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  • Rachel Rutherford

Choosing Recovery.. Some of my Story!

As many of you will know. Last November I started recovering from an eating disorder. Something that has plagued my life for 10 years, but only last year became something that was hands down killing me.

Looking back, I have no idea how I kept going for so long.

I’m going to take a step back to the back end of 2019. I had finished a massive training year. First in age group at IRONMAN Lanzarote, a big season of training, probably not enough rest and then IRONMAN World Champs. I was mentally exhausted (and looking back probably physically too although that is harder to identify)

I had a sponsor so had 3 big races in the pipeline for 2020. I also had dreamed of getting my pro card. Was I excited? Not in the slightest. I was so used to training that I sort of plodded on but the spark had gone.

I swam up and down the pool without a why. It was almost meaningless. I wasn’t eating properly at this point (a story for another day, as it wasn’t so much not enough just all the wrong things) and I was on an energy yo-yo during the day. It was dreadful.

Fast forward a few months and all my races were looking unlikely for the year. I can only explain it like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. No longer did I have to train for these events that mentally I didn’t really want to do. I was furloughed and moved to dads. This is the period of life where I think I had the best relationship with food since I was 17. I was loving being out on my bike and running and it was a good time.

Fast forward to 2021. I live in Manchester, I don’t know anyone, I’ve just started a new job, I’m buying a house, it’s cold, dark and icy and you could say it was a rather lonely and hard time. I filled my day, keeping as busy as I could, training for nothing but still smashing myself to smithereens. Just with little energy and hating most of it. In March I made a change to my diet to break a bad habit I had had for over 5 years, but in hindsight it then led me down an even worse path.

Through a number of stresses, I actually ended up eating less and less. I didn’t replace the calories for the changes I had made and was burning more calories than ever. Every time I could walk I did, hitting 30k steps most days (without factoring in exercise) I felt so strong to begin with then I think I just ignored every red flag around me.

Fatigue, brain fog, not sleeping, no energy, lack of productivity, irritable, obsessed with moving - all normal to someone with an eating disorder.

I continued in this vein. Looking back, I think the logic was if I was busy, moving, doing. I literally didn’t have time to think about how what I was doing was BAD.

I vividly remember being freezing in the pool, and wondering if they had turned the heating down. When I got changed I would worry people around me would judge me for being so small but I couldn’t stop. I felt trapped.

I rarely went home, as the 5 hour drive would wipe me out, was way too much time sat down and it also made my bum hurt as I literally had no fat. I also knew as soon as I walked in the door the comments about how worried people were would start. I just kept myself away. It was the easier option.

Things continued to decline, but on the surface I was doing ok. I was doing well at work, managing to fake a smile when I needed to and living in my own bubble. During this time I managed to refurb 70% of my house, wall paper stripping, getting plasters in, looking back it all contributed to my downfall.

In November. I hit rock bottom. I put on my favourite blue dress for a work night out. Looked in the mirror and just felt sadness. Looking back at me was a skeletal frame, void of any joy and lifeless. But that wasn’t the worse part. The worse part was the rest of the day. I had spent the morning at work, listening to presentations something that should have been fun. But I was so anxious I was shaking, I didn’t even really have the energy to wash my hair, let alone the walk or the run that I forced myself on.

I remember thinking if I had to do my own hair and make up I wouldn’t have made it out. I just couldn’t find the motivation to move. Smiling hurt. The skin on my face was so tight it hurt. Not to mention I was pretty void of any emotion by that point. You could say I was turning off.

The night out was hard. I was freezing indoors so kept my coat on most of the night. So many people asked me if I wanted to pop it in the cloakroom but I couldn’t. For the first time in years, I ate all three courses of the meal, even the cake that no one else ate as it was dry. I left early and had a snack before bed and laid there awake all night. Was this really my life now. How had I let myself get here.

The next morning I strolled into the office. To the outside eye I probably looked hungover. But I had only had 2 G&T’s and that was right at the start of the evening. I left at midday as I could feel myself falling asleep and went home. It was that evening I broke down and felt probably the lowest I have in my whole life. It was then I realised I had to make a change.

To begin with I thought eating a bit more would make a difference but it didn’t. After 2 weeks I went all in, and this wound up eating up to 5000+ calories a day of dense foods. It’s been a very hard journey and I’m nowhere near out the other side but I’m doing everything I can to get better. Because let’s be honest, that girl in November didn’t have long to live.

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