Real Food Journey’s with Thrive Magazine and Virginia Coates – living with and beating bulimia.
Growing up, I was consumed by sports; a natural adventurer, the outdoors was always my passion. From the age of three, I picked up a tennis racket and from there I didn’t look back. Sheer determination to compete and progress meant there was no stopping me.
Reaching secondary school, I soon found myself throwing everything into team sports, finally putting my focus on the hockey pitch. Team sports inevitably breed competition, something that I thrived on. However, with competition comes pressure. Throughout these years there were certain expectations that I set upon myself, nurtured by my parents, supported by my teachers and driven by my friends. Although this winning mindset is massively conducive in many areas of life, once it is taken too far, emotions begin to become supressed.
I was so set on pleasing everyone around me, continuously worried about the opinions of others and was determined to be better than I was.
A desire to improve, learn and grow is so important as long as you are able to appreciate who you really are. I couldn’t.
I presented a calm, collected face to the world. People would gravitate towards me for help and advice because they knew that I would listen. I would listen and listen with intent, but I never felt worthy enough to allow others to listen to me. From the age of 14, I become acutely aware of my body and the bodies of those around me.
My athletic figure was slightly awkward compared with my petite friends; I began to judge myself and those around me. The criticism took over, and my innately competitive mentality meant I took it upon myself to make a change. This is where my body dysmorphia began.
At the age of 15, I joined a gym and dedicated a chunk of time every day to reaching my goal – my goal of being unrealistically thin. Whilst training in the gym, I followed a diet. Involving three bowls of cereal a day – that’s it! I lost two stone and gained a seven-year battle with Bulimia.
After the initial two stone loss, my weight began to stay the same. I panicked; I didn’t know what to do because in my mind I still wasn’t as thin as I wanted to be. At this time, I was still playing hockey, going to the gym and running, but eating anywhere between 400 – 1000 calories a day.
On Christmas Eve 2008 – after a full roast dinner, plenty of chocolate and a piece of trifle on one of my favourite days of the year with my incredible family, I craved more food. What was left? What could I nibble on? Christmas pudding (I didn’t and still don’t even like this!) but I couldn’t stop. Hiding in the kitchen, I ate spoonful after spoonful whilst my stomach expanded. It had gone, I felt disgusting, I hadn’t eaten that much in years. Now I really was fearful.
Believing that these calories were going to make me instantly fat. I went upstairs, I put the shower on, I put some music on and whilst all of my family were watching Christmas films, I made myself sick for the first time.
I slowly began to isolate myself, refusing to commit to social situations as I feared I would be judged by my peers for my non-existent weight gain. My concentration was poor and I struggled in school. I began to withdraw from my true love of sports and made excuses constantly. One day, at the age of 17, four of my very close friends sat me down. They knew. They could see the weight loss, the lack of energy, the refusal to join in with social events. Their concern was how much weight I had lost, I revealed my deepest secret to them – my battle with bulimia. The story came out, my parents were told. Emotions were high and I was embarrassed, ashamed yet also angry that now my control was being taken away from me. I wasn’t ready to get rid of bulimia just yet.
I began seeing a therapist at the local hospital who really tried to work with me on over-coming my issues, but I just wasn’t ready to change. A prescription of anti-depressants was sent my way; I was 17 years old and taking anti-depressants. Nothing was chang-ing – if anything it got worse. My bulimia was my control mechanism and I was angry that people were trying to take this away from me.
I was offered and accepted a place at university – a fresh start with new surroundings. Unfortunately, university only accelerated my eating disorder. I could now buy food whenever I wanted, I could be sick whenever I wanted. I was finally at the stage where I knew I needed help and actually wanted it. This is when I was first introduced to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Twelve months of CBT went by, the binge eating/purging reduced significantly and I was finally able to introduce more positive behaviors back into my life. Although it was not over, there was a tiny bit of light at the end of my disordered tunnel.
I had graduated from university, found myself an incredible job and met a couple of inspiring individuals who I will be forever grateful to for introducing me to the realm of goal-setting. From here, I decided to introduce ‘self-development’ into my daily routine, focusing on the concept of Positive Psychology and learning to become more aware of my own emotions instead of suppressing them. My mindset completely shifted.
I removed the scales and focused instead on how I felt. I wanted to feel a certain positive way every day instead of trying to look a certain way.
A major change came when I started to understand the importance of food and adequate nutrition to support your goals. Eating correctly and fueling your body is key to maintaining overall health. This is an area especially important for those suffering with an eating disorder; being adequately fueled requires constant support to reduce feelings of anxiety, something that I will help you with.
I am very grateful that I am someone who was able to experience seven years of a self-destructive illness, and then rise above it.
So for those who are reading this, you are not alone. You have a beautiful mind, a wonderful soul and today is the day you get to share that side of you with the world.
Now my sole focus is on helping others who are facing mental health battles by offering cognitive behavioral therapy alongside adequate nutrition and a fitness program. I am determined to reduce and prevent the years of suffering for you and will dedicate myself to promoting a healthy mentality.
Food Journey from Virginia Coates – www.virginiacoates.com