Hannah Kingston’s February column sees her take on a very different sort of challenge; an eating disorder.

I’m not talking about Colin Firth or Keira Knightley running through meadows. This is all about the most important kind of love; self-love.

People will most likely roll their eyes at this article. I know I probably would if I hadn’t written it myself.

However, with UCC’s Body Image Week just behind us, I think it’s a topic that will never be exhausted, as body image issues will never truly go away (a pity for us mere mortals).

The Department of Health estimates that 200,000 people suffer from an eating disorder. Each year, 400 cases emerge and there are roughly 80 deaths annually.

Fueled by the media’s idea of perfection, it’s almost impossible to accept yourself just the way you are. I know this was the case for me when I first came to college, during my second year of college, today, probably tomorrow, and most certainly in the future.

This month’s Motley Tries was a very personal one as it challenged me to ditch old habits and try to seek that cringey word: “acceptance.”

So there were three little steps I had to take:
1) Throw out all my magazines and unfollow the elite on Instagram.
2) Leave my weighing scales at home.
3) Refrain from making myself sick, even on the worst of days.

All of these things seem pretty remedial but for someone who has been battling Veronica (the name I’ve chosen to give my eating disorder) it’s not an easy case.

The first week was the hardest and I yearned to scroll and flick through images of the glossy version of life because I think, deep down, we’re all a bit masochistic.

Not weighing myself everyday almost killed me, and the last one was just hell. I knew, however, that if I could get through one week, I could get through two, then maybe three, possibly even a month.

With the help of a therapist, happy pills and a mother who loves to feed, I became physically healthy by the end of First Year.

Now I’m in Final Year.

Mentally, it’s another story because wherever you look, wherever you go, you will constantly be bombarded with glaring messages that we should fear carbohydrates, fats,and don’t even get me started on sugar. “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” they say.

I’m sorry, love, but most things do.

Nonetheless, it’s exhausting. Running miles and vomiting piles won’t make you happy in yourself. Six stone me and ten stone me still feel shitty about all of the same things. Looking to others for validation won’t make you happy, the end of the bottle won’t, the last slice of pizza won’t.

In all honesty, your cat probably can’t even offer you everlasting happiness and that’s saying something.

You are the only person that can truly make yourself feel loved and until you find a way to love yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to.

I started with what could be done from my very bedroom and moved on to see a body image professional, who wishes to remain anonymous.

It was the most interesting interview I’ve ever done as every word that came out of the beam of sunshine resonated with me in so many different ways:
“All those models you’re looking at probably get out of bed, look at their emaciated arms, believe they’re fat and skip breakfast for the fourth time that week. Do you want to stop eating breakfast again? Do you want your periods to disappear like they did before? Would you feel happier if the nerves in your left foot started dying so the walk to college was a struggle again?”

No, no, no. Goddamnit, she was right. Every single one of us wake up some days and genuinely make ourselves believe that we’re hideous, stupid, lack charisma, whatever it is.

Two weeks into giving up my bad habits and I genuinely started to gain respect for what the body coach was saying. If we can make ourselves insist within our conscious that we are infact disgusting creatures, can’t the same be said for coming to terms with the fact that we may too be glorious looking beings? Who wrote the book on what’s beautiful? Who decided what was clever or funny, or worthwhile?

Today, I’m only following people on Instagram with a healthy BMI and I’m no longer buying those magazines that scream: “Let me tell you how to be a woman.” I don’t need to be told.

I’ve made it to 21, with a lot of baggage, true, some yogurt spilled, and it was crap at times but in the end I found a fiver at the bottom of it and now I’m victorious.

Yes, that is a metaphor for coming to terms with the fact that someday, somehow, just maybe I’ll look in the mirror and be like, you know what? You’re you and you’re perfect in your own way. Now say it with me everyone.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article you can contact the UCC Student Counselling Service on 021 490 3565.

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