Sunday, 7 March 2021

You say 'from Duff to Buff', we say sometimes losing 4 stone is not what it seems: Eating Disorder Awareness



The first time I took to my bathroom to be sick thanks to vile trolls led to an extremely toxic habit - one I'm still at war with to this day.

WARNING: This article contains sensitive topics such as suicidal thoughts, eating disorders and self-harm (an ED is a form of SH). Please only read ahead if you are in a good space today. If not, bookmark for when you are ready.

Daily I, Sophie Blackman the Founder of VavaViolet.com, and the team preach you should be kind to folk because you have no idea what they are really going through or have been through.

Let me, like our brave writer Jessica Murray, who was in this article (You say 'from Duff to Buff', we say sometimes losing 8 stone is not what it seems: Chronic Illness Awareness), be an example to you of how you truly never know what is going on in somebody's life/mind no matter how strong they are and why we drill into our dear readers and others who may come across us the importance of kindness on the daily.

Now, before I get into this any further, I am a strong woman and this darker chapter of mine does not take away from this fact. Mental illness does not make you, or me, any less valuable or worthy than someone who fortunately has none.

Please also remember the person I am today is not the same person you are to read about right now. I'm doing very well these days.

Before I do go further I also want to say, annoyingly this article may come as a shock to some of my loved ones and beloved friends with who I have not had the chance to discuss this before publication. Please do not take it personally, I only told family and only family a few weeks ago as it's too draining to keep talking about - I say as I publish it online lmfao but I'm in a very good and improving headspace now and I wish to do my part to help the campaigns fighting trolling.

For the first time in my life, I'll be honest about how I have lost most of the weight I have so please be kind and bear with me through this slightly organised ramble as it's a frustrating, personal, problematic, taboo and tricky one to write about...

But we're not scared to have those conversations at VavaViolet.com so as the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of this little corner of the internet, I'm going to break my heart open and share this nightmare chapter of my life with you in case you feel alone right now, you're not. Remember that in the darkest moments. You can light your own tunnel, I promise.

Here's my story of living with eating disorders and the dangers of keeping it a secret and why seeking professional help is always the best thing you can do...



The truth is if you bring up food or 'how good I look' following my four stone weight loss while kind, it's the only difficult subject for me to have and I'll likely be extremely awkward about your lovely compliments and shy away or change the conversation.

Do not be insulted if I - or anybody else who has lost weight - does this. It is due to the fact they are both conversations that have terrified me, or them, our whole lives.

It is not on you if you're coming with kind intentions, it's on me and others to work on so do not feel guilty just be mindful.

Nowadays those kinds of comments positively motivate me and help my ego if I'm in a good space as the last stint of my weight loss has been healthy. My mindset is positively adapting and changing towards food and my body by the day. 

However, it is why I often don't show myself on camera or talk in my Stories, It's why you won't see before and after pictures as I can't look. Most days I'm still facing my disorder.

But the thing is, I guess I just don't want my weight loss journey to be a lie so I never know what to respond to people other than stare blankly or straight-up lie. And I'm not a liar, hence why I'm here now because I need my shoulders relieved. I don't want applause over a horrific secret.

When people do pop up asking 'how you do it?' I just reply something along the lines of, 'healthy eating and fitness' admittedly, I've semi lied to you because I'm still ashamed to confess I lost most of the weight due to a mental breakdown which led to my eating disorder.

While reading this article, I ask of you one thing... please do not be sad for me. I'll be alright.

Instead, I ask you to be distraught for those going through this right now without any help - because I'm fortunate and could hire professionals while not many have that luxury.

Be upset, furious and rage for those who can't go out and afford private therapy or professional help when everybody should have that right.

Scream, shout and use your voice to help better our mental health services so folk don't take their lives while waiting in a lengthy queue. Because let me tell you right now, if I couldn't have afforded it I would not be here today and I've come to terms with that truth. I have too much pride. I wouldn't have asked anyone to burrow the money - many others I've spoken to and interviewed since for research purposes for future endeavours have related.

So use your voice for them! This is just my story but I want you to put it into perspective and think of what we can do to help those struggling and more misfortunate. 



Currently, I have lost the last stone in a much more healthy fashion with professionals by my side. But the three stone before that was a very different story.

Still, without going too deep into details as I don't wish to encourage or give anyone any unhealthy ideas, let me explain why someone like I - who should be thrilled at losing four stone - can't help but hang their head in shame when people congratulate me or bring it up.

