Surfing has given me strength

First successful surf

First successful surf

I remember my first successful surf fondly. I was so eager to stand up that eventually I did, but I also remember feeling as though I stood out for the wrong reasons. Not for being uncoordinated and unbalanced, but because I was older and not exactly athletic. The anxiety I felt when being handed my wetsuit (would I have to change in front of these buff surf coaches?) and feeling weak as I carried the huge foamie to the beach (cue out-of-breathness). It made me want to be “good” at surfing all the more, just to prove to any critics that I could.

Ultimately, BED hit me after my first successful lesson and I got even fatter. But when you’re severely depressed and grieving, you really don’t care how you pull yourself through each day. We all need comfort. Unfortunately, mine turned into an eating disorder that made me even more depressed because I hated the way I looked (and felt). I hated myself enough to stop eating, and that’s when I knew I needed something else to focus on – other than hating myself.

"Boardie" - the beginning of a new stage in my life

“Boardie” – the beginning of a new stage in my life

That was when I decided to get healthy and see a psychologist, and go out on a limb and commit myself to surfing by buying my first surfboard. I’ve learned a lot about myself since deciding to surf. I know I have someone inside me that is confident and able to paddle through the impact zone, but also someone that feels confident enough to change into a wetsuit in front of buff surfer dudes (albeit awkwardly). Surfing has given me endurance and strength I never would have found in the world. I have my rough periods; the day the doctor “updated” my eating disorder was a day I felt like I had tinnitus – the words Bulimia Nervosa rang in my ear – in fact they still do because it doesn’t feel right. I am not Bulimic, yet I have Bulimia. I feel very disconnected from this diagnosis. I do not throw up food so how am I Bulimic? Again, the surfing has helped me re-establish my sense of identity and give me a place where I am safe.

The journey is still just beginning...

The journey is still just beginning…

Now I am fitter and healthier than ever before. I surf and I workout. I still struggle with eating like a normal person, but the important thing is that I try. I’ve given my psychologist the sack and I’m relying on my own strengths to heal myself, because thanks to surfing, I have power.

My journey is still just beginning…

Surfing is: Revival, hope, perspective and so much more

I read a ridiculously asinine feature on a webpage earlier this week about how all those cool analogies we use for surfing are just rumours. For example, the surfer out there having the most fun is the best surfer and … Continue reading

Goals for mid-semester break

I’m looking forward to mid-semester break. I’ll have time to feel like myself again and really focus on the good things in my life without the constant stress and pressure of deadlines and due dates.


1. Finish the overhaul of Saving Sanne. It needs to be sent to the publisher already! This has got to be the fourth draft. One day I will have it perfect…or I’ll get so sick of re-writing it that I will actually submit it.

2. Try and set records for binge-free days. My record is 12 days, though I was only eating between 50 – 300 calories a day so I’m pretty sure it doesn’t count because that would be the “Anorexic tendencies” I’m prone to. Unfortunately, my binge-free streak currently stands at 0; this means that my eating disorder is controlling me, not the other way around. Not cool.

3. Ride my horse (weather pending; thank you very much Melbourne winter) 5 times a week.

4. SURF (Of course!) 3 times a week at various surf breaks.

I’ll keep this blog updated on my goals and I’ll share how I’m going. No matter how sore, no matter how tired, no matter how SCARED: I will achieve some of these goals.

Back in the trenches

It feels as though time is going much too quickly and I’m missing it because I literally cannot find the energy or motivation to participate in it. This sense of lost control has triggered my ED and made me feel worse about myself and my situation than I should.

I’m thinking about not going to the psychologist appointments anymore because my last appointment was what really pushed me down the stairs. Isn’t it good that I lost weight? The people put in place to help us don’t bother to delve deeper but only look at our body condition. Yep. That’s going to help and not make the condition worse.

Going through this has really opened my eyes up to the stereotypes of eating disorders and the ignorance of  the general public (although it’s mostly mis-education for those folks) and even the medical profession. My behaviour, and I quote, isn’t a major concern, because I am not fat. Apparently you only need help for BED when you’re at risk of diabetes and heart attack. I feel as though I can’t get the help I need because I flipped my behaviour on its head and lost weight instead of gaining.

And let me clarify this because people get confused:

  • Eating an entire packet of chips and feeling guilty is NOT binge-eating disorder.
  • “Pigging out” occasionally is NOT binge-eating disorder.

Binge-eating disorder is:

  • Inability to stop eating
  • Compulsively eating as much food as possible, as fast as possible
  • Using food to numb pain severity and acuity
  • Intense guilt. Not “Oh damn I feel so bad…”; this intense guilt is often followed with self-harm, laxatives, trying to purge, intense work-outs and long periods of fasting or restricting; which then causes:
  • A fear of food because eating will cause a binge.
  • Sufferers are not always obese or even overweight.


Overweight person does not automatically mean BED. Just as a thin person that suffers from BED does not automatically have bulimia. The weight categorisation of MENTAL DISORDERS is such a clinical error in this society that doctors tell you about…yet they themselves do it.

This needs to change.

How I got sick and how surfing has saved me


As this year draws to an end, I thought I’d express what happened in 2013 that prompted me to first develop BED and then change my lifestyle for the better and pursue my dream of becoming a surfie chick.

2013 has not been a kind year to me. I will never be the same person I was a year ago because my cat died. It may seem trivial to be so devastated about losing a pet, but that is not what matters. I. Lost. A. Part. Of. Myself.

