Guest Blogger: LOUISE McDERMOTT (Nutrition & Weight Management Practitioner - UK)
I was diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa in 2011. I was 26 years old. I was in a long-term relationship with one of my longest best friends that I had known since primary school and we were engaged to married in September 2012.
I can’t really tell you what the trigger for my eating disorder was, but when I was attending therapy it became clear I had always had reoccurring eating disorders, even from childhood. As a child I was a dancer and majorette, and this was my absolute life. I was good at it; it came natural to me. Looking back, I can see this played a part in my disordered eating and body image, though at the time I wasn’t aware of this.
Looking back, I can see it makes sense. I was constantly comparing myself to others, in terms of ability, so why not appearance? I wanted to be the best dancer, I wanted to win the trophies and be the leader of my troupe. Competition is normal in any sport, and the same goes for the world of dancing and majorettes.
Appearance is a big deal in the dancing world, and even while attending training sessions, you had to look immaculate. Hair had to be perfectly in place, the right colour bobbles had to be worn, shoes had to sparkling clean, you had to show the discipline in taking pride in your appearance. Dancing was a discipline. When dancing you had to look right, you had to be in time with your fellow dancers, you had to execute the moves perfectly, and looking back now I can see how body image was included in that, even if not intentional.
When I left high school, I went to college to study a btec diploma in dance, and this was like entering the world centre of eating disorders. All my friends on the course, had struggles with body image and engaged in disordered eating behaviours. We were all 16 -21 years of age, so our bodies were going through changes, and with the age differences we were all at different stages. I mean I was 16 years old, struggling with my body changing shape, and having a period every month, and I was comparing myself to a 21-year-old dancer.
I was struggling with my periods, spots, new to sex and boys, no real idea of make up etc, so I felt completely inadequate. By this age, my parents had divorced, and I had become somewhat estranged from my mother. I was extremely close to my nana, she was my everything in terms of a mother, but there definitely was a hole in my life in terms of a younger woman to show me the ropes in terms of growing into a young woman.
I remember at lunch hour none of us would eat, and if anyone did eat it was made out like it was the worst thing anyone could do. This was probably the first time I noticed I suffered with depression. I started missing college, and spending time at home locked away in my bedroom. I preferred it that way. Where I could eat in secret, or not eat at all. Where I wasn’t judged on my body shape or size.
Even when I left the world of dance, at the age of 24-ish. It was part of me, to compare myself to everyone. Social media really wasn’t that big back then and didn’t play any part of my mental health or insecurities, I only had Facebook, and only had a few friends and family on there. I would literally breakdown daily about my appearance. If I had plans to go out with friends, I needed to have new clothes, new make-up, new hair, otherwise I wouldn’t go.
Many times, when I was on a night out, I would leave halfway through to get changed, as I felt so inadequate to other women who were out. I would often cancel plans at the last minute, and often, when I did go out, I would be rather withdrawn and would try fade into the background of people. Even going to work was a daily ordeal. I worked in the care sector, and we didn’t have a dress code, so this literally caused me anxiety every day, trying to find clothes I was comfortable in all day.
My bulimia nervosa was a representation of how I felt unworthy, how I didn’t feel I was good enough for anyone. In friendships or relationships. As my eating disorder progressed and my health deteriorated it meant the end of my relationship, and I moved out to live on my own. My ED got worse as time went on, and eventually I was admitted to hospital under the mental health act, and I spent time in inpatient therapy in the Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders in Leeds. Now to tell you more about my ED I would need to write another blog, and I just want to focus on how I work on recovery.
Fast forward 6 years, I have two children, I have qualified as Nutritionist, Yoga Teacher, and I am studying a BSc Hons in Health Science to hopefully go on to medical school.
What was the turning point? A death in my family sadly. In Oct 2018 my family suffered a tragic loss of one of my beautiful cousins. I have known of many people die due to suicide, but to experience this so close to home, was like something I have never ever felt. I have experienced loss with grandparents, and even a close friend in a car accident, but this was something different. It was dark, it was shockingly painful, and it completely ripped through my family, leaving no one unscathed. The pain my aunt and uncle must feel will be forever etched on my mind.
My cousin was incredible, 14 years younger than me, yet I admired her so much, and she was a role model for me. My heart broke the day I took the call from another cousin, to tell me the news. The sickness, the pain, the horror images that took up residence in my mind.
The following weeks took time to process, the grieving process had to start once the shock subsided. When I felt able to process reality again, I knew I needed to wake up. I needed to change the way I lived. I needed to make something of myself and follow my heart and my dreams.
So, the first thing I did was write a new year plan for 2019. I signed up to the courses I needed for yoga teacher training and the school of nutrition to gain my accredited qualification. I started practicing yoga daily, taking my time, and learning to love my body. I studied nutrition hard, and it completely changed the way I looked at food and the body. I was learning a science and everything I have believed in terms of health and nutrition was eradicated and truth took over.
Yoga means to unite, to unite mind, body and soul. And I really feel I achieve this. The progression in my yoga practice shows me that I have strength, and the ability to achieve anything. I really believe that by using yoga as my discipline, it has given me the confidence to go to university and work towards one day getting my medical degree.
It has taught me that my mind, body and soul are a force to be reckoned with, that I am powerful, worthy and beautifully flawed in my own right, and there is no place for an eating disorder. Mia (my ed name) is no longer welcome. There is no room for her. Yoga is a personal practice, and the greatest teachers I have ever had always told me to never compare how they look in an asana, and only to focus on my body, as its my practice, my soul session.
Without yoga, and real science education in nutrition and health I am not sure I would have achieved the level of recovery I am at now. Although I have had small relapses, I know exactly how to pull myself back.
I am winning life now!
Aka Body Loving Yogi
Nutrition & Weight Management Practitioner
Body Loving Yogi
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