Becky says things about … the epic fail of an eating disorder

I greet you, dearest Listener, a perturbed Becky. Something happened yesterday that has made me want to say some very important things.

Whilst in a shop, I overhead the following conversation between two young teenage girls. I’m appalling at judging people’s ages – I thought Mick Jagger was 348, turns out he’s only 70 – but I’m guessing these two girls couldn’t have been more than 14.

Girl 1:  I really need to lose weight.

Girl 2: Do what I’m doing.

Girl 1: Yeah, you’ve lost loads of weight.

Girl 2: Yeah, over a stone! Seriously, just spit everything into a tissue, you never actually swallow anything! I’ve been doing it for ages.

Girl 1: I might start doing that.

Girl 2: Do it, we’ll be well skinny.

Girl 1: (Smiling) Yeah.

eating1

Listener, this conversation left me colder than a polar bear who’s fallen into a frozen lake, climbed out, spent all night in the rain, then been told the local shop has no woolly jumpers left.

These two girls were healthy-looking and slim – in fact the one who said she’d been hawking food into tissues was erring on too-skinny (unsurprising, as she’s probably ingested about 7 calories in the last month) – and neither of them needed, by any stretch of even the wildest imagination, to lose even an ounce.

Yet here they were proudly discussing the merits of what is essentially a form of bulimia. In a bid to get ‘well skinny’.

eating2

Every gram of fat, every ounce of muscle in my body wanted to grab them by their perfectly lean shoulders and yell

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T EVEN GO THERE. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, STAY WELL AWAY FROM ALL THAT, AND JUST EAT.

The thought of these two healthy girls slipping into the bony grip of an eating disorder was horrible. Depressing, and horrible. Two words that exactly describe an eating disorder. Or, if you’re less wordy, the word

SHIT

will do nicely.

I’m not just having an aimless rant, I know what I’m talking about: I spent nearly two years in my early 20s starving myself in a bid to get skinny. At the end of 2005, the world had a healthy, happy, curvaceous, 9 and a half stone Becky. By mid 2007, the world was frankly bored and rather irritated by an unhealthy, miserable, bony, 7 and a half stone Becky.

eating3

What started as a bid to ‘lose a few pounds’ and ‘tone up’ plummeted into an uncontrollable need to control what I put in my mouth, and before I could say ‘I don’t have an issue with food and I could never be anorexic’, I had a monumental issue with food and I was anorexic.

eating4

An eating disorder is basically the man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors. In fact, I’m surprised some English literature professor hasn’t written a thesis entitled “Feed Me, Seymour: Audrey II as a Metaphor for Anorexia”. (That one’s mine, hands off.)

It starts as an innocuous seed in your brain: I want to lose weight. You start eating less, you start losing weight. You get smaller. The seed gets bigger. It wants more of your flesh, more of your blood. You duly provide. The less you eat and the smaller you get, the more it consumes and the bigger and more monstrous is becomes, until it’s got you dangling from its greedy, slobbering lips and you realise with a sudden terrible certainty that there is no escape.

eating5

At this point you may as well say goodbye to everything that shapes you as a person. Any aspirations, hobbies, enjoyment, pleasure, hopes, sparks of character, or that fire that burns inside you with your name on it – forget it. You are one thing and one thing only: an eating disorder. Every single second of every day is consumed with focussing on losing fat, with not eating, with trying to avoid eating situations. Food is your nemesis. Yet you can’t think about anything else. It doesn’t matter where you are, what you are doing, who says what to you – there is only one thing you can think about.

eating6

The enjoyment you took in everyday things – hanging out with friends, dinner with your family, shopping, lounging around being yourself – disappears. Suddenly everything is a terrifying problem. An invite to a house party becomes a desperate quest to look skinny and avoid those evil plates of nibbles on every surface. A harmless question from a parent – ‘Are you in for dinner tonight’ – is a gut-punching, brain-screwing imperative to lie. And lie you will. You will become an expert fabricator of life’s minutiae, and you will be ruthless. 

eating7

To avoid having to stay in and eat what was put in front of me, I once told my mother I was going out for dinner with friends. I wasn’t going out for dinner. It was a massive, slimy lie. I borrowed her car and drove round the streets of South West London for three hours, then came back and gushed about what a lovely meal I’d had. Not only did my eating disorder turn me into a slithering, pathetic liar, it rendered me single-handedly responsible for England’s carbon emissions.

An eating disorder makes your once happy, sparkly life utterly miserable. And now let me tell you what you achieve in your diehard quest to be skinny:

eating8

The tragic irony is that in your quest to be skinny, there is no such thing as ‘skinny’. There is no single weight, no end goal, that will satisfy an eating disorder.

eating9

‘Skinny’ is a terrifying, bottomless concept that you will never, ever reach. Even when everyone in the world is telling you

YOU ARE REALLY SKINNY

it is never enough. Comments like that are a sign you are doing well, and you should carry on. Basically, in today’s lingo, an eating disorder is an epic fail. Before you even start, you have failed. You will never reach your goal because your goal will scuttle off into the gloom like a cockroach. Even when you can happily see your cute little collar bones strain through your skin, and you can admire your twig-like arms in the mirror, it still will not make you smile. I have never been so miserable, so wretched, or cried or shouted so much, as I did during my eating disorder.

eating11

Eventually, if my experience is anything to go by, your willpower and your self-control will snap like a piece of taut string – it may take one year, two, ten – it may never happen – and you will plunge into a desperate, blacked-out world of uncontrollable, panicked binge eating. Late nights in the kitchen, tearing through cupboards like the Tasmanian Devil, shoving anything and everything you can get your hands on. I probably owe my parents hundreds of pounds in binged-on food. And the bitter truth is that I have lost more hours to the blind frenzy of binge eating than I have to starving myself. An eating disorder has one hell of a long hangover.

