By Molly Gorman
Mental health editor Molly Gorman reflects her struggles with ED and the lessons she has learned from her healing journey.
I was 15 when I first went to the GP to seek help for a disordered relationship with food. I was diagnosed with OSFED (other specified feeding or eating disorder), exhibiting anorexic tendencies and bingeing behaviours, along with body dysmorphia. This year I turn 25. For Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I’m reflecting on everything I’ve learned after almost ten years of healing a disordered relationship with food and my body.
Firstly, my expectation of what ‘recovery’ is or entails isn’t what I anticipated it to be. I hoped that by this point in my life I wouldn’t have negative thoughts about food and my body floating into my mind. However, I still do but I’ve learned that it’s how I deal with them that matters most. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I may always struggle with my body image, my confidence and feeling desirable, but that the pervasiveness of these struggles ebbs and flows with time and patience, as opposed to feeling like a constant, unbearable force.
"I’m worth more than my fifteen-year-old brain led me to believe, and I shouldn’t have to live a life of restriction, guilt and self-inflicted punishment."
The healing journey is far from linear. Over the last decade I’ve had moments of relapse, slipped into newly formed bad habits and succumbed to the toxicity of social media. In the midst of before and after photos, fitness influencers and #gymtok, I’ve been encouraged to set boundaries and proactively mute or block certain accounts. Throughout this time I’ve also challenged myself. I’ve grown more comfortable in my skin and learned that there’s so much more to me and my life than my outward appearance. I’m worth more than my fifteen-year-old brain led me to believe, and I shouldn’t have to live a life of restriction, guilt and self-inflicted punishment. Making memories with friends and family, being present in the moment and championing spontaneity and adventure has taken precedence.
Comparison truly is the thief of joy. In a digital age where all we do is look at the best snapshots into the lives of others, it can be so hard to embrace your uniqueness and individuality. This is probably the thing I’ve struggled with the most and I’ve often internalised this struggle, trying to cope through my ED defaults of dieting and over-exercising. I’m still working on it (who isn’t!) but can vouch for feeling more peaceful when I stop comparing myself, both externally and internally, to others.
Writing has been an invaluable tool in helping me heal. By being honest about the things I went through with myself and facing my trauma, writing has helped me to find coping mechanisms and survival techniques. Had I not found a community of other eating disorder sufferers through First Steps ED, an eating disorder charity, I wouldn’t have been able to alleviate the strong feelings of isolation and loneliness that can be so pervasive with an eating disorder. Having an open dialogue with friends and family has also been crucial for me.
"Only you have control over defining how your ED affects you. This doesn’t mean that you have to do it alone or without help - but you have to find the courage to take the lead. "
My eating disorder is most definitely not my identity. It is a part of me and has shaped me into who I am, but it’s not my entire being. It may have felt all-encompassing years ago, but now it’s a mere fragment of my life experience. Only you have control over defining how your ED affects you. This doesn’t mean that you have to do it alone or without help - but you have to find the courage to take the lead.
Diet culture is absolute bullshit and the messaging around diets is detrimental. The industry serves to make a profit off vulnerable young women in particular; young women who have been conditioned to hate their bodies and to always want to strive for change. Learning to eat intuitively is something I’ve been able to do by not restricting any foods from my diet, and has helped me to heal my relationship with food and break the habit of demonising certain food groups. I’ve learned to listen to my body, no matter what diet culture tells me.
"Food is beautiful and something to be enjoyed. Eating is not just an act of fuelling and nourishment but an experience to immerse yourself in..."
Food is beautiful and something to be enjoyed. Eating is not just an act of fuelling and nourishment but an experience to immerse yourself in - it is a vessel for memories, connections, and something that satisfies not only our bodies nutritional needs but also our taste buds, our desires, our cravings.
The one thing I know for certain is that I’m stronger and happier now than ever. I have more power than my eating disorder does. Self-love is an exhausted concept, but there’s something to be said for how far you’ll go if you’re compassionate to your mind and body.
According to the charity Beat Eating Disorders, eating disorders which are devastating mental illnesses affect 1 in 50 people in the UK. Anyone can have one, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, or background. For support, visit their website here