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My Bulimia Story

I was 14 maybe 15 when I fully started becoming aware of my body. I had started puberty prior to that, but it was at this young age that I really started to feel like I was over weight. I wasn’t of course, and I perhaps carried a little bit of “puppy fat”, but I was by no means fat. But I can certainly remember feeling it. I felt as though people were looking at me, and thinking the same.

It was about this time that I started to feel uncomfortable eating around other people. I don’t know why, I just felt as though people were watching me when I ate. So I stopped eating at school. My Mum would give me dinner money and I would use it after school to buy cake or chocolate, when the hunger had got the better of me and I just wanted anything to numb it. But I did this secretly so no one could see me doing it. My friends commented about me not eating at school but I just shrugged it off, saying I wasn’t hungry.  

I did have one friend in particular. She was super skinny. And I was super jealous. I desperately wanted to be like her, to be thin. And she would have a habit of commenting on my figure. If we went swimming she would mention my “large thighs”. Larger than hers, yes, but large? No. A comment in passing, nothing malicious about it. But I can remember this remark, even to this day, what we were doing when she said it, how it made me feel, what it made me think. I can’t remember what I had for tea last week, but this I can remember. It has sort of etched itself in my mind, and stayed there.  

I started thinking, at this young age, that there must be something I could do about my weight. There must be a way of getting it down, I thought. Although this is hard for me to remember, I know that I did cut down on what I was eating a lot, but I found it too difficult and the hunger usually got the better of me. But I do remember doing some research about purging food. I stumbled across it on a website, I wasn’t actively looking for tips on how to purge, but I just sort of came across it. And I tried it... and failed!! I think there were more tears and snot than sick... I just could not get the hang of it! How on earth do people do this, I thought, it hurts, it isn’t very effective and everything is running! I think I tried it a couple more times, but gave up. But I did know this... that this wasn’t right.

I knew what I was thinking, what I was feeling wasn’t right. So I told a friend about it, and made an appointment to see the deputy head at my school. He sat me down in front of him and I told him how I felt. I opened up about it and told him that I felt as though I had an issue with food. And this was his response. “You don’t look as though you have an issue with food, in fact quite the opposite.” I cried, there in that office. I think I cried sufficiently enough for him as he made me an appointment with a nurse who came into school. My friend, a different one, came with me. She weighed me. I actually didn’t know my weight, but she told me, in front of my friend. 8 stone. My friend blurted out “blimey Tabby, that is a lot!” And the nurse took it no further. As far as she was concerned, I didn’t fit the idealistic weight, or fit the criteria for an eating disorder. And that was the end of that. I didn’t take it any further. Neither did she. And actually I didn’t pursue any more purging actively till a few years later.

So let’s fast forward a few years. I am now 19. I have done my GCSEs, finished college, and been to New Zealand travelling for 5 months. I have a boyfriend, I am reasonably happy, although not with myself. I hadn’t ever dealt with my thoughts about myself, so they haven’t ever gone away, and I am pretty care free. It was at this age I embarked on my career as a care assistant. I worked in a care home, for long hours and shifts, but I mostly loved the job. My boyfriend at the time ended up going to university a few hours away on the train and this led to a whole new set of insecurities for me. I already had an issue with him looking at or talking to other women. In my mind, if he was doing that, he obviously wanted to or would definitely have sex with her! Yep, crazy thoughts. But the fact that he would be so far away, I wouldn’t be able to see him as much and that he would be around other girls that I couldn’t see was quite difficult for me to bear.

The thing about this boy was that he was quite complimentary, and critical at the same time. He would compliment how I looked, but also tell me if I was a little overweight or that he didn’t like something I was wearing. But he would quite openly look at other girls in front of me, make comments about them, and watching a film with attractive ladies on could be unbearable for me. I made my feelings clear on this and actually over time he got a little better at it, but what was I expecting, he was 19, full of hormones and he still did it, even though he said he didn’t. The reason I felt like this was because I was so insecure about myself. So in the grand scheme of things, I was much more unfair to him than I should have been given his age.

However, all this leads me to how I would embark on the bulimia that would ultimately change my life completely. I had gone up to visit him at his uni, like I did every other weekend. We had decided to go out somewhere, where I can’t remember and we got on a bus. The bus stopped and an overwhelmingly attractive girl got on. And my boyfriend said out loud “Wow she is fucking fit.” The ground fell out for me, I felt as though I was sinking. Yes she was attractive, but he wasn’t saying that to me! I felt completely consumed by this feeling of jealousy, disgust for myself and absolute hatred of the body I was in. And I just thought, I will show you who is attractive, thin and beautiful. And I did...

Things started to spiral pretty rapidly for me actually. I started restricting my food pretty heavily and also buying a lot of my own food. I still lived with my parents and my mum would still cook for me in the evenings, but apart from that I was quite in control of what food I was eating. I was buying a lot of low calorie foods, salad and low calorie soup. I started off eating the whole tin of soup but I gradually cut it down to half a tin a day. At breakfast though I was eating a fair amount of food and this gave me energy for a lot of the day. Typically I would have a big bowl of cereal and 2 slices of toast, but lunch was minimal. As I said my mum cooked for me and if I was working the late shift at work I would take a small box of salad with me. But after a few weeks I began to get a bit funny about the food my mum was cooking for me. Was it healthy? Was it making me fat? Was it going to affect me?

Due to the amount of physical activity and serious decrease in food, I was actually losing quite a lot of weight quite quickly. But I still had these thoughts about myself. Even though I could see that I was losing weight, and I was happy about it, I still thought I should lose more. I didn’t have a target weight in mind. We didn’t have scales at home, so I wasn’t  able to weigh myself. But something happened. At work they got a set of scales for the residents of the care home I worked in. And inwardly I was excited!  I could finally weigh myself! And I did. The scales said 7 stone and I thought that was awful. I had been 8 stone that time at school and I was only 1 stone less than that. They thought that was big, being 8 stone, so people would think that I was big now. I got home from that shift at 10pm and of course my mum had cooked me tea. I ate it and felt disgusting. I remember crying and not knowing what to do.

And then I remembered. I had tried purging before. Maybe it would work this time. Maybe, just maybe if I tried again it would happen. So I went to the bathroom and lent over the toilet. I stuck my fingers down my throat and gagged, but it wouldn’t come up. So I just stood there and moved my stomach in a way to try and push the food out. And after a few minutes I managed to induce vomiting. I couldn’t believe my luck. But what I had just learnt to do, what I didn’t realise would actually be my downfall, was to purge hands free. I didn’t need to use my hands to make myself sick, I could just do it. I felt amazing. And this cycle of purging my evening meal continued for a little while. But then I realised something. If I could eat this meal and purge it, I could eat more food and purge it too! I could basically eat what I wanted, when I wanted and not gain any weight! And this is when my binge purge cycle started... I was 20 years old.

Where am I now?

Everything changed for me in November 2017 when I discovered weightlifting. I have been able to overcome my bulimia through fitness. I no longer have the feelings of self-hatred and the feelings of guilt around food. I am able to eat without hating myself.  I am able to eat with freedom. I am able to eat because I want to. I am able to eat because I now see and use food as fuel.  Weightlifting has become my passion and without food I would not be able to sustain it. I feel truly blessed to be here, telling my story. To be able to eat without guilt and restriction is a wonderful feeling.

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