Overcoming anorexia nervosa: Lara’s story
I’m Lara. A health, fitness and mental health awareness blogger from Cardiff. I’m an anorexia survivor and I now use my social media platforms to raise awareness (@lara_rebecca), limit stigmas and hopefully support people who are in recovery.
"I’ve managed to find a happy medium where fitness is a part of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle which I now enjoy.”
Need help? Please seek help and support
COPING WITH AN EATING DISORDER
I was so consumed within the harmful influence of anorexia since the age of 11. Restrictive eating was a subconscious coping mechanism and a way to regain a sense of control in my life. As time progressed, my habits became obsessive. My existence practically revolved around calorie counting and weighing myself every moment I could. By the age of 15, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Day by day, I was living to satisfy the destructive and continuous voices of anorexia, in addition to living with the diagnosis of depression and anxiety disorder.
At the time, I felt like there was no escape. Anorexia made me feel very isolated and alone.
MY ROAD TO RECOVERY
My weight restoration began late 2016 with the support of a medical team. Recovery was extremely difficult but time, patience and love helped me to get through it.
It wasn’t until months after I began intensive treatment that I decided to make positive, healthy and sustainable changes to my lifestyle. For years my family had seen my health deteriorate which I can imagine wasn't difficult for them too. I was determined to regain my health and feel fit and strong.
Eating well and maintaining an active lifestyle provides me with a sense of purpose, allows me to feel productive and generally just makes me happy.
FINDING INNER STRENGTH
I can confidently say that the reason I am here today is because I decided to be true to myself.
I finally allowed myself to make ‘me’ a priority. I'm glad I acknowledged that I needed to make changes, and thankfully I implemented them before things could get any worse.
I now genuinely feel that I have discovered my true identity, identified what’s actually important in life and I am able to appreciate the small, simple yet most meaningful things in life.
That's not to say I don't have days that test me. I'm still working on it. But that’s okay. I know that recovery isn’t linear and that I should never give up.
WHERE I AM AT NOW
I’ve reached a weight where my body can thrive!
My healthy relationship with fitness came around when I noticed how happy it made me.
It provides me with a sense of structure and has massively been beneficial for my mental health and overall happiness.
Physically, I have gained a lot of muscle and strength. I have also formed genuine friendships with staff and other members, who are very supportive and encouraging. But more importantly, what has changed, is the confidence I have within my body.
Working out is now my love, my passion and my hobby.
Being active is a part of my daily routine. Being able to get my active wear on, become lost in the music playing through my Bluetooth headphones, lift weights, challenge my body, become stronger, is the highlight of my day
My main accomplishment, not your conventional response I suppose, would honestly be the fact that I’ve implemented it within my lifestyle and made fitness something healthy, sustainable and beneficial to not only my physical health, but my mental wellbeing.
TIPS WHEN STARTING OUT IN THE GYM
I remember when I first stepped into the gym I was totally overwhelmed. I was completely out of my depth. I was self-conscious and overthinking my every move. However, the more I attended, the more empowered and confident I felt.
If you’re new to the gym my advice would be to take it slow. Take your time to learn what you enjoy and what works for your body.
When I started going to the gym I never budged from the cardio machines as I decided that that area was my ‘safe space.’ But as time continued, as my knowledge and passion grew, I was able to gradually introduce a variety of other movements and exercises into my routine.
ADVICE TO ANYONE WHO IS STRUGGLING
My main piece of advice would be to speak up. Sharing a problem is often the first step to recovery.
Yes, this is probably the most daunting thing, however, being able to vocalise your emotions can feel like such a release. Issues with body image and disordered eating tend to, ironically, eat you up inside. It plays on your mind and exhausts you. Having the opportunity to let these overbearing and destructive feelings out could really be beneficial. Don’t be afraid to open up to a trustworthy friend, an understanding member of your family, your GP or call a mental health helpline.
ADVICE TO MY YOUNGER SELF
It’s going to be okay. No matter how difficult times can get, you have more courage than you know. Believe in your own strengths and do what’s best for you.
My next challenge is the Cardiff Half Marathon. I will be raising money for Beat, an eating disorder charity. I haven’t ran since October and my endurance fitness has most certainly declined! Strength and muscle building have been my primary focuses, and now trying to get myself back into the routine of long-distance running is definitely a challenge. My fundraising page is here if you’d like to donate and support this incredible charity.
Need help or advice?
If you need support with eating disorders, help is available. Remember, you are not alone. Please see your GP and seek support from organisations like: Anorexia and Bulimia Care (ABC), Beat, Eating Disorders Associations NI or NHS.