It wasn’t what my close friend said that upset me as we surveyed our shopping purchases – It was what the words represented.
“You’ve always been practical,” she shrugged, as I showed her my baggy jeans and over sized tee shirts.
‘PRACTICAL’, I thought…That means ‘NOT PRETTY’.
Granted, size 22 doesn’t provide much space for pretty. No cute tank tops or flirty short skirts for me.
The truth is, I’d always been a ‘chubby’ kid – but the death of two sisters and then my father meant I took ‘eating my feelings’ to a whole other level.
Sad to say, I spent most of my twenties depressed and severely overweight. Sure, there were happy times – I graduated from University, married a prince of a man, enjoyed a wonderful career as a journalist (something I had always wanted to be).
And, when I was sad, in those brief moments of grief I allowed myself, I ate. Or I drank… A LOT. And then, I felt guilty.
At 29, I looked back at the previous 10 years and decided I didn’t like who I was. I needed to change –and what better way to do that than to change how I looked, right?
I began exercising EVERY DAY for up to 3 hours a session, while making extreme changes to my diet. Guess what? It worked. In the space of four months I’d slimmed down to a size 10, shedding 15 kilos.
I felt wonderful. I was getting lots of attention. I bought a whole new wardrobe. I felt slender and sexy. I was PRETTY.
But, then the paranoia set in. What if I got fat again? I would be a laughing stock. Invisible again… Practical Penny.
That COULD NOT happen. So, I became bulimic. Anything ‘bad’ that went into my mouth (and that list grew longer by the day) was quickly followed by a visit to the bathroom to purge. My poor husband grew increasingly frustrated as I asked for constant reassurance that I hadn’t gained weight. I heard that caffeine increased your metabolism, so I started popping No Dose tablets at work – with black coffee.
Yep – Not a great idea. By the end of the year I was a mess. Like so many of people (men and women) with an eating disorder, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
Believe it or not, that was the best thing that ever happened to me.
My doctor referred me to an amazing counsellor, who I visited every week for 50 minute sessions. Over the course of a year, I told her my deepest, darkest secrets and we began to unravel the truth behind my eating disorders. Surprisingly, it had very little to do with food, but plenty to do with self loathing. This wonderful, wise, funny, woman helped me rebuild my life, taught me coping mechanisms and started me on a journey to loving myself – the real me.
I am now in a much better place – although I am still learning every day (self-love is a continual practice and learning experience). I still exercise and eat healthily – but it is with the purpose of being fit and healthy, not skinny.
My experience means I am so proud to support the fabulous Make up Free Me Campaign. On Friday 30th August, I will join women across Australia, as we take on the challenge of going without makeup for one day.
I’ve already raised $100 for the event’s amazing cause – The Butterfly Foundation, a fabulous organisation supporting people with eating disorders and poor body image.
I am hoping that events like this wonderful campaign, that champion positive body image in the community, will mean that more young women learn early what I learned the hard way.
There are many types of beautiful – even practical beauty.
Real Beauty is more than Skin Deep.