My mum always wanted to tell this story, but sadly she didn’t live to do it, so I am doing it for her. She was and always will be my greatest inspiration.
This is very painful for me, but it was always her wish, that we write this story together, so that if it even helped one person, it would be worth it.
My journey is a long one. I think I was about 9 when I first wanted to go on a diet, my mum wouldn’t hear of it, unhealthy at that age, still growing. So I called it healthy eating instead, but secretly, it was a diet! I had body image problems from that age. I was never fat, never thin, just somewhere in the middle, just not perfect enough for me.
By the time I was 14 it was obsession with food and exercise. By 15 I had anorexia nervosa. That was a terrible chapter in my life. I was completely obsessed with food, would read recipe books, cook for other people, but not feed myself. I got very good at being deceitful, hiding food, lying; I knew every trick in the book. I lost weight rapidly. It destroyed my family seeing me fade away, but especially my mum. It is a mother’s instinct to feed her child and she was helpless, watched me slowly starve. For me it wasn’t about the way I looked anymore, it was about total control. I controlled calories in, calories out. It got pretty bad. My hair came out in clumps. I was freezing all the time, used to have 1 hour boiling hot baths just to warm up. Menstruation stopped. My sleep was very disturbed; if I woke at 4am I would get up to exercise for a few hours. I would get up to go for a run before school. I knew I needed fuel before my run, so I would eat one peanut. Yup, one peanut. It’s crazy, your brain is not your own. At my lowest, I was 57 pounds, I am 5 foot 8. I begged not to be hospitalized, I wanted to defeat this illness. I was in my final year at school and missed half of it through illness, my immune system was very low, I would catch any bug that was around. I still got all my exams, which might begin to explain the stubborn and determined person I can be!
My mum’s patience was unbelievable. She was just there for me, in any way that she could be. I was rotten to be around. Very irritable, angry, secretive, but she kept on with her love until slowly I would eat a little more, talk a little more, exercise a little less! My faith and strength drawn from my spiritual way of life really helped too. By the time I was 20 I was pretty healthy. Still a cardio bunny, and would be very careful with what I ate, but a healthy weight and living a pretty normal life.
At 22 I met my husband. He was the first boyfriend I ate in front of! (Some mental chains hang around for years!!) We married in 1999. I had never dared dream of having children as I did not know what damage those years of under eating had done. I was pregnant straight away! My mum was worried at how I would handle my body changing. It was fine! After the first few months of morning sickness I was hungry and I fed my body, I knew the little life growing inside of me depended on me. I got weighed. Aaarrgghh! I started stressing, maybe I should eat less. NO. I put the scale away for the rest of my pregnancy. Honestly I did not set foot on that thing for 6 months! I knew I could not handle those numbers mentally, so I just put it right away. My pregnancy was totally trouble free; I had a beautiful, healthy baby boy, my parent’s first grandchild. I lost any weight I put on within 6 months. Yes, I put too much pressure on myself. Over the next few years, I had 2 more boys. If I gained 10 pounds or so I would just increase the exercise, decrease the calories. My ED had seemingly disappeared for now. I got a little exercise, ate healthily but just so enjoyed being mother to my 3 little boys. I was a little heavier, but not really noticeably and I was fine with that.
My husband is from Barbados and we had always planned on moving back there to raise our family. For many reasons, 5 years ago, we decided to settle where I was from in Northumberland, England instead. We bought our first home just 3 miles from my parent’s house and from where we both work. Everything was wonderful; I had finally found complete happiness.
So, a lovely story that ends well right? Not quite!
My mum had a sore knee; she collapsed during the night and was air lifted to hospital. We thought she’d had a stroke. An MRI showed she had lung cancer, with secondaries in her brain, liver and bones. I’ll spare you all the details, but she passed away, at home, less than 8 weeks later. I was devastated. She was everything to me. My best friend, we worked alongside each other every day for 17 years. I didn’t eat for 5 days. Then, the day after her funeral, I found out I was pregnant again. This one was a surprise! We had always said we were happy with our 3 boys. My mum had always said that one day I would have a girl, we often joked about it. There I was again, responsible for this life inside me, I had to eat properly.
I really struggled without my mum; she offered so much emotional support. It was another terrible chapter in my life. My beautiful daughter was born the following June, so delicate and pretty compared to her big strong brothers. I don’t know how my mum did it, but that was her last gift to me. My daughter is 3 now and has an indomitable spirit just like my mum.
In that first year after I lost my mum, I had the opposite reaction to emotion that I usually do. I ate! But I struggled to do any exercise at all dealing with now running the business, new home, change of plans long term, new baby, losing my mum, I ate absentmindedly, didn’t pay attention, didn’t really care. I gained about 60 pounds.
I have never been this size in my life! So I start what I hope will be the final chapter in my long journey. I am chasing away these demons for good, this is for life! More than anything, I don’t want to affect my daughter or influence her in a negative way.
I came to MFP around the end of May. I started on the 1200 calorie as recommended and got in as much cardio every day as I could possibly manage. I am vegan and cut out any processed vegan proteins, white carbs etc., so was basically eating fruit, vegetables and beans with the odd handful of nuts. I was losing weight, quickly, 3 or 4 pound a week. Great! I felt good as I was having a lot of nutrient dense food. After a couple of weeks the weight loss slowed.
I wanted this weight off fast, I am fed up with being this weight — I want it gone like, now!
So what do you do? What I have always been taught, eat less exercise more. Calories dropped to 700 calories — burns were at over 1000 every day! I stopped enjoying my exercise, as it got harder to do the same thing. Fell asleep on the sofa every night. Got snappy with my children dreaded the scale as the amount of effort I put in was not showing. Luckily this only went on for a few weeks when a fabulous woman on my friends list messages me to say “girl, you need to eat more!” and sent me in the direction of this group.
I was skeptical, I mean come on, I was supposed to eat that much? No way! I spent any spare time reading up, researching and it all made sense to me so I thought well why not give it a go? I upped my calories gradually, but have gone from sub 1000 to around 1900! That was a huge leap of faith for me, I am still playing around with the numbers to find what works for me. Importantly, at the same time I changed my macros to increase protein (from maybe 40 to 140!) and started lifting heavy 3 times a week, sometimes NROLFW sometimes Cathe. My weight went up, came down a bit, up a bit, don't care so much now.
The best thing is I have learned not to be so hard on myself. I have learned patience. I don't have to lose x amount of pounds by x date — there are other more important things. Sure, I am still too heavy but that is not my only focus. It is just part of the picture.
So since I increased my calories and started lifting heavy about 8 weeks ago have I noticed any changes? On the scale, not really.
Anywhere else? Absolutely yes!!
My body is changing shape. I have delts and biceps! I can feel and see my quads! I have lost 2% body fat! I have gone down 2 dress sizes! My cardio workouts are on fire!!! I eat the same food as my family, and I don't get bad tempered at meal times. Food is no longer the enemy, it is my fuel!
I know I am in for a long journey because I am doing it the slow way, and that's not for everyone, but any progress is just that – progress! I don't just want to lose weight, I want to be strong and lean for the rest of my days. I love lifting heavy and I love kickboxing.
For me, patience and finding what works for you is the key.
My Daughter was trying to punch my heavy bag with me the other day and I told her, ‘don’t do that, sweetheart, you’ll hurt your hands.’ ‘Can I do it when I’m bigger?’ she asks. ‘yes, when you are older,’ I reply. ‘Right,’ she says,’ I have to eat really good food and then I will get big and strong!’ She’s got it all figured out, I could learn a lot from her…
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