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Marie Duffy

For the week that’s in it.

Marie Duffy, who lived with Bulimia for seven years, writes:

I was 17 the first time I made myself sick. It was Christmas time and I was on a diet. I was planning on going Debs dress shopping in the January sales and I was dreading it. I’ve never been a skinny girl and the idea of going shopping filled me with dread.

I was convinced that the only way to ensure I got a dress to fit was to starve myself in the few months beforehand. It was going well and I had dropped over a stone through a combination of eating more healthily and exercise.

However, I found the temptation of food at Christmas to be difficult. I ate some Roses. Even when I was eating them I knew that I shouldn’t be. I had made a list of foods that were ok to eat and stuff that I couldn’t have and chocolate was definitely on the ‘not eat’ list.

I felt so guilty. I immediately ran to the bathroom, locked the door and forced my fingers down my throat. I had to be rid of the evil calories that were in my body. Very naively, I felt like I had found the secret to losing weight fast. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Little was I to know that making myself sick was to become a huge part of my life and would become an addiction that I would struggle with for seven years of my life. Seven years that I couldn’t get back, and seven years of absolute torture.

Often when we hear or think about eating disorders we see the more extreme cases of anorexia were people are literally dying at 3 or 4 stone weight.

But, the fact is, that people all around you are coping with eating disorders and are a much more normal weight, and you might never even know that they are struggling.

That was the case for me, I was a normal weight but my behaviours around food became far from normal. I was obsessed with everything that I ate. I would be so strict with myself during the day allowing myself to live on very little.

Sometimes, if I was feeling generous, I would allow myself an apple and that would do me for breakfast and lunch until I went home from school. I would be filled with absolute dread at the thought of going home to eat a dinner and would start obsessing about it each day, from the minute I woke up.

My parents and siblings had no idea that I was struggling with bulimia, they had noticed that I had become very picky about what I was eating but that was as much as they knew.

I only ate vegetables or small amounts of chicken and avoided carbohydrates if I could. If I did eat carbohydrates, I felt so guilty that I would rush to the toilet immediately and make myself sick. It was my secret and no-one else knew. But it began to become a secret that I just couldn’t keep to myself.

I began to lose a lot of weight and people began to comment telling me how well I looked. People at school would make comments and I would shrug them off saying that I was exercising more and that the weight was coming off healthily.

But, before long, my friends started to become suspicious they knew I wasn’t eating lunch and was suspicious that I wasn’t eating dinner either. They also knew that I was tired all the time, and was becoming more obsessive about calories and what I ate.

Teachers at school also began to notice that I wasn’t doing aswell as I had been and I started to not hand in my homework and fall asleep in class.

In reality I had a full-blown eating disorder and it was taking over my life. But it wasn’t until one of the teachers at school made an appointment for me to visit my GP that I realised what was going on.

My GP asked me lots of questions about what I was eating and asked about my attitude to food and weight. I told him that I had been making myself sick and had started to use laxatives to help me lose weight.

He mentioned the word Bulimia and I was taken aback. I knew that I had become a little obsessed with food and how I felt about my body but I felt that an eating disorder was something very skinny people got, and I wasn’t very skinny.

However, the doctor explained to me that people off all weights and sizes developed eating disorders and that he felt that my behaviours indicated that I had bulimia.

My teacher at the time was concerned about me and invited my parents in for a meeting to discuss what was going on. I was absolutely terrified because my parents had no idea as to the extent of my dieting behaviour. As far as they were concerned I was on a diet but what teenager wasn’t.

My mum was really upset when she found out what had been going on and life at home became difficult for me as my family monitored everything I ate and when I used the bathroom. I became more secretive about what I ate and when and my family became more confused as to how to help me.

Fast forward a year and I did well in my Leaving Certificate and got into college. When I went to college my eating disorder got much worse as I had no one monitoring what I was eating or when I used the bathroom.

My weight fluctuated. While I was still at school I was referred to a psychologist but it wasn’t until almost two years later that my appointment came up. I often wonder if my life would have been different if I had received the appointment two years earlier when I really needed it. Instead my eating disorder became a huge part of my life and stayed with me all throughout college.

Fast forward to today and I still struggle with my weight. I wouldn’t say I have an eating disorder anymore but when I’m stressed I still revert back to old habits which can be difficult to deal with. Bulimia was a huge part of my life for 7 years.

If I could say one thing to anyone who is going through a similar thing I would say – take a risk and reach out for help. You may not get it straight away but you deserve to be happy and you cannot be truly happy when you struggle with an eating disorder.

I would really recommend Bodywhys as a support service and they have email, telephone and online support which can really help when you are struggling.

