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Someone else’s story: body image

It’s all very well for internet arseholes like me to tell you to be confident, own the world, and generally stamp around with a level of self-assurance that most people would struggle with on a good day. I know that, despite my hippy-esque assurances that you should love yourself no matter what, genuinely being happy with yourself is one of the hardest things to be.

Your rational mind can look in the mirror and go “well, I’m sort of average shape, quite tall, and reasonably tidy-looking” while your emotional mind, ignoring evidence to the contrary, goes “I’m so fucking UGLY.” Even the most confident, beautiful, almost-perfect people get these flashes. But some get it harder than others, and some have to fight it every single day.

It’s all very well assuring people that ‘you’re totally fine. You’re beautiful. Don’t be ridiculous’ when they let their insecurity out, but often the problem is so much deeper than just a simple desire for reassurance. Knowing that helps us understand people a bit better, and dodge the flippancy that I’m certainly guilty of a lot of the time.

The following guest blog is by Madison, who is a very new blogger writing excellent things over at Madisonwritessht. She got in touch to ask if she could write a guest blog on recovering from an eating disorder. And fuck me, can she write.

Madison writes:

I can’t tell if I’m getting fatter or if my mind is getting sicker.

I have never had a positive body image. I remember panicking when we had to go swimming in primary school, and being jealous of my younger sister for having a smaller body than me. I was six, and I was sick. I thought that the only way anyone would love me would be if my bones were visible and I was blemish free. Unfortunately, I still do.

It’s difficult to explain how you feel about your body with a mouthful of pizza and friends saying they want to look like you. It’s not that I ever thought I was obese, or even fat. ‘Fat’ doesn’t have the same meaning to someone suffering from an eating disorder as it does to others. Fat means disgusting, it means failure. It means you can’t get anything right, and as long as the numbers on the scale are creeping higher, you’ll never be a success.

Personally, food is a comfort. I don’t remember the last time I was actually hungry, I eat when I’m sad, bored or lonely. Food is so tightly connected with emotions that every moment of my time is spent counting calories, or searching for happiness in a bar of chocolate like a Wonka ticket. So, as a pre-teen, I did what I thought would make me look ‘normal’. I drank a litre of salted water and stuck a toothbrush down my throat. I didn’t care what anyone thought, as long as there were other people out there skinnier than me, I was fat. I’d cry myself to sleep and, for a long time, I wished I wouldn’t wake up in the morning, so I didn’t have to deal with myself. There was nothing I could do to stop puberty or my developing body, but the success in stopping my periods spurred me on. But I never lost much weight and the constant act of bingeing and purging simply left my weight fluctuating and my body wrecked. It wasn’t until I was sent to therapy as a teenager for other issues that I was able to stop the voices for a while, and put them to one side.

After accidentally losing a lot of weight during summer a year or so ago, starting at university was torture. The drinking and fast food, coupled with a new unrestricted environment caused my recovery to go downhill. I bulk bought laxatives, taking 30 pills in one go, went days without eating and exercised like a fanatic in my bedroom. I knew I was being irrational, but an eating disorder is an addiction, and I didn’t see a way out. I just wanted to be confident, and to like something about myself. For a short while I had a boyfriend, and after he broke up with me for stupidly arbitrary reasons I didn’t sleep for two days, bingeing, convinced that he would have stayed with me if I’d been thinner.

These days, I’m in recovery. Or at least I’m trying. I’m trying so hard to regulate my eating pattern and think about myself positively. I’m scared about disappointing people if I let myself fall again, but even making myself a bowl of pasta is terrifying. The worst part is, I’m almost 20 and I feel like I’m broken. I’m just looking forward to the day when someone will tell me ‘you’re beautiful’ and the voice inside me won’t erase their words.

This week was Eating Disorders Awareness week, arranged by the charity beat. They offer help and support if you’re affected, or know someone who is.


  • Joely says:

    Hi Madison,

    I’ve been there. I had anorexia nervosa for 15 years, and I know what it’s like to live with the self-hate, the shame and the stigma. You’ve written so beautifully on your experience. I’ve recovered, but I still live with that shadow. Any time you’d like to chat, I’d love to.

