My Fit Journey: Sinead Forde Tells STELLAR How She Overcame Two Eating Disorders
After battling anorexia and bulimia, Sinead Forde reveals how she changed her relationship with food, and came to a place of body acceptance.
Name: Sinead Forde
When did your unhealthy relationship with food begin?
I always was conscious about my weight even from a young age. I was never massively overweight but I never felt comfortable with the way I looked. When I was around 15 I decided to start dieting to lose weight. I wanted to fit in and had this idea that my life would be better if I was slimmer. So I gradually began cutting out foods. First it was just sweets and food I considered bad but then it turned into full meals.
What exactly happened after you developed an eating disorder?
I never thought I had an eating disorder. I couldn’t even say the word anorexia for years. My parents became concerned on a family holiday when they saw how little I was really eating. They brought me to the GP who diagnosed me with anorexia. But in my mind everyone was overreacting and I still needed to lose weight. So I gradually ate less and less until I was surviving on jelly only.
I spent three months as an in patient in a public hospital where I gained weight but my mind frame didn’t change at all. I left the hospital healthier in body but not in mind. As I had missed so much school during my leaving cert year I had to repeat the year. This caused me extra stress and I plummeted to my lowest weight ever.
During that summer I reached crisis point and probably the lowest point of my life. I was waiting a bed in a private hospital but had to spend two weeks in a general hospital being fed through a tube in my nose because it wasn’t medically safe for me to be in the private psychiatric hospital. Even at this low weight I still managed to run up and down the stairs so I didn’t gain too much weight.
I spent three years in and out of the private hospital where in the end they discharged me saying I was a chronic anorexic who would never recover. I get so mad when I hear this because nobody should ever write someone off as a hopeless case. Convinced I would never recover I got on with college life, training to be a children’s nurse, while still very cautious about my food choices and severely underweight.
After my J1 I thought I had recovered. I felt happy and had put on enough weight to be healthy. But this turned into another eating disorder spiral where I developed binge eating and bulimia. I gained almost 40kgs and felt miserable inside and out.
How did those around you respond?
When I was underweight I felt people had empathy for me because it was obvious I had an eating disorder. But when I was overweight people didn’t understand. I felt like no one could understand the control that took over when a binge craving came on.
When did you reach your lowest point?
My lowest point of my anorexia was when I hit 35kgs and collapsed and was rushed to hospital. Seeing my parents cry wondering would I survive is still something that haunts me to this day. They were amazing throughout everything and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
What spurred you on to make a change?
New Year’s Eve 2014 I decided I had enough. I was at my heaviest weight ever and hated myself and my disorder. I made a promise to myself that by my birthday in June I would be happier and healthier.
What was the turning point?
The major turning point for me was when I joined Westwood gym in Clontarf. I met my trainer Stephen Kenny Gains and found a new outlet in lifting weights. I loved the feeling I got from training and was hooked in no time. Everything just seemed to click into place and I no longer wanted to binge. Instead of over eating for comfort I would go to the gym.
I also worked with Amanda from Recalibrated Bodies who helped me get on top of my eating and helped me learn to fuel my body with all the nutrients I needed. I learned to include carbs and no longer feared them. I can finally say I have a healthy relationship with food for the first time in over 13 years.
What was your fitness regime?
I began weight training; heavy compound lifts like squats, deadlifts and bench presses. I focused mainly on lifting weights and then did some high-intensity cardio.
Was it very difficult to break the habits?
I think I’ll always have it at the back of my mind that I could easily slip into old habits. But I think that’s a good thing because I’m aware of my triggers. I have to be careful when I am tired or stressed because that can trigger my craving to binge.
What’s your daily diet like now?
A lot of peanut butter! I’m addicted. I count my macro nutrients which entails weighing food so that I reach a specific number of protein, fats and carbs. This enables me to enjoy the foods I love without being restricted. I stick to healthy options mainly because I genuinely feel better when I eat healthier. I like to make my food look as tasty as possible because I believe you eat with your eyes. I make healthy pancakes and make them look just as tasty as ones with a lot more calories!
What are some of your favourite workout meals?
Before a workout I always have a carb rich meal. So I would make oats, or my pancakes or waffles topped with peanut butter of course. After a workout I would have fast acting carbs like a bagel or rice cakes and a protein shake. I also love the typical bro food meal of chicken and rice with veg.
What exactly does a gym session entail for you now?
I’m currently training to compete in my first fitness body building competition (Nifma) in November so my training is very intense at the moment. I train six days a week (sometimes seven because I hate taking rest days!) I have a three day split where I focus on different body areas in each session. I train legs one day, back another, then chest, shoulders and triceps for the third day. I train with my personal trainer Stephen Kenny Gains once a week. There’s a great group of people in the gym so I also like doing some cardio classes with them.
How long did it take before you felt happy with your body?
After three months I really started to notice some changes. But I can honestly say it’s taken a year to get to where I’m comfortable in myself. I’m a firm believer in slow sustainable progress. I think too many people get sucked in by fad diets, detox teas and slimming pills which are a total waste of time and money. The secret to changing your shape is to train hard and eat healthily.
How do you feel now having reached the stage you are at?
Sometimes I do have to pinch myself when I think about how far I’ve come. Some days I forget how much I have been through but I’m so grateful to be at the stage I am now. I always said if I did recover I wanted to be able to help people as I didn’t have the help I needed for so long.
Do you ever fear that you could fall into bad eating habits again?
It’s always a fear but I think I’m a lot stronger now and would never want to go back to that stage. I’m truly happy with where I am now.
What has been the most helpful support you have received since getting yourself better?
My parents have always been my rock. They never gave up on me and believed I could recover even when I didn’t. My trainer Stephen has helped me progress so much over the past year and is training me for my competition in November. He’s such a dedicated trainer and gets results with his clients. He does make up some horrific workouts but that’s all part of the fun! Amanda from Recalibrated Bodies has changed my outlook on food completely. She helped me get over my fear of carbs and taught me that you don’t have to eat less, you just have to eat right. She helped me to get to the stage where I can say I have a healthy relationship with food.
What have you learnt from your experience?
I think I’m a lot stronger after going through everything. I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. I think I went through what I did so I could come out the other side and help other people in the same situation.
What advice can you give to young women who struggle with some of the things that you did?
Never give up. The illness wants you to give up on yourself but no matter how hard it might be, things can and will get better. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. People want to help it’s just a case of letting them. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t recover. They said it to me and look at me now.
If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing what would it be?
Life’s too short to spend it worrying and being unhappy. Do what makes you happy and don’t waste some of the best years of your life hating yourself. You only get one body so treat it right.