“The only hunger I had was for control. But this was all an illusion. The irony of this precarious state of being was that everything was completely out of control…”
Growing up as a normal teenage girl, I had the world at my feet. I could be or do anything I wanted. I went to a good school, did well both academically and on the sporting field and never got into drugs or involved in any kind of real shit. I was surrounded by good friends, and came from a relatively normal family. Things changed for me in the summer of 2003, I was 16 years old… I developed depression and was living a very dark and lonely existence. My self-esteem plummeted, my grades at school slipped and my life was literally turned upside down. As a result of the internal battle I was having with myself, I developed anorexia. Two years of struggles and suffering with food and disordered eating, endless fighting with friends and family, weekly weigh ins and visits to the psychologist’s office, you name it… It was the most challenging journey of my life which has turned out to be a beautiful gift and blessing in disguise.
In my perpetual strive for perfection, the pressure I placed on myself to live up to my high school nickname, Little Miss Perfect, validated my determination to be the best and have the best. Mediocrity was unsatisfactory. It was all or nothing, feast or famine. This mentality set the benchmark of how I measured my self-worth and self-acceptance. If I didn’t live up to these unrealistic expectations, in my mind, I had failed and let myself and others down.
I’ve always been tiny. For me, my eating disorder was never about losing weight or looking a certain way. It was more about control, because everything else in my life had become out of control. At the time, I was having some problems at home and became depressed and started isolating myself and withdrawing as a way to internalise and manifest my inner turmoil. The only way I could cope with the pain was to take control of something and that something was through food. Avoiding it, completely. For the entire summer holidays, I avoided eating altogether. Here started the lies, the avoidance of meal times, and the extreme restriction of food. Soon enough, what little weight I was carrying, had literally melted off and by the time I started back at school for the new year, everyone, particularly my teachers, were shocked and dismayed by the way I looked. I didn’t care. I felt great and nothing they could do or say would sabotage the way I felt or abolish my diet of starvation.
This downward spiral of self-destruction continued until I got to the point where was skeletal, had absolutely no energy and had become completely fearful of food. The reality of eating a piece of cheese on toast (no butter of course) brought me to tears and full body tremors. My eating disorder had taken over. I was paralysed with fear and crippled with anxiety. More than anything, I was missing out on some of the best years of my life. Even if I was there, I wasn’t present. I was a vacant, gaunt shadow of the former Rosie and no one liked her. Especially not me. I needed the eating disorder. It had become my frenemy and my only coping mechanism. It allowed me to tightly contain and bury my pain and shut off from the people I loved and the good things in my life. I needed the identity and the perfect control it gave me. Without my eating disorder, I was nothing.
The only hunger I had was for control. But this was all an illusion. The irony of this precarious state of being was that everything was completely out of control. Control is related to power, and I was powerless.
Physically, I looked like shit. I’m naturally petite, so my malnourished, emaciated body resembled that of an 8 year old girl. My periods had stopped, my hair started falling out and my body grew a silhouette of fine hair to help keep me warm. I still didn’t care, and I wasn’t allowed to care. I hated any attention I got and just wanted to disappear. I brushed off any appearance-based remarks with a broken smile, yet the sadness in my hollow eyes revealed the window to my lost and empty soul. Mentally, I was a complete head-case. The negative voice inside my head was like a destructive record of self-loathing, self-hate and self-sabotage on repeat. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Telling me I was useless, I wasn’t worthy, I was ugly and I was selfish, because everyone was worried sick. I couldn’t find a way to quiet these voices, so I had no choice but to believe them.
It wasn’t until I was nearly hospitalised and hit rock bottom, where I had no choice but to go inward, get honest with my emotions and really ask myself, Is this all really worth it? How is this sustainable? I knew if I carried on down this road, I was going to die. A part of me wanted to die, and the other part already had.
Then, something clicked. I was brought to my knees in despair and felt the beat of my heart through my bony chest. It was the perfect metaphor to remind me that I am alive, life is precious and I must march on. I wiped away my tears and at that very moment, I made commitment and a promise to myself – My health would become my number one priority. I was determined to get better. To break free of this self imposed prison I’d built for myself. To feed my desire to get better so I could starve my demons. No more beating up on myself about how I looked, no more counting calories, no more self-hate or self-loathing. Instead of focusing on how I could avoid eating, I began to focus on how I could start eating. To heal my poor, undernourished body and feed it what it needed most – Love, compassion and food.
The windy road to recovery was full of ups and downs, set backs and mind f*cks. It was one step forward, ten steps back. Letting go of control and gaining weight was the hardest part. Every week my children’s ‘skinny’ jeans were getting tighter and tighter, which meant my eating disorder was getting further and further out of reach. People started telling me I was looking better, which just made things more difficult. I took “Rosie, you are looking so much healthier” as “Rosie, you look fat and disgusting.” I just wanted to go back to how things were before. When I had perfect control of what went into my mouth. But I couldn’t. I had made an unbreakable promise to myself and I had to stick to it.
Fast forward twelve years and here I am. As a result of my journey, I discovered my passion for health and nutrition. I went on to study health science at university and fully immersed myself into every book, podcast and online platform I could find. Learning about health and the way the body works, absolutely lit me up, and to this day, still does.
About two years ago I started my blog RosieGarner.com as a way to document my learnings and help educate and inspire others to live happily and healthily. Knowing that I have made a difference in at least one person’s life by teaching them to look after their body is so humbling and means my work is done.
I look back now and ask myself, do I have any regrets? No. Would I do things differently? No. I can now look at this experience from a place of gratitude for how far I’ve come and hold a great sense of pride in my personal journey. I see the lessons learnt as beautiful gifts which I hold close to my heart and see how truly precious life is. I wouldn’t be the person I am today had I not gone through what I did and wouldn’t hold the same appreciation, empathy and compassion towards others.
I genuinely believe that the struggles and suffering we go through in life are given to us for a reason. And once we overcome these challenges, it is then our life purpose and privilege to pass on our knowledge and experiences and go forth to then help others. And that is exactly what I am here to do. To help you, or someone you love, overcome struggles with food, eating and heal the relationship with your body.
All my love,