Who I used to be (part 1)

I never intended to write this post. It’s horribly embarrassing and I cringe thinking about. I never talk about it and very few people who know me know about this (or if they do, the details), which is why I’m so reluctant. But there’s an important part 2 which in order to get to I need to talk about this first. Furthermore, in the interest of honesty and the integrity of my blog, I wanted to just ‘get it out there’.

I will quickly start off, however, by saying that the title is entirely accurate. I’m not the person I’m about to describe anymore and nor have I been for a a good long while. (I’m probably overdramatising this sorry, it’s just a really awkward thing for me to ‘discuss’).

In a nutshell this is going to be talking about my relationship with food. It’ll also talk about periods so if this isn’t your cup of tea I suggest you click the close button – I won’t be offended!

When I was at school I never had any issues with food or what I looked like. I played a lot of sport, walked to school and ate crap (ahh turkey twizzlers…). I was slim and healthy. When I went to college I took the bus, I stopped playing sport and still ate crap. I noticed that I had put on a bit of weight. My jeans felt a bit more snug. So I started cycling to college (about eight miles each way) and took a bit more care with what I was eating. I also began weighing myself.

Over a few weeks I noticed my weight was going down. It felt great! Suddenly my jeans fit again. But it quickly became a bit like a drug to see my weight dropping – it was so addictive. I stopped having the same meals as my parents and cooked my own ‘healthy’ meals. Snacks were no longer chocolate bars or crisps. I became more controlling over what I was eating and found myself getting worried if I lost that control. Going out for meals or going to friend’s houses became stressful as I couldn’t eat what I wanted to. I suddenly became fixated with what I was seeing on the scale and how my body was ‘streamlining’.

My period stopped. I panicked but told no one, but I went to the doctors. In my head it wasn’t because I’d lost weight – weight I didn’t need to lose – it was something else I was certain. I’ll never forget that doctor’s trip. She said “maybe you’re cycling a bit too much. Just eat a chocolate bar now and again.” And that was it. Looking back, I needed that doctor to say to me “You’re not healthy” and shake some sense into me. I needed her to say: your bone health is in danger, your future fertility is at risk, your body is in shock.

I was living in a sea of denial and the doctor’s lack of concern validated what I was doing. If she’s not worried, why should I be? Ultimately though it was no one’s fault or responsibility but my own. I remember seeing a friend that I hadn’t seen for a couple of years and she commented how much weight I’d lost. It wasn’t a compliment but I felt buoyed by it. Nothing anyone said, any concern they gave, helped. So perhaps any doctor advice wouldn’t have helped anyway.

Then something snapped. I stepped on the scales, looked at the number and thought “what the hell am I doing?”. I didn’t feel healthy, I didn’t look healthy. I was cold all the time, my skin and hair were lacklustre. I felt crap. Was I any happier at that weight than I had been the last time I got on the scales? No.What exactly was I trying to achieve?

I was never a dangerously low weight and I don’t believe I had an eating disorder, but I do believe I could have gotten myself into a really nasty position had I not woken up from whatever fantasy world I was living in. I was addicted to the weight-loss and thrived on the control I could have over something as simple as food.

I finally opened up to my parents. They were understandably relieved. I remember my sister saying to me that they were so worried about me going to university on my own and that no one seemed to be able to get through to me or talk to me about what was going on.

The summer before going to university my head was in the right place and I got back on track with being healthy and sensible again. I learnt how to cook with my dad so I would go to university with healthy, sustaining recipes. I started eating foods I had been avoiding.

Throughout the first few years of university gradually the weight went back on. I won’t lie, it was a tough process, especially during a time of such change and independence. The fear of suddenly putting weight on and feeling and looking fat was hard to overcome. But eventually the barriers came down, the control was lost and I started to love food rather than fear it. I realised that nothing bad would happen to me by losing that control. In fact, I started feeling miles better: I had more energy, my skin, hair, body all looked better. It did take time but my weight increased and my period started again. You can’t imagine how happy I was!

That was about ten years ago. I’m a vastly different person to that girl in the past. I adore food now. I look forward to every meal. I love trying new restaurants and eating with friends and family. I eat cake with abundance (as you well know). Food is not fuel to me, it is happiness and good times.

This is part 1, I have a part 2 to come to talk a bit more in detail of where I am today.

It was a growing process for me and only one that I could do on my own in my own head. If you’ve never been in that situation or similar then it’s tough to understand something seemingly pathetic and vain, but it does consume you and you do become blinkered. It becomes a mindset and you can’t seem to escape it. I’m obviously thankful I did.

