My story is not one of overnight success. I didn’t take a magic pill that made me lose weight immediately. I had to change my life and mindset completely – with the help of many people, who I am incredibly grateful to, I managed to lose weight and beat my binge eating disorder. I am also 42 kg lighter and much more confident.
My journey has been more like a roller coaster ride of trials, many errors, and a collection of small milestones along the way, eventually leading to more than I ever expected to gain.
I felt unhappy and had no self-esteem, I felt trapped beneath a baggy t-shirt and stretchy trousers. I never even bought a pair of jeans before 2018 as I felt enormous in them and I was desperate to lose weight to just maybe one day feel normal. I linked all of my happiness to losing weight instead of looking deeper.
I had no idea that it would turn into a journey of self-discovery, freedom, and finding joy.
I loved junk food, watching TV, and being as lazy as possible, so as appealing as the extreme diets were, they never stuck. I also discovered that I suffered from an eating disorder. Binge eating disorder.
How bullying made me develop binge eating disorder
Growing up I suffered a lot because of bullying at school. I was not obese at the time, but I was always more prominent in terms of being taller and built a bit more heavily than most other girls. By the time I was 11 I was already wearing a size 42 shoe. As a pre-teen and teenager, I was always painfully aware of this difference between the other girls and me in my year. Many of who made fun of my size regularly and made sure I heard them when they commented about my body.
A couple of them instigated me to start smoking as according to them that would make me lose weight. One girl even pushed me to throw up after eating so that I would not absorb the calories.
I love studying, I still love it today, and I did quite well in school – and was branded a nerd. Today I am proud of my nerd status, but the 13-year-old me who was desperate to fit in would find refuge from all of this in food. That is when my binge eating started. I would go to the school tuck shop and buy food and hide in the toilet and eat it. Food was a comfort that helped me escape the mean girls at school.
I’m 34 now, and I can see very clearly how much all of those things didn’t matter. But then? It was a different story. The bullying I went through at school scarred me for most of my life (so far!) and affected my eating patterns, self-esteem and body image. I kept resorting to eating as comfort – the more I ate the more weight I put on and the worse I felt about myself.
For many years I tried all forms of dieting – I was sure that being thin would make everything else better. I often skipped breakfast and lunch and came home, exhausted and hungry. I kept feeling like a complete failure as I ate everything in sight in my kitchen. From restrictive eating to binge eating, I ran the gamut of eating extremes. It was a cycle—one that caused me stress and guilt—and it was something I couldn’t stop. Food was all about control. When I was following patterns of restriction, I felt like I could control everything. When I fell into a cycle of binging, I felt like I had lost control.
During my third year at University, I lost 25 kg and would eat mostly vegetables at home and nothing at all when I went out. My friends had branded me a food nazi. I managed to lose quite a bit of weight – in fact, I was a size 10. But it didn’t last long because my self-esteem was still really bad and I did not love myself. Then I turned to alcohol and started bingeing on alcohol during parties – and the weight quickly started piling back on. Once the weight started increasing I stopped restricting food and started overeating again.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve used food as a drug.
I learnt that I tend to reach for food when I’m tired when I’m bored when I’m sad when I’m feeling lonely and even when I am feeling happy. I reach for food every time I feel an uncomfortable feeling. And when I eat, I eat far more than I need to nourish myself or eliminate hunger.
Some of you might be laughing at me right now, saying, “Relax, it’s just-food. It’s not like you have a drug addiction or anything.”
But it is, in fact, an addiction. I’m not talking about a casual craving for chocolate — I’m talking about a sudden need for food. It’s the strongest urge I can think of, like I imagine the cravings of a cocaine addict (Note: Scientists have indeed confirmed that sugar is more addictive than cocaine.)
When I feel a desperate binge coming on, I tear into food like a rabid dog. Sometimes, if I didn’t have any binge-worthy foods around, I would leave the house and go to a convenience shop or a drive-through to buy food. I used to feel horrendous amounts of guilt and shame about this. This paragraph was difficult even to write.
Wake up call
Two years ago I was at my lowest ever. I felt ugly; fat; alone and when I looked in the mirror I did not recognise myself. I smiled at everyone and pretended I was happy the way I was. But deep down I felt so worthless. On the 8th of February 2017, a patient of mine came into the pharmacy. He was not feeling well and asked me to test his blood sugar and blood pressure. I remember that both were high and I advised him to lose weight and start exercising 30 minutes a day.
He was not as obese as me, and I could see in his eyes that he was thinking – ‘you are one to talk?! you are double my size!’ I went home thinking about him and the look in his eyes.
I felt this was a sign – just as I thought it was time to do something about my weight – she private messaged me and we got to talking about this subject.
