Living with an Eating Disorder (No More)


PUBLISHED IN Galway Now Magazine


Teresa Spelman 

Everyday we put food into our mouth. Some of us eat and forget about food till we feel hungry again, for others it is a daily emotional nightmare of ‘Will I have this’ or ‘am I allowed that’ and ‘will this make me fat’?

I was 14 years of age when I first noticed I had a body. I was 15 years of age when I noticed I had a body that was not perfect. I was 21 years of age when I began to feel such hatred, loathing and frustration towards my body that I turned to bulimia as I did not have the willpower to be anorexic.

During those times of desperation when I felt the suffocating pressure of stress on my chest, I would turn to the fridge and the cupboards and eat with such a focus and concentration that I could have been mistaken for a Buddhist monk. Of course monks focused on emptiness and not the smooth taste of Nutella as it melted down their throat or the satisfying crunchiness of a packet of ginger biscuits combined with chunks of milk chocolate.

The funny thing about an eating disorder is that it has nothing to do with food at all. Food is just the drug or focus of choice that is used to suppress and distract from any and all feelings that you are too frightened to face. Looking at unrealistic body shapes in magazines and on the television was not the cause of my experiences with bulimia. Being called ‘fat ass’ or ‘Hey chubby cheeks’ was not the cause of my experiences with depression. Life itself does the job of triggering what you need to face about yourself. It is only when I stopped and started observing what I needed to change within myself could I begin to slowly transform my daily life. I needed to face my own ego pride, my once deeply hidden fears of death, the helpless need for control and know my purpose and meaning in this world.It was not the food which I needed to purge and be rid of but all the unexpressed feelings and emotions, the rampant and fierce thoughts and the loud constant judgement of the mind.

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'Surgery can help to remove a damaged organ but only meditation & quiet time can remove emotions like anger and fear to calm and soothe a disturbed mind'

It took a number of years, but the hell that is Bulimia which had taken life years earlier with an innocent jar of Nutella in France, finally ended for good on a weighing scales in a naturopathy hospital in India. I remember the morning very well. I was heading out to see the naturopathy Doctor for the usual check up. I glanced at myself in the mirror and my mind said I was still too fat and I would have to fast for a few more days. I was no longer throwing up the food and so strict rules were still in place with regard to what I could and could not eat. I was so tired of it now. I left my room feeling hopeless and helpless. I had already been fasting for days. I had a few minutes to wait before I could see the naturopath and so I popped onto the weighing scales,something I never allowed myself to do. I was shocked & confused at the (extremely low) numbers flashing in front of my eyes. How could this be? My mind had said I was still too fat and yet the scales were saying something very different. Were they broken? I weighed myself a few times just to be certain. And that was it. I was already (too) thin and had been for many years but could not see it. That was the moment the mind truly lost the war and it was over and it was time to make a return to health and living again.

There are many things I don’t miss about that time in my life. I don’t miss feeling cold all the time. I don’t miss feeling weak and the accompanying dizziness. I like that I can concentrate for longer than 5 minutes. It is such a joy not being forced to exercise to earn the food I might be allowed to eat later. I don’t miss those bony painful ribs sticking out of my body. I like when I sit down now that it doesn’t hurt. I definitely do not miss the endless criticism from the mind while out clothes shopping with comments like you are too fat for that, too ugly to wear that, too fat thighed to wear that, too fat ankled to wear that, too big bumpy nosed to go out like that and so on. I like that my thighs are affectionate and on good terms with each other again. I like not having to check a mirror every 5 minutes to see if I have lost any weight or have an altered/better body than the one I had woken up with that day. I especially enjoy not having that desperate unrelenting desire to be thin.

So long to the daily strict exercise regimes, the controlled feeding frenzies and the self-hatred that had once been a silent yet powerful companion. Having lived for years not knowing that it was OK to be myself, even when that meant at times, disappointing others or not living up to their expectations, was a liberating realisation and one that has set me free in so many ways. I love that life is once again full of possibility & wonder.