Blog 2

anorexia, recovery

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?
Essentially, yes.
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




The First

anorexia, recovery

I’m writing this blog post, and a few more over the course of this week, to raise awareness for Anorexia Nervosa and how each sufferer is different.

I’m also writing it to share my experience. It has span almost 10 years, starting briefly when I was 15. I had a short lived, irrational desire to lose weight before I went on my first holiday. This is where my first anxieties around food developed – what would I eat there? Would I gain everything I’d lost already?
During this short phase, a comment was made to me, it was powerful, impactful and has resounded forever – ‘‘No daughter of mine will be Anorexic.’’
Around this time Anorexia was slowly starting to build its way up to taking over my life, and love for it, away from me. It just wasn’t quite ready yet.

I’d like to point out that when I was 15 and 17, there was still a massive stigma around Anorexia, and even up until 6 or 7 months ago I wouldn’t even have contemplated that’s what I was dealing with. I don’t resent the people in my life for anything they said previously regarding the illness, as none of us really knew what it was or what mental health was. However, times have changed.


My break out phase of anorexia reared its head in 2009, when I was 17. Before then, I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, as I wanted. I exercised as little as I wanted, got up when I wanted, and I went out with friends.
In 2009, I got braces. My teeth were just less than perfect and that needed fixing. I was no heavier than 8 and a half stone (although I’m not 100% sure; I didn’t weigh myself in those days) and as soon as I got the braces, everyone commented on how much weight I’d lose and how good braces were for weight loss and health.
I already ate healthy. Naturally my diet didn’t change, fizzy drinks weren’t replaced with water and chocolate bars weren’t replaced with fruit. I had a good and balanced diet.
When the weight didn’t drop off, I was disappointed. But why would it, nothing had changed.
When I returned to college after the summer my timetable had gone from being social and able to interact with my peers to the complete opposite. I saw no one. It was around this time in my life that I began to attract a lot of flaky friends, they’d let me down last minute and promise me things they couldn’t pull through with.  Both of these things play on the chords of myself self-worth, esteem and thoughts that no-one cares about me.
From a young age, I’ve conditioned my mind to naturally think those I love don’t care about me. It comes from living in a shop and assuming that the shop came first in everyone’s lives. I was always second best.
Prior to the summer I’d already started eating more ‘healthy’, swapping sugary cereal for plain and eating more fruit and less carbs. But once I’d gone back to college, I began walking to and from college, a good two hours walk a day, and jogging inside my house, or in my bedroom – hidden. I started to throw away food and pretend Id eaten it. I’d make a huge bowl of porridge for breakfast and throw it all away.  I quickly became obsessed with a self-competition. The more I could throw away, the more hidden exercise, the better. It felt good.
And then it happened. Quickly. I lost weight.
I became pale, gaunt, permanently cold and my lips always blue, as well as my nails. I weighed myself as often as I could – avoiding night times and clothing.
I had no idea what I was doing was ‘wrong’. It felt good, it was mine and it was my control. Oh, the control.

In the November of 2009, I went to Rome. I spent the days leading up to it researching ‘how to get away with not eating’ and ‘low calorie Italian food’. I had a list of ‘what to do to not gain weight’ on my phone. The list included telling everyone I couldn’t eat past 5pm due to stomach issues and that repeating ‘I was full’ or ‘already ate’. I even managed to manipulate my friend to eat at a different time to the whole group with me so I could say we’d already eaten and avoid confrontation. Even then, I was throwing most of it away and surviving simply on fruit, vegetables and yogurt (half of, if that).
This trip to Rome was the turning point, and perhaps the first time in my life where I’ve asserted my self-awareness.
My teacher, who I’d coerced into going for a morning jog with me, had noticed how bony my collar bones had become and much they protruded – something which I’m very conscious about to this day; they gave the game away. She said I looked gaunt and awful and that she’d cornered my friend in the lift and asked if she’d noticed if I’d actually eaten anything that week. As far as I’m aware my friend hadn’t a clue of my intake.
My teacher’s daughter had recently been hospitalized due to Anorexia and she saw the same signs and behaviours in me.
I couldn’t believe what she was saying, I was fuming, LIVID.
Why would she think that? I couldn’t be Anorexic, I wasn’t skinny enough. Yeah, I lost about a stone and half within a few weeks but that meant nothing. My mother would be furious that a teacher, someone we are meant to trust, would suggest such a thing.
Fortunately for me, and probably my saving grace through my life, my self-awareness kicked in.
What was I doing? This behaviour wasn’t rational, where had my love for life gone? My love for food?
Food wasn’t a pleasure anymore, it wasn’t an excitement nor a means for survival. It was a difficulty a frustration and an anxiety.
As we boarded the train in England toward home, I reflected back on the week. I’d spent it freezing, exhausted and in pain.  I’d began to develop bruising where my bones protruded and hadn’t lay comfortably on an unknown hotel bed. I’d exercised in secret, I’d thrown away food. I’d also fallen asleep during and audience with The Pope.
Something was wrong. I wasn’t well. But I didn’t know what to do.

