I had always been a skinny kid up to the age of thirteen. However the tables turned on me after a short trip to Spain, where I piled on almost 15 kilos. Returning to Australia I almost didn't want to be seen and was very sensitive to remarks about my weight made by friends and family. With all this added pressure, I would often starve myself only to binge heavily later. I then felt so terrible that I would go into my own little world. I was so preoccupied that I had room for nothing else; friendships, hobbies even my schoolwork.
My weight caused me to fail courses later in my early adulthood and also later ruined my dream of wanting to be a psychologist. I remember doing a secretarial course and being so obsessed with my diet that I would bring food into the classroom and eat rather than type. At other times I would not even turn up to class and would go off to the nearest food court or shopping centre and practically eat the place bare and then throw it all back up. Later at university, I would also go to all the cafes and shops around the campus and then repeat the behaviour. During this turbulent time I felt lost and out of control. Not surprisingly, I failed the secretarial course I was in, and struggled later with my university course. It was only after a medical scare that I was able to stop this destructive cycle of behaviour.
Becoming mentally ill
My weight went up dramatically when I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia at the age of 27. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I kept piling on the weight with all the heavy medication that I was taking and I needed food like a fish needs water. I desperately wanted to lose all the weight because I no longer felt like me. At times I wanted to give up. I felt devastated that some of the professionals treating my schizophrenia gave up on me at that time for not being motivated to follow their advice. Their strategies included putting notes on my fridge to not eat, especially during the night and to imagine myself turning into a really fat person before I ate. They also suggested eating healthy snacks such as cut up fruit and veggies instead of junk food. Other tips were listening to music, and grabbing handfuls of body fat before I ate. None of these strategies seemed to work, not even the aversion tactics.
Healthy body, healthy mind
Now in my forties I finally feel things are coming together. I have been lucky to have found good professionals and support groups to help me with my deeply entrenched and ingrained food addiction. Although some days are far from perfect, things have finally clicked. I have now been successfully trained to follow the
just one rule where I only allow myself only one biscuit or small piece of cake. I have also been trained to imagine myself having a midnight feast instead of actually having one. However most importantly, I have learned how a good diet is beneficial for both physical and mental health. I certainly don't want to get weight related illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease, or to continue feeling very low and depressed after I have binged. I now feel great, having much more insight and control over what I eat and knowing the value of good health and exercise.
The truth is it will always be a struggle for me to maintain a healthy weight, but I am fortunate enough to have supportive family, friends and professionals to help me. I have confidence, now, in my ability to maintain control.
If you need advice on mental health issues visit the Better Health website, http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/