Food: Friend or Foe?

Content warning: Mention of eating disorders and body image which some readers may find triggering

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week, so one of our Student Mental Health Champions has shared their personal journey and experiences

By Jamie Smith, 2nd Yea Business Management and Economics NTU student

So many people have struggles with food in this world and I am definitely one of those people. Sometimes people speak about fear of food or eating disorders as something that is easy to overcome or a choice to suffer with and that couldn’t be further from the truth!
I think for the majority of my life I didn’t even know I struggled with food, I knew I struggled with identity issues and slight body dysmorphia when it came to my appearance but that was it- until the day I attended a class at school where they spoke about these conditions. In my class they explored eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, but I didn’t feel I fitted into those categories specifically, but I knew I had traits and habits from both. The lady presenting shared a personal story to which I related to so much, she discussed what binging was, how she compared herself to others often and that she could feel guilty after just eating a meal and this resonated with me so much. Again, I have never been diagnosed with any condition, but I can appreciate I have my own battles that I’m attempting to work alongside every day.

Knowing my experience and my journey I can share what has worked for me and helped me overcome the physical and metal elements of my struggles with food.
Firstly, be educated on the topics! This changed the way I viewed myself, my struggle, my body and overall, how I saw food. At one point food to me was a challenge and I felt guilty, it didn’t matter if I ate only a salad that day, I’d feel guilty, but now I see food as fuel! Which is exactly what it is. We all need it, therefore we all need to be understanding that everyone’s bodies are different. I definitely used to put off eating all day long to feel better about myself, and I would, but by the evening I was so hungry that I would binge, on whatever I had, as much as I could- until I literally felt unwell. Then the guilt would intensify, and the cycle would start again the next day.

So how did I stop it / how did I change?
I started listening to people for a start. Friends and family will always voice when they’re concerned, instead of getting upset and hiding away from the issues, understand that the worrying comes from a genuine place of concern. If you have positive or negative feelings with food, try and figure out why. Personally, I went round in circles because I was unhappy with my weight, I was always the “bigger girl” in friendship groups and could never wear my friends’ clothes because of it, so instead of hating food and being mad at myself I understood that food was my fuel and I needed it to survive. Why stop doing something that I enjoy and that is good for me? So, with a couple of small habit changes that worked for me I started to love food again. I never cut anything “bad” out of my diet but educated myself on correct portions for someone my age, gender, and weight. The gym also helped me, that feeling of being proud of myself kept me going. Balance your bad habits with your good ones, don’t be hard on yourself and always be understanding of your body – some days you’ll crave sugar, some days you’ll lose your appetite, and some days you’ll eat good but it’s the understanding and education that will help you through your battle.

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

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