health

'Talk of food is off limits.' How being a size 24 saved my life.

This post deals with eating disorders and might be triggering for some readers.

My entire life I was taught that being fat was the worst thing in the world. As a child I was taught that being fat made me unhealthy, unlovable and that the only way that I could find happiness was by shrinking myself.

Even as a teenager being a size 14 was always the dream. If I could just be a size 14 I would be happy. Maybe people would stop making comments about my body. If I were a size 14 I would have more in common with my friends, I wouldn’t have to shop in different stores, we could even swap clothes! Being a size 14 was going to make me happy! Society told me so, the TV told me so, my family told me so. 

But for me, being a size 14 almost killed me.

I was 25. I went to the gym six days a week, sometimes twice a day. I meal prepped. I took supplements and appetite suppressants. I logged every single calorie that went into my mouth and when it wasn’t on my meal plan I forced myself to be sick. Even sometimes when it was on my meal plan, I forced myself to be sick. By the age of 25 I had been suffering from bulimia for eight long years. 

Watch: Angie Kent opens up about her bulimia on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. Post continues after video.

Video by Channel 10

Suffering from bulimia for so long made me physically and mentally weak. I kept no food down and I was always thinking about what I could and could not eat. I would weigh myself multiple times a day just to make sure that I hadn’t gained any weight. I would take my scales to my partners when I spent the night and I took fistfuls of laxatives when the bathroom was too close to people and I didn’t want people to hear me vomit. 

Nobody noticed that I was dying on the inside – I was an expert at hiding it. But we are also so programmed to celebrate weight loss that it never occurred to anyone to ask me if I was OK. I was just complimented on my success. I starved myself so that I could fit society’s idea of what beautiful is. I was taught that being fat made me less than. Being on a diet told people that I wanted to be like them and every kilogram lost was a step toward acceptance in a world where, as a fat gay teen, I never felt I belonged.

Society teaches us that weight loss should be achieved no matter the cost. So that is what I did. I made myself sick at work, at home, in restaurants and I got results. But there were signs, signs that were missed. I have allergies and I would use these an excuse for the redness of my eyes. I wore makeup every day to hide the broken blood vessels on my face. I collapsed at work, twice and while the Emergency Department doctors had concerns about my heart, instead of sending me to see a psychologist they suggested that I lose weight. 

I laid in the hospital bed, 89kg, a size 14 and the nurse told me that I was hard to cannulate because I was fat. In reality, I was dehydrated, because I hadn’t eaten or drank anything of substance in months. The health care system failed me. There were no public psychiatric beds available and I couldn’t afford a private bed, so I was sent home to sort it out myself. 

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I was a size 14. I had finally made it. But I was miserable, and I was killing myself.

The next day I went to my GP, got a referral to an eating disorder psychologist, received a diagnosis and reached out for support. When I told people that I had an eating disorder, not many of them believed me. I had to fight for treatment because I knew I needed help. I didn’t want to die. I still wanted to be thin, but I didn’t want to die. 

"Talk about the size of my body or the food that I eat are off limits." Image supplied.

Treatment and recovery taught me a lot, but not once did someone suggest the option of me loving the body that I’m in, the body that I naturally have, the body that I have when I’m not engaging in disordered eating behaviours. Not once did anyone suggest that I was perfect just as I am. 

Five years later and I still live with an eating disorder (albeit nowhere near as severe). I still find myself triggered by talk of diets and comments about my weight and I have long term health problems because of the way I abused my body.

I now live in a size 24 body. Talk about the size of my body or the food that I eat are off limits, unless I decide to speak about it. I have thoughts about my size and food almost every day. The difference is now I have a love and appreciation of food and a balance that never existed at a size 14. I am able to think about my body size in terms of what it has done for me and what it has survived rather than what it ‘should’ be. 

I’ve also learnt so many things since then. I now know my body is sexy, because sexy is something that can be present irrespective of our size. I have curves and I will (and do) flaunt them. I also have bucket loads of fat body confidence which comes from embracing my body, throwing away societal beauty standards and finding a community that recognises that love, happiness and health can be found in bodies of all shapes and sizes. 

You are perfect just the way you are.

Being a size 24 has saved my life.

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected] You can also visit their website, here.

Lacey-Jade Christie is a fiery Melbourne-based plus-size influencer and host of The Fat Collective podcast. She combines her life as a nurse with her own experience of mental illness and is a strong advocate for safe spaces for the BoPo and Queer community to come together through both the podcast and at various events she hosts throughout the year.  Not one to shy away from the controversial, she is an LGBTIQ+ activist, feminist and published writer, having featured in publications such as The Guardian, The Age and Archer Magazine and many more. Lacey’s passion for inclusivity and celebrating diversity shine through her much like the glitter she is constantly covered in. For more from Lacey-Jade, you can follow her on Instagram. 
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