Eating Disorders and Me

Eating Disorders and Me

I’m not entirely sure when my relationship with food changed. I do know when I started to feel like I had very little control of my life, I was fourteen years old. I’m an only child so as you can imagine, my parents were overly protective of me. When I think back, it was about that age that I started to feel different from those around me. I had friends but I always felt like I was on the outside. I remember being asked to be bridesmaid that summer, I was so happy, I felt really good about being chosen. It was about that point, I decided I wanted to eat healthier and lose a few pounds. I wasn’t overweight by any means, I just knew I felt different and maybe that would change how I felt about myself and how others might feel about me. 

It only took a short time before the healthy eating became an obsession, numbers became my best friend, standing on the scales was happening at least five times a day, I was obsessed. I liked the way that I could control one thing in my life; I could control what I was eating. I had rules about what foods I could eat and what I could do to avoid eating if I needed to. 

By the Summer of 1999, I wasn’t just a bridesmaid, it was also when I accessed mental health services for the first time. I weighed 100 pounds, I remember when I stepped on the scales in front of the “professionals”, I didn’t feel ashamed, and I didn’t feel upset.  I felt like I had accomplished something, my rigid, strict, eating routine had worked. I remember being asked lots of questions, why did I do it, when did it start. When I think back, I wish they had asked me, how it made me feel. It might have helped to get a lot of those later answers, earlier than it did.

My weight continued to drop and very quickly I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. Physically I started to become very ill. My periods had stopped, I was constantly freezing, and it hurt to lie down as I could feel my hip bones touching everything. I remember being 94lbs, everyone around me telling me what I should do, telling me to eat, they didn’t see what they were asking me do was more of a demand. If I give in, it meant I wouldn’t have control.

Anorexia soon became a part of me, I eventually began to gain weight but that was through my own choice, I wasn’t being asked to do it. It would often be my coping mechanism when I had times of uncertainty, when everything seemed to be unpredictable. I spent my college years and early adult life having an extremely unhealthy relationship with food. I could very easily resort back to my rigid, controlled eating habits, especially when my anxiety levels were increased. At this point I was meeting new people, making new friends, little did I know that the social anxiety that came with this, meant those anorexic thoughts could easily return.

When I hit my twenties, I then had seven years of remission from anorexia. Then in 2012, I had my first child, a daughter and I was engaged. Little did I know at that point, that those big changes in my life would mean those anorexic thoughts would resurface. I felt like I needed to be perfect, I needed to please everyone, those earlier thoughts from being a teenager were fresh in my mind. I needed to look the best, I had to be the best mother and wife, I wanted other people to like me. I spent the next eighteen months keeping a rigid routine, obsessively weighing myself and trying to make everything perfect. 

When I say that I have always had an unhealthy relationship with food, it couldn’t be truer. Over the years when I have been in remission from anorexia, I realised how much power food actually had over me. When I wasn’t starving myself, I was binge eating, I had poor impulse control. I developed an unhealthy habit of having this rigid, rule based, food routine through the day. Night time came along and my overactive brain would make me doubt myself, and I would eat large amounts of sugary foods. The irony is, I love and hate food. It had a power over me which would lead me to want it or avoid it. Little did I know after having my own children, my eating disorders were just the tip of the iceberg of what was to come.

Seven Years later, after having my own daughter’s diagnosed with Autism and ADHD, I received my own dual diagnosis. I ended up being one of the twenty percent of females with eating disorders, that also had autism. That is 1 in 5 people (often females) who are diagnosed with anorexia will potentially have autism. You see there is a difference in my anorexia then what we read about in the magazines and in the media. Anorexia was the one thing that provided me with a routine, a set of rules and most importantly it enabled me to have control. 

Where does the binge eating/impulsive eating come into this, let’s just say, that’s just the start of my ADHD.

Alison Wombwell  Founder of I am her voice – Our Autism Journey – Chasing Rainbows- A Coaching, Training and Support Service, Specializing in Autism and ADHD

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