Where did I go from here? I admitted I had a problem. I knew I had an issue with food and exercise.
I’d lost two bra cup sizes, my period and most the vital vitamins and minerals that were needed to keep my body running and warm. I’d lost a lot more than just what met the eye.
As I entered recovery this year, my dietician gave me a leaflet about Nutrition and Metabolism. Inside it reads,
“Calorie intake is reduced which results in your body initially losing weight and your metabolic rate slow down. This ends in a stability of weight with added symptoms appearing, such as feeling tired, feeling cold and having poor concentration.”
I was given this leaflet when I was 25; I’ve had those symptoms since I was 17.
I mentioned being cold a lot. I was always cold. Even in the summer I was cold. So cold that I had an extra radiator in my bedroom that I’d put on full blast even in the summer.
I remember in the January, after beginning my maintenance of a Anorexia, walking home in the pelting hailstones and my head was in excruciating pain. It started with the coldness from being outside in the hail and developed into something more. I had to ring my Mam to come and pick me up, in my eyes I’d failed – I hadn’t managed to walk all the way home, and I always thought you burned more calories in the cold, so it would have been a massive bonus. However I was in pain. I think my Mam was worried so she took me to the walk-in centre. They didn’t weigh me, and both me and my mam were too scared to say anything, we didn’t understand a thing about Mental Health, let alone Anorexia. They doctor gave me an ECG and said I had a very low heart rate. That was it. I wasn’t given any advice, medication, nor care.
I got away with it.
Anorexia went to the doctors and won.
Was it really going to be this easy to restrict my food, over exercise and live this way forever?
That’s what my trips to the doctors over the next 8 years told me. I don’t want to get ahead of myself in my story and mess up the chronological order, but SPOILER ALERT, my GP told me that they don’t bother much with underweight patients – until its gone really far, as they get more revenue for tending to the obesity crisis the country is in. I had the same thing told me again this year by my support worker.
I never ever wanted to look too thin, too bony or too ill. I wanted to always keep my head just above the water. I knew how low my weight could go without it looking too alarming, whilst all the while that number on the scale actually being really quite alarming and a massive cause for concern.
Front of House is my expertise. Looking the part, talking the part and playing the part. I can be funny, happy, healthy, anything. And yeah, it’s all fake. I haven’t been healthy over the last 8 years, I haven’t been truly happy. As I strived to hide my Anorexia, I learned that the sunbeds and lipstick were my best friends – and layering up was a god send. People could still see I was skinny and working in Topshop for 6 years meant I’d gotten my fair share of “You’re too skinny, Sandi” or ‘This would DROWN you”. But they never said or went any further. This fuelled further that I could be at the weight I was, and maybe lower, and everyone would think I was fine.
Perhaps my biggest cover up was my love for food. I’ve always loved food, baking, eating. Food. Food. Food. Not only is it my biggest cover up, but it’s my biggest heartbreak and biggest motivation. Everyone knew I was a good baker, I’d auditioned for the Bake Off when I was 19, just a year after we knew I had an eating disorder. That day required the utmost planning, I had to research where to eat, what to eat, how many calories I could burn and how much I could hide and brush off if anyone noticed.
That day Mary Berry further ruined my life. She really did. She took away my motivation to do something that kept my mind occupied, and something that I excelled at. Mary Berry tasted my baked goods, praised them, praised me, shook my god damn hand, and then said I was too young and inexperienced for the Bake Off. My heart broke. I’d put myself through a crazy stress of food and exercise and planning to get here. I’d been up at 4 just to get in my morning jog before catching the bus to London! In my mind she told me I wasn’t good enough. She was just another person who didn’t want me.
In hindsight, I always think that if I got through and if I ended up competing, that I’d have been cured from Anorexia. I’d have been in a situation I couldn’t control, around food that I couldn’t avoid or control. But, y’know. Hindsight, like comparisons, is often a thief of joy.
The two friends I’d taken down to London with me didn’t at all seem sympathetic that I hadn’t gotten through, nor did they ask if I was okay. Instead they let me sit on a 6-hour bus journey home next to a stranger. It was just salt in the wound. They didn’t care.
I was very, very susceptible to my friends making me feel this way especially through the first few years of Anorexia. When I was 18, I felt so alone. I felt I hadn’t really a true friend in the world. I had all these feelings and the only thing I found comfort in were my disordered ways with food and exercise. My parents were busy with the shop, my younger sister had a hobby a night and my older brother had a lovely (not) girlfriend to be spending time with. At home I was alone as well. When I mustered up the energy or courage to try and go out with my friends they’d more often than not let me down. And these are feelings I’ve had all my life. And Anorexia loved it.
Stay home. Avoid Food. Exercise.
But then that Sensible Sandi kicked in. I decided I wanted a dog. Still to this day I have no idea why. I was always petrified of dogs. If one ever came into my shop I’d run upstairs and hide un my duvet. It was an irrational fear. But I did it. I bought a dog, I’d had money saved up from working at Topshop and I did it. I bought Kizzie. My little girl. It was the oddest sensation bringing her home. It was like I’d invited a friend to stay over for the night for the first time – which never happened because I lived in a shop, so I couldn’t have friends stay over. Except this guest didn’t leave.
I knew from the moment she was in my life that I loved her. She was my friend, forever. She was my walking companion and she got me through that year. She loved me for me and looked at me with sad eyes when she saw me crying over a salad having 10 more calories than I’d planned in it, or when we’d ran out of carrots or some other frivolity.
I had a reliable relationship in my life. She literally could not let me down or leave me or be too busy. It was great.
The day we bought her was the first time I’d had a McDonald’s in over a year, I had a Chicken Mayo sandwich without the mayo and that was it. Not even 350 calories. Probably less without mayo. What I dislike about Anorexia is how she makes me remember the food related stuff in my good memories. I spent HOURS, trawling over the McDonalds’ website to see if I could actually eat something and look semi -normal. It was hours of agony for me trying to decide. It was more anxiety inducing and painful than actually buying an animal I was petrified of.
Possibly in one sense of my life I must have been getting stronger; I was seeking out my own friend, and facing up to a lifelong fear. Its these small and unconscious efforts of, what is essentially, self-care, that have kept my head above water.
****my boyfriend would like to apologise to Mary Berry on my behalf in case she ever hears of this unfortunate case. I would simply only like to say please help me write a baking bible of my own and publish it. Plz thanks xo