For the past 9 days I’ve blogged about my journey doing the Clean 9 cleanse, and I’ve mainly made light of it all and spoke about it with undertones of humour and nonchalance. Today’s blog is going to be a little bit different, because I’m going to tell you the real reason why I started it in the first place.
I did it to test and challenge myself, and to put a marker on a journey with food that has lasted a hell of a lot longer than a week and a bit.
Today – Tuesday the 21st March 2017 – marks my 4 year official recovery from a thirteen year-long battle with both Anorexia and Bulimia (I had to go the whole hog, I couldn’t just have one.) I didn’t plan on completing Clean 9 on my anniversary – that was genuinely a happy accident.
I’m telling you this, because I think it’s really important that anyone planning on doing Clean 9 – or any other cleanse, does it for the right reasons. Please, if you’re reading this and you think it’s a fast track to skinny then keep reading and I hope I make you see sense.
It started when I was 15 and stressed the fuck out about my GCSE’s. The only way I felt in control was to restrict what I was eating. It gave me a sense of calm. It didn’t help that I’d just had my belly button pierced, and was worried about showing my stomach to people or wearing little crop tops to display my cool new accessory. I’m not going to go into the whole backlog of my illness, not because it’s irrelevant, because it totally is, but because it’s something I’ve put behind me, and am now comfortable being completely open and honest about it.
This was nothing to do with food – because I fucking love food. All of the food. I was a chef for 3 years which only went on to further deepen my love of the stuff. So the fact that I thought of it as ‘the enemy’ for over a third of my existence is completely baffling to me now – but the enemy is what it was. To recover from that I had to change my mind-set, my thoughts and my habits… forever.
I first started seeing a therapist in 2008, when I got back from gallivanting around the globe as a Holiday Rep, and as soon as I landed back in the UK – and into reality, the inevitable re-lapse happened. I’d had good years and bad years interspersed throughout my adolescence and early adulthood, but fuck me this was rock bottom.
I weighed just over 6 stone, my periods stopped (that was huge motivation to get my shit together), my hair, skin, nails and teeth were awful and I was working out for about 3 hours a day, fuelled by basically no food at all. I remember having a job at the time where I was given a mini bag of Haribo Tangfastics. It took me all morning to summon up the courage to put one of the tiny cherry sweets into my mouth, and within minutes I was hunched over the staff toilet, fingers down my throat and crying my eyes out. Nowadays I can inhale a bag of Haribo Tangfastics in one sitting without giving a single shit – and it’s one of the reasons why they’re my favourites.
I was desperately unhappy, and having cooked in Chalets in France during my time abroad I had decided I wanted to work with food – so I started applying for jobs in professional kitchens – with no experience and a crippling eating disorder. Logic at finest.
I walked into Hotel du Vin, spent the morning making breakfasts, bar snacks and food for a conference that was happening that day, and was offered a job on the spot. My dad thought I was nuts, but I knew that if I was going to overcome this, and stop likening food to Satan, I had to throw myself in at the deep end and surround myself by it. It was the best thing I ever did, and within 2 years I was recovered, the heaviest I’ve ever been (at a meagre 8 ½ stone) and living with my first love.
Then we split up.
To say I went off the rails would be the very definition of the word ‘understatement’, and I quickly spiralled back into old habits by returning to the only coping mechanism I knew. I was living on my own and barely affording basic living expenses – so food went out the window, with any money that I did have spare being spent going out on a Saturday night and getting smashed. It was during this time that I hit my lowest. I thought I had hit rock bottom before, but this time round I had plummeted through the floor of rock bottom, landed in the basement and was busy digging the floor up to get to the equator of ‘bottom’. This did not go unnoticed, and so my parents (who were SPECTACULARLY supportive throughout) asked me to move back home temporarily until I got back on my feet. I stayed for 5 and a half years.
Therapist number two was fantastic, I’d been signed off work for four months and put on happy pills for a mixture of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, OCD and stress (yes I just had to go back and put those in alphabetical order) – and I had to wait a good 4 months before I could see a specialist equipped to deal with my level of needs. They work in a pyramid system, with the most ‘typical’ at the bottom, and getting more and more bespoke as it went up. They told me I was at the very top.
