CW // eating disorders. Please note, this blog contains information you may find triggering.
It is estimated that 1.25 million people in the UK alone suffer from an eating disorder - many in secret. However, insufficient research could mean the actual number is a lot higher.
Eating disorders are a serious mental illness affecting people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and backgrounds. People with eating disorders use disordered eating behaviour as a coping mechanism for difficult situations and feelings. This behaviour can include limiting the amount of food they eat, eating very large quantities of food at once or getting rid of food eaten through unhealthy means, such as making themselves sick.
Eating disorders are often misunderstood and thought to be all about food itself rather than a combination of food and feelings. They are never the fault of the person experiencing it, and anyone who has an eating disorder deserves compassion, love and support.
It’s important to remember that everyone has a different relationship with food. For some, it is a source of comfort, indulgence or nutrition, while others can have a negative or even damaging relationship with food. That’s why it’s vital to never group people together or assume.
To understand more about eating disorders and the impact it can have on a person’s life, we caught up with Katerina Berglas.
Having spent a large part of her childhood watching her grandfather ski and compete at the Olympics, sport has always played an important part in Kat’s life. At just two-years-old, her father bought her her first pair of skis and it wasn’t before long that she realised she wanted to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and be up there with some of the best.
However, at just 17-years-old, whilst living amidst the hustle and bustle of London, surrounded by fashion and couture, Kat started to develop an interest in modelling. But in an industry where body-shaming is rife and there is an immense amount of pressure to lose weight, it’s clear to see how modelling has had such a negative impact on Kat’s body-image. Keep on reading to discover more.
Kat begins by telling us what caused her to switch up her career from skiing to modelling.
“At the time, I wasn’t getting paid to ski and the numbers I was getting from modelling were pretty good. I was promised so many things within the industry, including trips to New York and shoots with Vogue, and I just thought to myself, ‘This is incredible!’, it truly felt like a dream come true.
“As a model, I was really eager to do catwalks. I’m pretty tall, however, I just never had that ‘typical’ physique. I’ve always had a very athletic build due to playing multiple sports growing up, so I had bigger legs and I’ve always been strong and muscular.
“When it came to modelling, I was surrounded by models who were eating normally, but stayed thin, and I found this incredibly hard. It was at this point, I turned to starving myself, drinking a lot of alcohol, smoking, drinking coffee among other things to the point where I’d go into work and they would say to me, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, you’re looking great.’ But in reality, they had no idea what I was doing or putting myself through to get them to say I look ‘great’.”
For far too long, the fashion industry has been inundated with marginalised, stereotypical beauty ideals and whilst it’s encouraging to see the progress made over the years, there is still a large scale of mis- and underrepresentation.
Following multiple rejections from top modelling agencies, Katerina began questioning her self-worth. She said: “I would tell myself ‘You’re not what they’re looking for’ or ‘You’re not skinny enough,’” which led her to drastically lose weight.
Katerina became anorexic, as the fear of not being ‘good enough’ was quite literally eating away at her. “I didn’t feel like I was good enough to eat. In fact, my guilty pleasure became not eating,” she says.
Her diminishing relationship with food became so bad that Katerina was scared to eat. She would continuously starve herself, telling herself she needed to be ‘skinny’. But it was only a matter of time before she was hospitalised, just last year.
“I hit rock bottom,” she says.
“My entire body, especially my heart, was suffering and I didn’t even realise. I would walk for miles and would experience breathlessness and pains in my chest, so I ended up going to see my doctor.
“I went for an MRI scan and I remember the doctor called me via Zoom, due to Covid, and he asked me, ‘Are you sure you don’t want your parents with you?’”
Kat was overcome with confusion and anxiety and then the doctor broke the news that her heart was leaking. Determined to overcome this, Katerina began monitoring her heart, having weekly check-ins with her doctor to try and turn her health around. It had never occurred to her, having always been into sport and fitness, that her health would be a risk.
Now an IIN Health Coach and Nutritionist living in Marbella, Kat shares what changed her relationship with food.
“Two or three years ago, my mum cooked for me all of the time and she would always ask me, ‘What are you going to do when you’re older?’” She continues: “I’d always thought I’d just get a nanny because I didn’t even know how to cook eggs or anything like that and I had no desire for nutrition at all.”
However, it was her anorexia diagnosis that actually caused her love for food to blossom. “It made me realise how important food is. You can’t live without it and eating the correct things is super important.”
Talking about her job, she says: “As a health coach, helping people is the most rewarding thing, it’s truly the best thing you can do. I can now relate my own experience and remind people that if I can do it, they can do it.
“I believe food is even more important than someone’s relationship with friends because at the end of the day, you need food to fuel you and it also helps to boost your serotonin.”
Fast forward to 2022 and Katerina is continuing to rebuild her relationship with food with the support of her family and friends. She’s even managed to get back into skiing and has had the pleasure of spending some of her free time in Switzerland.
Her journey is without a doubt an inspiration to us all. It is the perfect reminder that you are strong, you are capable and you are enough.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues mentioned or are concerned about someone else, it’s important to find the right support. You can contact your local GP or seek support from UK Charity, Beat here.