And even if you make a full recovery, like I did (and guess what: I love food and I’m bloody happy about it), and get back to a healthy weight and stop viewing food as the Devil incarnate, your body image and your self-control will always be a little bit broken. 

eating10

I didn’t say anything to the two girls in the shop who wanted to be ‘well skinny’, and I spent the day wishing I had. True, they may have told me to Fuck off, and remarked amongst themselves that I could do with dropping a few feet from around my bum – but on the other hand, they might have thought about the stranger that felt strongly enough to say something, and they might, just might, have packed the whole thing in and gone for a pizza.

So I’ve said it on here instead. Trying to be skinny is shit. It is impossible. You will never reach it. It will get hold of you, and it will never quite let go.

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137 Comments

Filed under Food, Health and Exercise, Life eh?, People, Thoughts and Musings

137 responses to “Becky says things about … the epic fail of an eating disorder

  1. Le Clown

    Becky,
    You are an incredible artist, and humourist. Le Clown is a huge fan of yours. This just brings you way up there. Such an important post, one that might reach and help much more peeps than you may imagine. Kudos, and much, much love.
    Le Clown

    • Le Clown, your words are humbling. I hope my words are helpful to anyone teetering on the edge of, or even fully inside, an eating disorder. It’s incredibly important to me and I hope that came across.
      Thanks as always Clowny x

      • “The tragic irony is that in your quest to be skinny, there is no such thing as ‘skinny’. There is no single weight, no end goal, that will satisfy an eating disorder.”
        Brilliant that…and true. I’ve been there most of my life!
        Thank you for your article 🙂

  2. indacampo

    Eating disorders are very complex issues to deal with, particularly for young women. I can remember in high school eating only taco chips and drinking grapefruit juice for lunch break almost every day. The thought of the time was that taco chips had less fat than regular potato chips and the grapefruit juice would burn off whatever calories there was from the taco chips. Remember, this is a lonnnnnng a time before the interweb. 🙂

    We’re surrounded by images of people not much bigger than, well, a stick man. But that’s not reality. Recognizing that we are all different shapes and sizes, trying to exercise, eat healthy and accepting ourselves for who we are is an evolution for most. As is loving yourself.

    Thank you for posting on this important subject. And I’m sure all your readers are glad that you came out on the other side of your eating disorder o.k. 🙂

    • Ah the old grapefruit juice ploy. I know it well. What a load of old bollocks 😉
      It takes a long, long time to accept your own body image, and it’s very sad that so many people, girls and boys, have to go through these horrible experiences in order to finally be happy with themselves. If I could show people my brain during my eating disorder, and my brain now, I swear no one would even go near the whole horrendous business. It’s just not worth it.
      Thank you for your comment x

  3. indacampo

    Reblogged this on In Da Campo and commented:
    Becky Says Things is a wonderful blog I began following not long ago. Today she posted about eating disorders and she took a difficult topic and made it into an interesting, funny post. Take a read, you won’t regret it. 🙂

  4. Fantastic job of describing a very serious issue in a manner that doesn’t minimize it, yet is still witty and humorous.

  5. Nice job making an important point humorous! I’m glad you mostly slayed your Venus fly trap and are doing well! I have to go Google the stones to pounds conversion now!

  6. Oh Becky. I’ve laughed with you, now I’ve cried with you. I understand.

  7. I think when I hear “nothings tastes as good as skinny feels” I will answer “Well skinny is shit.”

  8. Thanks for a thought provoking post. There is a problem with the images of ‘perfect’ bodies we see so much of in the media. What we do about it I don’t know. Very much a first world problem not eating because there is too much food available too cheaply.

    • The perfect bodies problem is, I fear impossible to overcome. Sadly, even if it was solved, eating disorders can start for any number of reasons, but it is certainly not helped by the barrage of perfect images that are so accessible everywhere.
      Thank you very much for reading and commenting.

  9. I know just what this feels like, having been down that road myself. Well never anorexic really, but it was a very fine line. Its irreparable

  10. Hayley

    A fantastic article! And just made me enjoy my large bar of whole nut even more!!! Xx

  11. amb

    Such blog love to you for sharing and putting this out into the world. It needs to be said – loudly, and often. Thank you my lovely !!!

  12. Wonderful post. Having dealt with my own food issues and having seen loved ones struggle through full blown eating disorders, I have to say that your description is both lyrical and spot on accurate.
    The constant lies- from essentially honest people- and the helplessness felt by those of us who have to witness the struggle and the depths of completely unjustified self-hatred that they are coping with… heartbreaking.
    Thank you.

    • I’m so glad I managed to capture it accurately. Thankfully, my experience was quite a long time ago, but you never forget.
      The lying is such a strange, yet inherent part of an eating disorder, and one that massively attributes to the self-hatred. It’s a heartbreaking situation for everyone involved.
      Thank you for commenting x

  13. You described it well, what an eating disorder feels like from the inside. It truly is an addiction that totally distorts perception and thought processes. Glad you got out of that anorexic hellhole!

