I’m a big believer that we go through the shit we go through not only so that we can come out stronger than ever *cue some empowering Kelly Clarkson tunage*, but so that we can share our stories and help others who are going through something similar, just at a different time in life. I was having a particularly bad day feeling pretty balls a few weeks back, and as I was sprawled out on the sofa half watching Come Dine With Me (lol ok but what’s new?) I thought I’d write a bit about the distinctive link between disordered eating and digestion/gUt HeAlTh. I never wanted to keep my history a ‘secret’ because I’m not in any way ashamed – but also because I know for a fact that is scarily common amongst the social media generation.
Alas, just as the guests were critiquing a lemon posset, my dear Bethany got in touch to ask about what she could do to help her gut. She explained that she had been suffering immensely with cramps, bloating and abdominal pains – yet the doctors couldn’t figure it out, despite doing every test under the sun. They questioned whether it could be an eating disorder, which she felt was absurd. I’ve been there. Aware Beth was a big one on fitness and ‘clean eating’, I had to question whether her relationship with food was really healthy – or just making her sicker and sicker. After a few back and forth Instagram voice notes, she came to a realisation that she has been unknowingly stuck in a dark hole for a while and from there, she has blossomed – and it’s been a total delight to see.
Here’s her story with disordered eating, and finally finding freedom (ironically) in the very peak of lockdown…
Thunder thighs. The words that would trigger an internal nightmare of self hatred and haunt me the rest of my life.
There I was, 13 years old, care free and loving life at a birthday party, bouncing and laughing joyfully on a trampoline with my ‘friends’. Little did I know that they were actually all laughing at me – a girl in the year above told them to watch my ‘fat wobble’ as I bounced and dubbed my thunder thighs.
Once I found out what had been said, my whole world turned and it would be ruled by this warped sense of shame and shattered self esteem.
That was the first time I had ever even considered my weight; I was too invested texting on my pink Motorola Razor, who I was chatting to on MSN and what music I was downloading from Limewire to even think about how my body looked. Then all of a sudden, it was all I could think about. I was totally devastated and I became completely ashamed of myself – I was convinced everyone thought I was fat and disgusting, that I was the brunt of everyones joke.
For years my weight fluctuated; I would binge and gain 10 pounds, then starve myself and lose 14 pounds. Food ruled my life. It was a reward, it was taboo and I was ashamed to admit that I wanted dessert – so I would eat it later in private, only I would eat 3 portions. I vividly remember one Christmas when I was 16, stood in the kitchen literally wrapping cling film around my stomach to see if it would suck me in and make me look skinnier. I was completely obsessed with how I looked, and not because I thought I looked good; because I thought I looked disgusting.
I suffered immensely my whole teenage life without friends or family even knowing.
After getting out of a horrible relationship at 21, I had gained my own independence by moving into my own house – but I also gained a lot of weight from comfort eating my way through the craziness. I really did want a new start and to develop a healthier lifestyle, so I started to to ‘educate myself’ on nutrition and exercise. I joined the gym, and became more accountable for what I was eating – I’m looking at you Sainsburys meal deals – and lost around 3 stone and it was around this time at when I met my now (absolutely wonderful) husband.
I continued being a total ‘clean eating gym bunny’ for the next 2 years, until I fell pregnant with my son. Wow, this knocked me back – I gained 5 stone and I was absolutely miserable. I didn’t leave the house, I literally refused to go to work and as much as I hate to admit this: I just wanted the pregnancy over and done with just so I could lose all the weight. Of course I wanted my baby, but at this point I was mentally blind, my weight absolutely defined me and ruled my whole life.
After I had my baby, it was my mission to get back to ‘old Beth’. At 6 months postpartum I set myself the goal of trying to run – something I have NEVER been able to do. I built up my stamina and I went from strength to strength. It became a hobby, an obsession. I went from running for 30 minutes on a morning to running for an hour in the morning; then I added a one hour walk with my baby in the afternoon – oh, but then I started to run on the treadmill during his 2 hour nap and finally I would run another 5 miles on a night once my husband was home.
