My Food Challenge is as much about me exploring ingredients and recipes, as it is about me exploring my relationship with food. I don’t think it would be honest of me to write about my relationship with food, without telling you about a low point in my life, when food wasn’t my friend. I may love food now, but I haven’t always…
About ten years ago, I fell out of love with food. Aged 14(ish), after a diet of frozen meals, sweets and take-away dinners, I was curvier than I would have liked. Teamed with a teenage girl’s skewed view of herself, I had the perfect recipe for an anorexia disaster.
I still remember the day my form tutor took me outside of the classroom during form time in year 10 for a ‘chat’. She told me that she was awfully worried about my weight, my legs were far too thin and she asked about what I was (or wasn’t) eating to make me like this.
Deep down I knew that my diet wasn’t enough to sustain my addiction to exercise Each day I’d eat a bowl of cereal with yoghurt, one apple and two rivitas with Slimming World tuna, I also drank lots of black coffee to ‘speed up my metabolism. I justified my lifestyle as me simply trying to ‘be healthy’. At my lowest weight I was 7 stone 9 pounds with a BMI of 18.3. Believe me, I’ve seen and heard about girls with anorexia who weighed far far less than me – I could have been a lot worse. That said, at one point I could wrap my fingers around the top of my arms and two hands around the chunkiest part of my legs. I was very thin.
I didn’t hate food as such. That’s the strange thing about my disorder, I loved food but hated what it did to my body, all at the same time. Each lesson I’d be concentrating on staying awake and often became transfixed on what I was going to eat next. The smell of chips at lunch time rarely managed to tempt me… even though in my head I wanted to eat them EVERYDAY. With an unstable home life, I liked the control it gave me… and I loved the way being super skinny made me feel. I was a troubled teenager, it was my way of gaining some sort of control.
At the beginning of my weight loss I walked about 5-6 miles each night to my sister’s house. I enjoyed these walks, although I’d often become dizzy towards the end and munch on nuts and fruit when I’d arrive. A few months later, I convinced my Mum to lie about my age so I could join the gym. I went for 1 hour and 15 minutes each night, without fail. One afternoon, I felt so fat that I skived off school for the so I could go to the gym, and was caught out on the rowing machine by a biology teacher. I’d do anything to burn off extra calories – this was me at my worst.
Having a poor diet played havoc with my body. I didn’t have a period for nearly 18 months (sorry boys), my body stopped developing and I was struck with IBS. Luckily the damage wasn’t long lasting. Granted it’s taken years to get back to what I’d consider normal… first my metabolism needed to speed up again, then I needed to put on weight again and turn it into muscle. That was the tricky bit.
The worst side affect of my eating issues was that I lost so much weight that it began to eat away at my muscles, meaning that when I put on weight again, it went on as fat. For years I was a skinny girl with embarrassing cellulite (yuk). Over time, it disappeared and I now have a healthy relationship with food and love my weight and my curvy but slim figure. I’m a happy size 10 and weight 9 stone on the dot.
I’ve spoken to lots of people who went through similar eating issues when they were a teenager and I’m under no illusion that milder cases of anorexia, like mine, are incredibly common and often go unrecognised.
It’s strange to look back at my former self and my odd relationship with food. These days, I don’t even bother checking my calorie intake, I eat healthy food in the week and stuff my face at the weekend. Simple. It’s sad to think that I was taken over by a determination to not eat all those years ago. It’s nice to know that I’ll never go back to that. I’m happy now.
Hayley Jayne x