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Why I Still Obsess About My Weight

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I was a dumpy, spotty teen and plagued by teasing at school. I had zero confidence and so a few years later at university I became anorexic.

I can't quite remember when it all began. I think when boys started to factor into the equation. I also was in a fashion show and thought I was too short, too fat, too ugly.

But it wasn't about looks. It never is. I never thought I was enough. Being thin made me feel good enough somehow.

One of my thrills was to eat as little as I could each meal time. Soup was a winner as no calories. Grapes too. Hot Ribena filled the belly. I never hid food under a napkin nor throw up. I just played the calorie counting game.

I got skinnier and skinnier. Size eight to six. Seven stone and no more, or no lunch. I'd look at supermodels and think I was chubbier. Worse was the mirror. All I'd see was imperfection. Flabby thighs or bingo wings. In reality the flab was skin hanging off me. I was skeletal.

It all exploded one meal time with my dad. I remember this all too clearly. I had ordered a small salad in a pizza restaurant. My dad and sister were tucking into big four seasons and I was pushing a basil leaf around my plate. I will never forget his furrowed brow of concern, tears in his eyes. He simply asked, "why aren't you eating, my Elizabeth?"

It was the best question he could have asked me.

I broke down into tears and admitted how awful I'd been feeling. How I wanted pizza more than anything in the world but I wouldn't allow myself to have it. My will was stronger than my basic human need.

It took a long while to get out of the downward spiral I was in.

Anorexia is never about food or dieting. I was punishing myself because I thought I was rubbish. Somehow if I could control one thing in my life - what I put in my mouth I'd be on top of everything.

It is the hardest thing to get out of. And you never really lose the mindset. It's like a beast that lives inside you. You just need to learn to tame it.

I was surrounded by family and friends but I knew I had to do the work myself.

Sport helped clear my mind and made me feel proud of myself. Though after a while it also became another obsession. At the height of my recovery I decided to become an aerobics instructor. So the weight kept falling even though I began to eat more.

Actually the key was starting to choose life. Not just fall into things. I ended up in advertising as my boyfriend was. I drifted in out of relationships without knowing why. Inevitably when things got bad I'd start to drop weight. I'd cut my hair severely short and dress in androgynous clothes. I felt trapped and this was my only way out.

The real turning curve was when my marriage broke down. For the first time I had to ask myself what I really wanted. I didn't feel so out of control so the need to restrict food seemed less interesting.

In the past also always felt I needed to be super thin to please men and partners.

When I met my husband - a bon viveur, who loves his food - I still had the anorexia hangover. I'd still refuse bad things yet bit by bit I started to let go. Watching him in his apron make burgers from scratch made it hard to say no or sitting cosied up on the sofa with a tub of Ben and Jerry's.

I learnt through him how to be loved for me. That an extra inch here and there makes no difference to his perception of me. In fact he likes my curves and shapeliness. I had finally found my place as a woman, rather than a lost, gawky teen.

I still have my moments. Every time I look at a menu I automatically dismiss the really high calorie dishes. Or I will only eat them if I feel I deserve it - if I have done a lot of exercise.

But I do enjoy myself now - I can pig out with my stepdaughter on Kinder chocolates or savour foie gras. Touch wood my weight has steadied at a healthy level.

Since my experience I have come across other people with anorexia. Having been where they are I know that the direct approach just won't work. It makes you want to dig your heels in.

The best anyone can do, if you have a friend or relative who is suffering from a food disorder, is to just be there, to hold their hand. The only way out of anorexia is the desire to get better, to feel better. If people around you are screaming at you to eat or calling doctors to force feed you it will create panic and deepen the problem.

Anorexia needs gentle nurturing and it needs time, to unpick the issues that have made you brittle. Holding their hand, a hug, a word of encouragement that things will get better one day is the best medicine of all.

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