyone. All of my friends growing up had money. Now I’m older, I realise money doesn’t buy happiness, but back then I literally had never been the kind of person anyone wanted to be/was interested in. This new found attention made me want to push on – but it also gave me this fear that I had so much to lose. Everyone would notice if I gained a pound and I’d be branded a failure.

I began cutting out anything fun (or full of energy). I was vegetarian. So this meant I lived on salad and salad alone. Bread was off limits. Pasta and rice. Chocolate. Biscuits. Fuck it – even falafel became unhealthy and something to avoid. As my waist shrunk, so did my “allowed” list of foods. I think a cup of warm soup was the only highlight my tummy enjoyed.

Whilst it might not have been healthy. It bloody worked. And it reinforced this sense of control. And ultimately – played into the feeling that you don’t deserve to enjoy life or happiness until you are perfect.

I encountered so many experiences that should’ve opened my eyes sooner. I blacked out at the gym. I blacked out at work. I blacked out getting out of bed. But those instagram likes just kept rolling in!

I stopped going out for dinner. The idea of dinner just set me on edge. I would have to check the restaurant menu weeks in advance, and would check it every hour up until D-day, just to make sure there was something low calorie I could eat. I used to be the girl that loved dressing up and ordering a chocolate fudge cake for desert. Now I was empty, shaking, and terrified of life itself.

Whilst I may have finally got some cracking bikini photos when I went on the holiday I was working towards. I didn’t enjoy being in my body at all. I would wake up, desperately need to have my photo taken just so I could prove to myself that I was slim. I’d spend all day by the pool looking at it and scrutinising everything I saw. Whilst I had the holiday of my life (thanks Rosie) I didn’t allow myself to enjoy something I deserved. I still thought I didn’t deserve life just yet.

After the holiday is where I went in to total melt down mode. I no longer had a goal. There was no holiday to countdown to and I just felt like I was in no mans land. It’s easier to lose weight than to gain it, and my need for control meant I was going to continue doing what was more achievable. I was deaf to the comments that what I was doing was wrong. I just had to keep going. Who was I if I wasn’t the girl that lost weight?

As you can imagine, by this point, I was bloody knackered. No longer could I do anything strenuous at the gym. So I did what any irrational mind would do, and turned to counting my steps. Now, I wasn’t going to buy a fit bit (I was still paying for the gym despite not going) so I had to rely on my phone. I decided I’d walk 10k steps each day, and that that would mean I’d continue to be “healthy”. I didn’t factor in that this meant you had to carry your phone everywhere you go.

Now, I’ve always enjoyed dressing up. I love weird and funky clothes. I like showing off my creativity and personality through the fabric I wrap around my body. I don’t own a lot of clothes with pockets… so the phone situation was causing to be a real bugger.

I stopped wearing anything remotely nice and stuck to wearing leggings. Now, leggings don’t have pockets, but you can tuck your phone down the side and the stepper still works. I’d lay out the nicest clothes to wear to work the next day, but would always freak out at the last minute and change into anything that would hide my phone. Conceal the secret I was needing to control.

One day, my mum found me pacing round the living room and realised I had to do something. That’s where the drs came in to play!

Now I didn’t end up needing therapy for my eating habits or my distorted thinking. With the love of an amazing husband (who lives off crap food) and supportive friends and family, I learnt to love life. I learnt to allow myself the enjoyment of food. Life became better and brighter bit by bit!

Sadly, I feel my trouble with eating was just a symptom of my anxiety. Once I solved the eating, my anxiety latched on to other areas of my life. But that’s a different story.

Now, I wouldn’t say I totally love my body now – but I’m getting there! I’ve realised that there’s so much more to life than seeing your bones stick out when you breathe in – and the number on the scales does not determine how happy I’m allowed to be for that day.

Self love and body positivity can be so hard to achieve, and something people really have to work hard on. But I for one, think it’s worth it.

I hope you love who you are – you’re all beautiful.

Peace out.

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