I was running nearly 20km every single day, not only was I developing an addiction to exercise, my disordered eating was at its peak.
All these things started happening without me even realising. I would eat the same thing every single day and at very specific times, 10am, 12pm, 4pm and of course I was tracking absolutely every single bite of food down to the crumb on MyFitnessPal. I was wasting away, physically and mentally.
I was so obsessed with the scale going down, how ‘healthy’ I was (the jokes on me) the transformation pictures I could put on my new fitness Instagram account, and to top it off I was buying size 4 clothing and it was baggy? I felt accomplished. I thrived on the all the positive feedback, the compliments were fuelling my completely fragile brain.
This went on for months until I suddenly developed the most horrific, painful stomach pains. Every day without fail, my stomach would bloat and grow 2/3 sizes bigger to the point where it felt like I was about to burst. I felt as though I could barely breathe, it was so bad – and it was constant, every day. I went to the doctors to find out what was happening. They ran several tests, and I was poked and prodded, sent to different hospitals, in and out of appointments for months until every single thing came back as nothing. Nothing was wrong with me. My doctor broached the subject of an eating disorder and I was so insulted. If I’m coming to you because my stomach is bloated and painful, how is that anything to do with ‘not’ eating?!
Turns out, it actually could have had everything to do with it, my digestive system was in turmoil.
From this point, I just couldn’t keep this up much longer. I was drained, I slowly stopped restricting, I slowly stopped exercising as much, and I slowly fell into a new realm of disordered eating – binging. I’m not talking about binging as in restricting myself all day and binging on a night as I had done previously. I’m talking about full on eating everything in sight from the moment I wake up until I feel physically sick and unable to move I’m so full, and continuing to feed myself anything I can possibly find. It’s almost as if I just need the feeling of food in my mouth – it’s not something I can control. I do it completely unconsciously. I’m not Beth, I’m not thinking, I’m not in control, I am just stuffing myself full of any kind of food until I literally cannot fit anything else into my stomach without being sick.
It wasn’t until lockdown hit us that I was finally forced to face what I was doing to myself and came to the realisation that I had been suffering from mental illness for years.
A conversation with the amazing Soph over Instagram actually helped me admit to myself that I did have disordered eating and I finally, after years of blocking it out of my mind and pretending that I didn’t have a problem, I was made to come to terms with what I was struggling with and without even knowing, she helped me help myself.
Thanks to lockdown and being trapped in the house with a wonderfully energetic toddler, I spent a few weeks thinking about how to change my life and what steps I could take to healing myself. I love being a Mum and I am unbelievably grateful to be a stay at home Mum, but with it comes this lack of identity and somewhere I lost myself – which is probably why my disordered eating took over tremendously in these last few years.
I am more than my disordered eating, and although I’m a very dedicated Mum, I’m also more than a Mum. I am Beth and it may come to a surprise to you that I am utterly obsessed with true crime. As a true Scorpio, it’s incredible form of escapism for me and have always said that in another life I would have definitely been a detective. I decided to take this passion and turn it into a project – a passion project if you like. I have started a true crime channel on Youtube, particularly focusing on open cold cases that still remain unsolved. I have spent hours researching cases, writing down all the details, looking into the victims and who they were, finding all these hidden bits of information, to put together a story to tell on my channel.
Not only do I absolutely love the hours of research, but there’s something unbelievably refreshing talking about something that isn’t about me; I’m not talking about myself, it isn’t about what I look like or who I am, not about my hair, my weight, my make up. I’m spreading awareness about these poor victims and their families, and hopefully help bring them some justice. Of course there’s an element of morbid curiosity and if you like true crime, you’ll get it!
Just in the past few weeks of putting this together, my mental health has taken a turn, albeit very fresh, I really hope this is a turning point for me.
I haven’t felt this way in a very long time. I finally feel as though food isn’t controlling every single thought. I go for hours researching these cases without checking my stomach in the mirror, without pinching my arms and my legs to see how much I can grab. I’m not sat thinking about what I’m going to eat next and putting it into the app on my phone to see how many calories that’s going to cost me – I feel free. I finally feel free.