Disclaimer: This story contains details of disordered eating that may be triggering to some.
“2020 was the year it started to happen for me.
In such a world crisis, it was actually one of my most healing years. You see, I’d suffered with hypothalamic amenorrhea for 2.5 years thanks to the obsession of chasing skinny, working out, and dieting. For those who don’t know, to put it simply, HA is a missing period, thanks to your hormones not working properly. The messages aren’t getting to the body because of too much stress; this could be through moving too much, eating too little, or having a stressful life. It’s prioritizing other things than your period. It’s a sign your body is saying, ‘Hey, you’re not healthy enough to have a baby!’ I ignored it, and my doctors didn’t know anything about it.
My disordered eating and working out started around age 18. I started running to lose weight, it was the one thing to do. My family was always dieting, and it was also in my eyes the way to keep my boyfriend of 4 years, who was clearly starting to drift away, interested in me. I thought losing weight was the answer, I thought if I was just like the other girls we might work out. I was told he didn’t want to be with a slob, so I did everything in my power to not be a slob.
I defined being a slob as someone who sat on the sofa, ate bad food, and didn’t exercise, so I was going to be the opposite of that. So, I dived head first into it – running, dieting, running, dieting, workout classes, chicken salads only. You name it, I was there and doing it.
I fell in love with how I felt – I wanted to feel more of it, I wanted to be better. So, I started increasing my workouts, watching my food even more, and this is where the obsession started. I eventually started looking in the mirror and hating myself; why wasn’t I perfect? Why wasn’t I happy now I had lost more weight? So, I continued to lose it.
Exercise became my way to take control of my life; it helped me deal with the anxious thoughts that seemed to have grown over the years. Dieting and controlling what I ate gave me a sense of control I’d never felt before. Becoming the fit one gave me a sense of belonging I’d never felt before, either. After all, I’d always had a group of friends and I loved taking part in everything I could, but I never really felt like I had ‘my thing.’ I was jealous of the girls who had hobbies; I always wanted that, but never knew what mine truly was. I always felt like I was just normal. But I didn’t want to be normal anymore and being the fit one gave me a route out.
I proudly wore ‘I’m fitness obsessed’ on my forehead for everyone to see. My wardrobe became gym clothes only, way before activewear was popular. Instead of carrying a handbag, I’d carry my gym bag. I’d proudly make a protein shake in front of everyone – to prove I was different, to make me feel like I had my own thing, had my life together. And most importantly? I was becoming “better” and “happy.”
But soon enough, we ended the relationship after it had gotten worse. So what did this mean for me? Finally, I had all this new time to diet and exercise. It was just me and my disordered eating against the world. I’d hide my exercise obsession by inviting friends to workout with me and training to be a personal trainer. I’d hide my disordered eating by cooking my meals myself. I’d hide how little I was eating by eating loads of salad and little calories regularly rather than proper meals.
If I went to bed hungry, I was a winner. If I got another comment on how small I was, then I’d be nearly there, at happiness. If I cut out one more food group, then that would be the answer. It never came. The fulfillment, I mean. Or the happiness. I wanted smaller, I wanted more workouts, I wanted less food. More more more.
My body was exhausted, I was on 6 cups of coffee a day, training twice a day 7 days a week and on my feet all day as I’d decided to train to be a PT. I was over the moon when I slipped into size 6 clothes and had a little gap. I was even happier when I lay on the floor and it hurt because my hip bones dug into the floor. I found myself constantly with my hands on my hips, proud as I felt the gap was smaller in between my thumb and finger. I loved being the fit one, I loved being the healthy eating one, but really I was the unhealthy one.
I’d beat myself with every burpee that wasn’t perfect, hate myself for every bit of chocolate that went past my lips, and force myself to walk around my room in the evenings until I reached over my step goal as punishment if I hadn’t done it throughout the day.
I’d constantly tell myself I was lazy, I could do better, I could be better. I’d get so angry I wasn’t happy. The anger and anxiety would fill up in me if I spent too long thinking about it, so I’d get over it by working out again. I was chasing happiness constantly. I wanted to be happier than everyone, I wanted to be pumped and excited by life, but I just couldn’t find it! I felt it was so unfair because I always saw how happy people in the magazines looked, how people smiled when you complimented their weight loss.
Little did I know, I was actually searching for happiness outside of me instead of within.
I knew I had a problem when I decided to come off the pill and my period didn’t return. This is a huge tell-tale sign something is wrong, but it didn’t stop me completely. Nor did the other signs. I had the worst digestion; I was constantly constipated. My skin was dry, nails brittle, and my hair was falling out. My moods were everywhere and I was constantly exhausted. I had no energy and looking back, I barely remember anything. My memory was awful. I had brain fog and was constantly in some kind of daze.
I started to increase my food and I changed my workouts from High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to other workouts, but I was still restricting. If anything, the realization made me hate myself more. I’d look in the mirror and say things like, ‘Oh well done, you can’t even have a period now.’ I’d go through stages of eating more, then hating myself for it and exercising loads to make up for it.
But one thing about my obsessive tendencies that is great is when I get a glimpse of something, I want to know about it all. So, I started to research more about hypothalamic amenorrhea and orthorexia (the obsession with being healthy). I’d visited my doctor lots and they had no clue. They just told me to come back in a few months or to go back onto the pill. I knew being on the pill wasn’t the answer. I knew something was up and I didn’t want to mask the problem.
I’d researched so so much and I knew I had to change, but you can’t change the physical if you haven’t sorted the mental. I needed more. So, I started reading self-help books and deepened my spirituality which helped me heal. When I started to look into other things than fitness, it was able to distract me; the moons, astrology, and the thought of the world being something so much more bigger than us was really comforting.
After studying lots, reading about the law of attraction and manifesting, I knew I needed more help. I was finally ready to change and this is when I saw Renee McGregor, a dietician who specializes in eating disorders. It was time to take things seriously.
I had a Zoom session with Renee and the following week we went into lockdown. This was it, now or never. I was locked at home in my apartment, living alone under completely new circumstances. ‘You need to look after yourself,’ I decided. And I did.
4 months later, I finally got my period back through eating more, reducing the intense exercise, and working on my relationship with myself. Recovery from a disordered eating and fitness addiction is one of the hardest things. I truly believe this because we’re in a world where we are told to eat less and move more, so to have to do the opposite you’re against the whole world. The majority of people around me didn’t get it. But I did.
Today, I’m a dress size bigger, and I love my life so so much. Having disordered eating took up so much brain space; now, I have time to enjoy my family, friends, and career. Now, I have made it my mission to share with women and others happiness won’t come from being a size, a diet, or having abs Happiness comes from dealing with the mind and having a deep understanding of who you are.
Who I am now is completely different to who I was a year a go and I now use my Instagram and YouTube platforms to share more about my journey to help others going through the same.
You don’t have to have suffered from something or be obsessed with dieting to be into self-development or spirituality, but it did save me. It’s for everyone. The world is always changing and we should, too. By changing our mindset to focusing on what we already have that’s good in our lives, well, it opens paths for more goodness. We really are what we focus on, and I really believe everyone has the power to change their lives. We just need to be open to realizing what is holding us back. To me, real beauty and happiness shines when we realize there is more to life than what we know. The faith that it can and will get better. I really believe someone’s real happiness shines when we are grateful for what we have, but are also excited for what we can be. I’m no longer trapped in the past of not being good enough, I’m now free to dream big.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Chlo Hodgkinson. You can follow her journey on Instagram and YouTube. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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