*This article discusses eating disorders in detail, and could be potentially triggering. If you or someone you know are struggling with an eating disorder, visit BEAT or speak to a trained professional.*
I used to believe that anyone could be thin, and that I was simply not trying as hard as other people. I would gaze enviously at the other girls in class, or flick through those glossy magazines, and berate myself for being weaker than them. I hadn’t yet learned about the impact of genetics, of the way different bodies can simply look, and of how beauty can be present at any size.
Instead, I believed the lies they told me, and I hated myself for wanting food.
At fifteen, I began taking extreme measures to lose weight. I stopped seeing food as a joyous part of my day and instead, as a poison that was holding me back. I no longer looked forward to the cake served at celebrations, and instead, I dreaded all occasions that would involve food, as they were a potential risk for my weaker side to come out.
I filled my social media with accounts that urged me on and told me that I could be skinny if only I tried hard enough. Despite eating less than I ever had before, my life revolved around food; how to avoid it, how to get rid of it, how to trick my body into thinking I’d eaten.
I fell down my rabbit hole and dreamed only of food, waking during the night to the gnawing hunger in my stomach.
I used to hate myself for needing to eat. I’d wish I had the willpower to starve myself effectively. I’d look at all of these thin people and think, “If only I was stronger.”
It wasn’t a matter of wanting it more. I wanted to be thin more than anything else in my life. God, that feels so shameful to admit. Trust me, I recognise how awful that is, how self-obsessed it must sound. But I genuinely couldn’t think of anything else. Each bite taken was accompanied by a drumbeat in my head saying, “Thin. Thin. Thin.”
I thought that once I was thin, I would be happy. I thought that once I was thin, everyone would love me. By this point, I was battling with my depression, and living in an unhappy household, and yet I genuinely thought that losing weight would fix all of that.
Whenever I would give in after hours of not eating, I’d berate myself for a lack of willpower. I’d feel so frustrated and believe that I was getting in my own way.
It’s only now that I look back at this time, that I realise that I was thin and yet still completely miserable.
I was weak, but not because I’d sometimes cave and eat a rice cake or a slice of toast. I was weak because I was malnourished, I barely had the energy to focus in class, and life felt too exhausting to even try. I became weak by starving myself and denying myself the food I needed to live.
We eat because we need to. We eat to fuel our bodies. We eat to be able to live our lives. The food we eat translates into our energy to run, dance, sing, work, write, and so much more. The food we eat allows us to love someone and to be loved in return, it isn’t a barrier to being loved, like I believed for so long.
You didn’t fail at being thin, you were a normal human with hunger cues and cravings. You had been taught to love food yet also somehow have it disappear after passing your tastebuds. You were not lacking willpower, you were driven by a will to live.
And if you managed to overpower that survival instinct and starve your body, as I did for far too long, your strength came in breaking out of that cycle, in finding that willpower once more.
We’ve made it seem like being thin is a matter of willpower. As if starving yourself or exercising past your limits is a sign of strength. But being thin is a matter of genes, just like being in a larger body is. There’s no strength to it, and also no weakness in it, as long as it’s how your body is naturally.
I’m a larger weight than I ever was before, or at least I assume this, as I threw out all the weigh scales years ago. I eat more than I did before, but I’m also happier than I was before. My mind can think clearly unlike the permanent haze I used to wade through. I don’t fit the clothes I once did, but I get to feel good in the clothes that I buy now. I wasn’t weak for needing food, but I was strong for admitting that I had a problem, and for realising that there had to be a better way to exist in my body.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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