Growing up, as a teen I was called 'fat' an awful lot by an adult close to me among other names but that one always hurt the most. Then it became the thing a certain few others at school (you know who you are) would call me if they wished to hit a nerve. That's where it starts.

I wasn't fat then at all. I was and always have been very short with big boobs. I always have had a tomboy fashion sense and I adore baggy clothes. Pair big boobies and baggy clothes on a kid and it's all idiots can target.

Among many other names, it stuck. I was a 'fat useless c**t' or a 'fat weirdo' so I thought as I was one according to others I may as well be one. I turned to comfort food first and binging.

I think I was 13/14 when my happy little mind towards food, eating and PE at the time snapped and I just coped by going into self-destruct mode - later realising it was sadly because I did feel completely worthless.

And oh boy did I do a good job at fucking up my life, health, mind and body. I went from a healthy eight and a half stone to 10 stone in a few months.

Food was so comforting to me it became addicting as fuck and very quickly as I felt like it was all I had at points in my life.

A year went by and 11 stone hit the scale aged 16. I was a size 14 and in all honesty, was a little insecure about my body but not too fussed. Eating junk food was comforting me more than the thought of looking good.

As I said, I'd always been told I looked shit so, as it came up in therapy years later, we gave in to it and didn't see another way so we carried on eating to fill the sadness.

Not long later, aged 18, I was 12 stone and by aged 19 I was way over 13 stone and so I took my arse along to Slimming World.

In six months I lost two stone and I'd gone down from 13 stone 13 pounds to 12 stone on the dot but this did not last as it did not really encourage fitness along with the plan and just focused on food.

Deep down I had an eating disorder even then as I was a prolific binge-eater. 

I naturally have an extremely obsessive personality so pair that with dangerously low self-esteem in my teen years and early twenties and so, I was always going to explode at some point.

To those people in a position now like I was, see your GP or even better a therapist before you just rock up to a programme like Slimming World, Weight Watchers or a personal trainer (all mistakes I have made and learnt from).

Therefore, Slimming World didn't last for me and I quickly gained all the weight back - AND MORE!

Slimming World's teaching of seeing food as what they call 'sins' sent me into full-on binge mode due to the psychological problems I was having.



My fucking goodness did I put on the pounds quickly after restricting myself like that daily and so religiously. I know it works for some, it's just not a path I'd personally recommend to a friend.

Aged 20/21 now I was 13 stone again and getting drunk every weekend. It was also becoming very difficult to go more than a few days without getting black-out drunk.

Turned 21, no change still in the pubs drinking my sorrows away for the entire following year as the wine clung to my hips and everywhere but my bottom, except now I was 14 stone.

Going into the end of my 22nd year on this earth in 2019, following years of fad diets and depression, I'd had enough. My mind snapped again but this time the opposite way - I was done with the binge eating. 

The obsession went from filling the void and my sadness with food I enjoyed to gunning to be skinny - the negative, toxic and dangerous mindset I had wanted a different life now.

What broke my mind? A collection of things. 

Years of depression mixed with an already pre-existing however undiagnosed at that stage eating disorder. I was riddled with anxiety although I mastered from a young age how to hide my fears, emotions and feelings. As I said, I also have and had back then an obsessive personality (which is not a bad thing, I just get obsessed with my hobbies). There's also the sheer fact I had very low self-esteem and have always, throughout my life, been criticised due to my eating habits or weight and it was always the thing trolls targeted.

But there was a day, a particular one following an event, which was the cherry on top of a volcano ready to erupt inside of me. 

An article was published in 2019 that I had written and in it was pictures of me in a bathing suit which was seen by thousands as it was on a national British tabloid's website and social media platforms meaning comments could be made by millions of members of the public following.

At the time I was 22-years-old and 14 stone. The article was on feminism and how people need to piss off and let women grow their body hair in peace if they want it.

For it, I grew a bush (not pictured) and trialled out some experiments all in the name of a fun, wacky article that would bring light to a topic I'm extremely passionate about. As while I personally love a full body wax, I'm all here for women doing what they want and not being judged for it.

The editor asked if I'd be up for posing in swimwear for it, I said yes. I was sick the morning of the photoshoot due to fear (I did not make myself sick) but did the shoot regardless and fought through the fear because I refused to let what I assumed trolls would say win. I thought I was strong enough to handle it. I thought I could laugh off the hate once I got over my nerves.

