Hello, I’m Anne, a nutritionist for eating disorders. I grew up in France surrounded by good food – one of my first memories is biting into a buttery apple tart my grandmother had made. We mostly ate home cooked, seasonal and traditional meals.
No one in my family had any concerns over food, social media wasn’t a thing (yes, I am that old) and I had a fairly nice childhood and yet things turned somewhat pear-shaped for me in my teens.
Pears maybe are to blame all along.
I was, and still am, heavier at the bottom than at the top. I dreamt of being a waif à la Kate Moss but I was Anne from Brittany with a bum and thighs that the late nineties deemed problematic.
I had been doing ballet since an early age and constantly seeing those thighs in the mirror was becoming uncomfortable, especially since all the other girls seemed smaller than me, and just perfect.
I had a good friend who was the epitome of who I wanted to me: slim, blond, blue eyes, etc. Boys loved her and they barely even knew I existed, I was just her “chubby” friend. I was desperate to be her. With hindsight she probably had an eating disorder but hindsight is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? So, my thighs and I decided more discipline was needed: I would eat healthy, scrap that, I would become vegetarian and I would start to exercise, ballet didn’t count, it needed to hurt otherwise it wouldn’t count, right?
Unsurprisingly I lost weight.
People congratulated me like my weight had all along been what let me down in life. Did I like the compliments? 100%, I breathed them in like a drug and got intoxicated by those words and longing looks. Like with all drugs, once you’re hooked it’s tricky to stop, so I carried on and watched those boys divert their eyes from my friend and the other girls to lay them on me. I had finally arrived, I thought, although it turns out it was more of a pit stop rather than a destination because I couldn’t stop restricting and exercising, it always had to be more, or rather less.
I looked good but I was exhausted, often dozing for micro seconds in class, I had to quit ballet, I was hungry, I was fantasising about food, I was cold, so, so cold, I was always down and couldn’t understand why. I had the body but couldn’t go out because going out often involved eating or drinking and that was just too risky. One day, I realised the boys weren’t watching me anymore and the girls who had welcomed me in their popular circle were now gossiping about me: I was too thin! Never good enough I thought. I even sucked at being thin. I retreated into myself and my studying; I went from average to top student in three years. Restricting hadn’t made me more clever but it had given me more time, which I spent solely on studying to the point that I had bruises on what had been my bum from so much sitting.
How did it get better?
When I moved to London and decided that Anne-orexia wouldn’t be my identity anymore, I wouldn’t be defined by what I ate and didn’t eat. I started eating a bit more, I ate new foods I didn’t know the calorie content of, I tried to mimic the others, I went out etc. Did I gain weight? Maybe, a tiny bit perhaps but not really. Was I cured? Not exactly I was still quite conservative with my choices but I was on my way to recovery. Gradually for the next 3 years I learnt to trust my body, I experimented with food and drinks, I started living, laughing, dating and occasionally still, studying. At 23, I finally got my period back after six years of nothingness and I cried of happiness: anorexia was well and truly behind me.
Fast forward to my late twenties, I was gradually climbing that corporate ladder when I had an epiphany while hiking the Canadian Rockies; I wanted more from my job than just to make money, I wanted to help people (read, save the world). So, on my return to London I enrolled on a science access course to refresh my knowledge of biology, chemistry etc. and the following year I started my nutrition course with a newborn baby (my body wasn’t broken after all).
Three years later I graduated and got my second baby and six months later I was seeing my first client.
I never intended on being a nutritionist for eating disorders but, as the next couple of years went on, I couldn’t help but notice that almost everyone who came to see me wanted to lose weight, even if they really didn’t need to lose weight. I will always remember seeing this 16 year old who had come with her mum about weight loss, I explained to her that she was the perfect weight (totally healthy!) and that I wouldn’t help her lose weight as a result, I could guide her to eat a nutritious diet but not lose weight. It felt good; I was saving her from so much pain! She never came back. She wanted to lose weight.
I also noticed that people had strange food habits that reminded me of my anorexic days. That’s when I understood how naïve I had been: we lived in a disordered world and as a “wellness practitioner” I was probably at the epicentre of it all. Turns out I couldn’t escape eating disorders, I had to go towards them, not as a sufferer but as someone who could extract people from out of there. That was my calling; perhaps I could save the world after all.
Back to studying of course but since 2016, this is what I do: I am a nutritionist for eating disorders. I speak, read, eat, breathe and sleep eating disorders. It’s not rosy every day but I wouldn’t change my job for the world, especially when you send me your wedding or baby pictures, when you tag me in a post with the chocolate cake you’ve baked and eaten, when you email me to say you got your periods back. This is my new drug.
Who I see
I am a nutritionist for eating disorders but don’t work with all eating disorders. I tend to work with people who restrict physically and/or mentally, that can mean people suffering from anorexia, orthorexia, OSFED but also bulimia. You don’t have to be underweight to be seen by me, although I may not be able to see you if you are too underweight; this is for safety reasons.
I don’t see people who want to lose weight.
I don’t see people with BED, not because it’s a less serious eating disorder (it’s not) but because I don’t think I’m the best for you. I can only relate theoretically and I don’t think it’s enough; I can direct you towards other practitioners though.
I don’t work with people suffering with ARFID, simply because I think I lack the training.
I’m a registered nutritional therapist (BANT & CNHC) and I blend nutrition with CBT to help people have a better relationship with food and their bodies.
Master Practitioner in CBT – SDS Skills Development (in progress since 2020)
Master Practitioner in Eating Disorder and Obesity – National Centre for Eating Disorders (2016)
Nutritional Therapy Diploma – Institute for Optimum Nutrition (2009-2012)
Foundation degree in Science – Institute for Optimum Nutrition (2009)
MA (hons) in English Literature – Queen Mary University (2001)