Beth was eating herself to death. But would anything stop her bingeing?
By Helen O’Brien Google
Tears pricking my eyes, I threw my school bag on the floor and tossed off my jacket.
“You okay, love?” my mum, Annie, asked but I just shrugged and headed for the kitchen.
“I need a snack,” I replied, hungrily eyeing the multipack of crisps as I threw open the cupboard.
I was only eight but I’d been having a tough time at school. I’d recently had a bit of a growth spurt, which had left me towering above the other kids.
“Here comes the giant!” they’d chorus as I walked by, and my cheeks would burn with shame.
In fact, the only thing that could make me feel better about the bullies was food.
Mum did her best to cook up healthy meals but as soon as she turned her back, I’d feast on crisps, chocolate and chunky slices of bread.
It wasn’t long before I piled on the pounds – and the kids at school weren’t shy about pointing that out, either.
“I need to go on a diet,” I sobbed to Mum, one day.
“Where is all of this coming from?” she asked, concerned.
“Everyone teases me for being big,” I wailed. “I’m massive.”
Mum knew I hadn’t been myself for a while and agreed it was time for a fresh start. She had me move schools and got rid of all the crisps and biscuits in our kitchen cupboards.
Finally free of the bullies, I was a new person. I quickly made friends and became a bit of a class clown.
“You’re so funny, Beth,” they’d chuckle, as I pulled faces behind the teacher’s back.
There was just one thing that set me apart from my new mates…
“Do you want to come out for an ice cream?” they’d ask.
“Not today,” I’d mumble. “Maybe next week.”
Terrified of getting fat, I’d shy away from birthday cake at parties and make excuses any time someone planned a trip to McDonald’s.
Until one day, I decided I’d had enough.
One chocolate bar won’t hurt, I told myself.
From then on, my diet gradually became history.
Mum still cooked healthy meat and veg for dinner and I’d wolf down a big plate.
But as soon as her back was turned, I’d raid the cupboards and stuff myself with anything I could get my hands on.
She’d started buying treats again for my Dad, Des, but sometimes there was hardly anything left for his packed lunch.
It wasn’t long before I was sneaking into the kitchen every night for a midnight feast. I’d tiptoe down the stairs, mouth watering at the thought of all the goodies that lay in store.
Of course, I couldn’t hide my bingeing from Mum and Dad. I was eating them out of house and home!
One night, I’d devoured so much food that there was only a packet of cooking raisins left in the cupboard. But it didn’t stop me – I scoffed the lot.
“Please stop eating so much,” Mum begged me.
But it was hopeless. When I wasn’t gorging myself, I was fantasising about my next snack.
And, while my slim friends shopped for cute dresses and tops, I was so big I had to make my own clothes.
Eventually, Mum dragged me to the doctor, who made me step on the scales. A knot of disgust formed in my stomach as the needle hovered over the 18 stone mark.
“You’re only 14 and you’re already 18 stone,” he said. “You’re morbidly obese.”
Tears of shame rolled down my cheeks. I was so mortified I couldn’t speak.
“If you don’t change your diet and start exercising, you’re putting yourself at risk of heart disease and diabetes,” the doctor went on.
I knew what he was trying to tell me – I was eating myself to death. But, when I arrived home that night, the only thing that could cheer me up was a big packet of crisps.
I’ll be fat forever, I thought to myself.
But a few weeks later, I turned up to my PE lesson to find we’d got a new teacher. An ex soldier, his classes were famed for being tough.
“Give me five laps of the playing field!” he bellowed, sounding like an army major. “Now!”
Terrified, I jogged behind my fit friends, desperate to keep up – but I was out of breath after a few seconds.
As the rest of the class whizzed past me, I was left panting and red faced at the side of the track.
I was humiliated and alone. Suddenly, I felt like a vulnerable nine-year-old girl again.
I was lucky to have great friends who didn’t care what size I was but I was scared others would laugh at me behind my back.
“See me after class, Beth,” my teacher said, and my heart sank.
I expected a telling off, so I was surprised when he put a supportive hand on my shoulder.
“If you’d like to get fit, I can help you,” he said, gently.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and nodded weakly. If I wanted to keep up with my friends, I had to act now.
Soon, along with a few other kids, I was attending personal training sessions after school. At first a lap of the playing field left me feeling like I’d run a marathon and I was close to giving up.
“Keep going, Beth!” my teacher shouted. “You can do it.”
Soon, I’d lost a stone. Then another, and another…
But, with my 16th birthday fast approaching, I knew I’d never get properly slim unless I changed my diet.
I had to stop bingeing – for good this time.
“Do you want to come to my slimming club with me?” my aunt, Sarah, asked.
I agreed and going along to the meetings really helped. For the first time, I really started thinking about what I was eating, cutting back on crisps and tucking into big portions of fruit and veg.
Seven years on, I’m almost six stone lighter and a healthy size 12. I’ve travelled the world and met a lovely man, Scott. We’re talking about moving abroad where I might even start my own slimming class.
When I look at pictures of the teenage me, it’s hard to believe I’m the same person. Now, when I see kids who are obese like I was, it breaks my heart.
I’m pretty sure I’d have killed myself with food by now if I’d kept bingeing but I want to tell them, if I can change my ways, so can they.
Of course, I still get the urge to stuff myself from time to time, but I try my best to keep it under control.
The last thing I want is to turn the clock back. Now I’ve stopped bingeing I’m a whole new person – inside and out.
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