Eating disorders: NHS expert discusses symptoms and advice
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The 34-year-old Sarah knew she had to take action when she became too overweight to walk around her own home. She shared how she transformed herself in a year, losing 10 stone in 12 months.
At the end of 2019, Sarah weighed in at 450lb.
Unable to get into her car, walk up stairs, or complete daily tasks without help, Sarah was “ashamed” of her body and didn’t want anybody to see her, even her closest friends and family.
Her relationship with food and her body had been far from easy; diagnosed with anorexia at just age 20, she got into the habit of restrictive eating, cutting her calories to a “ridiculously” low number, and only eating carbs before exercise.
But then, after she received treatment and became better, Sarah admitted: “I started eating and I just couldn’t stop.”
Sarah “ballooned” in weight and despite all of her efforts, could not lose it.
Stepping on the scales at over 32 stone, Sarah explained that she felt “trapped” in her own body.
“I thought, ‘I have to do something, otherwise I will die’.”
Sarah started off her journey with chair Zumba, as standing up would have been “too much pressure” on her body.
Seeing herself struggle with such easy exercises hit home: “I was so ashamed and embarrassed. But I had to start, I was willing to do whatever it took.”
When lockdown hit, Sarah did three Zumba workouts over Zoom each week, and as she got stronger and fitter, these sessions started to comprise 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weight training.
Nowadays, while she admitted that she “doesn’t love exercise”, Sarah has found a workout that makes her feel both fit and happy, and allows her to measure her progress – weight training.
“We started off with doing squats with a box behind me. And now I’m squatting with almost 80kg on the barbell.”
As for her diet, Sarah revealed that the biggest change she made was stopping her habitual binging.
Previously, she would binge-eat a lot of sugary foods, and “no amount of willpower” could make her stop.
But when she started her exercise regime, she decided that her relationship with sugar had to be different.
“I didn’t cut out sugar, or anything else from my diet. It was just about cutting out the excess.”
She added: “I don’t need to binge because I can eat whatever I want.”
While Sarah does enjoy nutritious foods such as fish and grilled vegetables, she also allows herself to enjoy the odd treat when she goes out without panicking that it’s hindering her progress.
“We’re told by society: restrict your calories and ignore your hunger pangs. But if I say no to a meal I really want, I’m more likely to binge later.
“Yes I could get there quicker if I said no to every burger and just ate grilled fish, but I wouldn’t be able to sustain that, because at some point I’m going to have to have the burger.”
Overall, Sarah’s journey to create a healthy relationship with her body and food has completely transformed her life as well as her waistline.
As well as dropping 10 stone in one year and another two since, Sarah has never been happier.
Having previously turning down a business retreat to Croatia because she couldn’t fit in a plane seat, now Sarah is hoping to go away this or next year and, looking forward to “actually wearing a bikini”.
She concluded: “I’m more successful in my business. I’m more sociable. I feel confident. I have more friends and better relationships with my friends. I’ve got the freedom to go out.”
Gone are the days of having only one outfit she felt comfortable in: “I can wear clothes and enjoy tying things on because I fit in them.
“I kept the trousers I used to have, and now I can stand in one leg.”
Sarah has documented her journey so other slimmers can follow her transformation.
Those who may be struggling with disordered eating can find help and support at Beat.
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