Hello, my name’s Annie…

…and I’m a recovering anorexic.

I may not look it, being 5’8″ and weighing 180 pounds.   I gained almost 50 pounds while I was pregnant in 2012 and haven’t managed to shift more than 20 of them.  But I’m still recovering from anorexia.

Every day is a battle with self-esteem, food and my personal life goals.  I’ve gotten better, but I’m certainly not recovered and I never will be.  I think an eating disorder is like an addiction.  You can address it, accept it and manage it, but you can never be rid of it.

I would say I was a ‘practising anorexic’ for 5 years from 1997 to 2001.  I showed the signs in ’97, but there was no noticeable change in my appearance until late ’98.  I went from 145 pounds to 108 in just under a year.  That was my lowest point, in more ways than one.  I had the figure of a little boy – no breasts, no hips and my fingers looked like spider legs.  My hair was lackluster, except on my body where it started to grow thicker to help insulate me.  I couldn’t sit for long periods because my bum would start to hurt from lack of padding.  I ran 6 miles every morning and ate fewer than 100 calories over the course of the day.  I wore a US size 0 – and it was baggy.  See the girl in the header picture with the white cap?  That was me 20 pounds away from my lightest.

I knew I was hurting myself, but I liked the way I looked so much that I didn’t want to stop.  I had to control something, so I controlled my food.  I wanted to ask for help, but was afraid of losing that control.

When I finally asked for help, my therapist and nutritionist told me I was one week away from being admitted to a hospital.  They told me I had to choose what I wanted to do.  They let me keep the reins and I decided that I wanted to get better.  I took control of my disorder.

Most people remember the day they graduated high school or university, the day their first child was born.  Of course I remember these dates; they were life-changing.  I also remember other events that are life-changing to me: the first day I ate a sandwich with full-fat mayonnaise in it.  It was spring of 2006 and I ordered a tuna mix baguette from a cafe in Clapham.  6 and a half years after I accepted I had an eating disorder.

I first put butter in my mashed potatoes in 2005.  I stopped using spray cooking oil and switched to proper tablespoons of oil in 2006.  2009 was a big year – I ate full-fat peanut butter and used cream and whole milk to bake and make soups.  I’m progressing.  I make (and enjoy) fried chicken, will eat cake with real icing and cook with butter and oils on a regular basis.  But I still struggle.

I hate getting dressed, especially in my new body, because I never look as good as I think I should.  I hate shopping for clothing because I usually have to try on 10 things to find one that I think fits well.  And those other 9 pieces are telling me my body is not the ‘right’ shape (at least, that’s what I think they’re telling me).  But I’m aware that I think this way, so I try to manage my expectations.

For me, exercise is a small release of tension, but a bigger trigger for anxiety.  Running used to be my time to myself.  To think.  To enjoy the view.  But as soon as I finish a jog, I think about how much weight I’ll have lost by the next day or whether my stomach will look any flatter in the morning.  Maybe my quads will show through a bit more.  Instantaneously.  None of that is safe or realistic.  But I’m aware that I do this, so I try to manage my expectations.

I manage my anorexia every day of my life.  And I thank the galaxy that my husband is understanding and supportive and loves me, no matter how high or low I feel and no matter what shape or size I am.  I am recovering from anorexia one day at a time and I’m managing it because I talk about it.  So please, if you know someone, or are someone, who may have a difficult relationship with food or their body image, please please please talk about it.  If it’s a friend, then talk to them.  If you’re struggling, talk to a counselor.  The hardest thing I’ve ever done was ask for help.  Because I thought that meant I wasn’t strong enough to do it on my own.  It took some time, but I finally realised that I was being strong because I didn’t want to let the addiction take over; I wanted to fight.

My biggest worry about being a mum is not that my daughter will hate me when she’s 15 (that’s inevitable, I know!) or that I’ll be too strict or maybe I won’t spend enough time with her.  It’s that she won’t appreciate how wonderful she is – exactly as she is.  But I plan to tell her every day just how beautiful, strong and smart she is and hope that will be enough.

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This is very much my own experience and everyone who has battled with an eating disorder will have a different outlook and a different attitude.  Anorexia is part of my history and I think I’m a better person because of it.  I’m open about my experiences as I think that talking not only helps me get better, it helps get other people talking too.

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  • elizabeth chase

    I have always and will always love you ( only if you promise to love my increasing number of wrinkles as i get older!)