Today marks two years since I began my journey to recovery from anorexia, and seen as last years post is one of my most popular and still gets views on a daily basis, it seemed only right that I write a second to reflect on the journey that I’ve been on in the past year.
Every situation in life is temporary. So, when life is good, make sure you enjoy and receive it fully. And when life is not so good, remember that it will not last forever and better days are on the way.
This year has taught me that there’s so much more to life than the food that you eat, the amount of steps that you walk or the number on the scales and in all honesty I feel like a completely different person compared to who I was a year ago. If you’d told me last March that I’d be in the position that I am now then I never would have believed you; my confidence has soared, I can finally say that I accept my body, I have a better relationship with food than I can ever remember having before and most importantly, I’m happy.
Food I have had people around me question my decision to remain vegan but I still stand by the fact that its one of the best decisions that I could have made in terms of my own recovery. I’ve been vegan for two years now and I can stand by the fact that I did it for all of the right reasons. I don’t find that I’m restricting myself nor do I miss the diet that I previously had – I genuinely love digging in to veggie bowls and kale salads and nothing brings me more happiness than a peanut butter jar! – most importantly for me it’s about finding balance.
In the past few months I’ve become so much more relaxed about every aspect of food – not just what I’m eating but when and where. It’s in part due to the fact that I became so busy that I simply had less and less time to obsess or focus on food – I was no longer planning out my meals, had less time to worry about how pretty it looked and I no longer spent the whole day looking at other people’s food on Instagram either. I’ve probably posted more on Instagram in the past couple of weeks than I did over the past 6 months put together! Whilst social media has had such a positive impact on my recovery in terms of the support that I’ve received and the people who I’ve met, it can also fuel an obsession with food. I definitely want to get back in to posting more, but it’s with a slight switch in mindset. Perfectionism is a huge problem when it comes to eating disorders, so constantly fretting about a pea being out-of-place in an Instagram photo isn’t exactly beneficial – so now i’m going to post my oat bowl no matter how messy it is! Other than introducing foods that I once found scary – white potatoes, shop bought hummus and tinned baked beans, my diet hasn’t changed massively over the past year but I have to admit that I do now love a cocktail or Bailey’s hot choc and I can spontaneously eat out without worrying about the calories. I can enjoy my food and I no longer view it as a number. I don’t eat the way that I do to punish myself, it’s all food that I genuinely enjoy – I have an undeniable love for chocolate protein oats and ain’t no body going to separate me from the tahini jar!
Mood I can now say that I am completely self harm free. I actually I wake up now and I know what it’s like to be happy. I spent so much of my time seeing the negative in every situation; hating the world for the way that things had turned out for me. I felt depressed and anxious almost all of the time and whilst people around me constantly reassured me that things would get better, I didn’t believe them and looking back part of me didn’t want to. But two years on and my smile is one that’s genuine, I can laugh and joke and I’ve become so much more confident. I’ve come out of my shell so much in the past few months; I’m able to actually look people in the eye and walk down the street with confidence. I don’t shy away from a conversation and in some instances I’m actually the one doing all the talking! My mentality has completely changed too, I actually find it scary to look back at the way that I lived my life, treated the people around me and reacted to situations. If someone told me I looked healthy I would get so annoyed, I didn’t want to be healthy – I wanted to cling on to every part of my illness – now I embrace it. Comments or things that used to stress me out no longer affect me in the slightest and I feel so much more relaxed and content.
Body I doubt I’ll ever be 100% happy with the way that I look, but in the past few months I have become so much more accepting of myself. I don’t know my weight, I haven’t done since 2016 and it’s one of the best things that I’ve ever done. Separating yourself from the number of the scales is so freeing and it’s helped me so much. I think that being in a relationship definitely helped to boost my body confidence too – whilst I’m a firm believer in the fact that you shouldn’t base your self-worth on anyone else’s opinion of you, having someone accept you as a whole person and liking you for who you are, including your body, definitely does boost your confidence. Someone else finding you attractive does make you feel attractive. As a result, I’ve learnt to accept and love my body for what it is and that’s one of the best decisions that I have ever made. Yes, there are still days or weeks where I struggle, but on the whole I am so much more accepting of the person that I am than I was a year ago or even a month ago. Without sounding big-headed, I can now appreciate when I do look good and I certainly know that I look better now than I ever did at my lowest weight. I love the body that recovery has given me.
Part of becoming more confident in myself was that in early February I decided to have hair extensions fitted. One of the biggest problems for me throughout my battle with anorexia has been hair loss; such a large amount of my hair fell out that I couldn’t wear it down at all and so I shoved it up in a bun every day for over two years. Since entering recovery there’s been little improvement in the condition of my hair – whilst it has become healthier at the root, there’s been little improvement in the length and overall condition and it took nearly two years just to get to that point. It’s something that was a huge knock to my confidence and I was sick of the indifference and so I made the investment in hair extensions. The aim is still to get my own hair to a point where it’s healthy and yes I’m sure some would argue that I should have done it naturally but I honestly feel a million times better about myself now and to me anything that boosts my confidence is worth it.
