Special Report: Living with Bulimia

Liz Fraser, author of 'The Yummy Mummy's Survival Guide', on the eating and vomiting disorder that plagued her for more than 15 years

Liz Fraser is a successful author, broadcaster and mother of three young children. She wrote The Yummy Mummy's Survival Guide, a handbook for modern mothers. But despite her confident image, behind it all there is an insecure and anxious side to the 32-year-old, which caused her to battle bulimia for many years.

Her problems began at the age of 15, as her body started to change into that of an adult. "It's a strange feeling to be going through, and I believe that's when most young people's problems start. You are developing fast, and you are gaining weight as your body changes. You feel out of control and the only way for me to gain control of my body was with what I ate."

She believes her family thought that being fat was a sign of weakness. "I don't blame my mum in any way, but I grew up believing that physical appearance says a lot about you. Good people are thin, and being fat was a sign of being lazy. I felt that if I were fat I would be a failure."

Liz's feelings manifested themselves through first eating a lot, then being sick. "I used to make excuses as to why I wasn't eating at home. I would say I'd already eaten or I'd get something later. It became hard to hide it; so I found the perfect solution. My mum would make lovely family dinners. I was able to make her happy by eating them, and then make myself happy by throwing it all up."

Bulimia had a lower profile 20 years ago compared to today, and Liz - now living in Cambridge - managed to hide it from her family for over a year, by which point her purging had turned from a habit into an addiction. "There comes a point when you know that you want to stop but it has become a habit you can't break. Once I had talked to my parents they tried to understand, but they didn't know what to say or do."

The problem was at its worst when she was at Cambridge University. "It is an addiction, comparable to drugs and drink. When you wake up the first thing you think about is how to get your first binge. You live your life around making time for it. I told myself to go out, see friends, go to lectures. But it did not help."

By her third year at university she says she was much better. After she graduated she married Harry, whom she met in her first year studying psychology and neuroscience. "I didn't tell him I was bulimic but he knew I had a serious problem with food. He saved me. I know it sounds like a cliché, but he did. He held me and told me I would be all right."

For 18 months she was free of her problem. But it started again whenever she felt a lack of control in her life. A year after she had her first child the addiction came back. "For over 15 years I have battled this problem and I know the pattern. When life was a bit uncertain, I got control back by bingeing and purging. I hid it from Harry for a while, but I felt so guilty. I eventually told him and he was very understanding. I had counselling, and talking about it really helped." But Liz, who was a presenter on the BBC1 holiday show and whose second book is out in March, says that counselling could not have cured her.

"It was so hard to stop because, with most addictions, you have to stop doing the first thing that triggers the addiction. With bulimia, you can't stop eating. You have to train your mind and stop. You wouldn't say that to an alcoholic. Then, all of a sudden, one day it all fell into place. I woke up and felt happy".

Now, as a mother of three, she makes sure her children never hear negative comments about people's size. "A psychologist told me that the best thing you can do for your children is not to talk about body size. So they will never associate nice people with being thin and will learn to judge someone on their personality, not looks."

She plans to go back to Cambridge to talk to students about eating disorders. "It's so easy for people with bulimia to keep it a secret. Very often they don't lose a lot of weight, so it's hard to pick up on. I cannot understand people who use websites to encourage girls into developing an eating disorder. It borders on the criminal. I wish we wouldn't all want to look like famous people. I try to have more positive role models now - real women like Rachel Weisz."

Lauren Veevers

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    General Cover Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?