Eating Free From: The Mental Illnesses That Came From Being Diagnosed Coeliac

Photo By: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

From a young age, my love for food was no secret and Greggs sausage rolls being a big winner for me as a child.

At the age of 10, I was diagnosed with coeliac disease, an auto-immune disorder where the gut attacks itself when any gluten is eaten. There are so many symptoms for coeliac disease and various levels of how these are shown so approximately 500,000 people in the UK are said to have undiagnosed coeliac disease.

Having this myself, I tried to not see it as too hard to deal with as I could have something much worse. I still see that as true but now I’m an adult and had this for 11 years I can see how my mental health has been affected by the diagnosis. One common symptom, that I had also, was intense bloating which resulted in snide comments at primary school.

I vividly remember a school nurse visiting and saying I was an obese child before my diagnosis was found due to the amount of bloating. All this led to such low self-esteem that I now see I was far too young to have.

Once I was tested for coeliac and the results showed this was the case, I was placed on a strict gluten-free diet that I still keep to this day due to the further health issues that are caused by not eating gluten-free and I lost a significant amount of weight.

As happy as I should be about this, the images and names of my pre-coeliac body were stuck in my head. By this time, I was 14 and already obsessed with a body image that I couldn’t even control since it is part of my genetics.

I found as I moved through secondary school, to college and now to university, I have experienced a range of disordered eating patterns. This mental sheet of what I know to be ‘bad’ foods for my body makes it hard to know where the line ends and finishes as to what will hurt me and what won’t.

Not always in the aspect of free from food either, but all these health gurus popping up on my feeds with tables of ticks and crosses of what foods are good and those that are ‘bad’. Sometimes it’s hard to remove myself from the cycle of thinking about food whether that be my gluten-free diet or the guilt I feel from not exercising this lockdown when some girls on my TikTok are getting slimmer waists from their weighted hula hoops or whatnot.

As much as I can look back and be annoyed at how I’ve viewed my body and eating habits, moving forward I know nothing will change all of that and nothing is meant to personally harm me. The personal trainers on social media are merely trying to help and spread their knowledge but I’m conscious to not pay attention to those pages as I know how it will make me feel.

Likewise, my coeliac is a way for my body to protect itself from harm (even if that is a piece of ‘normal’ cake) and it will not go away. Being newly aware of food has helped me be critical of when I’m crossing the line of being mindful of ingredients or obsessive. Yet, after almost 12 years of being diagnosed with coeliac disease, I am by no means finished in my disordered eating and seeking help, but the main thing is, I’m working on it.

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© 2020 by Mental Magazine