Every woman deserves a joyful, fulfilling life!
Many women have inspired me, and there will be many more yet I'm sure. This is a story about just one of them. A woman who, in the 1970s, changed my life on a massive scale.
The woman who changed my life
I was in my late 20s and in deep despair. I had a mega, very secretive emotional eating habit which had been an all-consuming pattern since an unsuccessful stint in a psychiatric ward for anorexia at 19 had tipped over into bulimia. My 'tipping over' took me from being five and half stones to almost fifteen stone in one year. I'd received no psychological help once I left hospital - I was eating wasn't I? Of course - I must be fine.
As my weight went up and I seemed to be unable to stop eating, I eventually went to my GP who, without questioning my eating behaviour or taking my anorexia into account, prescribed diet pills (amphetamines) and gave me a diet sheet. If I wanted to stop over-eating and get back to a healthy weight, just take the pills and follow the plan. Simple, eh?
Back then, in the 70s, very few doctors knew much about anorexia, bulimia, and emotional eating, and it wasn't anything anyone in the general public was talking about. So, I suppose she was doing her best, but neither the pills nor the plan worked. I kept on eating and starving, dieting and failing; my weight yo-yo'd and I felt worse and worse.
I thought I was the only person like me. I was deeply ashamed, guilty, and hated myself.
To the outside world I had everything. Two lovely little daughter's, a great husband... but inside I was silently screaming. I had no idea how I would ever be able to stop eating and starving, and the only way I could think of to control my habit was to go on diet after diet, even though they never worked. There was obviously something very wrong with me. I was weak. A failure. Out of control. Useless and unloveable. I lived in secret hope that one day the magic would happen. I'd find the will power to stick to a diet and stop eating my fridge in the middle of the night, but hope was fading fast.
Then, out of the blue, in the then very new Cosmopolitan Magazine, I read an article about someone called Susie Orbach and a book she had written called 'Fat is a Feminist Issue'. At the end of the article was a mention of a group she would be running in London. It would begin the very next week and would be based on her book. I bought the book (which I still have) and plucked up the massive courage I needed to sign up for the group.
I had just a few days to read FIFI, as it came to be known, but I devoured it. I couldn't put it down. It was truly revolutionary and full of seemingly outrageous ideas. No diets. No scales. No calorie counting. No limits. No good or bad food. Blimey. It shook me to the core.
I was terrified to go to the group.
What would the other women think of me and my disgusting eating behaviour? They would all be thinner than me. They would all be more beautiful, clever, intelligent, confident, together - but to my surprise when I entered the room the women were all pretty much like me.
That night we shared. We cried. We ate chocolate biscuits! Yes. Biscuits. We entered a brave new world. After that first meeting most of us went back, and week by week we learned and experienced how we could stop dieting, stop weighing ourselves, get back in touch with our hunger, eat what we wanted when we wanted to, stop when we were full, and eventually be free from our compulsions, shame, and guilt. We could be healthy, lose weight if we chose to, enjoy our bodies, and feel good about ourselves.
It took me a long time to fully gain the confidence to dare to commit to every aspect of the food freedom, intuitive-eating approach, but the group process, along with the support and guidance from Susie, was crucial to my eventual success.
Reading that article was a truly pivotal moment in my life and started me on a journey that has brought me to now. If it wasn't for Susie, I doubt that I would be a coach working with women; women who it is my delight and passion to support on their journey to let go of behaviour and beliefs that don't serve them in any aspect of their lives, and to go on to live a life they love to wake up to every day.
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