His name was Puddha. He was a cream Norwegian Forest Cat X that I’d got for my ninth birthday. I was allergic to cats but my mum got sick of me always asking for one and gave in and got me Puddha. He cured my allergy and for many tough years through a turbulent and lonely childhood and adolescence, he was my only friend.

It started as a tooth ache. Being such a well-cared for and loved pet, Puddha was taken to the vet immediately. He had a tooth abscess that needed surgery. He was seventeen so I expressed my concerns about putting him under anaesthetic. The vet assured me that they would do a full blood check and make sure he was up for the surgery before doing anything. She felt his kidneys and said for a cat his age they felt fine.

But they weren’t fine. The blood results showed that his kidneys were failing and they couldn’t operate. Quality of life was brought up. It was a Tuesday. We gave him his medication every day and tried to get him to eat his prescription food. All I could get him to eat was a runny raw egg because his mouth was bothering him too much. When your main job as a “mum” to a cat is to keep him safe, healthy and comfortable and suddenly you can’t feed him, can’t guarantee his comfort and can’t kiss his boo-boos better, it’s the worst. I cannot have children so he was my child. Whenever I thought of suicide, he was the one thing that kept me here. I couldn’t leave Puddh. Not my bubba.

Friday afternoon I said to Rick (my partner) “how will I know when it’s time?” We both just ended up crying.

Saturday morning Rick went to work. I got Puddha up “out of bed” (he spent the early hours of the morning in his cattery, a cat enclosure built to keep him safe from other cats). Puddha had his egg for breakfast then meowed and meowed (he was very vocal – he drove other people nuts) as he made his way into the backyard to drink out of his selected water supply (an old container filled with rain water). I glanced into his cattery. The night before, he had perked up and managed some chicken (his all-time favourite), but there it was, on the ground, beside his little bed. I watched Puddh settle down into the long grass in the middle of the backyard where he could see me in the kitchen, squint at me and then doze off in the morning sun. He looked fine, but I had this overwhelming sense of ‘this is really going to happen’. I put four slices of toast in the toaster. Ate them. I put another four slices of toast in the toaster. I ate them, mushing the bread into lumps and swallowing it hard to stop myself from crying. I contemplated calling Rick. No. Don’t tell anyone he vomited because then it’ll be real. I don’t want it to be real. I put four slices of toast in the toaster. I forced them down and then watched TV.

It rained that night. I was on my way to feed my horse Montana so I called Rick and asked him to bring Puddha in. Puddha had spent the day in his “grass hut”, an overgrown patch of the garden with a hollow inside where he liked to sleep. We kept it overgrown just for him.

Rick said he couldn’t grab him without Puddh wailing in pain. I had just fed Montana and headed back home. I climbed down into the grass hut. Puddh snuggled into my elbow. I carried him and noticed he had sullied himself, something that always deeply shamed him. I cleaned him up and wrapped him in a comfort blanket. It seemed like it was time.

I called my parents, telling them to come say goodbye. They came the next day, miserable and sobbing. Puddh now couldn’t even eat his raw egg, drink, use the toilet or even walk properly. I’d imagined this moment his entire life and dreaded it. But the pain I felt was much worse than the dread I had felt. Carrying him to the vet was the most awful feeling; I can’t even describe it except to write that I can barely type through my tears, nor breathe because my chest is too tight.

I believe he knew what was happening. He just accepted it. He rested his face on my arm and took a deep breath. He was peaceful.

Easter Sunday 2013, I lost my little mate.

A week was all it was for my cat to go from healthy to emaciated and dying. I ate a lot to deal with the grief and emptiness I was left with. I’ve lost relatives and other pets and even friends have died…but losing my cat hurt the most. It put me in such a dark place that I could no longer function properly.

I recognised that I had been eating too much to compensate. It got me a BED diagnosis but not a lot of help. The doctor suggested I speak to a psychologist but I said no, no, no I’m fine. The doctor even said “yes you are fine. A lot of people have BED or compulsive eating disorders they’re not really dangerous and your body is fine.”

In June, Rick took a photo of me. ‘Ew I look fat’ I thought. I hadn’t really noticed weight gain to be honest. I was too busy trying not to fall apart to care how I looked. I brushed my hair maybe once a fortnight. I didn’t bother getting out of bed somedays. But the doctor told me “yes you have a problem but your weight is fine.”

Then, in the midst of a binge, I decided to weigh myself to see…just check how much weight I’d put on since losing Puddh. That number frightened the crap out of me because it had always been the number. The number I would never go past. This number was also the recommended maximum weight for my horse (he’s a 15.2hh Anglo-Arabian). Tomorrow, I thought. Tomorrow I am going back on my diet and losing all this weight.

So I did.

I’m not saying my BED has been cured. Or my depression. I made the choice of choosing to count every single calorie that I ate so that my mind was focused on losing weight instead of the misery I was in.

A lot of this year has been a blur. It’s just come down to lose weight lose weight lose weight lose weight lose weight lose weight. I still binge occasionally. I saw a psychologist and that resulted in a binge because I was forced to face some of my problems. So I lose weight lose weight lose weight.

Surfing has saved me. Getting a surfboard and getting out into the water has lifted my spirits considerably. It’s no longer lose weight lose weight lose weight lose weight lose weight; it’s: go for a surf, eat something healthy; be happy.

So that has been 2013 for me.

I hope 2014 will be much happier.