I hope you don’t think I’ve been dishonest in my blog or that I’ve ‘covered’ things up. This is just not a particularly comfortable subject for me as I don’t feel like I have any affiliation with that girl who was so controlling with what she ate. I’m embarrassed how I let it spiral to the point it got to and it’s just not something I like to talk about. But it is important to talk about it and I’m not ashamed of how I’ve grown to be who I am today.

If you are going through something similar or worse and need some advice then email me (annatheappleblog@gmail.com), I’m happy to talk about it further there. Alternatively, Laura’s blog has so much fantastic information and support around this area. She’s brilliant.

If you’re comfortable to answer, have you ever had a difficult relationship with food?

Is food pleasure or fuel for you?

How has your eating habits changed from when you were younger?

41 Replies to “Who I used to be (part 1)”

  1. Seriously Anna, you have nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. I genuinely doubt there is anyone around today who doesn’t have issues with food to a lesser or greater degree. It’s a sad truth and says more about our society and culture than the individuals involved.

    You were absolutely right to be concerned about not having periods and to take action regarding that. It frustrates me to see people not taking that seriously because, having lost all but both ovaries to a huge (but benign) tumour (I still have a fragment of one left and even that still has a tonne of cysts on it – yay!), I know exactly how bad the consequences of not having periods can be. I have to obsess over so many things just to keep my bone density in the range of osteopenia and not osteoporosis. I couldn’t care less about fertility or children, but being at such a high risk for fractures is no joke.

    I’ve always had a bad relationship with food. It’s never been a comfort, as people often seem to think about those with BED. It’s punishment; a way of hurting and abusing myself. I’ve binged ever since I started realising that I had something ‘wrong’ with me…so since I came into contact with other children, basically. I’ve been through periods of weight loss some might consider extreme, but the less I eat the better I feel and the happier I am (within reason – not to the point of severe undernourishment or collapse). It’s because eating sparsely is the complete opposite of bingeing – every time I lost weight it wasn’t even about the desire to be thin, but about getting as far away from bingeing and overeating as possible. Not eating, to me, was a sign of beating the awful urge to binge. Now I suppose I’m somewhere in the middle with my Raw Till 4 approach. I eat a LOT (and I mean a lot, not some stupid idea of volume eating involving just a pile of vegetables) and in doing so don’t binge as much. It’s not perfect for me because I’m still not happy with my weight due to how much it slows me down while running, and I still hate and resent food to a degree, but at least I’m eating relatively nourishing stuff. I’d really rather there was a pill we could all take so we never had to eat though – I don’t need the level of stress and anxiety I experience over it and there would be so much more space in my mind for other things without constant intrusive thoughts about food.
    Jess recently posted…So Many SetbacksMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Jess, for your really thoughtful comment. It should be easy – just fuel your body, live your life. But it rarely is. I wish I’d have known what I know today about bone health and nutrition…and in a way I’m glad I wasn’t into running back then. I wouldn’t want to associate the two together.
      I can’t imagine how difficult you’ve had it with your food demons. I’m glad you’ve found a way to manage things to some degree without going back to the extremes of before xx
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Putting it into practiceMy Profile

  2. What a wonderfully brave and honest post, Anna. It’s clear for all to see that you’re definitely not that person anymore and I think the fact that you’ve turned things round so much is to be applauded. It must have been really hard opening up to your parents but it was probably the best decision you made.

    I very much doubt anyone will think you’ve been dishonest on the blog or tried to cover things up – it’s so hard to know where to draw the line as to how much ‘personal’ stuff you put on the internet. But I think by opening up about your past you’ll probably help any readers who have or who have had similar struggles.
    Autumn recently posted…Parkrun FunkMy Profile

    1. Thanks Autumn. I was worried that people would think I was covering up my past and just showing this trouble-free relationship with food having never had issues with it. To some degree, I’m glad it happened back then and that I’ve grown and learnt a lot about myself since and now my food relationship is so much better.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Putting it into practiceMy Profile

  3. This is a very, very brave post Anna, and you have nothing to be ashamed or apologise about.

    As Jess said, many people have food issues these days in many different forms. I myself have struggled at various points- mostly with the inside of my head as opposed to low body weight. I’ve written before about my issues with body image and its still my number one most popular post- resonates with people! The world we live in feeds us endless, false, confusing, vile messages about bodies and food. Its no wonder we all end up so screwed up.