  14. Liz

    You made me cry, Becky. I am crying! (and this is embarrassing as I’m waiting for my daughters at the dentist) what a beautifully written piece. My heart goes out to you for opening up about where you’ve been. Wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve written. Building a career out of food only happened because I am obsessed with food. And it’s better (and healthier) to let yourself enjoy and be good to yourself. Speaking of, how was that bacon sandwich?

    That you for a beautiful post.

    • Sorry I made you cry, Liz, but I’m glad what I said touched you. I wanted to say all those things to try and get across how horrendous it is, and if I’ve made just one person think twice about falling into it, then I’m unutterably pleased.
      The bacon sandwich was bloody delicious, and I’m planning on another one tomorrow. And there lies the joys of food 🙂

      • Liz

        s’ok you made me cry. You said everything so well–the emptiness, the never being able to get to “thin enough,” the obsession with food. I spent my 16th year getting skinny and though lucky enough to dodge full-blown anorexia, was sent to a nutritionist for counseling. And it was at that first appt that I remember thinking, “I want to work with food for the rest of my life!” And here I am, working with food–eating plenty, but balancing with exercise and fairly decent food choices overall. Not saying I appreciate “mid-life weight gain” (watch out for that), but it’s so true what you say about being able to be balanced and happy and healthy. Eating disorders are so ugly because women choose to hate themselves and will ruin (and could even end 😦 ) their lives. So speak up and speak on, Becky. Love how you’re shaking things up a bit here at Becky Says Things. Good call on post topics!

        • Thanks Liz. Hooray for that nutritionist! And thank God for your life with food, because without it we wouldn’t have your wonderful blog and you wouldn’t have your happiness 🙂
          Thanks for your continued support Liz x

  15. Melanie

    You’re awesome. This is serious and funny and heartbreaking, and oh so very important.

  16. Eating disorders are strikingly like OCD (which I DO have). I dunno if you have read any of my weight loss posts, but I have worried at times that my desire to be thinner and fit back into some of my old clothes will get out of control. I use My Fitness Pal to log food and exercise. It’s a great tool…but I can see how it could get to be a compulsion, so every couple days or so I give myself a free day to eat and not log anything. I love to eat and I want to make good choices, but the last thing I need is to end up with an eating disorder. o.O

    • It sounds like you’ve got a fairly healthy approach to weight loss, but I suppose the most important thing is being realistic – if you’ve got a weight goal, then for God’s sake stick to it. If you reach that goal and find yourself thinking ‘Well I’ve got here, maybe I’ll just lose a few more pounds’ and find yourself unable to stop, STOP RIGHT THERE. I can’t tell you how miserable it is to lose control over it. What I said in my post is only the tip of the iceberg – it is a nasty, horrible, life-stealing addiction, and you want to stay well away.
      And of course, the other option is to say to yourself ‘Okay – I’m bigger now than I was, and do you know what – I’m okay with that. Because I’d much rather have a bacon sandwich than spend 4 hours at the gym.’
      Try looking at how beautiful you are rather than finding fault. I know it’s easier said than done, believe me – but once you accept it, you’ll be happy 🙂
      Best of luck x

      • Thanks!
        Yeah, I don’t have any real experience with an eating disorder, but I CERTAINLY know what it’s like not to be able to get out of the grip of an obsession, and when it’s something truly essential (like eating) it must ne a nightmare!!

        • Yep. I know people don’t put it in the same league as drug addiction, or alcohol addiction – but you can remove yourself from alcohol and drugs if you want to. You cannot remove yourself from food! You can never escape your worst enemy – and that’s the hardest thing.

  17. Becky, thank you so much for this post! I’m in recovery myself. It has been an arduous journey and there is still a long way to go, but I no longer feel like I’m captured in the jaws of a carnivorous plant.

    I completely agree that there is no way to “win” at an eating disorder. It will either fail by you causing irreversible damage to yourself or by gaining the weight back. Essentially, the goal of anorexia is to be so impossibly sick and weak you can’t function! I tell you, that is a twisted objective for life.

    When I feel the pull of wanting to lose weight, I just remember how miserable I felt back then. Yes, I was sickly thin, but I had no energy to go out and parade around showing it off. Warning to all: IT’S NOT WORTH IT!!!

    • What you say is so true. Even when you’re thin, you’re admiring your bones, you can’t take any pleasure in it because you just feel so miserable and tired.
      I’m so glad you’re out of the jaws of this horrible illness. x

  18. GO Becky! It’s great that you posted this. The more we talk about this shit the better. And your style is perfect– it’s honest and frank and relatable. Reminds me of Hyperbole and a Half’s posts about depression. (Look that up if you haven’t read it, but I bed you have.) Good for you for overcoming the monster and then speaking up about it. I don’t know if those girls would have listened, but you’ve probably reached more people this way, anyway.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I feel very passionate about speaking up about this, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of – and it’s especially something to warn others against.
      If I’ve made even one person think twice by this blog, then I’m a happy girl.
      Thank you x

  19. This is one of the greatest posts I have ever read! So much truth. By sharing your story you will have helped many, many people. I know the feeling of starving to be thin. It is a vicious cycle. I have 3 daughters and they have watched me have a very unhealthy relationship with food. That is my driving force on trying to get it right. It is the fear of them adapting this unhealthy way with food. I have noticed my oldest daughter skipping meals and that is something I would often do. I do not want them to feel like food is the enemy. Thank you for this post!

