Susie, aka Gourmet Glow, is a writer for Healthy Living London who has decided that it was time to take the brave step to give you an insight into anorexia, the eating disorder she’s battled for many years, and is still battling. Here, she outlines what caused it for her, what is helping her recover and her advice on how to help others also suffering.
First, this is a big thing for me. For 14 years I’ve buried myself under the guise of being like everyone else my age, eating, drinking, having a laugh. Yes, those close to me are well aware that this is all a facade, but somehow, sometimes, I can even lure myself into believing it’s truth. The reality is, for these 14 years I’ve battled an eating disorder. Battle is not a word I use lightly, literally every waking (and sleeping) moment is a fight. A fight to maintain the correct balance between good and bad. I can only talk for myself, one misconception I’d like to correct straightaway is that this isn’t an umbrella illness, no two cases are the same. You cannot apply one rational to someone suffering with an ED and presume that it will help others, it’s one of the most personal diseases I’ve come across, and yes it is a disease and yes, it is a huge killer.
But the aim of this particular article is not to give you an in depth insight into the realms of EDs, but more to share my experience how my relationship with food has actually helped me overcome huge hurdles. Ironic? Not really, this is where the general public has really no idea about EDs. Generally, and I mean, generally, it never starts with just weight and food. Most people with eating disorders actually LOVE food. It’s more about a deeper sense of insecurity. For me I lost all sense of control in my life, I was miserable and felt trapped. When you lose control of everything, what better to control than something that you love? Deny yourself simple pleasures and you have complete control. Just as with alcoholics, generally they don’t drink because they love the taste, more as a means of hiding from somethings a sense of release. Developed Mental health issues often stem from a deep unhappiness, and this is not fact but something I have concluded from spending many months in hospital among mentally ill patients.
But back to the food. Since I can remember, I’ve loved food. From Friday night treats from my dad to special meals out on holidays, food is linked to so many happy times in my family. No one in my family is particularly bothered by cooking, so I took on the role of chief chef in the house from a young age, experimenting and reviewing huge personal satisfaction from providing tasty meals for people. That passion has grown over the years to a point where I am literally obsessed by cooking. I say this in a good way. While eating disorders force yourself to hide from the world and punish yourself in a cycle of self abuse and denial, cooking has given me a purpose in life. I can express myself through the food and flavours I create, and even receive praise for the things I do. While is is hard to accept (I never believe it or can accept that I deserve it), I’m coming to the terms with the fact that I might actually be good at something I enjoy. Yes I got the grades at school and uni, but I never enjoyed it, now my passion can be my life and for me this is huge.
This led me to do something I never thought I’d have the confidence to do. I enrolled in Leiths School Of Food & Wine for the diploma course, meaning I could actually become a qualified chef (should I pass, and there are huge doubts in my mind). Every other morning in bed I would question why I was even getting up, just to exist another futile day in misery. Now, I have an agenda, a reason, a purpose.
I am no way saying this has banished my illness to the back of my mind (you never actually lose an ED, you just learn to control it), in fact it’s screaming louder than ever, like a child throwing its toys out of the prom, ‘how dare I get pleasure out of my life, I don’t deserve it’. And yes tasting food everyday is tough. Although contrary to belief, I have never stopped eating throughout the last 14 years, while many choose that as their means of control, I chose to control what happened after as my inherent love of food meant I just could not give that up. Over exercise, diet pills and laxatives have been my undoing and when they are under control (as when you’re at school all day…) eating is harder. But this is opening so many doors for me. My having foods I haven’t had in years, and enjoying them. People with EDs convince themselves they disk so many foods, purely because they are deemed unhealthy, but do you know what? I think I do like cheese and chocolate……
Whilst the battle is up and down, my relationship with food has saved my life so many times. Until you have been force fed on an NG tube, you have no idea of the complexity of emotions that actually eating provides, it’s a multi-sensory, sociable experience. I can honestly say that if I didn’t love food, I wouldn’t be here.
Now my focus has changed to a ‘strong not skinny ethos’ I want my body to be fit and healthy. Whilst I have permanently damaged so many organs, I know that the correct nutrition can heal many things. I spend hours researching the benefits of the nutrients in foods and how they can target specific areas of the body. I am an ambassador for clean eating, good wholesome, chemical free food, full of healthy fats. This is a far cry from my past diets of low fat foods and diet sodas which are no more than ticking time bombs healthwise, if I had my way they would be banned.
I don’t know whether I’ll make it. Mental health is so unpredictable, but for now, I have a goal, focus and I’m happy. I believe in quality of life, and right now, regardless of my health issues, I have that back, and I have food to thank.
I also want you to be well aware that this is only based on my personal experience and by no means should my thoughts or values be presumed to be shared by other ED sufferers. If you want to help, the best you can do is LISTEN, let someone find their voice, one that so often gets pushed aside.