If I could say one thing to that 17-year-old who first made themselves sick I would say – you are more than your weight and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Also, I would remind myself that you don’t have to be skinny to have an eating disorder as it can affect anyone of any age.


You don’t have to be skinny to have an eating disorder (Marie Duffy, Fake Tan And Foundation)

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20 thoughts on “Reach Out

    1. ollie

      There is a severe lack of money for support services so yeah, blame him for paying private bank debts, writing off 100 million of debt for DOB, and all the countless wastes of money his government has presided over.

      Or you could admire Marie for writing what must have been a difficult piece. and wish her well for the future.

      Personally, I’ll judge Edna on his performance for the last 5 years and vote accordingly, and hope that me or any of my family doesn’t need any state support for the next 20 years.

      1. Condescending Nana

        state support in this country was 3rd world during the boom, is 3rd world now, you want to blame someone the lack of professionalism and ethics in your civil servants. George Redmond a very good example of this tack.

  1. Clampers Outside!

    Fair play to you Marie, and thanks for sharing !

    Don’t dwell on those “seven years that I couldn’t get back” …just don’t, it’ll do ya no good :) And sure you’re still quite young. Congrats on your journey of recovery, sounds like you have it under good control, well done !

  2. Serval

    If you don’t want to be overweight and hence you think about what you eat (every day) does that mean you are Bulimic?

  3. Demoniac

    This often seems to happen to people with round or square faces – they look at their broad face and think they’re fat, when in fact it’s just the bone structure that means they don’t look all gaunt like Garbo.

  4. Tish Mahorey

    Disorders, addictions, etc are almost all caused by a trauma at a young age or a lack of loving attention from a parent during formative years.

    Bulimia is a symptom of something deeper and that’s where the attention needs to be addressed.

    Sometimes people have no idea why they behave in certain ways or form certain habits. But once explored, lives can be reclaimed.

    1. meadowlark

      Eating disorders are primarily used as a means of manifesting control over one’s life, or so I understand it, but you’re absolutely dead right in that it almost always masks a hidden issue, feelings of inadequacy, or shame, some form of abuse or neglect. All of the issues you listed above and more.

      Bulimia is an absolutely horrible illness, which absolutely ravages the body and does irreparable damage, and can threaten to resurface at any time.

  5. No, the other one

    The #FitNotThin social media campaign has done great work for mental & physical health, as has our home grown Operation Transformation. The eating disorders website Marie mentions is a step in the right direction but it’s disappointing to see that nutrition is not front and centre.

    When will people understand that mental and physical health can’t be siloed?

    I really believe that despite her best intentions that Marie is doing a disservice to other obese young people her age because at some point when the health implications of this culture of ‘sure I have a few pounds on, what’s the harm?’ come down the line we will all have to deal with it (financially but more importantly emotionally).

    And before the trolls descend to eat me alive, I had an eating disorder myself so I feel I’m entitled to comment.

    In the article Marie referred several times to ‘normal weight’ – I would be interested to know what Marie considers a normal weight (during her adolescent and college years) as this is when obesity generally starts. For those interested there’s a good website here re: childhood bmi

    Also, is being obese now a lifestyle choice as long as you do years of therapy and learn to accept yourself?

    Why am I so animated about this? I have friends in their 30s and 40s now who thought they had ‘accepted their weight’ but now realise that all along it had been devastating to their self esteem. Marie can’t get her 7 years back and neither can my friends. Fat enabling is just Not OK because you are just kicking the can down the road.

    Yes there are the Beth Dittos of the world who genuinely seem to be at one and happy with their obesity but for every Beth there are many people who want to be physically fit (not thin!) and by normalising obesity we are doing a disservice of criminal proportions to future generations.

    1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní


      Obesity through a lack of exercise and poor eating is not the same as an eating disorder. They have different causes and solutions.

  6. kingo

    i dont have an eating disorder. im Just a fat man but it always seem to be linked to my mental Health. i have been at my lowest ebb, depressed and anxious and seven stone lighter and everyone says How well you look…

  7. Serval

    Anyone who is over the BMI for their age/height has an eating disorder.
    Otherwise, why would they be overweight?
    I’m sure someone would answer “because they don’t exercise” but surely if you eat the right portions of non-fatty foods you shouldn’t need much exercise.

  8. Aoife

    Fair Play to you! That can’t have been easy to write, hope your recovery continues, more power to you!

  9. dejavu

    I know not everybody has the means to go private and have to wait on the public appointments and obviously I don’t know this girls background but am I the only one thinking that more effort should have been made to get Marie an appointment with a specialist from the get-go? Her family seemed to know that the problem was still there and yet it carried on untreated it onto college, where there is generally free health and counselling services available to students?

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