    I hope you are in a good head space now. For me I know I still have bad days inside my head but there are less of them! xox

    PS: Food varies between being a pleasure and a fuel for me. Breakfast almost always feels like fuel unless its 10am on the weekend. Lunch is often pleasurable. Depends!
    Scallywag recently posted…Going VeggieMy Profile

    1. Yes I absolutely agree about the body image and the world today. And when you’re a teenager or young person growing up it’s hard not to be swayed and affected by what is thrown at you constantly. It’s hard enough going through puberty without having all that rubbish as well on top.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Putting it into practiceMy Profile

  4. You have nothing to be ashamed of and I think that it is great that you have opened up about it. I have spoken a little bit on my blog about my unhealthy relationship with food in the past (I accidentally wrote pasta here instead haha), but it is something I keep meaning to go in to more detail about.

    I can totally relate to the control issue over food. Mine came from the fact that I had no control over all the other crap that was going on in my life, food was the only thing I could control, so I became obsessed with it.

    It’s great that you managed to turn things around before they got any worse.
    Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy recently posted…Comment on Whipped Feta Bruschetta Corn Cakes by DanniiMy Profile

    1. It’s crazy how powerful the effect food can have on us. This element of control is crazy but yet we can be completely seduced by it. I suppose in a world of ever-changing pressures and craziness, it’s something you *can* control. Though it’s the worst way to deal with things.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Putting it into practiceMy Profile

  5. Big props to you for sharing this, I’m sure a lot of other people will take inspiration from it. I love how more people are slowing opening up about tricky topics like this, it’s so liberating and so important to ditch the stigma.
    I’ve never had an eating disorder but I’ve definitely had disordered eating, as I’ve written about before. Essentially food was my emotional crutch and I was in a binge/self loathing cycle. Now I see food as both fuel and pleasure. I get pleasure from eating the foods that fuel my body well and allow to do the things I love, but also from food freedom and enjoying other ‘less fuelling’ foods with the people I love.
    Pip {Cherries & Chisme} recently posted…Why I’ll always be an emotional eaterMy Profile

    1. I’m glad you’ve gotten a better relationship with food too. Food is so powerful! Emotions are tied so strongly to it and it can really affect us. It’s a minefield.
      For me it was important to see food not as the enemy but as something I could trust and be relaxed around.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Putting it into practiceMy Profile

      1. Oh Trish, I love all your finds ~ how beautiful.I adore the fabulous Aubusson carton and the script of the French letters, what a great collection.Just looked again and saw the buckles. Lovely and the buttons, two things I really love too.Happy weekHugsCarolyn

  6. Thank you for opening up for us Anna! I know how bloody hard it is to let our past out – blogging or otherwise – but I do think it feels good to share our stories, the good times and the bad, with others who can relate. I’ve started to realise more recently just how common disordered eating is – and it’s a sliding scale. Your story is very similar to my own – I was never diagnosed with anything (though I can’t say that’s a good thing – like you mentioned docs aren’t exactly the most concerned people at times!) but I did go through a lot of crap with eating behaviours, and some I’m sure will never fully leave me, regardless of how healthy my body is.
    Cat recently posted…A Healthy Morning Routine (Interview Series #9)My Profile

  7. Well done for writing this post, it is tough to think about things like this. I think it is clear you are not like that any more, you come across as having a very healthy attitude to food and exercise. Also, you’re not being dishonest by not mentioning things from years ago. Everyone changes so much in their late teens- 20’s, I am such a different person now to when I was 18. It’s scary what you say about the doctor though, especially as that sort of thing is more common.
    I have been writing a post about this since Feb 14 because it is very complex.
    Maria recently posted…Hawaii runningMy Profile

  8. Great post – stumbled across your blog this evening but the post resonates so well with me as it is exactly how I used to feel as well. I actually did an almost identical introduction post on my blog.

    Like you, I feel almost a bit unworthy talking about my experiences as I was never what was classified as dangerously underweight or a weight that medical professionals deemed concerning, but looking back I can see that being reduced to tears due to coldness, losing clumps of hair at a time and lack of periods for nearly 2 years are definitely enough signs that I was doing my body damage. However, I think it is so important for us to be able to share our experiences so that maybe we may help girls who are feeling this way.