    • Bless you, thank you for your comments.
      Please show your daughters my post if you’re worried about them slipping into it. I know it’s difficult to get the message to someone, because they will always think ‘That will never happen to me’ – but that’s exactly what I thought, and it did.
      I wish everyone could just be HAPPY and LET ALL THE SHIT GO. I cannot express to you how much of a relief it is to be able to eat a piece of cake or even a sandwich without that black feeling of guilt and despair that used to accompany it. It’s a wonderful feeling, and I hope you can get to it. Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures – trying to be skinny is one of life’s greatest miseries.
      I hope all is well x

      • Thank you so much. I sent this to my oldest daughter right after I read it. This should be required reading for all young girls. It is very important. Thank you for putting your heart out there.

  20. Eesh. I’ve been there, too. When I was a teen, I did exactly what those girls were talking about; I just didn’t eat. Thanks for talking about it. It’s important.

  21. SO incredibly well said, Becky! Told with humor, as usual, but you make an excellent and very important point, and having lived through it yourself, makes all the difference. I wish girls all around the world who are feeling that way could come and read this. 100% true. I think we all admire you for this post!

    • Thanks Lils, as always x
      I wish I could display it on billboards across the world – such a horrible illness will always happen, but if I could help just one person I’ll be happy 🙂

  22. Oh good LORD, what a frightening conversation. That was an excellent post – and I love your drawings – it’s so easy to become obsessed with all of those things and find yourself at the mercy of an unfathomable desire that you will reach nor will you ever allow yourself to feel good about anything you go. I’m glad you’re back in the saddle and loving food (I love food but have a binge issue that I’m working on) – we are our own worst enemies.

    Spit it out in a napkin – how sad.

    • Thank you for your comments. The binge issue was actually harder to deal with than the starving, because it brings such an acute level of self-disgust and a sense of utter loss of control. For me it came because I was still trying to restrict my intake, but my control had snapped – and you always want what you can’t have. So the only real advice I can give is stop trying to restrict, and just eat what you want. It’s a long journey, but hopefully you’ll find that it evens out. Much, MUCH easier said than done, I know.
      I wish you the very best of luck x

  23. Ellis Ward

    You forgot to mention that it can occasionally totally destroy the lives of the people around you. Sometime even for very, very many years after the sufferer has recovered.

    Keep saying things……..
    Proper recognition will come soon.

    • Yes, I wish I’d added a bit about that, because that is equally as important. It’s horrendous for the people around the sufferer to watch them be so horrible to themselves.
      Thank you for reading and thank you so much for your comment, it means a lot x

  24. I hope you don’t mind but this message is such an important one, I am going to repost this on my blog. Maybe there is one of my almost 200 followers, who is not following your, gulp, blog….Probably not…But still…

  25. Reblogged this on Ah dad… and commented:
    Please read this! It’s not only commenting on the issue, but an actual experience of anorexia. Tell your daughters!

  26. LOVE this post, dear Becky; What an amazing piece of writing and feeling you have created here. What a strong, poignant, true, witty, and healing message for the world. Your words are so amazing. I was shouting “YES, YES, YES!” during my entire reading of this. In fact, I’m going to read it again. I’m going to shout it from the rooftops. I’m re-blogging this awesome, life-changing post on: BigBodyBeautiful and now following you, sister. My experiences were very similar. I had an eating disorder in my youth, too. And, every word you wrote was soooo coming from my very cells. I’m so happy that you have found healing and are helping others through the mire. You are my new heroine. Thank you! XOXO ~BigLizzy

    • Oh Lizzy, what lovely words. Thank you SO much, I’m so glad you checked out my post and thank you so much for reblogging.
      I’m following you too, and your blog is unbelievably inspiring. Glad I found you x

  27. Pingback: Becky says things about … the epic fail of an eating disorder | bigbodybeautiful

  28. Thank you so much for putting it out there. And for doing it so brilliantly. I am very glad to hear that you’ve moved past it.

  29. Reblogged this on The Mercenary Researcher and commented:
    I think this is worth a read ~ Becky is talented, funny and SPOT-ON about eating disorders.

  30. Thank you so much for sharing this. Everything you say is right on, to the point I am crying after re-reading it.

    Very well said.

  31. Becky, you continue to amaze and impress me, and this with such an important topic expressed with honesty and humor. I’m so sorry you went through with all that, but grateful you can share this with others. You’re marvelous!!

    • Thanks lovely x
      I have no qualms about sharing my experience with others – it’s something I went through and it’s probably shaped me in some way – and if it can help others, then I’m happy 🙂

  32. I don’t own a scale, because even at the age of 44, I fear I will become obsessed with how much I weigh or don’t weigh. Great post!! Big Lizzy led me here. She has great directions!! 🙂

  33. Important message. I really hope someone who needs to hear this reads it. I have also overheard teenage girls say stupid things and wanted to grab them, shake them and try and tell them they are beautiful and that obsessing over looks or thinness is not the answer. I have friends whose 7 year olds are coming home from school complaining about being fat. It’s terrible.