As I arrived home, I’m not sure if I spoke to my mother about it straight away. But the most heart-breaking moment of this phase happened. My mam made a ‘welcome home’ dinner for me. We didn’t all eat together as we lived in a Newsagents and that wasn’t easy to do. She’d made Pasta with sugo and had bought steak specially for the sugo.
I was absolutely fuming. PASTA?! I couldn’t eat that. Not only was it pasta, for god sake, but it was after 5. And I didn’t eat after 5.
I can’t imagine how awful that moment must’ve been for my mother, she tried to do something so nice for me, and I threw it back in her face. I’d become terrified of food. The thought of it sent me into straight, cold, hard frozen fear. I went to bed in anger and on an empty stomach.

The next day my routine of waking up, jogging, preparing breakfast and then throwing it away resumed. But this day I felt different, I had an awful anxiety that wouldn’t go away, an awful worry and concern that I needed to get off my chest. But no, it was my friends 18th birthday party tonight and I was going.
I’d already arranged with my other friends that I wasn’t going to go for the birthday meal they’d planned for her, and I’d already planned to turn up late and go home early. I was home before my shop shut – 9pm. I was knackered. Completely and thoroughly exhausted. It was this night I remember talking to my mother about it all.
She didn’t know anything about mental health, nor did I. I just felt lost, confused and helpless. Something I still feel very regularly to this day.
My mother tried to threaten me with empty threats like –if my weight goes any lower than 7st I’d be taken to the doctors.
But it did.
And then it got lower, and lower.
I was never taken to the doctors, nor did I ever send myself there.
I remember having a conversation with my mother about what we could do, and I can’t remember the details of it, but I know that this again is where my self-awareness kicked in. I couldn’t be hospitalized or be labelled Anorexic. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. From the next day I started to try to eat more, on my own, through my own initiative. And I did. But then this is where I started to calorie count, exercise more, and cut myself off from friends.
In reflection, it wasn’t a recovery method, it was just another way of maintaining Anorexia. This way I could do it and no-one would know because I was still eating.
At first, I set my target at 1700 calories a day. I don’t think I’ve hit that, on a daily basis, since I was 18. Asides from a 6 months exception when I was 20; more on that later.
With every year of my life, that number of calories I’ve consumed on a daily basis has gotten lower and lower. Whilst the exercise burn amount has gotten higher.
Furthermore, in a bid to hide my Anorexia, I wore lipstick every day, all day and painted my nails. And. The best trick in the book, I started using the sunbeds. I’m half Italian, so naturally tanned, but Anorexia strips me of that; low blood sugars give you an awful and unnatural paleness. But my sunbeds helped stop that.

From that moment on, I started to maintain my Anorexia. She’s been in my life ever since. I’ve hidden her well, I think. I rarely spent full days with anyone and when I did, I’d either avoid food altogether or incorporate exercise into our routine and plans.
For me, in my life, Anorexia is like a hairline crack in the ceiling of a living room. It starts out small, it’s there, always has potential to be dangerous. As time goes on, the crack gets bigger, and bigger and gets out of hand. Without looking closely, it never gets noticed and especially not fixed.  Eventually it gets so bad that the ceiling begins to collapse, break and can’t put up with the pressure anymore.
Suddenly its gone from bad to worse.



For Starters

anorexia, recovery

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rates among psychiatric disorders.
Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder in adolescence.
Of those surviving, 50% recover, whereas 30% improve and 20% remain chronically ill.

Anorexia can affect anyone, any age, any height, any gender or any weight.
A sufferers BMI does not need to be severely low for them to be experiencing anorexia – something I’ve only learned In my recovery.
Whilst a patient in recovery can be eating, gaining weight and even have a completely average or above BMI, it doesn’t mean they’re healthy. The mind takes a while to catch up. And boy, do I know it.

For me, I’m at my worst point now. I’ve began to restore weight, I’m closing in on not being underweight and my mind is at a constant war.

But. Anorexia is not a good thing. We should be taught moderation, not restriction. Taught that everyone is beautiful, no matter the size or shape.
Society does make it harder to get out of Anorexia as were pushed an image of skinny models. Or curvy models. Never just simply ‘normal’ models; it leaves those at risk vulnerable.

Anorexia is a deceptive, cunning and viscous illness. It’s strips sufferers of our lives, time, friends and family.
It makes us believe that no one needs us or wants us and that our only true ally is Anorexia.

The Eating Disorder Charity Beat is asking the question ‘Why Wait?’ during eating disorder awareness week 2018.
And I couldn’t agree more. See it as a rhetorical question. Why would you wait to gain back a life?

If I’d never had anorexia I could’ve been great, successful and a completely different person. I can’t live on hindsight though.
My ‘professional trade’ is Patisserie. Food is my passion, my eyes light up when I talk about it and my mouth never shuts up about it. It’s essentially my life and love. It’s a part of my life and a love that was ruined and massively hindered by anorexia. Patisserie requires dedication, and whilst I was off jogging in the toilets and restricting my intake, patisserie wasn’t ever able to fully be part of my life.
If I hadn’t have waited, it could be entirely different.
If you’re reading this and you too are a sufferer or know someone who is suffering and aren’t getting help, then why wait? Get help.
We could have the next Prime Minister on our hands or global superstar. We might even just have a really, really top Mam.
The possibilities are endless.
But with Anorexia they aren’t.
They really aren’t.
Don’t be fooled in thinking life can be lived with anorexia or it can be maintained, it can’t. I’ve done it. I’ve been there. I’ve wasted my time and effort.
Don’t be the same

Why wait??