Some people are probably wondering: how can a personal trainer have anorexia?
My first experience was during my teens and it’s only recently I’ve felt comfortable talking about this often misunderstood illness. I’m now strong enough to want to remove this stigma, make people more aware, and most importantly, help others going through this deadly beast of an illness.
I have been silent for over 20 years about my anorexia, as I felt ashamed due to bad experiences at school and how treatment wasn’t as accessible for eating disorders as it is now. I was only 14 when I was first diagnosed. At the time I was in denial and unaware I had a problem. I was attending school and missing out on classes due to GP appointments and counselling. However, the counsellor did not have experience in eating disorders.
When I was still attending classes at school, I had a teacher shout “are you eating?” to me at the back of the classroom. I felt mortified and ashamed, as back then eating disorders were often misunderstood. People did not and still don't understand that they are very complex. For me, it was a way of gaining control and coping with my anxiety and depression.
Last year, my anxiety and depression returned – but it took some time to realise my anorexia had returned too.
I realised my eating habits, regular weigh-ins and exercise had spiralled out of control. I was a Personal Trainer at the time and I really felt I could not tell people about this. You expect a Personal Trainer to be an expert in healthy nutrition and exercise.
I could not find the right words to talk to my manager about my anxiety and depression. However, a while back I had told him I suffered from anorexia in my teens. I also mentioned to him I’m ashamed of this due to my profession. He reassured me - and this made me feel so much better and less shameful about it.
After getting online help and support, I was able to finally feel confident talking about my mental health and the return of my eating disorder. As my manager already knew about my history, I felt more comfortable explaining it to him, and he was very reassuring and told me how much he respects me for confiding in him about my illness. We had a long discussion where he listened and from this I felt really reassured. I mentioned my illness step-by-step to immediate family, colleagues and clients, as I felt like I was hiding this away from people and needed to make them aware. I was very surprised at the immense support people showed me. They even said they understand more about the illness due to the accessible online resources to help them.
I spent many months off work and going through outpatient treatment, and eventually I managed to see the light to recovery. I made the decision to recover after talking to a friend and realising people are here for me. I also realised the more I reached out about my illness the better I felt.
I’m now 5 weeks into recovery and happy to share my story. I have received nothing but positivity, as it has also educated people about eating disorders. I feel now my purpose is to spread awareness to more people. I’m proud of myself that I’m comfortable about talking about my illness that I kept hidden for many years. I’m positive my experience will help the stigma around eating disorders to go away completely.