How my degree helped me overcome my eating disorder

Ellie Stevens

By Ellie Stevens a BA Hons Fashion Marketing and Branding NTU Alumni 

Beat estimate that 1.25 million people in the UK population suffer with an eating disorder and I can safely say that I represent 1 out of that 1.25 million. Since about the age of 12 I’ve had on/off ‘issues’ with food, body image, and in my late teens excessive exercise also started to become a problem.
Around 6 months before I joined NTU, giving up just about every delicious ‘treat’ food I could think of for lent triggered obsessive behaviour around food and exercise, and so while I was excited to move to Nottingham and start my degree, I also wasn’t in the best head space.
I moved into halls and started attending my lectures and seminars. Everyone I encountered in my first weeks and months at NTU was lovely, but they weren’t the friends and family from home who would have noticed certain red flags and so my unhealthy behaviours went unchecked. To put things into perspective, throughout first year, I would get up at 4.30am every single day so that I could fit in hours of exercise before I went to lectures or studied.
Into second year this pattern of restricting my calorie intake, eliminating entire food groups from my diet and exercising for hours every single day continued. I was always cold and tired and most importantly I wasn’t happy – socialising and course work took a back seat compared to my eating disorder.
In September 2013 I returned for third year, and for my degree this was the year that really counted – the overwhelming majority of my final grade depended on my dissertation.
I was completely determined to make my third year at NTU worth the time and money I had invested. Gradually my determination to achieve a particular grade was starting to overtake my focus on food and exercise. I wasn’t happy seeing my weight gradually creeping up to something that actually represented a healthy number, but I was starting to appreciate how many more important things there were to life.
In 2014 I graduated from NTU with the grade I wanted, and I can honestly say that my graduation was one of the best days of my life.
That’s not to say that I’m completely recovered. When I’m stressed and anxious, I occasionally slip into periods of eating or exercising in a way that isn’t completely ‘healthy’ or ‘normal’, but I have perspective and so these short-term relapses don’t become long-term behaviour patterns, I also try to be open with those around me about how I’m feeling.
There’s a quote that really resonates with me, having seen it on various social media accounts over the last couple of years, ‘don’t miss out of 95% of your life to weigh 5% less’. I would also really urge anyone at NTU who recognises these behaviours in themselves to seek support – university isn’t a straightforward experience for everyone and those around you may genuinely have no idea what you’re going through until you open up to them.


For help and advice whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.

Every Thursday 4-7pm, in the open space at Newton, First Steps comes onto campus providing help & advice for Eating Disorders.

Eating Disorder help and Advice: Beat

Support from NTU
Silvercloud: SilverCloud is our online system designed to help with a range of mental health issues.
Depression advice
Wellness in Mind: Advice and support for anyone in Nottingham experiencing issues with their mental wellbeing
Struggling at Uni? Go to Student Minds
10 Keys to happiness
This post is part of our regular NTU Alumni feature. Over the next few weeks we will be posting guest blogs written by our Alumni Fellows sharing their experiences and tips on their student journey while here at NTU.

If you are an NTU graduate and are interested in writing for us contact:
You can find more information about our Alumni Fellowship volunteering programme via the alumni website


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