    • Urgh, it gives me the shivers. It’s such a cruel thing, to have a childhood marred by futile worries like that. It’s such a terrifyingly easy hellhole to slip into, and for what? Misery and, as I said in the post, a hell of a long hangover.
      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  34. Getting skinny is like getting rich. Others know you’re there or well beyond “there”, but you can never be satisfied.

  35. Thank you for this. really eye-opening. As someone who thinks about staying healthy and fit I am constantly wondering where my mindset fits–healthy or too much? I think my never-ending love of food thankfully will keep me from being in the “disordered” state, but hate to say the self-esteem part, where you are just never happy with how you look, resonates strongly with me. So appreciate you sharing your experience…

    • A never-ending love of food is a good start! Just make sure that always overrides any problems with self-esteem, and remember that your ‘flaws’ are nearly always only noticed by yourself! Once I realised that, it went a long way 🙂
      THank you for reading x

  36. I can’t begin to tell you how much I relate to this post. You’re so right about the joy being sucked out of your life when you have an eating disorder. It’s a new friend that comes in and pretty much kills your social life.

    I just saw on the news how young girls are going to dangerous measure to get that gap between their thighs despite the fact that only a small portion of people have the bone structure for it. It hurts me on a very deep level to think about that needless suffering.

    Long live my thigh burn!

    • Hooray for thigh burn!
      An eating disorder is like a ‘new friend’ – it’s definitely a ‘thing’, something so incredibly powerful and so ‘there’ that it’s like a whole new person constantly looking over your shoulder.
      Thanks Jen x

  37. Amen! Or High Five! Or whatever you want to say to cheer you. This is one of the clearest articulations of what the “shit about skinny” really is. A very worthy (and funny) read; thanks for sharing some honest reality.

  38. This has been Freshly Pressed, right? Good stuff. I will share up on my Facebook. Thank you for sharing such a difficult journey with us.

    • Thank you for sharing on your Facebook! No it hasn’t been Freshly Pressed – more’s the pity! The more people I can reach with it the better, but I’m overwhelmed by the positive comments so far.
      Thank you 🙂

  39. Ooooh, Becky! I didn’t write a comment right after reading this one, because I wanted to take some time on it – and now I can’t even express how much I appreciated your take on it! Down-to-earth, clear, positive, light-hearted and funny, yet as haunting as it needs to be. Love. it.
    WHY the coolest, most reflective, badam-bam women have to go through this crap, escapes my willingness to understand things.
    thankyouthankyouthankyou for using some of your awesome wit on this- encouraged me to finally write something about it, too. I was thinking about it for a while, but wasn’t so sure if I should. Now I’m like “Meh. Can’t get better than that, but whatever, can’t get out the message enough, hu?”

    • SO glad it encouraged you to write something too. That’s made my day 🙂
      This illness doesn’t spare anyone – even the coolest ‘badam-bam’ (love that) people – but remembering you ARE a cool badam-bam woman will help you through anything!
      Thank you for commenting x

  40. Bravo for touching on such an important topic with such a REAL approach. The more we bring awareness to eating disorders, the less alone people will feel and hopefully give the courage to talk about it and get help. Much appreciated that you were willing to share your experience in such a funny way. Keep saying things!!

    • Wow, thank you for such a positive comment! I have no qualms whatsoever about talking about my experiences, because as you say it’s so important to highlight awareness of eating disorders, and I believe that the most effective way to do so is to share personal experiences.
      Thank for reading and commenting 🙂

  41. This is the first time I’ve come across your blog but I’m so glad I did. I’ve been thinking for a while about writing about my own issues I had with eating when I was younger for exactly the same reason; to try and stop people starting on this quest for skinny and thinking it won’t get out of control. Once you’re in that situation it feels impossible to get out of. Fortunately I am much better now and I hope that I can write about it as well as you have some day!
    You write so well, I’ll definitely be following from now on!
    x

    • Thank you!
      I would never actively encourage someone to publicly talk about their eating disorders, because it’s such a personal thing, but I can say that sharing my experience helped me realise how ‘over it’ I am – which is a wonderful feeling 🙂
      I’m so glad you’re also much better and hope you can write about it one day x

  42. Your style is wonderfully original.
    Your voice is clear and entrancing.
    You are an amazing scribe.
    Well done, Becky.

  43. So hard to not say something to those two girls. But writing this amazing piece will reach even more than two. What gets me is that the eating issue is just a symptom. And so very many people have eating issues- showing just how many people are not dealing with the pain underneath. So many. This is what I am working on- the real issues deep inside. Food has been my comfort, my escape. And one day I’ll get there.

    Exquisite writing! As I have just discovered you, I look forward to reading much more.

