Their obsession with & # 39; healthy & # 39; food made Eva Simmons and Laura Dennison ill with debilitating diseases that could have killed them. Now that they have been fully recovered, they are leading a revolution that will kill the diets of fatty diets fall in love with food – and they have never felt happier or healthier
In a digital world where thigh spaces and the number of avocado slices that you can cram into a bowl are the pillars on which some people seem to define success, we like to consider ourselves as the first in a new kind of influencers & # 39 ;. We only exist to offer a reassuring voice – we guarantee those of the Instagram era that they are not defined by what they eat or what they look like.
Their obsession with wellness experts led Eva and Laura to the hell of eating disorders. They have learned the hard way that the only real healthy diet is to eat what you like
Since we started our website notplantbased.com, there are letters about it. Thousands of women and men share desperate stories about their lifelong struggles with food. Many have been seized for years by nonsensical food rules.
Only since we discovered that we are not the only ones did everything start to sound logical. The power to share the burden with someone who gets it & # 39; & # 39; is almost medicinal.
As no-nonsense journalists, we have promised to combine our research skills to combat the threat of erroneous, useless food information and to spread the message that Kate Moss was wrong: everything tastes so good, if not better, than feels skinny. Over the past two years, we have squeezed every nutritional myth that happened to be trending on Twitter with the help of specialist dieticians and our ultimate non-faddy wellness gurus – from Ruby Tandoh to Gizzi Erskine – to show the joy of eating all food. Last March we organized the very first Supper Club support group of the UK for anxious eaters. It seems counter-intuitive, but as we suspected, when you offer people with eating disorders a safe, comfortable environment in addition to their fellow pupils who understand their illness … they eat.
The most poignant message comes thanks to the dietitians, doctors and medical researchers we encountered. It's just this: eat what you want (in moderation of course) and stop worrying. It is simple, delicious and tastes much better than cauliflower pizza, trust us.
The antidote for fatty diets: Laura (above), 25 and Eve, 27, bring pleasure back to eating
EVE & # 39; S STORY
From the burger juice that dribbled my chin on my first date over my chin, to the Tupperware of chicken soup that my mother pushed me each time I went back to college, food was always an endless source of pleasure (not in a strange way) . Even when acute anxiety struck when I was 15, I was worried about the onset of schizophrenia, if life was in fact a big, never-ending dream … but never eat.
I could never be anorexic, & # 39; I always sounded. & # 39; I love food too much. & # 39; Well, that was before the world discovered Facebook. And Instagram. And wellness bloggers. It turned out that everything needed was a demanding job as a fashion writer and had a keen interest in & # 39; health blogs & # 39; to undo carefree food for a lifetime.
As my weight plummeted to near-fatal levels and I had an average panic attack per week during dinner, the self-induced & # 39; diet & # 39; with which I experimented, to something much more complicated. Especially because, no matter what the doctors told me, I could not stop. Well, until I ended up in a psychiatric hospital and was forced to consume my required amount of calories every day, that's it. What I was not aware of at the time was the damaging effect of hunger on the brain – regardless of the body.
As no-nonsense journalists, we have promised to combine our research skills to combat the threat of inaccurate, useless food information, and spread the message that Kate Moss was wrong: everything tastes so good, if not better, than skinny feels & # 39 ;. Laura Wears: White shirt, Essentiel Antwerp; Eve wears: Dress, Kitri
If you are unhappy enough to go without carbohydrates for months, the brain is starved of essential sugars, making it constantly depleted. Bread was clearly forbidden from the moment I decided to & # 39; health & # 39; to go. This turned out to be a particularly stupid move because, according to the guidelines of the NHS, starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and grains have to cover just over a third of the food you eat. Apparently, the golden rule is to & # 39; healthy & # 39; to eat, in short, that there are no rules and, as the old saying goes, a bit of what you want, you do well.
The main recommended dietetic diet is that I have learned, eating a lot of starchy foods, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, lean meats and vegetable oils. So, the fashionista who thought she was smart, survived from skinny bowls with chopped fruit and vegetables, was in retrospect pretty stupid. Not that I had been receptive to anything other than the tight tummies of my trusted Instagrammers in my time of desperate need.
