On 29th October 2016, the HBC are hosting a Bloggers & Brands Networking event at which there will be a raffle to raise money for UK eating disorder charity, Beat. If you’d like to come, find out more information and get your tickets here.

To raise awareness of eating disorders, blogger Stefanie Jung from Wholesome Stef shares with us her own personal experience of living with, and recovering from, an eating disorder.

Not so long ago, the term self-love was nonexistent in my vocabulary.  Instead, self-loathing, destructive behaviour and self-sabotage ruled my day. I hated what I saw in the mirror and was a fad-dieting, anxiety-ridden, treadmill-addicted 17-year old girl.

In short: I had an eating disorder.

Let’s wind back a bit and take a look at how I got there… I was always naturally skinny and I come from a family that is very health-conscious, so exercising and eating healthily was a normal part of my life. I didn’t waste a second thinking about my weight and it never crossed my mind to go on a diet, until it all spiralled out of control one day.

Because of bad acne problems, I decided to take Acutane, a prescription medication against acne that can have severe side effects. Unfortunately, I had pretty much every side effect possible. I was always tired and would sleep hours on end, I was losing my hair and had nose bleeds every day. The most dramatic change for me was that I gained over 8kg in 7 months. It might not seem like a lot, but for a small frame like mine it was a big drastic change. Suddenly I looked in the mirror and no longer recognised the person in the reflection, both physically and mentally (it was only afterwards that I realised one of the side effects of the medication is depression).

While the medication certainly wasn’t the only reason that I developed my eating disorder, it was definitely the trigger. Being a typical perfectionist with a type A personality and the mentality of “never being good enough” fuelled the fire even more. What started as a harmful diet soon turned into an extremely vicious cycle of restrictive dieting, excessive exercising and eventually binge eating. I can’t really remember why I overate for the first time, but what I do remember is that I felt like I was on the verge of popping. I couldn’t eat another thing… And then I was hit with a sudden panic and an urge to empty myself.

Fast forward; I was now bulimic. I ate to feel better. I ate to numb my mind. 

Binging and purging became habitual, automatic, self-perpetuating. My eating disorder had full control over me: I was throwing up twice a day, the scale was my best friend and the mirror my worst nightmare. I knew that food and negative body image were controlling every aspect of my life, but I felt too powerless to fight it.

After 2 and a half years of struggling and hitting what felt like rock bottom, week after week, after another broken promise to myself that tomorrow would be better, I decided that things needed to change. I can’t remember exactly how I reached the tipping point, but one day it just clicked. The recognition of how much I was truly suffering from my eating disorder was creeping up on me – long overdue and stronger than ever. I eventually managed to build up the courage to tell my family and boyfriend about my battles and that was the starting point of my recovery.

For a long time, I didn’t really believe that I was “sick enough” to justify asking for professional help.

I also felt like I shouldn’t be so ungrateful for my life. And I think that I’m not alone in this boat. A lot of girls with ED’s try to convince themselves that they are fine and don’t need help. But just because you aren’t close to hospitalisation doesn’t mean your issue isn’t serious! In the end, the problem is the warped brain. The real measure is how distorted your thoughts are; not how skinny or overweight you are. It’s a psychological disorder after all.

So, after months of internal battles, I signed up for an online workshop created by another fellow ED-soldier and it was her support that kick-started my own journey. We had weekly talks over the phone and she taught me to look inside and identify the true causes of my ED. As much as my disorder was about weight and insecurity, it was even more about control and food being a coping mechanism for my emotions.

With the help of the workshop I developed many little coping mechanisms for dealing with different situations and also learnt to cook and eat more consciously. On top of this, I developed a relaxing morning routine.

However, consciously understanding the issue and actually reprogramming your subconscious are two very different things. In fact, there was a phase in my recovery where I thought I had understood everything, but somehow I still couldn’t resist the urge to binge or restrict once it came up. Once that feeling crept in, there was no way in hell to stop it. That’s when I realised that I didn’t have to just work on the conscious mind, but also the subconscious. Unfortunately, that part is much harder and takes much more time (think more yoga, meditation and journaling)

Today, four years later, I can say I have mastered the art of being my own best friend.

I don’t count calories, I don’t weigh myself anymore and I don’t restrict my food intake. I enjoy eating and even more so the process of cooking. I listen to my body and nurture it with whatever it asks for. I eat healthily and workout because I love my body, not because I hate it. And the best part? I now coach young girls and women struggling with the same issues I once had. If you are reading this and you find yourself in my story, trust me when I say there is a way out of this! If I can do it, so can you.