What is Freshers’ Week like for someone with an eating disorder?
The name has been changed as the interviewee does not want to be identified.
Having a diagnosis of Selective Eating Disorder (SED), Lara Morewood, an 18-year-old girl has only had certain foods and a very limited diet for six years.
Over the years, she has resisted treatment and was afraid of seeing a doctor, until two years ago when she finally accepted help.
Having settled in Nottingham for just one week—unlike other freshers—Lara didn't experience the excitement of university life; during her first week as a student, she felt anxious and lost.
“I feel nervous when being asked to go to events where food might be involved…it might have sounded like a joke, but I’m still struggling to persuade myself to try something that I’m not having routinely and to do that makes me easily irritated.”
Losing control over what she is eating isn't the only source of her eating disorder, Lara has to reject several invitations from friends, which makes her worry about being isolated.
Lara can seem quite sociable if there’s an event that doesn't involve around eating. During Freshers' Week, she went to city tours and to a couple of sporting events, which helped her to mingle with her course mates.
“I like making friends but I just barely eat with them…I don’t want to let them know I have...sort of…problem with food,” she says, “and having explained reasons over and over again makes me even afraid of the feeling when I have to explain.”
While eating with course mates might be easy to avoid, living under the same roof with flatmates has been a real worry for Lara. Although she would join in with the daily chats in the lounge room, she would always eat meals in her own room.
“I know I’m pushing them away from me and this means that I suffer from loneliness sometimes…but it’s like I'm trapped in a vicious circle…” she says.
“People tend to think I just want to be slim and pay too much attention to my body image…but it’s not that simple…it’s very hard to stop myself thinking ‘you are eating too much’ even I'm not.”
Like many others who suffer with eating disorders, her eating habits shift between anorexia—which means eating as little as possible while doing excessive exercise to keep a low weight—and binging—which is when you eat a huge amount of food at once, until you feel extremely uncomfortable, then exercise excessively in order to relieve the feeling of guilt from eating too much.
Every time Lara successfully avoided occasions when food was involved, she felt a ‘sense of achievement’ and would have a whole pack of cookies as a ‘reward’. “It makes me happy thinking that I could have something to eat but once I started eating, I felt insane and wouldn't be able to stop…”.
Having registered with a GP after she enrolled at the university, and will soon start her treatment. “It’s not all about the negative”, says Lara, “at least I’m now aware of how dangerous my situation was and I don’t resist treatment anymore.”