It’s that time of year again, tables are groaning under the weight of turkey and boxes of chocolate and I will drink more wine than I care to think about. Magazines and TV adverts are telling us to treat ourselves and ‘Go on, it’s Christmas’ and yet in less than two weeks’ time these same sources will be shoving healthy living mottos down our throats and encouraging us to blitz the fat that they enticed us to gain.
I have trained myself to avoid even looking at these magazines; emblazoned with unrealistic images that end up leaving us feeling more guilty than motivated. Is it any wonder that around 1.6million people in the UK are affected by eating disorders and that 1 in 4 adults in the UK want to lose weight ‘most of the time’?
For me, the sheer amount of food is something that can taint Christmas.
Two years ago, I was in a general mixed psychiatric hospital getting treatment for an eating disorder. When Christmas came around, I had already been in hospital for almost 5 months, and so was allowed the day out to spend with my family. I had never appreciated a simple Christmas with my parents and my sister so much in all my life; the peace and quiet after the constant bustle of a hospital ward, the good home cooked food rather than the bland hospital diet, and laughter at the table replacing the watchful eye of a nurse.
Even now, I still appreciate Christmas on a deeper level because of this experience. My recovery has had its ups and downs and I still fear the intense amounts of food, something almost unavoidable at Christmas. However, I have learnt to rationalise this in my head – it is just one day out of the year, and coming together round the table is an integral part of the experience.
I think the hardest part is what comes after.
You don’t need to have an eating disorder to experience the guilt that comes after eating certain foods. TV adverts and media teach us that certain foods are ‘naughty’ and we are brought up learning that chocolate and sweets are a ‘treat’ food. All this achieves is the labelling of foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. One of the main things I took away from my recovery is that there is no such thing as a bad food, only a bad diet. I have been maintaining a healthy weight for the last 6 months and I eat chocolate, fruit, dairy, gluten, meat – no foods are banned from my life any more and I am far healthier now than I was when I avoided chocolate as if one bite would kill me. I am not saying that I love every inch of my body, I miss my thigh gap and toned abs, but I now have curves that make me feel attractive and like a woman, rather than a skeleton.
I am learning to love my body for how it is, flaws and all.
This can be such a difficult thing to do at the start of January, when we are surrounded by posters telling us to join the gym and start a crazy juice diet to get rid of any unwanted weight we gained over Christmas. What many people don’t realise is that going back to your normal routine, without all the temptations and relaxation of the festive period, will be enough to return you to your pre-Christmas weight, it just may take longer. But it will avoid the cost of a new gym membership and avoid the guilt when you realise that you don’t have the time to use it.
A key to my recovery was to accept the natural me, to embrace the weight I became living the life that I wanted to live. I would rather weigh a little bit more and be able to enjoy the Sunday tradition of waffles for breakfast with my boyfriend, than sit miserably eating an apple. As part of my challenge to accept me for who I am, I have set myself a task – to go makeup free every day in January.
Think of it as Dry January, but for makeup.
I have never been on a night out without makeup, I feel more confident with thicker lashes and am so grateful for the safety net of being able to cover up any unexpected break outs with a quick flick of the concealer (why do spots always pop up right when you least want them?). I am doing this challenge to show people that we can embrace the natural us, rather than striving to be unrealistically perfect, skinny and flaw-free. It’s okay to go into a club without makeup and you can appear attractive to people without hiding behind a layer of cosmetics.
Having confidence in your natural look is the strongest kind of confidence a person can have.
I am excited and nervous for this challenge. I am excited to get extra time in bed each morning (ultimate goals, right?) and to not have to take off my make up each night (or rather wake up with panda eyes, wishing I had). I think I am most nervous to go on a night out or a date night with my boyfriend without makeup. These are occasions that I make an extra effort to look good, laying out all my special make up palettes that are strangely precious to me. I also film videos for my blog, and the thought of being on camera (an already harsh environment) completely bare leaves me more than a little nervous.
My aims for this month?
To have more confidence in myself, to inspire others towards recovery and to raise money for the amazing eating disorders charity b-eat.
Follow the link to my just giving page, where you can also find links to my blog to read more about my story.
Fancy joining me? Share your make-up free selfies on Instagram or Twitter with #MakeUpFreeMe and tag me (Twitter @LaurieBeat Instagram @lornab22) and please do share my just giving page link with it to help spread the word.
We are beautiful, exactly the way we are.
Let’s embrace it.
Lorna Beattie is a third year Geography student at the University of Glasgow.
Aged 21, she is in recovery from an eating disorder and is working at trying to stop the stigma surrounding mental illness and helping inspire others towards recovery.