When Mel and I first met we connected immediately. It was not just that we had both battled anorexia s for years. I felt we’d known each other for ages during the first hour we chatted! I had the impression that this was a feeling that many women would have when they first met Mel.
Mel shared her story with me and I was delighted when she said she would be happy for me to interview her for my Inspiring Women series.
Why? I wanted to show how someone’s determination could push them so far out of control that they were in control. How Mel’s anorexia and bulimia were fuelled by her personality. But how Mel used her strong personality to turn her life around and realise her destiny.
Mel, would you please introduce yourself ?
Hi I’m Mel, the founder of Naked. Naked is a coaching service designed as a rallying cry for women globally to accept themselves and love the skin they’re in.
I am passionate about empowering ambitious, successful and adventurous career women. I want to help them balance professional success with their personal health and happiness, because there IS more to life!
You haven’t always been a coach though?
No that’s right. I was a senior figure in the Events Industry for over 13 years. I left my role as the Head of Experiential Marketing at Sony Mobile last year.
It was a role that I loved. I was incredibly fortunate to be part of such an amazing company.
I travelled the world curating and creating experiences to showcase Sony Mobile products. I had the privilege of working with some of the most talented individuals in the industry.
I was determined to be successful. My passion for doing a great job meant that I pushed myself to incredible lengths. I would often work considerable overtime, for significant periods of the year. This was in order to meet the deadlines and expectations that I had for myself.
Subsequently I’ve realized that whist I worked in an industry that had anti-social hours and huge expectations; my personality type really put me in the firing line for things like burn out.
Working in a male-dominated environment did you feel you had to work harder than your male colleagues?
I had to work extremely hard as it was a very visible role. I was one of a handful of women in a very senior position. But as an organization we were all very driven and determined, so my male colleagues worked incredibly hard too.
For me what was different was that I wanted to be a voice for women. To show more junior female colleagues, in the wider industry as well as my immediate company, that you could succeed and do well as a woman.
I’m extremely proud that so many of the women I have mentored and coached have gone on to take up senior roles in the industry.
My own personality coupled with the industry I worked in really left me susceptible to problems. I wasn’t very good at setting boundaries or taking care of myself.
So what happened?
The inevitable happened I literally burnt out.
I remember standing in the office having a conversation with a colleague and I couldn’t make sense of it. I knew something was wrong and went to see my Doctor. My thought was that I needed sleeping pills, as I was overtired and not sleeping properly.
I was signed off sick immediately right before my biggest event, something that had never happened.
I was off work for a month and slept for around 18-19 hours each day, while my body recovered.
When I returned to work, my boss said that he really hadn’t known. I’d done such a remarkable job of papering over the cracks.
The result was that my team was expanded. The role I’d previously undertaken was divided between four people.
From the age of 12 you suffered from Anorexia. Do you know what triggered this?
As anyone who has suffered from anorexia or other eating disorders will know it’s likely to be a number of factors that cause vulnerabilities to surface. I was no different.
I was going through a period of immense change, moving schools and becoming a teenager. I was incredibly vulnerable and felt entirely out of control.
One day one of my mum’s friends commented on how fat my thighs were. It was the start of what was to be a downward spiral.
But did that one thing cause my anorexia? No, it was simply the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
There is a misconception that eating disorders are about food. But they’re not are they?
You are absolutely right anorexia and bulimia, while they are referred to as eating disorders, have little to do with food. Although the actions that sufferers take revolve around food.
They are mental health disorders and are typically about control.
When a sufferer feels really vulnerable and feels they are under attack they want to take back control. Controlling what we eat is one of the ways we can do this.
With so many people on diets or wanting to lose weight gives Anorexia in particular more social credence.
That was certainly the case for me. I began to diet after the comment about my thighs and quickly it spiraled into Anorexia.
I veered from Anorexia to Bulimia and back again throughout my illness. On reflection it was about control. Looking back it is sad, because I was so far out of control with my illness for so many years.
Was there a particular treatment or person that really helped you with your recovery?
I was fortunate to join a small therapy group for women who had eating disorders. But this was the first time as someone who suffered from anorexia and bulimia that I’d sat in the same group as people whose eating disorders involved overeating.
That group literally saved my life. I truly understood for the first time that my issues were not about food. I also really appreciated that people with eating disorders are the strongest willed people in Society!
While I was only with the group for around 2 months I had such a fundamental shift it was incredible.
In part 2 of Mel’s story we’ll be talking about the trip that transformed her life. How Mel realized her true destiny and how her life has transformed. You can also read more about my battle with eating disorders in my blog post.
If you have been inspired by Part 1 of Mel’s story I’d love you to leave a comment and share on social media.
Find out more about the services that Mel offers on her Naked Coaching.