At the time I was attempting yet another fad diet I'd made up of dangerously low calories and was on what I thought a self-love journey was so I assumed the shoot might help my confidence and encourage other women who look like me to love themselves.

Sadly, it was the thing that sent me off the rails. 



Suicide warning for next few lines, please skip to the line 'When I signed up' if you wish to surpass.

Holding my hands up, as I want this to hit why trolling should be made illegal and is insane that it is not already, it did make me suicidal for a while. Some days it is all I thought about and planned. It was an extremely dark time.

Today I am more than grateful to be here and try and give back every single day.

When I signed up to do the photoshoot, I genuinely thought I could hack it otherwise I would not have put myself in that position, obviously. I honestly thought I'd see comments like so and joke around with my friends in the group chat.  

I'll never forget the day it went live. I really won't. It will haunt me, in truth.

It was a few months after the shoot and at the time it went live I was getting into my friend's dads car to go to the airport for a few days in Amsterdam with two of my most treasured friends.

My heart broke the second a message from a friend came in telling me not to look at the comments. I was in Frankie and Benny's in the airport at the time doing cheers to our lives.

I couldn't help but have a brief look. Always been a nosey bastard.

Instantly I saw over 10 comments picking on my weight and telling me to hit the gym. One told me to die. I hit report, not long later I got the notification to say they were removed. 

For the sake of myself wanting to enjoy the holiday and not to ruin it for my friends, I stayed strong and I didn't let it taint our time together.

As I couldn't be alone and cry, I binge ate as I was away anyway so thought why not? I did not look at the comments again while in the capital of the Netherlands for that reason.

After flying home and coming back to my empty flat as my dad was out, my life was taken over by a horrid new turn of events inside my mind.

That was the first time out of many that I ran to my bathroom and forced myself to be sick until I physically couldn't take it anymore.

Then, and I'm sorry if you're reading this thinking 'what the fuck' (if you're triggered mental health-wise please put your self first and click off - this is for the trolls honey) but here's the damn truth of what you vile bullies do to good people.

For nearly a whole day I sat on my bathroom floor and read every single comment. Hundreds of them.

I watched as people tagged their friends laughing at me and my body. Using gifs of whales and shit.

I binge ate while reading them. Then I'd chuck it back up. I had zero control then, none.

Stupidly, I counted over 400 comments most of them calling me all kinds of names but mainly 'fat'. I reported as many as I could but I was too embarrassed to ask for help from my mates in reporting them. Some are still there but I don't look anymore.



To note, I'm sure something down the line would have led to this eruption so I do not blame the publication. The editors actually looked after me tremendously well and did check in with me hence why I won't name them here. I have no complaints towards there, at all.

To save those who may be sensitive to this subject, I will spare you the graphic details of what happened over the next few months. You get the idea, I went down a path of forcing myself to go hungry or binge, make myself sick and force myself to workout nearly every day as punishment - do not copy or do these things, they will destroy you not make you better.

How did I keep it such a secret? Many people do with eating disorders, it is the deadliest factor. My dad is and was only home late in the evenings and therefore, no one is watching me for most of my days as I work shifts.

This went on for a while in private without me telling a single soul. Nobody, not one person.

A year after the article went up the coronavirus pandemic hit the world.

At this point, I wasn't forcing myself to be sick anymore. I either binged or starved myself. 

For the first half of the UK's first lockdown, before I started my Identity Coaching, I hit another wall. I was 15 stone all of a sudden and all I and my friends could do was go on walks.

After a few stretches and steps, I'd be out of breath, embarrassed and holding back tears as I cried hay fever while walking what felt like miles behind them even though they were slowing down - bless them.

Following the embarrassment I felt from the situation, the toxic habits returned after dimming out for a few months. 

They took over my life again rapidly for a couple more months until I decided I once again needed to save my damn self, from myself.

Once again despite all my hard work and effort, I had hit rock bottom for the 100th time in my life and it was either give up or enter battle mode against myself one more time.

So we geared up for war. This time, the forgiving and gracious kind of war.

Halfway into 2020, I knew I needed to make big changes but I had just finished therapy and I, rather foolishly, had never ever bought up food, my body or my mindset towards either with even my therapist because it was easier to work on my other issues - so I thought.

She rightly let me go thinking all was well - hell, I'd even tricked myself into thinking I did not have a problem for a hot minute.