    It’s great to know that you, like I, am in a completely different place now! I’m an avid runner too so look forward to reading more from your blog

    – Alex

    1. Alex, thanks for your comment. But please don’t think you’re “unworthy” just because you didn’t reach a certain level. Your experience is just as important and meaningful as anyone else’s. And I’m so glad you’re in a different place now 🙂
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Putting it into practiceMy Profile

  9. Massively respect you writing this post, and am so pleased it is who you used to be. Saying that, I’m sure that time also affects in some ways who you are now because you will have learned lessons from it and be stronger from it.
    I think you know my previous battles with eating disorders and it is an awful awful place to be in (to whatever extent). I understand the “control” element. For me lack of food (& purging) seemed like my salvation – it was the thing that was going to make everything ok. In reality it was obviously totally the opposite but letting go of that control? Far too scary.
    I’ve had two major episodes of anorexia, the first started when 14 in a similar way to your eating habits, and then simmered under the surface until I was at uni and on the verge of dropping out because I couldn’t cope with anything and would rather have given up my studies than my control of food. That time I literally had an epiphany one day where it hit me that I didn’t want to be living like this next year, next month or even next week. A year of counselling, dietitians etc and then setting off travelling round the world got me to a much stronger place and for years I never looked back.
    Second time was more acute – after Grace was born I had PTSD after almost losing both of us during the delivery. In six months after she was born I lost six stone. (Including baby weight!) I went from 13 just before she was born to 7. I had anaemia (which I still struggle with), and my bone marrow stopped producing white blood cells efficiently because it wasn’t being fuelled. My periods never started again after having grace, until I put the weight back on. I had ketosis, which is where your body eats it’s own muscle (putting you at danger of heart failure) & things were pretty awful.
    What saved me this time was firstly Grace, secondly everytime I sat in the eating disorder clinic and looked around me I thought “what the f#*% am I doing here?!” And thirdly running – I relearnt how to respect my body for what it can do, rather than what it looks like. It was a long journey, and I was finally discharged from my ongoing outpatient treatment when I was 14 weeks pregnant with Milo 🙂 now I would say I have a healthy control over food. I still struggle everyday with my body and how it looks after two kids, and I still have days where I don’t win the battle, but I’m in a much stronger healthier place & running reminds me of the strength of my body every time I put my trainers on!
    Wow… This was a long one!!!! Sorry!!!! Very inspired by your post and your honesty xx

  10. Such a brave post to right. My past relationship with food isn’t ideal but never went so far as an eating disorder but when I didn’t have a period for 18 months I was just told to “wait and see” and that there was nothing wrong. As soon as I gained a few pounds and stopped living off of Special K cereal, diet yogurts and crackers it came back. I had no idea about all of the health risks of not having periods until years later from reading fitness blogs. I’m sure reading this has helped someone out there and I think so many of us have a similar story. x
    LilyLipstick recently posted…A (Cumber)Bitching Weekend + Bonfire Restaurant ReviewMy Profile

  11. Thanks for sharing your story Anna, I think it’s very brave of you to open up about it and you have nothing to feel ashamed about. I really admire your honesty and I know that many others will too.

    I’ve shared my own story about my relationship with food a few times on my blog and like you I did find it difficult to change my mindset and that aspect of control. I’ve never had an eating disorder, but my approach to food was entirely wrong and restrictive, but eventually I ‘saw the light’ and managed to turn things around and I’m in much better place.

    So glad that you have shared your story and I know that it will inspire many others. I think stories like this need much more focus.
    Jemma @ Celery and Cupcakes recently posted…5 Ultimate Ways To Boost Your Vegetable Intake Without Even TryingMy Profile

  12. Thanks for being brave enough to share this sorry Anna. I think so many females in particular have issues with disordered eating, or have done in the past.
    I have always weighed myself several times a week. Starting out as a slightly chunky child, through my teen years and then daily whilst at uni. I skipped lunch every day from the start of year eight through to leaving sixth form, usually skipping breakfast as well and pacing inferring of the TV for hours every single night. It wasn’t until I started working in a restaurant that I started to look at the food I was putting into my body and eating three solid meals a day. It has been several months since I weighed myself now.
    My brother became anorexic (although never diagnosed) whilst at high school and I can remember my parents being so worried about him at the time and his obsessive working out and eating in his room. I only hope that when we decide to have a family or children will grow up with a better relationship with food than I did.
    I don’t think anyone will feel as though you have been dishonest on the blog. Like you said, you are not that person anymore and I’m glad there was a happy ending. I hope part two comes with a happy ending as well. x
    Mary recently posted…Everything I know about running to heartrateMy Profile