    • Thank you so much, and I’m glad you discovered me!
      You’re so right about the pain underneath – my eating disorder was borne, I know now, from an underlying need to control something in an otherwise very out of control period in my life; and also, although more subconsciously, as I way of showing people that ‘I’m not okay’ when I couldn’t express it in words.
      Fortunately, that is very much behind me!
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting x

  44. Very well stated. “Skinny” is never enough, and it is such a dangerous cycle to get into. There are so many women/girls who start this tailspin for the sake of just losing a few pounds, saying they will stop once they reach their goal. I’ve been there. It eats you alive. You are truly a slave to your body.
    Your relationships are impacted, whether it be avoiding social outings or even becoming disguised with the people around you for what they do or do not eat. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    • It’s so true that it ‘eats you alive’. It’s an illness full of paradoxes and ironies, and it leaves no aspect of your life untouched. That’s why I’m so passionate about telling people how shit it is!
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting x

  45. I rarely read posts like this which so simply and accurately encapsulate the trauma I went through, am still pushing through, and which so many have before me. This is brilliant writing – I hope to read more from you. Kudos for surviving and realising that life truly is beautiful and worth living! Namaste x

    • Thank you so much for such a wonderful comment – and when you say you are ‘pushing through’ this trauma, I hope that means you are pushing with all your might and that you can see a light at the end of the tunnel – because believe me there IS a light 🙂
      Keep going, remember that once you get out of it, it truly is wonderful x

  46. Holy fuck, chica. Amazing stuff. Not what you went through, of course. I know so many women who have had eating disorders—anorexia, bulimia, binging/starving, whatever. And we’ve all thought, “If I could JUST GET SKINNY ENOUGH…” and filled in the rest of the sentence with whatever we felt was lacking because we were packing too much weight. It’s tragic, really. You nailed it with the part about what you gain when you’re skinny. The first time I lost a lot of weight, I realized that it didn’t change ANYTHING except my superficial appearance and my clothing size. And yet we still look for that Holy Grail of Thinness. I hate that so many of us have been broken by this for so long.

    • True words, Weebles, my friend. The only thing that changes when you’re skinny is your appearance and your mood, which is generally SHIT. All. The. Time.
      Thanks so much for your comments x

  47. oh god yes, I would want to shake those girls too, after all you’ve been through! Very honest, fascinating post, Becky.

  48. Yours is not the first post to tackle this, of course. But I cannot remember one that illustrated it to honestly and deeply as this. Finally, those of us who have never experienced this pain have a little true insight as to what it’s really like.

    Well done.

    • I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your comment – I’m so pleased I managed to give some insight as to what it’s like to live with this, because it’s very hard to truly get it across, as it’s just as hard to comprehend it if you’ve never lived with it.
      So I really, really appreciate your comment. Thank you x

      • Thank you for helping us to understand. It’s not just as simple as “skinny girl won’t eat” – there’s so much more at play, and I felt empathy, being a all-out foodie, for the plight on the other side.

  49. Hi! Just want to say first – your blog is wonderful, your sense of humour is brilliant and makes me chuckle, and your drawings should be used by Microsoft to advertise their ‘Paint’ software, because they’re epic. I really enjoyed this post, and thanks for focusing on an important issue and being brave and forthright enough to put your personal experience out in the open. What I’m going to say isn’t criticism, it’s just a note because I worry a little about oversimplification of eating disorders, and there were little bits of this that made me feel a bit… uncomfortable.

    I’ve had anorexia since I was about fifteen, and I’m now twenty-two. I’ve lost all of my adult life and most of my adolescence to an eating disorder, have been hospitalised three times and have had to take three years out of mainstream education because my weight was so low that my uni and college were scared I’d die on them and they’d get blamed. My experience isn’t everyone’s, but I do want to speak up a bit and just say a few things.

    First off: sometimes, and for some people, there IS such a thing as ‘skinny enough’. I think I got skinny enough about a year into my eating disorder. I got to the point where I looked in the mirror and thought ‘where the hell did my arm go?’, and there wasn’t any going back. I hate the way I look now more than I ever did when I was a ‘normal’ (i.e. healthy) size, and categorically do not think I am too fat. When people make comments, it makes me feel terrible and ugly, not like I’m doing well. I would look ten times better if I put on a stone or two and bloody well know it. Anorexia and body dysmorphia don’t always coincide, and you can ‘grow out of’ one and not the other.

    Secondly: I know that you can be tempted to lie when you’ve got an eating disorder, but I did wince a little bit when you talked about that, because having an eating disorder and lying doesn’t mean it’s ‘made you a liar’. You can be honest and open and still have an eating disorder. Personally, I’ve found that one of the biggest problems I’ve faced in trying to manage life as a ‘functioning(ish) anorexic’, is that everyone else tends to automatically not telling the truth, because this is what they’ve read and heard about people with EDs. But lots of people learn to be honest about their eating disorders – for myself, I stopped lying about food after my first admission, because I just didn’t see the point anymore. It breaks my heart a little when people assume that, because I have anorexia, I must be incapable of telling the truth about what’s I’ve been up to, or what I’ve had for lunch, or whether or not I’m well enough to study/work/walk two hundred metres without collapsing. Absolutely, there’s the little voice telling you you should make something up in order to get out of eating / have the opportunity to do more exercise, but I think it’s important for non-sufferers to know that you learn not to listen to it, and that honesty and eating disorders aren’t mutually exclusive.

    One bit of your post really made me worry: ‘Eventually, if my experience is anything to go by, your willpower and your self-control will snap like a piece of taut string – it may take one year, two, ten – it may never happen – and you will plunge into a desperate, blacked-out world of uncontrollable, panicked binge eating.’