I put it down to society and we all do it, right? Wrong! It's not okay but I was telling myself it was and I was listening to myself because I was so desperate, naive and clueless.

As I'm going to advise you now, reading books on how to eat better or following fad diets will not cure you if you have deeper psychological issues with food and/or your body. Fad diets never work full stop, to be frank. And books, while beautiful things, can help but not cure a mental illness as it is personal to each individual.



Three stone left my body over the last year due to an eating disorder that got out of hand for a while if we are, to be honest, and call it what it really is.

That is not healthy and the saddest thing is - I realise now - if I had done it with a coach and through therapy, I would have lost more and also healthily and happily too. Instead, my mind would flip, I'd binge then punish myself.

So, as you can imagine, when people are applauding you for 'looking better' as the weight falls off from what is straight up a form of self-harm the addiction takes on a mind of its own.

The damn thing grows its own ego and it wants more, so what do you do? You continue the terribly unhealthy and straight-up toxic habits you have tricked yourself into thinking are best for you because they're working despite the fact they are killing your body. You don't consider other ways in the midst of it, believe me, otherwise, I and people, would...

The summer of 2020 was the last time I made myself sick. 

I decided I didn't want to live like that so took the time to work on my mindset towards both food and my body. I started with the book, Shrink: The Diet for the Mind, by Philippe Tahon (highly recommend as a starting point, perhaps while waiting for therapy).

In this, I learnt about intuitive eating and some tips to start shifting my mindset. I've been through cognitive behavioural therapy and coaching over the last few years so I thought I could coach myself out of these nasty habits with the skills I had learned from them. Again, I was very wrong.

In December 2020, I made an active effort to stop self-harming in the form of making my body refuse food. I began trying to eat 1,200 calories a day which doesn't sound a lot but I was really, really struggling to consume even half that.

This went on until early February this year as I battled in private (easy as hell to do in lockdown) to consume more good and nutritious foods but my habits were there, at the back of my head, evil as they are telling me that no matter what I ate it would make me put the weight back on.

Going back to the start of 2021, as I prepped for the year ahead and thought about how I want to invest and better myself this year while on my self-development journey my intuition screamed back at me - face whatever is going on inside you towards food etc and beat it.

The easiest thing would have been to reach out to my therapist but remember, I had lied to her and everybody and I didn't want people to think I'm a liar. Because I'm not, I've just been extremely embarrassed and ashamed for a very long time. 



After seeing my best friend work with my now personal trainer, Erin Taylor, and do amazing with her I checked out Erin's page.

She was just the coach I needed. I must have scrolled for an hour before I booked in for Erin's free call to see if you vibe and all that good stuff because her content is just fire.

I knew I needed a coach who wouldn't focus on the vain aspect of working out, I knew I had a thousand problems and I needed a very gentle, patient, kind and caring coach.

Erin is so supportive and was the first person on the planet I opened up to even though it was just a tad. 

But I'll admit something else. For the first month of our coaching, I avoided Erin as I didn't want her to know I was struggling to consume the number of calories that I was. 

While I imagine it frustrating to have a paying client who then ignores you, Erin did not give up on me and she did the right thing, she called me at the very start of February this year and asked me with kindness and in a safe place what was going on.

It was the first time someone had noticed anything wrong with my eating or mindset towards fitness and health, as I said I don't talk about it and it's why I'm still scared to even video myself or sometimes take photos.

As she should have, she advised we could carry on our coaching - as I wanted to - if I returned to therapy as it was an area out of her expertise. So I did.

Thanks to Erin not giving up on me, I finally sought the help I needed and went back to therapy with a willingness to talk openly about the secret which had consumed me.

The moral of the story, the only way to solve your scariest battles is to face them head-on and ask for help, I'm afraid to say.

It's now been a few weeks since our first session back at therapy and 60 days into my journey with Erin and while there are many difficult days, I know there are many bright ones ahead - I'm also starting to pump my fist when I consume more calories a day!

Now I'm learning how to fuel my body healthily and happily. I'm also enjoying the journey and seeing growth after the bad days.

The difference between me today and myself at the start of 2021 to put it simply is this... I'm doing this for me now and I'm not afraid to ask for help and I most certainly listen to the professionals guiding me out of this dark tunnel.

You should too.

But don't worry, you're not alone. We can do it together! 

Let us know what kind of content and topics we should bring light to by emailing me or the team at vavaviolett@outlook.com.



Written by VavaViolet's Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Sophie Blackman.


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