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By Alex: 002

Food is the best. And the worst. You have to eat to live.

I have never seen a therapist, dietician or doctor of any description about food/weight/diet, as far as I can remember, but I am pretty confident in my self-diagnosis of disordered eating.

I have always had problems with weight. My family love food and it is more often than not the central aspect of our gatherings, a reason to be there, an excuse to spend time together. I don't know if its genetics, lack of self-love, social anxiety, just liking food too much, or a combination of all of the above. Maybe it is something else entirely that causes me to struggle, but I just don't seem able to get a grip on things for any decent amount of time. It is always a healthy phase, a mission with an end point at which I can indulge again.

When I turned 21 I was not in a good place. I hated where I was living at university, I hated being on mediction for depression, I hated not making the most of my uni days, and most of all I hated hating myself. So I woke up one day and said no more. It was the biggest and bravest thing I had ever done, and at the same time it was the simplest. I started to show myself a bit of respect. I moved in with new people at university, I went to the gym every day. I ate mindfully. And I lost nearly 6 stone (84 pounds) in just a few months.

During this time I met my boyfriend (now husband). He will tell you that he barely saw me eat a meal for the first few months of dating. He ate in front of me all the time, but I just didn't want to. I was already in a pattern of pretty damaging behaviour. Dieting and exercising had become a bit of an obsession: I would wake up late to purposely shorten my day so I needed less fuel, then cycle 3 miles to the gym, work out for 45 minutes, cycle home, drink some green tea, eventually make a meal and then only eating half of it. I would barely eat all day if I was going out so that I could drink less to get drunk, and therefore ingest fewer calories. I would walk everywhere.

If I hadn't met my boyfriend, I dread to think where this would have gone. All or nothing, that's me. But eventually that new couple happiness kicked in and we started cooking together, eating the same things and the same portions. And then it was a slippery slope down to the other end of the spectrum...eating badly, missing gym visits etc.

Thankfully I never regained that 6 stone. I even lost more in the run up to our wedding, though I did promptly put that back on afterwards. Mostly I have been able to maintain my weight quite evenly, but I don't think particularly healthily. I have never established a proper routine of a balanced diet and exercise, not in the way that I feel I should have by now. And I always have that nagging sense of failure that I never got down to my 'goal weight', I still don't look how I want to look.

I am defintiely an advocate for self-respect, self-love and body positivity, especially amongst women. I understand the theories about your body finding a new ideal weight and it being very difficult to change that permanently (see me working out twice a day, using fat burning supplements and eating a crazy strict and nutritionally balanced diet for 3 months prior to my wedding, and only going down about 7 pounds...and then it immediately going back on when I let up on honeymoon...). I understand that we are all different, we don't look like those models in magazines, that those models don't even look like those models in magazines, and that 'perfection' is a subjective and impossible goal to achieve. I know and I say these things to myself and to others regularly. I know.

But it still sucks to not have your outsides match how you feel inside, even if that image in your head came from a stupid place that isn't real. It sucks feeling crappy after every meal that wasn't perfect, it sucks having to justify to myself and, for some reason, those around me, why I am eating something if it is unhealthy. It sucks basing a large part of my self-worth on hours spent exercising and number of calories consumed. It sucks and I want to snap out of it!

The other day I was at a meeting for a women's group that I volunteer with, and we were all participating in that bonding exercise where you tell 2 truths and 1 lie about yourself and people have to guess which is which.. One of my truths was that I used to weight 6 stone more, and everybody thought it was my lie. They were astonished. It seemed that I did not look fat to them at all, not even previously fat, but I had been sure that they would know it was true just by looking at me.

I have thought about this a lot since, and maybe they were just being polite, maybe I was wearing something particularly flattering....or maybe my problem is that I still think I am that size. In my mind I am still that fat, and therefore unworthy of, well, anything. I don't think all larger people aren't worthy of anything, by the way, just larger me.

I realised a long time ago that compliments are always a surprise to me and often resonate too deeply, and that the same goes for any outright or even perceived criticism of my appearance. A seed of self-loathing was sown a long time ago and now it just constantly festers in my mind. Ugh.

I proabably need therapy (who doesn't) to get to the bottom of that. Or maybe this blog will help? I probably also need a dietician to just set me on the right track. Or maybe I should just f**k off to live on a beach somewhere, with no internet, no fast food and no pressure. Basically I wish I could just re-set my brain somehow, to unlearn all the bullsh*t. Wouldn't that be nice. I guess we all think we need that sometimes....right?

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