We first heard about Catherine Thompson when The Daily Mail ran her eating disorder recovery story, claiming that she’d finally overcome her years of anorexia when she became pregnant and decided to put her baby—and her baby’s health—before her body image issues. We were disappointed; this isn’t a healthy or accurate message about how eating disorders get resolved. It turns out that Catherine, now 18 months into recovery from an eating disorder that started eight years ago, agrees with us: She’d shared her story to help others struggling with the same disease, but instead felt the media had used her story to shock audiences and entertain.
To learn more, we interviewed Catherine about her experience in coming out with her story:
It’s so brave to share such personal information; what motivated you to tell your story in the first place?
The opportunity to first share my story came though working with the Charity First Steps Derbyshire, a wonderful charity who have supported me throughout my recovery. I wanted to help raise awareness of ED’s and to try and change the perception that you have to be a certain weight or shape to be suffering.
How did the media find out about you and get in contact with you?
I was approached by several news agents who said they would like to sell my story to national newspapers and magazines. However they claimed the papers and magazines would only be interested if I provided ‘shocking’ before pictures of when I was very ill and talked about the specific weight I reached when I was at my lowest. When I explained that I would not do this as when I was ill I had found these types of articles triggering and extremely unhelpful, the reply was ‘that’s what sells stories’. I was appalled by this and particularly upset as I wanted to raise awareness but not in that way.
It sounds like you weren’t happy with the published article. Can you explain why?
My story was published in the Mail on line, but not as i would have hoped it would be portrayed. It is extremely upsetting for me to think that it would be taken from the article that I had at any point said that having a baby was a cure for an ED. Recovering from an ED can be an extremely long and difficult process and one that requires a lot of hard work and effort.
I have to also say at this point that I found the comments in the Daily fail about my story being ‘far from a shining example.’ and ‘it’s glaringly obvious that Thomson still has problems with eating and body image.’, very upsetting. I had never wanted my story to come across as me saying I was 100% recovered or that having a baby was the thing that had saved me.
So how did pregnancy and motherhood figure into your recovery?
Once well into my recovery and having reached a healthy weight and mindset, my husband and I decided the time was right to start trying for a family. Being pregnant gives me the extra motivation to battle the ED but by no means cures it. I have worked incredibly hard to get to where I am today and continue to do so each day, that is why my recovery is progressing well, not simply because I’m pregnant. It is extremely unlikely i would have been able to fall pregnant when I was ill anyway as my periods had been stopped for years. Of course I want to do the very best for our baby, but I can only do that if i do the very best to keep myself well.