Roz: My readers helped me combat my own binge eating
Model and blogger Roz Purcell says that hearing her readers' stories about binge eating finally helped her conquer her own struggle with it.
The food blogger describes torturous cycles of eating excessive amounts of food in one sitting, before embarking on an extreme fitness regime to rid herself of guilt and become photo-ready.
She says that the dozens of stories from her followers proved more and more people are now opening up about the hidden struggle.
"It was in the process of the first year or two of setting up the Natural Born Feeder blog and also from talking to readers about it that I said to myself, 'I don't want to be like that any more'. I began to hear their stories. I realised there were a lot more girls like me. Once I started talking to them about it and rationalising it for them, it almost rationalised it for myself in my own head," the model says.
Binge-eating disorder has been estimated to affect 4pc of the population in Ireland, but experts believe the real figure could be much higher.
"I think we all have a little bit of it," Roz says. "I used to binge-eat terribly. How I would describe it is that I felt like I had let myself down if I 'slipped up'. I would be so mad at myself. I would start giving out to myself and say, 'God, I've ruined it now. Why can't I do this properly?'"
Describing the vicious cycles, she says, "I was really, really 'good' until Saturday night, then I would sit down and eat [a meal] and then eat everything else in the house. Then Monday would come, and I would kill myself in the gym and really restrict my calorie intake. It was completely unsustainable. It took me years to get over it."
She describes her lowest point, when, after losing a lot of weight through healthy training, she returned home and saw food as her reward: "I lost a good bit of weight and my reward for all that was to just sit at home and eat, and I put on weight really quickly. I always remember my mother was like, 'Woah! That's binge eating!' I felt so bad because I felt I had undone all the good work. I then got a call to tell me I had to go away again to model and I thought, 'Oh no, I'm not going to be able to eat for two weeks to balance it out' and I just made the decision to stay [at home] and concentrate on getting healthy.
"The one thing that changed me was not allowing myself to feel that pressure or to compare myself to anyone else. If I have a slip-up and eat cake, I don't beat myself up. I don't let the guilt overwhelm me. That helps me get straight back into a normal routine but that has taken years."
The author, who has just won 'Foodie of the Year', was speaking ahead of WellFest Ireland's only health, fitness and wellness festival, which takes place today in Herbert Park, Dublin 4, from 9.30am to 6pm, see wellfest.ie.
"Girls are way more open to talking about it now," she says. "Social media has ruined the industry a bit and created a competitive element and it does make you feel insecure. But there are a lot more girls opening up, and you think: 'Jesus! You look great. It's all in your head.' You can't waste so many years feeling guilty, and that's what I did, but life is for living."