Since I joined Twitter I have had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people (Emma, you are one of them!) and have also come across many “ED” (Eating Disorder) accounts. I’ve managed to decipher many of the acronyms used in these accounts; CW is Current Weight, then there’s the GW for Goal Weight and the UGW for Ultimate Goal Weight. Most of these accounts are owned by young girls aged about 14 or 15 but I’ve come across a few accounts by boys too. Most of these account owners never seem to reach their “UGW” but for those who do, a new UGW is quickly added. For these youngsters, they will never be skinny enough. They will always be fat, obese, ugly, worthless etc. They will never be perfect no matter how much weight they lose. Sadly, I am able to empathise with them.
If you were to look at me who weighs 13.5 stone (189 lbs) now, there’s no way you’d think I’ve EVER had an ED! I’ve never been diagnosed with one and hopefully I’ll never get to the stage I was at a few years ago. Before going to university, I’d never been obsessed with my weight. However, I used to watch documentaries about Anorexia whenever they were on the TV to pick up tips on avoiding meals. In school, it was unfashionable to eat breakfast and so I’d desperately try to get out of it. My parents would never allow me to go to school without eating so I’d have to eat before school. I’d ‘atone’ for this mistake by avoiding lunch at school. It wasn’t really about losing weight, rather a desperate attempt to fit in and be accepted. However, the more I watched Anorexia documentaries, the more I would feel drawn to their life choices.
Some time when I was in High School (I’m not sure exactly when) I remember watching a Dr Phil documentary about a young woman with Anorexia. As well as Anorexia though, she had another illness that I had never heard of before: Bulimia. I watched as this young woman induced vomiting and I thought that it would be a fantastic way of avoiding breakfast. Although I would eat the food, if I could throw it up afterwards, my parents wouldn’t know I’d thrown it up and I would be able to go to school on an empty stomach plus I could again eat lunch at school! These plans were not at all about losing weight. They were simply about fitting in. Thankfully, I was never able to make myself vomit (for which I am eternally grateful!) and I just had to go without my school lunch instead. Avoiding school lunch worked out better in the end as I could then keep my dinner money as bonus pocket money!
The only issues I had about my weight in school was when I nearly hit 10 stone (140 lbs). For me, double figures meant being grossly overweight and it was only recently that I found out that 10 stone is about my perfect weight as my height is around 5 ft 6.5! When I got to my final year of High School (aged 15) I started gaining weight quite rapidly and very quickly hit 11 stone (154 lbs). I was disgusted at this weight but was too lazy to do anything about it! I started working aged 16 and my weight steadily increased until the age of 19 when my weight hit 12 stone (168 lbs) for the first time. I was again sickened but again too lazy to lose weight. A couple of months after my 19th birthday, I left home to start university and my problems with food began.
I had been hearing a voice for about a year when I moved to University. Its main mission seemed to be to get me to kill myself (and my family) rather than having anything to do with food though. After a couple of weeks away from home, I was starting to get to grips with keeping on top of my finances, and after my first £50 grocery bill, I started to become more careful with what I bought. Sweets, chocolate and alcohol soon became a luxury rather than a necessity. I also cut down on the amount of food I ate in order to make it last longer. However, after a problem with my stomach which left me unable to eat properly for a few weeks, my weight started dropping rapidly. In the first week of my stomach problem, I went from 12 stone 2 (170 lbs) to 11 stone 7 (161 lbs). The weight loss slowed after that week but kept on going steadily down. Then came the turning point. One of my flatmates complimented my weight loss.
At the time of the compliment, it was no big deal. Just a “You’ve lost weight! You’re looking good!” *me looking down at my stomach* “Yeah, thanks! It’s ’cause I’ve not been well though!” and that was it. It was only when I weighed myself a few days later and I had gained a pound that I started worrying. What if my flatmate commented on my weight gain? What if she said I looked bad? I became determined to lose that pound and to lose many more. I don’t know when exactly it was but about 5 or 6 weeks after arriving at university, the first number on the scales was a 10. It felt good but the achievement was short lived. I wanted to see a 9 as the first number.
By Christmas, my weight averaged about 10.5 stone (147 lbs). I usually ate one big meal a day and that was enough to keep my weight at a steady level. It was also just enough to stay nourished to be able to work hard at my job, which, over Christmas was sometimes more than 70 hours a week. Once Christmas was over though, I began cutting down again. The meal became smaller and smaller until one day, I ate nothing. The days of not eating became more frequent until I was only eating every 2 – 3 days. A few weeks into the New Year and the first number on the scales was a 9. It brought a smile to my face which became a grin when I was finally able to comfortably fit into a pair of UK size 8 jeans (US size 6). Size 8 in the UK always seemed to be a gloating point for all the slimming groups around so I was ecstatic about fitting into this magical size. But still, I wasn’t happy. It wasn’t easy maintaining this weight but with determination I set out to stay there.
I knew I shouldn’t lose too much weight else my parents would figure out what I was doing and could have made me leave university and move back in with them. However, I couldn’t help myself and so I continued the fight to see the 8 as the first number on the scales. None of the clothes I had brought to university looked right on me anymore. My belts were becoming tighter and tighter until they became too big for me. My weight loss was being noticed at work and one day my boss challenged me about it.
