Today we welcome mental health advocate, Charlotte Underwood to our blog, sharing her story of binge eating and body dysmorphia and her reminders to those who are also on their own eating disorder recovery journey.
I never understood what body dysmorphia was until I had passed my teen years.
I was a thin child who was fed only nutritious food and loved to run and play outside in the garden. Weight was never an issue because I was healthy. Then, at 7 years old we moved hundreds of miles away from my hometown. I don’t remember this having a huge effect on me, I was so young but now I think of it, I think it’s maybe when this all started.
Changing homes, schools and finding new hobbies, friends and just starting your life over can be very stressful for children too. Though I was excited at the new and exciting opportunities – things started to change.
Very quickly my whole family’s diet started to change, due to the massive impact of a new lifestyle for all of us. I started to really enjoy food, like, a lot, so much that I was known to eat tablespoons of golden syrup. I developed compulsions to eat and I couldn’t control them.
As you can imagine, I gained a lot of weight. Binge eating is something that became part of my life and is still something that I deal with today. Leaving me fighting between wanting to feel good in my body and crying as I fill myself up with a 6000 meal because I cannot stop myself.
I became very insecure in myself because people would tell me how ugly, unattractive and not just fat, but obese I was. I was only 7 but I was being shamed for my appearance, something that beforehand had never bothered me or had occurred to me that my face and weight could be offensive or a problem to others.
This hatred that I had for myself led to bigger issues like chronic self-harm and even suicidal ideation. I was so ashamed to be in my own skin because to me, I was kind and I only wanted to help others, yet I was hated and judged for just being myself. It didn’t feel too good.
At age 16 I became determined to lose weight. I managed to lose 3 stone in the space of six months and I became obsessed with how I looked. I would have euphoric moments when I could feel my bones and see people giving me a look of something I had not seen before; which was not judgemental.
I had it in my head that the only way I could be accepted was if that I had a nice exterior, it seemed that no one really cared about what was in the inside. At this point I would do anything to achieve that because all I ever wanted was to be wanted. I didn’t want to be excluded from my own existence.
Despite knowing that I had lost weight and that I was getting to the point that people were telling me that I was getting too thin. I couldn’t seem to win. I still saw myself as that 7-year old girl who was chubby and undesirable; I still see myself like that now.
I saw a picture of myself at the age of 17 recently and it really hurt to look at. It was a person that was all so familiar and yet I did not recognise. I could not believe that I thought I was fat, or ugly. I saw someone who I liked and yet, at that moment when the picture was taken, I still resented every inch of me.
My life has been like this ever since, I get obsessed with how I look. It is not through vanity or wanting to attract people romantically. It’s not about power or anything of the sort. I just still have this feeling that if people find me ugly, I will be rejected and that is not something I want, because like any other human, I need companionship and to socialise.
I’ve managed to get to a point where I am managing to deal with my binge eating and be more mindful and intuitive. Though, the mirror can sometimes still be my enemy and I just cannot believe or trust anyone who does not see me, how I see me. Things like being called “beautiful” are things I reject because I cannot see it, though others see this as attention seeking which is frustrating.
See, body dysmorphia is cruel because it is impossible to accept yourself, let alone believe that others will accept you. It’s not just about weight. I will expect people to judge me on my split ends, short nails or stretchmarks that they will never see; if it’s a flaw, no matter how small – I will see it and think of it all the time.
I don’t think body dysmorphia for me has ever been about wanting to be attractive. I think I have only ever wanted to be accepted for who I am – both on the inside and outside. So, obsessing over my body, even when I don’t have to, is because I am trying to protect myself from being hurt again.
I am now on a journey to accept myself, because at the end of the day, it should never matter what others think of you, your opinion of yourself is the only one that matters. Through learning to make the best choices for myself, through practicing mindfulness and self-care and generally learning to respect myself and show more compassion towards myself, I have got to a point where I can leave the house or take a selfie without makeup. I’m on a path to beating my body dysmorphia, or at least turning the volume down on the voices. Though my steps are small, they are lifechanging for me and I know that I can do it; just like you can too – we’re not alone in our recovery and healing journey.
If you or a loved one need help for eating disorders, visit one of the links below or click here to get in touch with our one of our qualified clinicians.
About The Author
Charlotte Underwood is a 22-year old Mental Health Advocate from Norfolk, UK. She is passionate about raising awareness of mental health and doing what she can to prevent suicide. She tries to be a friend to all so no one feels alone, particularly through her Twitter, website and blog.