  13. First of all, thanks so much for your honesty. I’m sure that post was not easy to write but I bet it will help a lot of people. I personally never got quite to the stage you mentioned, but I was definitely close a couple of times. Sometimes I would lose weight and step on the scale constantly and if I ate one thing that wasn’t on whatever pre-determined diet plan I was following I would feel SO guilty. Like, horribly guilty. It would hang over my head for days and I would keep feeling bad about it. I think those are the times when I was in a downward spiral, but, like you, I was able to pull myself out of those mindsets before anything bad happened. Thank God.
    Chelsea @ Chelsea Eats Treats recently posted…Workouts & Eats LatelyMy Profile

    1. I think there is such a fine balance and line with food. It can become an obsession because it’s easy to control and to over-analyse. I’m glad you’re in a good place with food. Your blog is always so refreshing to read because you have a fantastic balance of healthy living and enjoying life as well 🙂
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Putting it into practiceMy Profile

  14. Thanks for sharing this Anna. I went through something similar in uni and it ruined my second and third years. Looking back now I’m glad I went through that time because I came out of the other side a stronger person, but it was a miserable few years. Ultimately it was travelling and running that taught me to respect my body and treat it as it deserved to be treated, and set me on a healthier path. Looking forward to part two.
    Lauren (@PoweredbyPB) recently posted…Ultra RecoveryMy Profile

  15. Anna, don’t be embarrassed for your past. This post was honest and beautifully written. Ten years ago is the past. I always tell people to look ahead to their future or try to live in the present. It sounds like you really did have a great support system of people who loved you to the moon & back. I give you major kudos for having the courage to share your story. You are going to inspire others.. as you do on a daily basis. <3
    Jessie recently posted…Start Your Day Off On The Right Foot w/ Special K® Red BerriesMy Profile

  16. Too many of us go through this sort of thing: and actually need treatment but don’t get it, either because the GP is too busy, or, worse, because we’re not “thin enough” for treatment for disordered eating/an eating disorder…

    I never got to the point where I wasn’t having periods, partly because when I was really struggling with food/obsessing over what I was eating/not eating properly (weight 10lb less than now), I was also on the pill…I do wonder, though, if it’s affected my fertility anyhow.
    Jane recently posted…Oh. So. SleepyMy Profile

  17. Wow, I got to this initial part having seen the tweet for part two (which was also great). Thanks for having the bravery to post it, it definitely struck a chord with me.
    I feel I’ve never quite cracked my own relationship with food — I was a fat child, and unfortunately in my head I still am. No matter how heavy or light I have been in my life, I look in the mirror and see a fat person. It’s a fact of life, and I’ve come to terms with my head being wired that way but wish I didn’t. On a day to day basis what it does mean is an almost constant wrestle with myself, particularly when meeting new people. There have been vanishingly few occasions in my life where I have been happy with my appearance (now certainly is not one of them), but those that I can recall have usually coincided with some weight loss, and the compliments that follow, plus the nice problem of needing new clothes to wear — almost exactly what you described above!
    Herein lies the challenge for me. I knew going into this year’s summer holiday that I was heavier than I would like (an unfortunate consequence of marathon training is you get into the habit of not worrying so much about what you eat!), and resolved to do something about it when we came back. Since then I have been following a pretty strict diet and at last count have lost fifteen pounds (seven kilos) and am experiencing those occasional positive moments — belt coming in a notch, things generally fitting better. I am probably another four or five weeks off where I want to get to, but now I’m starting to worry/panic about what to do when I get to that point. It’s been hard work to get here, and I genuinely don’t want to lapse back to where I was before. At the same time I also don’t want to start obsessing about eating and try and enjoy life. I want to get to a point where I can consolidate at a weight I’m happy with, enjoy my running (despite being injured currently) yet not be constantly on a diet.
    Food definitely is a pleasure for me, I really enjoy it and that is what I need to find balance in. I wonder if I am looking for the impossible, as I have never quite cracked this in nearly thirty eight years to date — diet is eating ultra-sensibly, relaxing again (even when exercising) gradually leads to weight creeping on. I really hope I can nail it this time.
    There, I hadn’t intended to say all of that out loud but actually that was pretty cathartic so thank you, and I hope you didn’t mind me revealing a bit about who I am here!

    1. Like I said to you Martin, I really grateful for your comment. It shows that it isn’t just a “girl thing”.
      Food is so difficult sometimes. It’s such a pleasure but it can cause so much grief as well. We can become obsessed with it and over-analyse it and use it as a way to control things.
      Thank you for your really thoughtful and honest comment. I’m glad it was cathartic for you. I know that writing my two posts about this really helped me. Sometimes it’s good to just “get it out there”.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Putting it into practiceMy Profile

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