Trigger warning: Evonne Englezos struggled with an exercise addiction and Bulimia for 14 years. Here, she writes about the realisations and decisions that helped her overcome them.
1. I listened to my body
When I had an eating disorder, I demanded things of my body. I would overfeed it, then restrict food to a minimum over several days or weeks . I used to work out to the point of injury or fatigue and still I did not listen to the messages my body gave me. When it needed nourishment and rest, I pushed through it. I was an overachiever in life and I pushed myself hard when working out. I even became a personal trainer, which is not uncommon for people struggling with disordered eating.
To overcome the eating disorder and the exercise addiction, I began eating mindfully. I learned that exercise was not a daily three hour task. I started wondering what I actually enjoyed doing, rather than what would burn the most calories.
2. I stopped denying the problem.
The distress the Bulimia was causing me was not obvious to others, however the behaviours were out of control and I was not coping well at all. I needed to be truthful with myself about what my eating behaviour and exercise addiction was actually doing to me. There are severe consequences of having an eating disorder; the impact on someone’s body can be irreversible. It was not a healthy way of living. But I know I could have kept on going. I’m not alone in this – disorders such as bulimia often go undiagnosed and unnoticed.
Consequently, women who do not present with extreme weight loss, as with Anorexia, struggle for years with a hidden illness and face barriers to seeking appropriate help. Being truthful about the seriousness of my eating disorder and the impact on my life was key to recovering.
3. I realised it was a deeper issue than just my relationship with food
It was not just the relationship with food I had to assess, it was my relationship with everything in my life that contributed to how I was relating to food and exercise.
I had to start asking the questions: 'What in my life am I trying to purge? Why can I not get enough? What underlying dissatisfaction or hole and I feeling that needs to be filled?'