“I wanted to be the friend and voice that I so desperately needed when I was that lost 15 year old”

My Story

Although I was born in London, my family and I moved to Spain when I was a mere 4 months old. Growing up there was wonderful, or at least it seemed to be this perfect life to everyone looking in from the outside. The reality of it was that I hated going home to the constant aggressive fights from my alcoholic father, the fear of him hitting my mother again and the knowledge of being simply a shadow.  So not quite all sun, sea and sparkles.

Moving back to the UK in 2009 was meant to be a fresh start, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Around the time of my GCSEs, the voice snuck in and I started self-harming, developed anorexia nervosa, bulimia and fell into a deep depression – I deteriorated at an extraordinary speed and became suicidal, at which point I was hospitalised.

Whilst in hospital I gained enough weight to be considered clinically healthy, but I was still struggling with my weight, food and any coping mechanism; but at a much more moderate level, so I didn’t raise any red flags within the system. Although home life was much better without the constant fear of living with an alcoholic father, the voice never went away. This carried on right through Sixth Form, however, despite it all, I got the high grades I wanted and got into a good University – again believing it to be a new start. 

First year of University should have been all about having fun, making friends and getting used to the independence. I made some great friends. However, I thought I was being ‘healthy’ and ‘getting fit’, but what I didn’t realise was that I was diving head first into orthorexia and exercise addiction. Surely counting out the 4 almonds, 3 cashews and 2 Brazilian nuts for my snack was normal, right? Anyhow, I was training hard every week, as well as pushing myself to achieve the First class that my perfectionist self so desperately wanted. I also found myself stuck in an emotionally abusive relationship which started at the beginning of my University career.

So, second year rolls around, and it just got progressively worse: the course was harder, I was struggling to achieve the high standards I set for myself, I lived in a house with a group of girls which was incredibly hostile, and I couldn’t get out of my awful relationship. I endured house arguments, hours of sleep deprived revision, hardcore workouts, minimal food, streams of abusive messages from my boyfriend and even sexual assault. Despite all this, I was still a high-functioning depressed woman.

The Christmas holidays came around, which despite the stress of needing to revise for January exams, should have been full of festivities. However, I got so ill from a sinus infection, being in a constant state of pain and completely losing my appetite after feeling ill every time I ate. I physically was unable to eat, but my eating disorder latched onto the thought that eating food made me ill. I spiralled. I was so depressed that I couldn’t leave my bed, I had a full-blown eating disorder relapse and was incredibly suicidal.

Throughout my whole life I have always been top of the class; my perfectionist nature driving me to be the best (which in hindsight is a red flag of an eating disorder trait – yet another voice), so when I was STRONGLY advised to take time out of University for 9 months to heal with the option of going back to re-start semester 2 with the year below, I was crushed. I felt like a failure. 

I hated knowing that my mental illness stopped me from pursuing my career in science. I truly felt like that everything I ever was – my grades, my drive, my ambition – was all gone. 

The first few months of being back home was hard. Really hard. I had to undergo refeeding again, be sedentary, and going back-and-forth from the doctors. It was exhausting, painful, emotionally draining and scary.

I was so scared of choosing recovery – of losing the identity that my eating disorder had given me over the years; of gaining weight; of losing control. 

Just when I thought things couldn’t get much worse, I then broke out in adult cystic acne – something that I had never experienced before. My slither of confidence was crushed even further. I felt helpless, and remained in ‘quasi recovery’ for quite a while, not wanting to be sick but still reverting back to disordered behaviours periodically – the voice!

Then, I ordered Megan Crabbe’s, my favourite Instagrammer’s, book ‘Body Positive Power’.

I had been following her for a while, craving the recovered life that she said was attainable, but being so afraid to choose it. 

I then sat down with a cup of tea and her book, and I read. I read and I read until I finished it. And for the first time since I was 15 years old, I decided that I wanted to be free from my eating disorder. I learned all about diet culture, fatphobia, the multibillion diet industry, female oppression, inclusivity, set point theory and so much more. I read around the topics and got angry over the 8 years that my eating disorder ruled my life. 

From that moment on, I vowed to choose recovery every day. I let go of food control, and let my body decide what weight it was happiest at – I was terrified, but here I am, significantly heavier than I was and happily within my set point. 

Choosing recovery and educating myself on all these topics lead me to the body positive and recovery community, and I found I had an absolute drive and passion to help others that have been in the same dark place that I have experienced. I decided I wanted to be the friend and voice that I so desperately needed when I was that lost 15 year old. That passion I have for science, extended to wanting to help others like me. So I created the Instagram page @boporecoverywarrior to share my own experiences, as well as challenges – showing that although recovery is not linear or even pretty sometimes, that freedom is attainable – I haven’t looked back since.

Daily I work towards intuitive eating, food freedom, body acceptance, self-love and self-care.  I am now the heaviest I’ve ever been in my adult life, and the healthiest I’ve ever been – both mentally and physically. Some days are inevitably harder than others, and I make a point of showing this on my social media, to break down this idea that once you start on your journey towards self-acceptance and jump on the bopo train, things aren’t magically better – it’s not suddenly all rainbows and flowers. But they are a darn sight better than they used to be.

So, I am the heaviest and healthiest I’ve ever been because I finally found a balance. I finally realised that I was worthy of recovery. After taking the plunge and choosing my mental health over societal expectations of what I should look like, I can now share my experiences and journey with others in the community, where we lift each other up and support each other. Knowing that I am now able to help others because of the dark times I had, makes the 7 years of battling with myself not seem so wasted. It’s because of this battle that I have found a passion for wanting to be the voice that 15-year-old Zoe needed.

Since using Instagram as a platform for recovery and to spread the message that the body positivity movement has, I have been flooded with messages from individual’s sharing their stories with me, telling me how grateful they are for me sharing the reality of recovery because they felt so alone, telling me that because of me, they chose recovery. 

Reaching rock bottom enabled me to find my path in life – to be the help I so desperately needed. To give hope and reassure others that with support and knowledge, their inner strength will help them get the food freedom and self-love they so desperately want and need. To help others so that they don’t need to reach rock bottom to know that recovery is possible.