It had started as a form of stress relief when I was just 10 years old. Dad was an alcoholic and as a result, my mum was running the family business single-handedly.
But somewhere along the line, my healthy habit developed into an obsessive need to control. My runs got longer and longer.
I grew tall and developed breasts early. The discomfort I felt in my own body fuelled my work outs – and was the reason why I began to scrutinise everything that went on my plate.
Soon my diet consisted of nothing more than some rice porridge for breakfast and a few vegetables of an evening. My weight dropped dramatically. It wasn’t long before I was diagnosed with an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) and admitted to a clinic.
Over the next few years, I was in and out of clinics and treatment centres, never really getting any better.
It was during one of these stays that I met Steve who was suffering from depression. We connected instantly and when we left the centre, we moved in together, marrying a year later.
And so, relaxing into my new found happiness, I took that advice for the very first time.
The trouble was, I knew nothing about nutrition. All I knew about was highigh-calorieod that would make me gain the weight the doctors so desperately wanted me to – ice cream, cakes, cookies. I binged on these foods until my stomach hurt. My body grew rounder, but none of it was healthy.
One day, I looked at myself in the mirror and decided to change tack.
Through books and websites, I taught myself about nutrition. Honestly, to this day I believe I could give a qualified dietician a run for their money with everything I know about micros, macros, calories and carbs.
Armed with this knowledge, I started my new “diet”.
Eating before 4pm was out – my own version of the intermittent fasting trend that people would rave about years later. Carbs were ditched – without those in my body, I’d burn through fat faster on my runs. Junk food, sugar, alcohol and oils – none of these things would touch my lips ever again (not that alcohol ever had in my entire life.) My eating would be perfectly clean, every single day, without fail.
My weight began dropping again, my list of “allowed” foods ever-shrinking.
I was still exercising six hours a day too, fitting in running and cycling around my job at Macca’s (oh, the irony). The time I spent with Steve was scarce. Even when we were together I was preoccupied. Food and exercise had become the entire focus of my life. And it had come at a huge cost – my marriage was breaking down. I felt utterly powerless to stop it. Now, I’m 28 and I live alone. For 17 years, I haven’t eaten a meal that I haven’t weighed, prepared and cooked myself. Recently I agreed to go out for a coffee with my friend, but at the last moment, I panicked and switched my order to a glass of water.
I want people to know – my lifestyle isn’t healthy. I don’t want to receive praise for my “discipline”. This is a disease and it’s built a prison around me. I just really hope one day I can break out.