It’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week right now and so I decided I’d share my story with you. It’s not dramatic, or extreme, I was never clinically diagnosed with an eating disorder, I’ve never been anything other than a normal, healthy weight, but I do believe I had disordered eating, and it was probably more recently than I like to admit.


What Is An Eating Disorder?

Before I begin, let’s define what an eating disorder is. When we hear the words ‘eating disorder’ our minds usually jump straight to anorexia or bulimia, something reserved just for those who are hospitalised because they’re so sick that their bodies can’t function anymore. Yet according to the NHS’s website, an eating disorder is categorised as ‘having an unhealthy relationship with food’ or ‘being obsessed with your body shape or weight’. Thinking about these two definitions, it opens up the moniker to a lot more people than you’d think. I wonder how many of you reading this HAVEN’T gone through a period in life where you’ve had an unhealthy relationship with food, aka feeling guilty about eating something, having a binge, eating a severely reduced number of calories to change your body shape etc? And how many of you haven’t at one point been obsessed with how your body looks. And let me say there’s a difference between wanting to lose weight to be healthy, and wanting to lose weight because we’ve been told by society that a size 8 is healthy and if you’re a size 12 with even just a millimetre of extra flesh on your tummy that you’re not healthy.

My Eating Disorder Story

So keeping this in mind, I’ll come back to me, just for a short while. I’ve always been a tall person, and have varied around a size 10/12 my whole life. The main issues probably started when I was about 14, and at first it was just general teenagery, cutting out pictures from magazines of Lily Donaldson and bluetacking them to my wall, wishing I could look like her (and the fact I call this general teenagery is a problem in itself). Until I went on the pill at age 17 I had always been very thin, so when I started taking it I gained a little bit of weight, but I was for sure still totally healthy. I’m not entirely sure what triggered it but this is when the problem really started. I began to hate my body. I was discovering sex, I was at that awkward age where I wasn’t quite an adult but I also wasn’t really a young teenager anymore, all my peers were just as body conscious as me, Gossip Girl was a brand new TV show and Blake Lively and Leighton Meester were prefect and slim and that’s what everyone wanted to be, perfect and slim.

I don’t remember my first binge, but I would end up eating so much pizza/chocolate/sweets that I would get to the point where I felt horrifically nauseous and would have to stick my fingers down my throat to get it all out. It was a combination of feeling ill and not wanting that obscene amount of food being digested by my body. This would follow by vowing not to eat breakfast the next morning, taking these ridiculous açai tablets from Holland and Barrett that I thought would make me not hungry and literally putting a few drops of milk into a bowl with some cereal crumbs and leaving it on the side so that my mum would think I’d had breakfast.

Things seemed to hit an all time low at uni, I remember trying on a pair of flared yoga pants in Abercrombie & Fitch and being so horrified at what I saw in the mirror that I cried in the changing rooms. How on earth did the way I look make me cry?! How is it okay that we have a culture that made this a thing? The thing is this stayed with me into recent years. In 2016 before I found yoga, the amount of times I’d go and look in the mirror in my work toilets to see how my abs were looking is totally absurd. Counting calories was absurd. Berating myself for having too much chocolate was absurd. Making myself throw up for fear of getting fat was absurd. But I know I’m not the only one. The fact that I’m writing this article just proves that it’s still very much an issue. And maybe your eating disorder hasn’t characterised itself as sticking your fingers down your throat, but I can be certain in thinking that about 80% of people (and I say people because I know this is an issue for guys too) have had or still have some kind of complex with the food they eat or with the way their body looks. Some days those thoughts still creep in telling me I’m not good enough, but I’m happy to say that for the most part they’re no more.

Hating Your Body Isn’t Normal

You think Slimming World and Weight Watchers is good and healthy? You’re wrong. You think counting calories and dieting in any way is all good? If you’re doing it to lose weight or tone up or whatever (unless you’ve been specifically asked by your doctor to do so) because you’re unhappy with your body and you think being smaller will answer all your problems then in my opinion your relationship with food is in some way disordered. Do you think cave men and cave women used to have to count calories? Do you think neanderthalean women used to pull at their fat in front of a mirror? No. Because there’s a lot more to life than how we look and making ourselves feel guilty for not looking like people who are stuck on the front of magazine covers. We’ve got lost. And it’s not one person’s fault, it’s an amalgamation of the media, big companies feeding on our insecurities to make money and social media making us think life will be better if we look this way or if we look that way and magazines labelled ‘health’ magazines only putting pictures of scantily clad size 8 women on their covers. Sure, aim for health, aim for a body that works at its optimum and keeps you healthy, happy and safe, but do not think that being a size or being a certain weight means you’re not good or whole or any less of a human being than that ‘skinny girl’ on TV.