    This is just my opinion, but I don’t think that willpower and self-control are what keep you ill; they’re what (help to) get you better. I know you acknowledge that some people may never ‘snap’, but that bit of the sentence did seem a weensy bit of an afterthought. Believe me, I realised that this wasn’t worth it years ago. Anorexia ruins everything. I loved your description of its effect on life; it’s spot on: a total epic fail. Anorexia basically robs you of your capacity for happiness – if I could keep hold of joyful memories in the same way that I can keep hold of the calorie values in one Malteaser, I would walk around in perpetual bliss. As it is, makes you tired, vulnerable and scared of everything and everyone, and largely makes you unwilling or unable to cope with or remember good bits when they do happen, because there always another bleedin’ meal to think about instead. My point is that, sometimes, realising that you’d rather be happy than thin doesn’t quite cut it. I ‘snapped’ years ago. Sometimes it’s not enough, and sometimes, that’s alright – no judgement. Some people do just end up having to make do and get what happiness they can. Not a failure of willpower, nor a failure to reassess priorities. Just an acknowledgement of how horrendously awful this illness can be.

    Also, the bit about binge eating. It is totally true that having an unhealthy relationship with food means you can slide from one extreme to the other, but REALLY. The classic thought of every anorexia sufferer contemplating recovery is: ‘What if, once I start eating, I never stop?’ I’m not getting at you (I promise!!!) but the bit of the post where you talked about your experience and then tacitly implied it might happen to do other people., did kind of risk confirming a lot of very ill people’s worst fears. I know not a lot of people will bother to read what I wrote, but if they do, it’s important to say that binge eating isn’t the normal or natural result of recovery from anorexia.

    Oh, and also, just because it always irks me a little bit – I love food. When I was on the downward path, I starved myself for ages so that I could cheesecake and still lose weight. Not all anorexics hate food or think it’s evil – the fact that it’s so wonderful and important to you is often part of the problem. I’m sure you know that; just thought I’d say it, because…. Well, because.

    I’ll go away now, leaving my two cents/pence here. Feel free to brush them away – the general sentiment behind your post is WONDERFUL and absolutely right, so I don’t want to be a downer. I just couldn’t not say all that. Thanks again, for this post and for the blog in general. Solidarity, sister. ; )

    • Louisa – I have just had to go and have a little sit-down in my dark bedroom after reading your comments.

      Firstly, thank you SO much for writing all that. I feel privileged to have read it.

      Secondly, there is no WAY I will brush it away because you are completely right in everything you say. I knew there were flaws with my post as I was writing it – the main one being that I know my physical experience of anorexia was exceptionally mild compared to others’ and that also the crux of it happened a few years ago, so I worried that I wouldn’t be able to remember it accurately or truthfully, and would fail to get it across. The other thing I worried was a flaw, was that I was leaning too heavily on my own experience (although I tried to make it clear that I was only going by my experience, I do completely see how I made some very generalised statements that tarnished all ED sufferers with the same brush).

      Despite that, I published it the way it was, and I was happy with it and have had some extremely positive comments, about which I was totally delighted, because I had apparently managed to portray it accurately.

      However – what you said made me cry. Everything you say is true, and it made me realise so fully what I of course knew already: that while there are many, many aspects of EDs with which every sufferer will be able to identify, everyone has a completely different experience of it. This may be due in part to the various extremities of seriousness of the illness, but it’s also due to, I suppose, the fact that every single human being on this planet is different! So your comments about the lying aspect, for example, really made me consider it differently, and hammer home that I wrote only from MY experience. I should’ve been more explicit about writing from MY point of view, instead of trying to be ‘the voice of eating disorders’ (which, if I’m being totally honest with myself, is what I suppose I was trying to do).

      I suppose I am guilty of writing the post in a flurry of emotion; the conversation I overhead between those two girls really made me emotional, and I tried to put some distance between the incident and publishing the post; I wish in hindsight I’d waited just one day, and reread my ’emotional’ post because I would almost definitely have realised I was being too subjective and would’ve tried to put more emphasis on the fact it was my story and mine alone which other people may identify with, but which was NOT a categorical description of a universal eating disorder experience.

      I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your empathy and insistence that you weren’t ‘getting at me’ – I know from personal experience that even the most innocent of comments can make people turn on you – and I’m not saying this because I can’t take criticism (it is a poor writer who can’t take criticism!), but because I’m glad I didn’t offend or hurt you to the point that you did have to ‘get at me’. I would be mortified to think that someone – particularly someone with this illness – read my thoughts on this incredibly important and personal topic and thought ‘What the f***??’ because it could potentially be very harmful to them. I hope my post didn’t hurt you; I hope you understand that the flaws in this post are largely down to editing issues, because if I’d been more careful in my editing then I would’ve made it very clear that I was writing from personal experience alone and not as a universal voice!

      And you know what? I love food too. I loved it all through my eating disorder, to the point where I was utterly baffled as to how it had become something I feared so acutely. I wrote pages and pages about, unravelling my mind on paper, almost analysing my own eating disorder because I was so confused by it, but also strangely intrigued. I suppose it was because I was experiencing something so totally new and bizarre, and I wanted to understand how it works. Those pages now make for very frightening and disturbing, but also strangely enlightening reading.

      Finally, two things: would you mind it I pasted your comments at the bottom of my post with a little explanation as to what they are? I just feel they are so important that people know my story is only one story, and that there are many other experiences of the same illness. Please feel free to say no – after all, your comment will be visible in the comments section, but I want any further readers of the post to be able to read it in conjunction with it. Again, please feel free to say no – I know you’ve written some very personal things.