The wellness warriors were the source of all my answers and besides, they were the only ones who really understood my desire to & # 39; good to eat & # 39 ;. I owed them everything. They were the ones who showed me that I could eat pizza, provided the base was made of cauliflower. Sweet delicacies were also not prohibited areas; who needs sugar for sweetness and butter for moisture as sweet potatoes and half a banana works fine?
Before you could say unrefined sugar, I was considered unsuitable to take care of myself by a team of medical professionals and I was threatened with a section order under the Mental Health Act unless I volunteered as a resident of the unit eating disorders of a psychiatric hospital . Suddenly I had no choice but to eat the food I had pathologically abstained from. Largely because there was a 6ft 4in former prison guard sitting in front of me, in my soul, every breakfast, every lunch and dinner.
& # 39; Only since we discovered that we are not the only ones, has everything become logical. The power to share the burden with someone who gets it & # 39; & # 39; is almost medicinal & # 39;
Can you guess what my prescribed diet was? Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vegetables and fruit – in complex calculated, balanced proportions. And no chia seed in sight. Within a month I could have meaningful conversations with my friends and family without switching off every seven seconds. I have finished reading an entire book for the first time in months. My brain was no longer consumed by thoughts of calories, fat and weight.
The root of my fear, I know now, was death. Well, insecurity, a lack of trust – and death. That death came thanks to my father, four days before my 13th birthday. He had been ill with cancer since I was seven years old. Although my fantastic parents had done everything to conceal chemotherapy drugs for my brother and me, a large part of my childhood was accompanied by a sense of insecurity and sometimes pure fear. As a child, there is not much more frightening than the death of one of your parents. So imagine that, in a time when new parts of your body are growing randomly, what you are most afraid of is happening in the world. It makes you petrified of almost everything.
Right: Eva at the height of her eating disorder, 23 years old in Budapest with her friend Will. Left: Laura of 19 years
Of course, the death of my father did not cause my eating disorder. From the day of death to the day of the eating disorder, I have eaten completely carefree for almost ten years. Of course, the consequences of looking at the death of a parent may have tainted a bit on my vulnerability scale, but I am sure that there are enough half-orphans who have not developed an eating disorder. Perhaps it was instead a shy child who never completely found her safety in friendship groups that led me to harmful levels of insecurity. Perhaps the sudden immersion in a world of models with lollipops & colleagues of the perpetual-dieter fashion writer kicked something up that had always been there.
The most likely truth is of course that it was a combination of all these factors. What it was not, however, had everything to do with my ability to enjoy food. Nor, I believe, was it really related to what I saw in the mirror. As psychologist Kimberley Wilson explains: "Many women have eating disorders with nothing to do with a desire to be thin, but somewhere, on the way, they have internalized a feeling of unworthiness, not good enough, or not fitting in. & # 39 ;
The most heartbreaking part? It does not have to be that far. Just as seamless as I have developed an eating disorder; I could not have done it quite easily. The ubiquitous toxicity that is the food culture and the thinness was correct at exactly the & # 39; time catapulted to my vision. I was confused, vulnerable, impressionable and desperate to be part of it. The challenge of thinness offered a convenient distraction. Who has brain room to assess the deep-seated fear of rejecting a new job or relationship when they are nearly blinded by hunger? Yet, by clinging to this coping mechanism, I disturbed the sanctity of a harmonious relationship with food.
Now, four years later, nothing seems so scary anymore. My brain rewards me with experiences of real enjoyment, in contrast to the previous role: permanent panic. While mental illness does not evaporate, connection with like-minded crusaders and carefree eaters (not to mention a ton of therapy) has made those inner demons sufficiently silent so that I can devour many a chocolate cake … and more. And I'm happy that my unique insight means that I can stand in the dark next to others and help them find their way out.
THE STORY OF LAURA
When I became an adult, I do not remember that gold stars were handed out in exchange for good behavior in my house, but I remember KitKats in abundance. I also remember puree mashed potatoes, thick with chunks, mixed with strips of cheddar and spaghetti in tin. My youth has given me an unbreakable love for junk food that I think will last until my last days.
Although I was a melancholic and worried child – things like that worrying about the greenhouse effect every time I brushed my teeth – I was not able to identify this aggressive fear as anything other than complaining or wailing, whereas in reality I have always suffered with episodes of mild depression. I remember going to a counselor in college, after spending weeks in tears, only to say that my & # 39; depression & # 39; actually was not a depression. Imagine: a confidant who told me that my concern about mental health was false, rather than referring me to a specialist. A few weeks after my last session with this woman, I continued my first diet.