It makes me so fucking sad to think that there are people out there who are unhappy with their bodies. Covering up at the beach because they’re so self conscious of their tummy rolls. When did we decide that tummy rolls are a bad thing? Why do we think being slim is a goal? I can’t answer that for you. But what I can say is that whatever your body looks like right now it’s incredible. Perfection is fucking boring and not even worth your time pursuing because FUN FACT you will NEVER EVER be perfect so what’s even the point? Save yourself some pain and some time and start to just look in the mirror, and tell yourself that you’re beautiful and that you love yourself. Exercise because it makes you feel good and because you want to be that cool grandma when you’re 70 who still goes for walks and can run after her grandkids in the garden. Eat food that you know will make you feel good physically and eat something that makes your brain feel good every once in a while. Don’t restrict, live in abundance. Spread the feeling around. Teach your children to love themselves. This is how we eliminate eating disorders. This is how we make sure that no other teenager looks at herself in the mirror and hates what she sees.

I remember growing up, all I ever wanted to be was skinny. Lying out on the front lawn of my school with my friends, we’d all compare our concave stomachs to one another’s (or maybe I just did this in my head). Back when I was 14, skipping breakfast seemed like the best way to go, going to the salad bar at lunch, skimming through Vogue or Elle and fuelling the burning desire within myself to be as slim as possible. If someone had told me I looked skinny, not only would I have been over the moon, but I probably would have said “I’m totally not” in my psuedo-wannabe-american-teen voice. I beat myself up for years about the size of my thighs, I felt uncomfortable in a bikini, and was forever comparing myself to my slimmer friends (most of whom are petite, and therefore there is no way in hell I’d ever be their size, my bones are literally too big). Now, looking back, I realised I was extremely slim back in the day, without even having to put any effort in (Lord knows that the metabolism of a 16 year old is some kind of magic), yet I felt huge. For me personally this not only solidifies that no matter what you look like in reality, you will perceive yourself differently to the rest of the world (let’s face it, when you’re looking at something as closely as you are when you look at your own body, it will probably appear big), but also that the world needs to change how it portrays women, and finally, that the word “skinny” has got to go.

My perspective on bodies, mostly my own body, has changed hugely in the last few years, as my focus has gone from wanting to be slim like a model, to wanting to be strong, and the healthiest version of me possible. Last year after my first knee op, my leg muscles wasted away, and I was left with a twig for a leg. Something that I had been telling myself would look great for years, was finally on my body, and it revolted me. My skinny leg didn’t make me look good, or more attractive, it made me look weak, because I was weak. I suddenly realised that I had been wrong for all these years, “skinny” wasn’t a word I wanted anything to do with. Yet still to this day, the word “skinny” is all around us. You order a “skinny” latte in a café, in the hopes that having skimmed milk will somehow shed you some pounds. Companies use the word to help promote their “weight-loss” products. Skinny teas (the ones that make you shit yourself and damage your gut lining) are incredibly popular nowadays, you can buy skinny coffee, skinny self-tanner, skinny prosecco, skinny ice-cream… all of these products utilising the word skinny to help bring the illusion that using the product will make you slimmer.

But why is skinny viewed as a positive? Why do we want to be skinny? The way the world views women’s bodies goes a lot deeper than just this word, and is something I won’t go into today, but I really want to focus on why we need to stop with this “skinny” BS. Look up the word “skinny” in a dictionary and you’ll find something along the following lines: “very lean or thin; emaciated” and its synonymous with the likes of “lank”, “gaunt” and “scrawny”. I don’t think “emaciated tea” or “gaunt ice-cream” would sell quite as well… Do you? I wish companies wouldn’t use these words, it supports the ridiculous notion that “skinny” is something women should aim for, it adds to the already huge body-image problems women of all ages suffer from. Little girls are going to read the labels of these products, or see the adverts on television or on social media, and they, like 12 year old Hannah, will believe that skinny is the be all and end all, that skipping breakfast or drinking a tea that gives you cramps and leaves you running to the loo is the way to live your life and get your ideal body.

Instead, we need to be promoting words such as “strong”, “resilient”, “beautiful”, “powerful” and “intelligent”, ummm but intelligent hasn’t got anything to do with how you look… I hear you mumble inside your head, well exactly. Let’s start teaching ourselves, and all other women and girls on this planet, that there is a lot more to them than what their fat % is. Trying to make out that “skinny” is something that women should be, perpetuates that there is only one ideal body type, and yes, there are women out there who are naturally very slim, and that’s awesome! But it’s not the only body type and I really think we need to stop promoting that ghastly word as an ideal and as something we are impressing on women to aspire to be! I want younger generations of women to grow up without the woes about their bodies that I know so many of us had when we were growing up, and still deal with today. So let’s start banning the word skinny from our vocabulary, rejecting products that utilise this word, and describing ourselves with other words that are less about how thin we may or may not be, and describe the empowered women we want to be! #banskinny