The amount of girls who wrote to me saying that they had gone through something similar, or were in the middle of it, really made me realise how common it is to have these problems and unhealthy relationships with food.
Someone doesn’t have to look severely underweight or overweight to have an eating disorder. I think, to a certain degree, an eating disorder is an unhealthy relationship with food that can lead to depression or severe body image issues. Some girls admitted to being in the same position as me, where they were being so strict on themselves and only eating extremely healthy foods, that they would eat non-stop and binge eat at every meal and tell themselves that ‘it was okay’ because everything that they were eating was ‘healthy’.
The problem with that, is it becomes a habit to eat that amount, so even when you start to relax a little and eat foods that may not be as healthy, you still over eat. And really the worst part is what would come after binge eating or overeating… I would either punish myself for it by smashing myself in the gym and overworking my body, or I would restrict myself even more and end up feeling super down and depressed in myself.
I was depressed because I didn't feel physically beautiful or perfect and also depressed that I had got to the point of having no control over myself, it’s scary. Binge eating and having that unhealthy relationship with food is really hard to overcome… It’s a strong habit that takes time to get out of. I’m in a place now where I feel I have finally worked it out, but that’s not to say I don't have the odd day where I’m not mindful when I’m eating, and overeat and feel terrible afterwards.
But the difference now is that I don’t punish myself for it. I wake up the next day and start fresh and move on. Honestly, what got me to this point of having a healthy relationship with food is when I started to learn to love myself, and to love the body that I’ve got. I realised that I work hard, I train hard, I eat healthily, so I should be happy with how I look in this state… and now I am.
I put less stress on myself by not being so strict when it came to what I was eating, and allowed myself to have treats and eat the foods that I loved and the foods that made me happy, instead of restricting myself from them and being depressed. Obviously I had to work out that balance, and work on things like portion sizes and how often I was eating, but I got there.
I suppose I’m happy to open up about this topic because I believe it’s often overlooked or not taken seriously… But sadly it’s a lot more common than people think, and I wanted to be open and honest about that part of my life because it’s important to me that younger girls or women of any age know that they’re not alone in it, and that everyone has their own issues and things they have to work through. Models can be the most insecure and most prone to eating disorders, but really, it’s happening to anyone, at any age, and in any career. People have asked me how I got through it, and so I thought I’d share some tips that helped me.
1. Talk to someone about it
Be open and honest to people that really care about you and will take you seriously. I found that once they knew about it, I would think about them knowing about it when I would go to do it, and suddenly feel guilty. Also talk about it with a professional if you need. For me I spoke to a few personal trainers I was close to who had experience in nutrition and had clients who had gone through something similar and they really helped me when it came to being a more ‘mindful eater’. It’s also worth speaking to a medical professional if you’re struggling.
2. Mindful eating
Start to look at food as fuel for energy! Eat foods that make you feel good inside and out, and fuel your body with the right nutrients that will keep your tummy satisfied. Don’t just eat for the sake of eating, listen to when your body is hungry and listen to when you’re starting to feel full. Eat slower and you will start to realise that you really can feel when you’ve had enough.
3. Get active
If you’re hitting that point where you’ve had a snack or even two and in your heart you know that it was big enough to tide you over until the next main meal, but your head is telling you to walk back into the kitchen and make another snack: leave the house. I found that the afternoons were the worst for me. I went through stages of having a quiet afternoon at home, and because I was bored, I would just eat and eat and eat and make snack after snack until suddenly it was dinner time… and I would be full of course… but I would make and eat dinner anyway. And something that really helped me when I was feeling completely out of control was to leave the situation, leave the house and go for a long walk or go run some errands or just do anything that situates you away from the kitchen.
4. Learn to love yourself
Focus more on what you love about yourself than the things you don’t love. I really believe that once you’re in that headspace of knowing you’re beautiful just the way you are, you will back off a bit on the stress you put yourself through when it comes to eating.
Steph Smith from Keep It Cleaner is part of the Women’s Health Fitfluential Network. She and bestie Laura Henshaw are incredibly passionate about leading a healthy lifestyle and influencing young girls to do the same.
If you, or anyone you know, needs support, contact the Butterfly Foundation on 1800 334 673.