Food was always the thing I turned to whenever I felt that it was lacking in love or attention; it was also how I celebrated it when those needs were fully met. Food held my hand when boys I liked did not like me; it was the ointment to heal the wounds that were left when I did not get my first university choice.
I was 16 when a man made a remark that I had put on weight. I was a 5ft 7in athletic teenager, and although I had never bought a garment of more than a size 10, I had no reason to doubt this man. I went home, undressed in my underwear and let the realization that I was fat (I was not) sink in and infect my brain. My heart collapsed on the floor together with all my goals, dreams and self-respect. I did not only have to worry about boys and acne, but now I also had to worry about calories.
I started my first diet in the way I handle most things, with attention and with both enthusiasm and naivety. I was totally uneducated about eating and started to limit what I ate for more than a month until I lost a considerable weight. In combination with a laborious training schedule, I became exhausted, unhappy – but, most important to me, I became skinny.
I longed for an alternative to go hungry all the time, and one day I experimented with making myself sick. To my surprise, I was pretty good at it. Now I could eat everything at my disposal and empty it all in the toilet! Can you imagine my joy? I did not know that bulimia would grow into a monster that is much larger and more aggressive than anything I have ever experienced. I took control, lost friends and spent all my free time and money on food so that I could surrender again – sometimes I would do this routine up to six times a day.
# Enjoying food without getting hit by a huge creditor feels strange to me, but that's how I eat now, Laura writes.
Bulimia switched from something I tried to see if it worked on a routine that totally ruined my life. (Because of this you can excuse me because I wanted to hit the nearest wall when I see jokes being thrown on Twitter about bulimia as the & # 39; cheater & # 39; s diet & # 39 ;.) I kept holding on to my problem until age from 21, when I finally began to reap the courage to tell my parents.
I have been able to kick the bulimia over time, but this only revealed a previously masked binge eating disorder, which added an extra two stone to my frame because I could not clear the evidence. I was not able to return to a normal & # 39; way of eating after having had bulimia for so long and because I could not stop myself eating, my body was blown up and painful under the load of regularly consuming huge amounts of food.
Restoring a binge eating disorder made me vulnerable to yo-yo diet. To prevent that I would add fuel to my dormant eating disorder, I tried veganism, as I had seen countless photos on social media from people who had lost a lot of weight by turning to this lifestyle. & # 39; 39 ;. Losing weight was still the thing that I thought it would cure me & # 39 ;. I think veganism is brilliant when it is followed for ethical and environmental reasons, but I just used it as a way to keep my body small, and it became a dangerous shield for further unordered eating without the fear that someone would question me about it. My veganism lasted six months, although I realized that it was not a month for me.
When it came to methods for weight management, nothing remained unspamed. Without carbohydrates, vegetarian, Dukan, fasting, Atkins, the alkaline way – you call the diet, I tried it. I would buy books from unsuitable bloggers with great Instagram followers, convinced that because these & # 39; meal plans & # 39; and & # 39; healthy recipes & # 39; were not labeled as a diet, my obsession about their food rules was completely normal. Of course I now realize that I'm using their & # 39; methods & # 39; just used as a way to disguise my own eating disorder. But nothing worked – at least, nothing helped me lose weight and keep it off, something I never had to do in the first place.
Enjoying food without getting hit by a huge meteorite of guilt feels strange to me, but that's how I eat now. After six years of juggling with multiple eating disorders and fad diets, this new freedom takes some getting used to.
I never thought I would reach the point in my life where I could eat pasta for lunch and did not feel the need to compensate with a run. I never thought I could get up in the morning by not weighing myself and feeling happy, knowing that my mind is brilliant and that my non-existing thigh gap does not detract from my value. But above all, I am proud of myself that I have converted such a negative experience into a weapon to help others who experience what I have done. Now I can be the voice I wish the younger one had had.
How to feel and eat the fear Eve Simmons and Laura Dennison are published Thursday by Mitchell Beazley, £ 10.99. To order a copy for £ 8.79 to 27 January, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; free p & p for orders over £ 15