    Joely xx

  • Sarah says:


    Thank you for sharing. Eating Disorders do consume lives, every moment, every thought, dedicated to losing weight, searching for happiness and validation in numbers. Calories, fat, hours exercise, calories burned, weight, kilos, pounds, stones, calories, exercise, pills….BUT that trap and web of numbers and self-hate, the false ‘happiness’ created in a bubble of anorexia CAN be broken. RECOVERY is possible.

    I am in recovery from anorexia and learning this EVERY day, I know the road is long, I know I need to not look BACK at the days trapped and silenced by anorexia as happier and more controlled than my days in recovery. That happiness is a LIE, just like the lies eating disorders tell to drive people to the lengths they go to in order to search for happiness in numbers. It’s never possible……never forget that!

    Come and say hello at Team Recovery on Facebook and Twitter and pledge to be a RECOVERY NINJA.

    POW! And keep going Madison. At 20, your life is only just beginning. MAKE IT YOUR LIFE, not your eating disorders’.


  • Chris says:

    I read a fascinating blog about eating disorders last week too.
    I respect anyone that is brave enough to talk about their problems.
    Hopefully these sort of blogs will raise awareness about the issue and encourage people to confront their problems.
    There’s nothing wrong with seeking help.

    Here’s that other blog anyways (sorry if it seems like I’m advertising someone else)

  • size4riggerboots says:

    I’m one of those people who generally looks at herself in the mirror and thinks “Could do with loosing a few pounds… meh.. what’s for dinner?”. Having told you that , you may well be thinking, “Why the hell are you commenting on *this* blog then?” Fair enough…. My best friend since we were 8 is why (we’re 31 now), she was actually bigger than me at school, not fat, but certainly not skinny. She was beautiful, talented, charming, popular and I was in awe of her. And you know what? She’s still ALL of those things and I am still thankful and proud to call her my friend. When she got married though, I could count her ribs from across the room, and sadly, despite it being a day of tremendous joy, that is my overwhelming memory of it. She became anorexic when she went off to London to study at a subject specific school at 16, and it has been with us all ever since. She understands that it is a disorder, we talk about it and she works hard on being healthy, but her version of eating healthy is mostly carrots, chickpeas and soya yoghurt; because of the years of malnourishment she is now lacto-intolerant, wheat- intolerant, has alopecia, and does not get periods, (which is a problem when you’re thinking you’d like to have children!). She also claims to have recovered. Now I’m sure some people reading this will tell me I don’t understand because I’ve not been there myself and therefore cannot comment on this, but I’ve spent enough time talking with her to be confident that I do understand. I know she doesn’t see what I see when I look at her. I also know that she has not “recovered”. It’s not like you can just wake up one morning and think “I’m over that, let’s go get doughnuts”. It’s something she at least is going to fight with for the rest of her life, and I and her husband and her other friends will be there with her, good times and bad. What I’m trying to say here, really, in a long rambling roundabout way is that recovery is relative, but the real way to win against this thing is to realize that you deserve to be loved *despite* of how you feel about your own body.

  • Madison says:

    Genuinely chuffed to see my post up here! Love girlonthenet. Thanks for all the support, it’s good to know it’s out there.


  • J random says:

    Read a nice tweet from Derren Brown the other day. “We are all bit players in other people’s lives who care little for our secrets.”
    Can sound a little harsh sometimes, but it does help remind me that basically we are all in this together and I am prone to seriously overthink my own problems at the expense of time spent just getting along and trying to make the world a happier place for everyone.

    In the end, the only person that can make you truly happy is yourself, everything else is just bird song.

    And in 42 years I have learned there is only one thing guaranteed to make a person beautiful – a relaxed and genuine smile.

  • Ash says:

    Thanks for sharing. One of my ex girlfriends (who I’m still close to) is currently fighting a war with anorexia. She was always thick – not fat, but plenty of meat in the best places to have it – but a couple guys after me she got in with some Christian Grey type fuckwit who wanted her to get skinny so she did. And hasn’t stopped even after he dumped her for some teenage stripper.

  • Ash says:

    oops, hit post too early – my point is that I don’t have a fucking clue how I can help her as I’ve always been one to grab seconds/stop for KFC for no real reason so I could never understand the mindset of an anorexic.

    This post really helped me, thanks Madison and GOTN for having it up.

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