May 2015: Women's Bodies

TW: Anorexia & An Octupus

I left the eating disorder clinic when I was 18, meaning I have been officially un-anorexic for three years. When I left, I was determined to make the best recovery Chester had ever seen; I was entirely out of my perfectionist zone. I embarked on a path of yoga, Quakers and general good feeling. I took up as many sports as I could find/afford on a new London student budget to teach myself the fun way of being healthy.

That was also to burn off some of the ridiculous amount of energy that I had developed. I retaught myself how to think. I learnt the art of never judging other people. I learnt how to put up a barrier against other people’s negativity unless I could help.

I promised myself that never again would I have so little faith in myself and other people that I would try to die rather than asking for help. It all worked. I have powered my way through a sexual assault court case and two years of university and emerged triumphant with only minor debt (sort of), manga hair and a frankly wonderful life.

Despite all of this, it only struck me today as I had my first ever personal training session that I had fully recovered. I have spent the past three years avoiding full-length mirrors. This wasn’t because I didn’t like what I saw but just in case. I could see no point in triggering off another wave of celery and cardio for the sake of knowing the proportion of my thighs.

When Mr Personal Trainer Man told me to look in the mirror to check my form, however, I had to look and really look. When I did, I was suprised. There stood a person that had legs, arms, a stomach and bright red hair. There was nothing out of the ordinary. I was not large or small or muscly or very tall, I was just a person in the gym doing her thing. I realised that I genuinely didn’t care what I looked like because right then, I was simultaneously lifting weights without falling over and taking the piss out of Personal Trainer Man.

People tell you that you will never fully recover from anorexia, I call bullshit. If you are determined enough, you can recover.

Even before my illness, I used to measure myself a lot on how I looked. I knew I could use it to get me into various situations so I cherished it. Today I realised that the only thing I didn’t like about my appearance was the fact I was wearing black. Black is no fun and it certainly isn’t red or glitter, my two obligatory clothing choices. There is no joy in black. The rest of it? Meh. Who cares? If my body can take me up a wall, along a road, over a mountain, into a newsroom and out to a bar with my friends, I am happy.

I now hold no weight (is it a pun? It could be a pun) in how I look because I know I don’t have to.The only thing I care about in my appearance is that it shows I very much like glitter and enjoy dressing in what is essentially fancy dress. In this way, I finally consider myself done and cooked. When I began recovery, I made an eight-legged octopus named Norbert who was stuck to my kitchen wall. I would cut off sections of his legs as I reached various mile-stones as a two-fingered salute to the monster in my head.

Norbert never was completely dismembered because I relapsed for a bit and then forgot about him when I was back on the wagon.

Today, I can finally say that Norbert the Monster in My Head has no legs. It probably happened a while ago but I can finally and legitimately say that I am a girl who has arms, legs, a stomach and manga hair and who did recover from anorexia.

Take that Norbert, you absolute dick of an octopus.

I am a freelance journalist working for The Economist’s Educational Foundation. I write political news for young people. I am also a broadcast journalist, a yoga pretzel, a feminist activist and a travel addict. It all makes life very fun.


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