Another point which links in is periods. As a result of my weight loss I lost my period completely but in November 2017 I had my first one in almost 3 years! It was something that I understandably found quite difficult to deal with initially and it although it hasn’t returned since, it shows that my body is slowly and surely getting back to where it needs to be.
Exercise I don’t use exercise as a way to punish myself or to burn calories any more but to become stronger and stay healthy. I still practice yoga daily, something which has benefited my mental health massively, workout at home and walk Maisie too. I do think that exercise can be useful tool in recovery, it’s ust about building a healthy relationship and knowing that you’re doing it for the right reasons. And whilst yes I’ll keep doing my squats I’ll probably never have a bum and you know what? I’m completely ok with that.
Life Quite possibly the most important aspect of this post is how much things have changed for me; over the past year I have achieved and done things that quite frankly I didn’t think that I would ever be able to do and I can finally say that I feel like I’m living as a ‘normal’ 18 year old. Whilst all of my time used to me spent in the house, I now actually have a social life, have friends go out for meals, cocktails and nights out. The past 6 months in particular have been such a turning point and in all honesty a complete whirlwind; I’ve been busier than I ever thought I would be but couldn’t be happier with the way that things are turning out, I finally feel like I’m living life and everything has fallen into place.
In April, I spent my 18th birthday in London with mum, sight-seeing and visiting as many different foodie places as we could fit in. I honestly fell in love with London and in the past year I’ve made several trips down there on my own (a huge step for me) to health blogger events and met the most incredible group of ladies. I never thought that I would be able to put myself in those kind of social situations, but they’re some of the best and most memorable days that I’ve ever had. In summer I finally passed my driving test which is something that at times I (and even my instructor) thought was impossible and I got my first car! I also bought Maisie, my puppy, who has helped me a lot too (seriously don’t underestimate the power of animals).
I’m so grateful for the friends that I have made through the HBC and Instagram, in particular my fellow northerner Jordan whose one of the funniest and loveliest people I’ve met, and the fact that she makes such good choc is a bonus too! The journey that she’s been on herself inspires me so much. No one makes me laugh at my phone like she does and I love our girlie brunches in Manchester and nights out and I can’t thank her enough for her constant support and friendship.
I’m still working in the same job and becoming more confident has definitely extended in to my work life, not only am I more confident when dealing with customers but I have become closer to the girls at work – we go out for meals and I can join in with cocktails and dessert. I actually get excited to go to work and I have such a laugh when I’m there – they all agree that I’ve come out of my shell a lot too, something which was triggered when I met my boyfriend. This time last year it was a genuine concern for me that I would never find anyone (I can look back now and laugh) but meeting someone and being in my first relationship helped me in almost every aspect of my recovery. Whilst the relationship didn’t work out, I am so grateful for the fact that he was always so supportive and encouraging and for what he showed me in those 2-3 months because he gave me back part of my life that I didn’t have before. He completely pushed me outside of my comfort zone and as a result I became so much more relaxed about food, routine and timings. I gained weight during that time because I honestly just didn’t care and whilst I did get to a point where I thought about trying to lose it, I realised that it wasn’t worth it and quite frankly I couldn’t be bothered. It was a result of me having a social life and being happy and that’s so much more important than my weight will ever be. I’m so much more confident than I was before I met him and whilst that chapter of my life is very much closed there are so many things that I’m able to take from it and carry forward with me through the rest of my recovery.
In last years post, I also shared my ambition to study naturopathic nutrition at CNM and at the start of November that became a reality. I’m enjoying it so much, although it is a lot of work and the content can be challenging at times, it’s so nice to have something to focus my time and energy on again. I achieved the equivalent of a first in my bio medicine exam and am in the process of writing my first assignment (which I should probably be doing right now instead of writing this post!) I set out a year ago with a goal and I worked my arse off to get there and for that I can say that I am so proud of myself. Once more it’s proof that if you work hard and put your mind to it, anything is possible.
I’m so grateful for my mum who has been my rock throughout everything. Without her continued support and selflessness I wouldn’t be in the position that I am now – I draw inspiration from her on a daily basis and I am so proud to call her my mum. Right now I have the best, most positive group of people around me and whilst not every day is an easy one, the hard days are less and less and they’re nowhere as bad as they used to be. I haven’t only gained weight in the past year, I’ve gained my life back. Recovery has given me a social life, contentment, confidence and a healthier body – both physically and mentally and I can actually say that I am happy – 3 words which for a long time felt so out of reach.
Overcoming an eating disorder takes so much more strength and determination than the majority of people will ever be able to realise. They affect every single aspect of your life – recovery isn’t simply about eating more or gaining weight and it’s definitely a long process but I’m so proud of and happy with the person that I’ve become. I used to be ashamed to say that I suffered from anorexia, but at the end of the day it’s a part of me. I am who I am today because of the journey that I’ve been on and it’s shaped me in to a stronger person. I will never get the time back that my eating disorder stole from me, but I can focus all of my energy on to making the future as bright as possible.