Then, on a summer afternoon in 2012, I was sitting on my bed, with my computer on in the corner. It was a day I’ll never forget, because it was the day that changed, and ultimately saved my life. I was sat, on my bed, with the packet of sleeping pills that I’d been prescribed and told I could only have half, a maximum of 3 times a week. There were about 17 left and as I counted, I wondered – would it be enough? At that very second, my computer pinged with a Skype message from my good friend Tamsin. She had sent across an audio book and simply said “Babe – you need to listen to this.”
That book was called ‘The Secret’.
Some of you reading this may have heard of it or even read it – and if you have you will know how the power of The Universe works – and how that one moment in time was meant to happen – right at that very second. I downloaded it and listened to it all in one go – all 4 hours of it (not like I had anything else to do) and suddenly, EVERYTHING. MADE. SENSE.
Everything that I had been through, I had brought on myself, it wasn’t an accident, or a fluke – it was because I was so unbelievably negative about everything and everyone – and it came back round full circle. Today I have a gratitude journal, and every single day I find ten things that I am thankful for. Do you know how difficult it is to remain in a negative frame of mind when you make a point of searching for even the tiniest thing that makes you smile?
My eating started to improve almost immediately – yes it took a while, habits are hard to break, but now I realised that the vessel I was walking around in was mine – and I had to love it and bloody well look after it if I was going to get anywhere in life. It was going to carry me to my dreams.
On March 21st 2013, I took my very last happy pill, sat in my very last session with my therapist and listened as she told me how impressed she was with my progress, and how happy she was with my turnaround. I walked out of that office with my head held high and a huge smile on my face.
These days, I continue to treat my body as the precious vessel that it is. I love working out hard and pushing myself to see what I’m capable of. I’m continually amazed by the things it does – without my even thinking about it – like healing, letting me know what it needs, functioning perfectly to keep me alive and healthy. How could I ever have abused it? How could I ever have hated it so much? The notion is, today, one that is completely beyond me.
When I decided to do this Clean 9 cleanse, it was more than a little daunting because there was a huge part of me that knew that I’d be a dab hand at starving myself for 2 days then restricting my calorie intake for a week. It would be an absolute piece of piss – and I didn’t want it to be. I didn’t want it to be at all. It took me 3 days to tell me parents that I was doing it, and as they exchanged worried glances, I knew they were thinking the same as me: “It never goes away.”
We were right, it doesn’t ever go away. Ever. There are still days when I look at myself and see the parts of myself I don’t like. I’ll pinch at the flesh on my stomach and thighs and grimace… but that’s because I’m a 21st Century woman, it’s what we’ve been programmed to think. It’s because I’m a 21st Century woman – not a woman with an eating disorder.
In the first few days of Clean 9, aka ‘the fasting days’ that sense of starved autopilot overcame me once again, and where to me it used to feel like euphoria, now it felt like what it is supposed to feel like – my body needed fuel to function. This is the feeling that can take over and become addictive. This is the feeling that leads you down that dark path. I worked very very fucking hard for four solid years to find my inner strength, and once you have those tools in your head that make you listen to reason, calm yourself down and make yourself see sense, you use them for the rest of your life and apply them to everything.
Negativity almost killed me during my twenties, then last year I got called both ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and ‘the most optimistic person I have ever met’. You’ll never grasp how happy that made me – it showed me just how far I have come. It all boils down to gratitude. All of it. Everything.
I am grateful that I have completed Clean 9. I am grateful that my skin is glowing, my hair and nails are stronger and growing. I am grateful for my soaring energy levels, my restful sleep and my focused mind. I am grateful that I have rid my body of toxins and lost my dependency to alcohol, sugar and caffeine. I am grateful for the amazing results that are exactly what I hoped to achieve by doing this, but most of all, I am grateful for the fact that it has taught me how much I have come to love and cherish my body over the past few years, for my full recovery, and for The Universe showing me – once again, that I am capable of achieving absolutely anything I set my mind to.