      And, lastly, I want to say keep strong. There are no words sufficient or profound enough to wish a sufferer ‘good luck’ with recovery, so I won’t insult both of us by trying to find them; but I hope you understand what I mean when I say I wish you every happiness and strength with a recovery, and I hope that one day you will get back to loving food without fearing what it will do to you.

      And, lastly lastly – thank you from the bottom of my heart for speaking up. I feel very privileged to have read your experience and thoughts, and it has enlightened me in invaluable ways.

      If our paths cross again, I will be very glad; if they don’t, I’m so glad we were able to meet, albeit briefly, in this strange, faceless domain.

      All my love, Louisa – be strong.
      Becky x

      • Thanks for your lovely response. So glad that you didn’t see me as the reactionary, keyboard-happy pan-critic that I feared you would.

        I completely understand everything you said, and I know how difficult it can be to write about anorexia in general. It’s such a stupid, illogical, contradictory thing, so difficult to explain or pin down. Tragi-comic, serious and ridiculous at the same time, and with that weird, weird mix of strict commonality (most bodies respond in the same way when you starve them, after all) and a whole mess of individual quirks and experiences. But it’s always better to talk, anyway, and I’m really glad you did.

        As for editing, and posting things before you’ve looked over them – for a demonstration of my understanding of this matter, see the plethora of typos in my above post. Sorry about those – I took the ‘write in a fudge of emotion, post it immediately and then repent poor grammar at your leisure’ approach.

        Absolutely, paste away if you think it’d help. I’d be honoured, given the quality of your blog, to have any words of mine up there, even if I don’t come across as a bundle of have. I just have one request – tidy up my typos? The English student in me wouldn’t take it.

        P.S. – Don’t worry about offending me or making me a bit messed up. I kind of assumed that you weren’t saying that it was a general experience – I was just being a bit oversensitive on behalf of anybody who might not want to talk about this sort of thing openly, but might feel the same way. I wasn’t offended, just a bit concerned about how people with anorexia might have come across. Anyway, I’ve read the Daily Mail website’s comments section – I have developed quite a high offence threshold. ; )

  50. Oh, and because you might agree with the sentiment behind this, and hopefully might support it. From one person who knows that unhealthily-super-skinny sucks to another, a petition asking ASOS to stop selling clothes in size 00 (UK size 2), lest they send some terrible messages to people like those girls you overheard. : )

    https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/asos-stop-the-manufacture-and-sale-of-clothes-in-size-uk-2-29-22-32

  51. Tina

    This almost seems like it was written from inside my head. Thanks for saying it better than I’ve ever been able to.

  52. Pingback: Becky says things about … being a writer, dammit | Becky Says Things

  53. clementinegoesusa

    Your illustrations made me laugh and laugh. This is all horrifically familiar, and I understand your reservedness to say something. I don’t usually talk about my disorder, to anyone. Most people don’t even know I ever had one (unless they knew me during that period). I wouldn’t easily tell someone I don’t know that they don’t need a diet, but I do say it in my social circle. Don’t worry about them. Think back about yourself, would you have listened to anyone around you when the disease had its true grip on you? Would you really have reconsidered skipping a meal if a stranger said to you “you will lose control”?
    They will probably be just fine. Their parents will help them get through it, or their friends, and they will be happy.

  54. Neil Dooley

    Hi, I found your blog very entertaining and yet hard hitting. My own daughter (16) has been fighting anorexia for about 18 months now. at her lowest she was close to being hospitalised but after some strong words and decision making on our (my wife and I) part, we have managed to get her help and she is now at a healthy weight again but she is still fighting the inner demons and the voice in her head that is constantly trying to get her back to losing weight. I hope you don’t mind, but I have forwarded your blog to her as she also has a blog on Twitter that she uses to encourage people in recovery from eating disorders. Your piece is very powerful and I believe it will help many young people who are recovering or still suffering.

  55. Thats the most direct and honest comment on eating disorders I’ve ever read – brilliant! you should publish for teenagers, ‘The world according to Becky’. You’re funny enough that they’ll listen and wise enough that they might just pay attention

  56. Fabulous post, incredibly well written and spot on the money. Thanks for putting this message out there, for putting your words and your images to it. These two girls might not have benefited from your wisdom, but many others will. Thank you!!!

  57. Pingback: Becky says things about … food | Becky Says Things

  58. Pingback: This is a story about a girl who is not me | for the love of words

  59. Hi there! I was surprised to find this piece since the other pieces of yours I’ve read have been so funny and light – and I love them all, and this one too. I’ve only just started (like, in the last month) to come to terms with my eating disorder and get help, and it still seems to me that “recovery” is a myth. I want you to know that reading this gave me the extra boost I needed today! 🙂

    • Hey! I am so sorry for the awful delay in replying!
      I can’t tell you how pleased I was to read your comment – I’d hoped to give a boost with my post, and I’m so glad it worked 🙂
      The elusive ‘recovery’ is a myth – in fact, and I know it sounds rrrreeeaaalllyy cheesy, but the fact you’ve come to terms with it and are seeking help is TOTALLY the beginning of your recovery. I won’t pretend it’s not hard, because it’s really, really hard – but you’re completely going in the right direction.
      I wish you trillions of hugs and good wishes with your recovery – you’ll get there 🙂

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