My Story

17 years old

At 17, as I entered university, I started developing a perception of myself and wondered how others perceived me. I became more self-conscious about my pear-shaped body, with my lower body being wider than my upper body. I found myself feeling disproportionate: with big legs, no boobs, and no waist. Back then, I compared myself with other girls of similar age. Not only did I discover differences between myself and others regarding body shape, but I also noticed differences in other aspects of life, such as having different outlooks and hobbies, and being almost the only one of my friends without a boyfriend. Adding to this, my perfectionism, competitiveness, and self-discipline (and control-freak tendencies) took a toll on my disordered relationship with food. I wanted to fit in and thought there was only one way to achieve this.

Around the same time, I discovered social media and started following several young ‘fit girls’ who posted photos of their long, skinny, model-like bodies and shared their training and diet regimes. Back then, I didn’t have a clue that there was a whole lot more to a person’s life than what they showed on their Instagram accounts. I spent innumerable hours obsessing about what I should or should not eat and daydreaming about how perfect my life would be when I finally had a similar fit and skinny body to these girls. I was chasing their skinny legs in particular, not realizing that I’ll never have long model-like legs because that’s not my body type.

I started counting calories, restricting food, and exercising for the sole purpose of weight loss. I lost the first couple of kilos with very little effort; however, I wasn’t satisfied with how slowly I made ‘progress’, so I decided to reduce my food intake and increase my exercise just a bit more, and a bit more, until the point where I was starving myself and excessively exercising. Regardless of how much I weighed, I didn’t achieve the perfect body that the other fit girls had. I thought I had to use severe methods, so I started to skip meals altogether and told myself that I needed to work out to earn more food.

At first, my disordered relationship with food and my body went unnoticed by everyone. I was a star at hiding this struggle from others. I didn’t fit the typical image of someone suffering from anorexia, which made it almost impossible for people to notice what I was going through. I vaguely remember making up excuses for my weight loss when my friends eventually started to notice my body changes. I was literally living a double life, which I thought I was really good at, but over time I couldn’t take it anymore. This was the starting point of my orthorexia phase; I became obsessed with eating foods that I considered healthy.

18 years old

This year, I began compulsively checking ingredient lists and nutritional labels, cutting out a number of food groups including sugar and carbs. I spent hours per day thinking about what food might be served at upcoming events and developed an unusual interest in what others were eating. I ordered a ton of so-called ‘super foods’, which included Goji Berries, Chia and Flax seeds, Cacao Nibs, and so on, and refused to eat meals with my parents and siblings (sorry, Mum). I weighed each ingredient and tracked every single thing I consumed. I also kept obsessively following healthy lifestyle social media accounts.

My compulsive behavior around food eased over time as I prepared myself for going on my Applied Psychology placement in South Africa. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my weird eating habits while living with two other housemates and spending most of my free time with other amazing people doing cool things.


I finally realized that there was more to life than desiring perfect skinny legs, which was the start of finding my way toward a more balanced life, but I still had a long way to go. I basically lacked the time to be so obsessed with my food intake as I was enjoying the company of the other students and what South Africa has to offer. And you know what? I had the time of my life! Sometimes, in moments of silence, I noticed that I still tried to count my daily calorie intake, use food to reward or punish myself, and compare myself to what other people were eating. I still had the mentality to be ‘the best’.


I had grown both professionally and personally a lot during my placement. I thought that I had become strong enough to manage life’s curveballs and not use food to cope with stress anymore. However, unfortunately, this was still far from the truth

19-21 years old

Not long after I got back home, I started dating someone. I was over the moon about this person and too blind to see that our relationship was slowly negatively impacting my relationships with my close ones and myself.

We didn’t have a healthy relationship; jealousy quickly grew into controlling behaviors. I felt stuck, lacking self-confidence, and blamed myself for our failing relationship. I took it out on my body by abusing it again. I signed up for Pilates solely to try to get smaller calves, then turned to weight lifting and altered my diet in pursuit of this goal. Neither of these things helped. One and a half years later, we broke up, which was for the better.

21-23 years old

The next couple of years, I had an on-and-off relationship with bulimia/binge eating. Initially, I didn’t consider it serious; it was my coping mechanism, something I could fall back on when I felt overwhelmed. There were weeks when I didn’t engage in purging, but the pattern was incredibly sporadic.

23 – 30 years old

At 23, I spent this year healing my self-perception and behaviors so that I could view food and fitness as tools that enhance my life, rather than tools to manipulate my sense of self-worth.

Through addressing emotional wounds/traumas, unlearning beliefs that no longer served me, and learning ones that did, my Applied Psychology degree, journaling, self-reflection, healthy relationships, and prioritizing emotional self-awareness, I built a sense of purpose outside of how I look.

Fast forward to now, and I’m a completely different person. I have become my own best friend and make self-care a priority in my life. I don’t count calories, weigh myself, or let fear guide my food choices. I enjoy eating and the process of cooking, experimenting with new recipes. I eat mostly nutritious foods because I love my body and have respect for this beautiful vehicle of life.

The same goes for fitness – I work out because it makes me feel good. I don’t measure my eating or movement as if my body’s measurements matter.

The freedom, rest, joy, and inner wisdom I’ve gained since I gave up the obsession and let go of the diet culture are immeasurable.

I have healed myself, and now I’d like to give something back!


I hope that by sharing my story, you feel less alone in the battle you are facing while also inspiring you to take action. There are so many more important things to spend your energy on, like pursuing hobbies you love and creating happy memories with your friends, family, or partner.