So I decided it was time to take action, I signed up to nutrition service starting 11th February. I cleared my cupboards and freezer from junk food. I spoke to my family and friends and told them that I will need their support. I asked them not to eat in front of me and to help me say no when it came to junk food. The service got me started and helped me immensely. I did not need to worry about what to cook or that I would be exhausted after a long day of work. I will forever be grateful to them as without their help I would not have managed to start this long tough journey.
I made an appointment with a dietitian as well. As I knew that once I was back to cooking for myself and fending for myself, I might fall back into old patterns. The meeting with the dietitian was another eye-opener. He told me that he could not understand why I came to him. As a pharmacist, I knew all the nutrition facts already. There was not much he could teach me. But he was willing to meet up with me and discuss my progress regularly. We met four times, and I was ready to face my nutritional needs alone.
Obstacles in my weight loss journey
By July 2017 I had lost 18 kg. People were noticing my weight loss and I started feeling good about myself. That first summer was the summer of forming healthy habits and making lifestyle changes. They say it takes 30 days of doing something every day to form a habit. While that might be true for most people, it wasn’t for me because it took me the entire summer to form my habits and control myself. I also wanted to start exercising as this would allow me some more freedom with food and to have the courage to start cooking for myself again.
I wish I could tell you that this was easy, but it was HARD. I decided to join a gym which came highly recommended. I had a meeting with the instructor and discussed what my goals and needs were with him. We then made an appointment to measure my BMI and have a fat test done the following week. When I got on the scale, the ‘trainer’ who took my weight said to me: ‘oh my God you are so fat we have loads of work to do to lose weight.’ I left the gym feeling demotivated and all I could to think of was – I want to eat! I want Pizza now!!!!
And that is what I did. I bought a pizza and ate it in a few minutes. A few days later I gave myself a reality check! No! You will keep at this – you will not give up again because of one idiot.
Getting to know my body and limitations
I learned that nights were hard for me. There were days I ate very well all day long, with the help of plan h, but then after a stressful day, I would buy chocolate and eat it all. I was also out of shape so working out was hard. I decided to find another trainer to help and motivate me at that point.
He only had the time and managed to fit me in late in the evening and many times after a long day at work. I used to feel weak and tired, so finding the motivation to get to the gym was tough. Especially when I found myself struggling when running or lifting. It took me a while to learn that exercising over my lunch break was a better fit for me. But this gave me a break from work, and I had enough energy to push myself.
There were a lot of days of missing the mark; when I would be too tired to work out. Sometimes after a long, stressful day I didn’t think about what I was consuming and ate whatever was in front of me (not the nutritious kind of food). There were many days when I felt like I was not making any progress whatsoever. The biggest and most important thing I started to learn in summer 2017 was to give myself grace. I had to learn to forgive myself and move on when I fell short of the mark I set for myself. I had to learn to keep my head up and remind myself that the tiny baby steps would lead to progress.
My obsession with exercise
In terms of exercise, I kept working hard. Exercising was one of my priorities, and so I fit it into my schedule every day. I made myself get up at 5 am every day to get my cardio done, and five days a week I would go to a trainer where I would be lifting weights or circuit training. I wanted to lose the weight so much I didn’t care it was affecting my social life – I would miss out on meeting my friends at night so that I would be up at 5 am working out every day. The results kept on coming and I felt amazing. My abs were even starting to show.
April 2018 was one of the worst months of my life. I ingested a poison and I could not be hospitalised as I could not find someone to replace me at the pharmacy and I had to stay open. I was going to work and I felt that I was just existing for my patients and I was worth nothing again as I could not take care of myself- I was in too much pain to eat and even climb the stairs properly. I stopped going to the gym of course. My then trainer seemed not to believe me and thought I was making up excuses not to train.
It finally all clicked and came together
Eventually, when I started feeling better, and my body started healing I decided it was time to change my life entirely, and this was not the life I wanted to live. I decided to put my pharmacy on the market and sell it. I decided that the workouts I was doing were too extreme and I needed to listen to my body and I needed to start eating more intuitively.
So I started my research. I read books about binge eating disorder; I worked with a coach who helped me figure out what I was feeling and to understand myself and my needs better. I learnt to love myself.
Now I am preparing my meals and eating what my body needs. I know what to give my body for breakfast for it to feel great during the day. I learnt about portion control, and I eat almost everything nowadays. When I have long work days – I know my body needs some more carbs. When I go to the gym and do a workout I know my body needs more protein, and on my off days my body does crave sweets sometimes, and I also have a small portion because I deserve it and I do not need to binge anymore.
I then decided to start studying neuroplasticity, eating disorders. I am currently doing the Bob Proctor Thinking into results coaching course together with the hunger for happiness coaching course as well.
Looking towards My future
I am now at a place where I am coaching other people through their weight loss journey, and I am so grateful for those who are trusting their wellbeing and health journey in my hands.
I am so grateful for everyone who has helped me lose weight and deal with my eating disorder and motivated me to keep on going and for all those who believed that I could do it. I am now using all that I have learnt and am still learning to help people with their struggle.