“When my daughter asked why she had to have pasta if I didn’t eat it, and why she had to eat the base of her pizza if I didn’t, I knew I needed to change. It hit me in that moment that I was never going to be able to give my children a normal relationship with food if I didn’t have one myself. It was the catalyst for change!”
Fernwood Mornington member Amanda suffered silently with bulimia for 20 years. When she wasn’t dieting and limiting her food intake, she was binge eating and consuming as many ‘restricted’ foods as she could before the next diet cycle began. It was emotionally straining on her physical, mental and social health.
Over the years, she would watch people take one chocolate biscuit to enjoy at morning tea, but she could never understand how they could stop at just one or two. She wanted to eat the entire packet, or not eat any at all. There was no happy middle.
Her outlook on food also largely impacted her relationship with exercise, with her primary focus always on losing weight and achieving the ‘ideal summer body’. Every September, she would get in contact with her trainer and push her body to its limits until the end of her summer holiday.
She couldn’t even enjoy the break because she was always fixated on the foods she was consuming and whether she’d exercised enough that day. She placed undue pressure on herself to achieve an ‘ideal body type’, but sacrificed her own health and wellbeing in the process.
“For me, having an unhealthy relationship with food and my body was just my norm, I knew no other way. But when my bulimia began at the age of 22, I knew things weren’t right,” she says.
“When I came clean about my struggles two years ago, I had to face some harsh truths; one being that diets didn’t work, the second being that if I wanted to live a full life, I could never diet again. I had to go through a process of unlearning everything I thought to be true about food and exercise.
“I completely overhauled my mindset, I threw out the scales, I started allowing all foods, I stopped equating exercise with a weight goal, and I started seeing myself as more than my body. Two years on, and my self-acceptance game is strong, however, I always say it’s a journey, not a destination.”
To support her road to recovery, Amanda started seeing an eating disorder therapist. Amanda realised that if she was going to break the cycle, she would never be able to place restrictions on her diet again. That meant not only allowing herself to enjoy food again, but also unlearning all of the negative behaviours associated with her food consumption and exercise habits.
It didn’t happen overnight, but she was determined to be a positive role model for her family, and to herself.
“I began to see that I was a dieting addict, addicted to the highs of weight loss, the highs of the compliments and the affirmations that I was somehow succeeding at life because my body was shrinking,” she says.
“I chucked out all of my ‘goal’ outfits and I started saying positive things about my body when my kids were listening. I began to step back from the mirror, in order to see myself as a whole person instead of a pair of thighs. I had to lead with compassion.
“I worked on creating a kinder inner voice, and I finally came to a place where I understood that my mental health was way more important than being skinny. I also spoke my truth. I talked about how tired I was of battling against my body, how tired I was of failing every diet known to man, and I set myself free.”
These days, Amanda’s outlook on food, exercise and life is one of positivity, self-love, and about treating her body with respect. She decided to make a change, not only for her own wellbeing, but for that of her children, and all the women around her.
“These days I choose to honour my hunger and nurture my body. I eat what I feel like, which sometimes is a deliciously fresh salad with chicken and nuts, or other times it’s a bowl of pasta! I see food as food; some foods make us feel better than others, but if you listen to your body, it knows what’s up,” she says.
“I exercise regularly for my mental health as much as for my physical health and I absolutely love it! My favourite thing about Fernwood is the variety of exercise classes. The way I see it, I was horrible to my body for the longest time, I now have the opportunity to make up for it.”
Read more motivational stories from the Fernwood community here.
This story is a personal account. Always consult your GP, medical specialist, or mental health specialist, for health-related advice.