He tried to make me eat the sandwich he had brought in for himself but I refused, making him a deal that I would buy and eat a Pot Noodle from the honesty box (a box with various foodstuffs that we had to be honest with buying and pay in full without leaving IOUs). I picked out the “vegetables” from the Pot Noodle saying I didn’t like them (True Story!) and then filled the container with as much water as it would carry. As my boss wasn’t watching me like a hawk, I was able to discreetly chop the noodles into small pieces so they wouldn’t be seen at the end. I ate as much as was visible above the waterline, showed the “empty” container to my boss and quickly binned it before he could examine it. I did all this while maintaining the jokey personality I pretended to have and laughed at my boss’s thoughts that I wasn’t eating properly. However, this incident scared me and I began to be even more secretive about my eating.
Work wasn’t the only place that noticed my weight loss and gaunt appearance. One of my uni friends came round to my flat one night and discovered the lack of food in my cupboard. She raised her eyebrows at this and asked me if I was eating properly. I admitted to her that I hadn’t eaten all day but pretended I was starving and hadn’t eaten because I had been sleeping all day. We were supposed to be going out to a club in town later on, but in the taxi, my friend asked the driver to stop at the shop and told me to go in and buy myself a sandwich. I reluctantly did as I was told and said to my friend that I would nip back to my flat to eat it and then get a taxi into town to meet her later. She agreed and the taxi drove off. I walked the short distance back to my flat, binned the sandwiches but kept the packet. I was going to take the empty packet into town with me to show my friend that I had eaten them, but then I suddenly felt very tired and dizzy. I quickly laid down on my bed and within seconds I was either asleep or unconscious. I don’t know if I fainted briefly then switched to being asleep or something but whatever happened, I awoke 16 hours later to a couple of missed calls and texts on my phone. I told my friend I had fallen asleep the previous night and as she was very hungover, she didn’t remember making me buy a sandwich.
Despite the satisfaction of UK size 8 jeans now being baggy on me, I kept on eating as little as possible. One time, I went for 2 weeks without eating. After my family telling me that I looked gaunt and ill, I decided to try and eat properly again. My weight had dropped to 9 stone 6 (132 lbs) at its lowest which to me still felt like obesity. I was still convinced I was fat and despite the happiness at fitting into smaller clothes, I thought that the clothing companies were fixing labels of sizes smaller than the clothes in order to try and encourage me to lose more weight. It was just another conspiracy in my head that the voice was agreeing with and every time I picked up a size 8, or even size 6 item of clothing, the voice would tell me it was really a size 10. Then he would tell me how fat I was and that I needed to lose more weight to fit into a “real” size 8.
This was the point where the not eating was done to satisfy the voice. After my family telling me I looked ill, I desperately tried to eat more to look healthier. The voice had other ideas though. I tried to fight the voice by disobeying his orders to not eat but the nightmares I would get after eating without permission were traumatic. I began bingeing when he allowed me to eat and my weight started yo-yoing. After a short stint in hospital for a kidney infection which was 5 days long because the voice wouldn’t allow me to eat or even drink, I began mindlessly obeying the voice. In the hospital, I had become so dehydrated that I was put on a drip without my permission. Although it frightened me, the voice and the nightmares I thought came from him scared me more. The last time I tried fighting him was a couple of weeks before an appointment with a psychiatrist. I had been having CBT for my spider phobia but the psychologist had found out about the voice and sent me for a psychiatrist’s assessment. A couple of weeks before the assessment, I ate something without permission. The nightmare I got that night scared me senseless and still sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it now. The voice then told me that if I ate again without his permission, he would kill my family.
After 2 weeks of no eating and only drinking 2 cans of Pepsi Max a day (nothing else), I was sectioned for the first time. One of the nurses asked me if I was Anorexic and I laughed. Looking down at myself, I asked her if I looked Anorexic. I can’t remember her reply now but although it wasn’t a yes, it wasn’t a no either. My weight in hospital dropped to about 8 stone 12 (124 lbs) and in the first few days of admission, I went for longer than 72 hours without eating or drinking anything. My mouth was painfully dry and I would clean my teeth as often as the voice allowed just to ease the pain. I was then forced into taking an Anti Psychotic and pressurised into drinking “Ensure” drinks four times a day. The Ensure were disgusting, especially when they hadn’t been in the fridge but I gladly took them as nourishment. My weight rose gradually until after 6 weeks of no solid food, the voice gave me permission to eat properly again.
Thankfully, since that hospital stay, I have had no more problems with food and I am accepting myself more easily. I hate my overweight body but I can live with it now and won’t be taking any more drastic measures to lose weight. I am glad though that I wasn’t on Twitter during my time at university as I may well have been drawn to losing more and more weight by the ED accounts and could well have developed a full blown eating disorder. The twitter accounts and other websites that glorify Anorexia and other eating disorders make me shudder and I worry about the people who create them and/or are affected by them, young girls in particular. I am all for the shutting down of these websites and twitter accounts but I know I am only one person and I can’t change the world single handedly. However, like the delicate snowflake that joins forces with others and covers a large tree until its branches break, I know that with support we could really make an impact on the ‘Pro Ana’ sites until the very last one has been shut down. Please help me by reporting any ‘Pro Ana’ Twitter, Tumblr or any other types of accounts to the website administrators. Together, we could really make a big difference.
For more information about Eating Disorders and to get help if you have one, visit the B-eat website: http://www.b-eat.co.uk/
With love and thanks,