I honestly cannot believe I used to make myself sick. Like, the thought alone of wiggling a finger down my throat causes me physical pain. It makes me itch and makes my tongue curl. To go a step further and acknowledge that I used to have a problem stopping myself from making myself sick, to admit that I used to make myself sick up to six times a day, that I would make myself sick at friend’s houses, train stations and college toilets all to avoid calories – it’s all seriously mind boggling to me.
I’ve been sitting on writing this one for a while, mostly because this feeling of contentment has felt foreign to me, so I’ve been twiddling my thumbs waiting until I’d inevitably trip myself up spontaneously combusting and igniting a furious mental breakdown. But it’s approaching Not Plant Based’s 1st birthday and I haven’t once wanted to return to the toilet bowl, even during turbulent times. Here’s a life update: I’ve recently quit my job in order to go freelance, to write a novel, to run this here website full time and to dabble with some illustration work. I’ve moved back to Birmingham, I’ve not long returned from traveling around Europe and, oh yeah, I’ve put on two stone, all whilst being the happiest I’ve ever been. So, now seems like as good a time as any to write a fresher, less morbid version of my story than the last.
For those who don’t know, I used to be bulimic for approximately six years. I used to base my self worth on how skinny I was. I used to think that when I reached my goal weight (one that was stupidly low for my height and wellbeing), all my problems would melt away just like the fat around my thighs. I used to think that to be fat was unhealthy. I don’t think that way anymore.
Let me tell you what I ate for lunch today – in order. I had a slice of white and dark chocolate truffle cheesecake with two large mugs of Earl Grey tea and full fat milk, I had a bowlful of potato salad, I had two small triangles of camembert cheese and I had four cubes of Dairy Milk Fruit and Nut. Do you know how I feel? Fucking fantastic. So fantastic in fact I’ve had to force myself away from dancing around the kitchen to Rick James’s Super Freak in order to write this post *shakes fist vengefully*. I’ll do more of that later.
I read once that bingeing is a mastebatory activity, and looking back with some clarity I believe this to be true. There’s an element of excitement in the lead up to a binge, the sort you might get when looking forward to a slice of cake as a young child at a birthday party, except multiply that by 50 and then some more. Bingeing acted, for me, as a release from the problems I had been running away from in my life. It allowed me space away from my thoughts during those couple of hours during a binge-purge-sesh as all I would be able to think about was how and what I was eating and the method I was going to use this time to pour all the food I’d eaten back into the toilet. Feeling very far away from my eating disorder now, a lot of the behaviours I used to exhibit start to make a lot of sense. I believe that my bulimia was a form of self-harm. I didn’t have a particularly troublesome childhood or upbringing – I actually would consider myself to have been very lucky, but I don’t allow that to cast a shadow on the feelings of low self worth and anxiety I lugged around with me during my teens. I would say, psychoanalysing my younger self, that anxiety was the biggest contributing factor to why I developed an eating disorder, not just that I just wanted to be smaller.
I’m still anxious. A fucking wreck, tbf lol. I woke up this morning to the sound of my parents voices echoing through the house and immediately thought that divorce was imminent, only to go downstairs to realise they were only discussing what to have for breakfast. However, I would say that I am less anxious nowadays. Anxiety isn’t something I battle with daily anymore. It’s more weekly, monthly, or six monthly.
Why haven’t I been as anxious? Most specifically, around food. Well, I mentioned earlier that I had gained weight. I gained weight and I didn’t die – basically. I gained weight, around two stone (I only know this because I was weighed at the doctors recently – I don’t use my scales at home anymore), and my life didn’t fall to pieces. I didn’t spiral into a depression. In fact, I am much happier now than I ever was as a smaller version of Laura. This weight gain has made me recognise that my happiness and quality of life is not in the slightest bit connected to how big I am or what I’m eating. I, and only I, can set a value on myself and that realisation has been truly liberating for me.
Throughout my illness I wasn’t able to experience joy guiltlessly. I’d go travelling and would only be thinking of how much weight I could potentially lose while away so that I could show my friends back at home. I’d plan to meet my first boyfriend timed around when I could make myself sick before I saw him so he wouldn’t call me fat again (the tosser!). I’d go out with friends and fret about whether there would be food within arms-reach and how I could resist piling it into my mouth. But I do remember that there was light between the cracks even through these dark periods. There was my first awkward snog, me and my friends laughing in German lessons until little bits of pee came out, there was lying in fields doing sweet fuck all, there was rolling down hills and my friend Sally getting cow pat in her hair. I feel very sorry for younger me. At the best of times the world sucks, but the seeds shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the watermelon.
I can’t end this self-indulgent piece without mentioning how instrumental Not Plant Based has been in helping me. The access we’ve had to the best health professionals in the business, the stories from others who have had experiences similarly shitty to ours and the support from Eve, who is literally a superhero, has improved my quality of life beyond words. It’s allowed me to come out the other side of an eating disorder rather miraculously and joyfully without having sought professional help. Although that might sound like a great achievement, I know that looking back I wouldn’t have had an eating disorder for as long as I did had I had the correct help in the first place and I probably wouldn’t be dealing with it’s lasting mental and physical effects still – albeit in smaller doses as time goes on.
One year into Not Plant Based and my eyes still turn watery when I read a message from someone who is being helped by us. The prospect of being able to continue to help people transform their lives the way that I have is the biggest motivator any writer/human being could wish for. I genuinely can’t wait to continue to watch people learn to love their food again and I am buzzing looking forward to stalking all of your progresses on social media for years to come – probably over more slices of cheesecake.
ALL MY LOVE XXXX