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
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Employment Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little