It all began when I was young. My parents had just divorced; this was a really difficult time for both my parents, as they struggled to cope with the overwhelming emotions that were present, during such a huge life-changing event.
One of my parents had moved out and I remember being absolutely devastated when opening their bedroom cupboard to find all their belongings gone - it broke my heart, and I’m sure it did for the other parent that I was left alone at home with. They were really suffering and at the time, their best coping mechanism was alcohol. After a few hours of sitting with them, watching them drink and cry I remember feeling helpless, I didn’t know what to do; I was watching one of the strongest people I knew, completely fall apart. I didn’t know how to be a parent to my parent. That night the situation went from bad to worse, they ended up flipping out and I was in the firing line.
In order to protect myself, I ran down the hallway to my sister’s bedroom, grabbed a lantern and hid for hours in my sister’s cupboard. I remember experiencing an overwhelming sense of fear, fear to breathe, fear that if I was found, I’d be dead. After what seemed like an eternity, my name being screamed from all areas of the house started to quiet down. So I mastered up some courage and snuck out of the cupboard, ran and grabbed the wireless phone and then ran back to cupboard.
In a desperate attempt to be saved, I dialled my other parent’s number when they answered I breathed a sigh of relief. I remember begging them to come and get me, but they didn’t, they couldn’t. They didn’t want to make the situation worse.
In that moment, I not only gave up on my parents, but I gave up on myself. As a young girl, I couldn’t comprehend how the two people who were supposed to love and protect me, couldn’t. I internalized this as, there must be something wrong with me – I’m inadequate, I am not enough.
As I got older my feeling of not being enough and my sense of inadequacy was slowly reinforced.
At the age of 13 I dreamed of being a model. So my father decided that he would put me through a modelling course, I remember being so ecstatic and the course was amazing. We learnt how to do our makeup, how to walk on a catwalk, how to pose in photographs - it was basically any young girls dream. Until one of the girls who was much older than me, decided that she didn’t like me very much. We were all about to head out for lunch and while we were waiting for the others outside, this girl pulled me aside and said – you do know you’ll never be a model right, because your hips are way too big. My world immediately came crashing down, I decided to start restricting and hiding my food and that’s when my disordered relationship with both food and my body began.
I then hit the age of 16 and my periods were really bad. So I was put on the pill, seven different ones to be exact and my body rapidly changed, faster than what my 16yr old mind could make sense of and along with that, my appetite changed too. After intentionally restricting my food intake for a few years and being successful at that, I couldn’t comprehend why I couldn’t control my hunger all of a sudden and spent most of my days binging on whatever food I could get my hands on. So naturally I gained a lot of weight in a short period of time.
A year later when I was still battling my body image issues, my friend and I decided that we would get dressed up and head into the city for a coffee. I was wearing a dress and as we were walking down one of the busy streets in the city, a random guy that I didn’t even know, turned around and screamed at me, kankles. Not to mention a few weeks later, my boyfriend at the time told me that if I could just lose at least 7kgs, I would probably look really hot and he would probably like me more.
After that, for the next seven years I engaged in extreme emotional and physical punishment, I had developed a full-blown eating disorder and my life looked a little something like this.
Starve, binge, purge. I exercised to the point where I developed shin splints that were so bad, that walking became a difficult task. Pretending that I had gastro or food poisoning, because I had overdosed on laxatives the day before was, normal. Weighing myself as soon as I woke up, before breakfast, after breakfast, before lunch, after lunch, before dinner, after dinner and before bed – was my life. Obsessive body checking and ensuring my stomach was always sucked it. Lying to everyone around me was one of my best skills – and slowly but surely, my “good” food list became less and less, and my bad food list grew to the point where lettuce even got a mention.
I was sick and I hated myself.
Despite my own self-hatred, I wanted people to feel good about themselves. So I became a hairdresser. Each smiling face that walked out of the salon after a service, for a moment, eased how I felt about myself. But slowly and over time, I realized that the change was superficial and the feeling was only temporary.
I knew there was more, I wanted to understand humans more; I wanted to understand how I could help people on a deeper level. How I could help people like me. Studying psychology and becoming a life coach was my calling, but studying also forced me to truly understand the meaning of rock bottom.
It was 9 o’clock at night and I was lying in bed attempting to finish a lab report that was due in a couple of hours, which I had spent weeks working on. My brain was barely functioning because I was down to eating only a can of tuna a day. The lab report was nearly finished but then something came over me as I was re-reading it – In tears, I highlighted 1500 words and deleted it. It wasn’t perfect enough, I wasn’t perfect enough, and everything I did just wasn’t enough. My partner came over and I remember him walking down the stairs to my bedroom, he took one look at me and said you need to get help and I finally agreed - I needed help and I couldn’t help people if I couldn’t help myself.
Then came the rocky road of recovery and boy was that a journey in itself. I had to defer from my psychology course because it was a constant roller-coaster ride. Up and down, better and then not better, bad days and good days. On the good days, I had some sense of freedom around what I ate, but it was still highly controlled. Then came the bad days. I remember my partner had to cook a meal for us and I had no control over what he was making, I was so fearful and at that stage I was heavy smoker too, because I believed that smoking suppressed my appetite. For whatever reason I couldn’t find a lighter so I couldn’t have a smoke before the meal. When he placed the meal in front of me, I sat there and stared at it for a couple of minutes, and then I broke down and cried hysterically. Then there was another bad day, I was feeling really guilty about what I had eaten for the past week and my partner had contracted gastro. I was so desperate to rid myself of the guilt that I ended up ensuring that I drank from the same glass and kissed him as much as I could in the hopes that I would have contracted gastro. The bad days became less and less and after a couple of years I finally found the light at the end of the tunnel and I had recovered.
I am no longer dictated by my inner meanie, I eat whatever I want when I want, I wear whatever I want when I want - my self-worth is not based on numbers, fitbits, how many workouts I’ve done, calorie counting and the size of my waist. Thoughts around this no longer consume me.
I go for every opportunity without wondering if I am thin enough or pretty enough.
I am free from the limiting beliefs and fears that I once had surrounding my body, food and exercise.
I’m free and I have an amazing relationship with my body. I love my body
This is my story and this is why I do what I do.
I’m a certified Body Love Coach and I hold a Bachelor of Applied Science in Psychology. As a Body Love Coach, I guide young women to release limiting beliefs and fears that prevent them from loving their body, to heal self-criticism and self-judgment, to stop self-comparison and to no longer have a destructive relationship with their body, food and exercise. To have their self-worth based on something other than the way they look and the size of their waist. I guide young women to show up, shine and be unapologetically themselves, and together we unleash the beautiful, vibrant, free, radiant, confidant and worthy young woman that does exist, underneath all of that self and body hate. I guide young women to be free.
I am Brittany, I love and accept myself.