By Rebecca Drew
THIS WOMAN calls herself queen of the cheat meal after overcoming an eating disorder where she was scared to eat more than FIVE-HUNDRED-CALORIES a day but now she can polish off up to a whopping EIGHT-THOUSAND-CALORIES in just one sitting – and burgers are her specialty.
Graphic designer, Amy Taylor (23) from Werribee, Melbourne, Australia, had always been a big eater as a child and would always try to eat as much as she could. But things started to change for Amy when she developed glandular fever at 17 and she lost her appetite which made it easy for her to not eat and spiralled into an eating disorder.
During this time Amy would survive off of a mandarin for breakfast, lettuce and tomato for lunch and a homecooked dinner that she would never finish, and she never exceeded more than 500-calories-a-day. Eventually at 5st 9lb, Amy was admitted to hospital with an abnormal heartrate and she was forced into recovery by doctors.
A few months later, Amy decided that she needed to recover for herself and threw herself into the gym to focus on getting stronger and increasing her appetite which she enjoyed at first. After becoming bored of the gym and her healthy lifestyle, Amy decided to challenge herself to eating one large cheat meal a week to keep herself motivated and to allow her to indulge in the foods she loved before her eating disorder.
Amy’s favourite cheat meal is burgers and now she has around three to four cheat meals a week which can contain anywhere between 3,000 and 8,000-calories per meal. She set up her Instagram page to document her eats and has completed nine burger eating challenges since August last year and people are always shocked when she finishes her meals.
Amy is now a healthy 8st 2lb and UK size eight, since incorporating her cheat meals into her regime, Amy is more motivated at the gym and says that eating large portions without waste has become her hobby and whenever she’s out with friends, she’s the one who finishes the leftovers.
“After becoming ill with glandular fever as a teen, I lost my appetite, which made it easy to not eat a lot, and join in the dieting trends that I’d seen across social media. Restricting my food intake soon became a source of control for me, and before I knew it, I was stuck in a bad habit of barely eating,” said Amy.
“I felt totally trapped. I pushed away anyone who tried to help me. When my health started to deteriorate, I felt like I should just go even further, eat even less, just give up. I really didn’t see any point in life, I’d made myself very alone.
“At first, recovery was totally forced. I was hospitalised with severe health problems, and force fed in hospital, gradually increasing calories under careful medical observation. After a few months of forced recovery and unsuccessful phycologist visits, I decided that I would recover, but would do it my way, prove everyone wrong who told me I couldn’t get better on my own.
“I also wanted to build up my strength, as after being so underweight, I was very weak. This gave me goals to work towards, increased my appetite, and my health improved quickly. I was enjoying eating lots, and although I went through tough phases of self-hate and calorie restriction, overall, I was doing well to put my past behind me.
“Eventually, my healthy diet and constant gym sessions became a chore, and my progress slowed. I lacked motivation, and was in danger of another relapse. However, I decided I was done depriving myself of foods I love, so decided I would allow one large cheat meal a week- basically any takeaway food, fried food, or burger I felt like.
“When I started this, it filled me with extra motivation to smash my workouts, and it quickly became two cheat meals per week, as I loved them so much and it boosted my performance at the gym.
“My cheat meals have increased to three on average, sometimes four. These meals are usually very large, I discovered recently that I can eat an abnormally large amount for my size, and eating a lot has become a bit of a habit and hobby.”
Amy does two hours of weight training, seven days a week and allows herself to eat whatever she wants from Friday through to Sunday.
On the other days Amy has a protein shake and oats for breakfast, an apple for her midmorning snack, chicken breast or fish and vegetables for lunch, a protein bar as an afternoon snack with the same for dinner as lunch and a protein shake before she goes to bed.
Amy spoke about her favourite food, setting up her Instagram page and how it has helped her on the road to recovery.
“Definitely burgers – they are fun to build, fun to eat, fun to take photos of. You also get a bit of everything in a large burger – I like to pack a bit of everything in, fried chicken, beef, cheese, bacon, pulled pork, brisket, you name it. I’m a creative person, and I find burgers are the easiest meals to customise and add things to,” she said.
“Recovering from my eating disorder gave me so much freedom, and strength. My Instagram is a way of celebrating that, celebrating how much I love food, as well as allowing me to showcase my love of food and eating abilities.
“I have also met many awesome people through blogging. I have made a lot of new friends. My Instagram has also become a creative outlet, a fun project I guess. I love creating content, writing in depth reviews, and engaging with people and businesses. It has made me feel more socially connected, and overall happy.
“One of the differences between my page and other food blogs, is that everything I post, I eat and finish. I hate food wastage, so it’s lucky I can eat so much. I don’t order things that I can’t finish, because I value food and hate leaving any.
“I only do food challenges that I think are achievable, and if I go past the time limit, I still sit and finish, because someone has worked hard to cook that food. I also often finish other people’s food if they can’t – when going out with a group for food, my role is usually the one who finishes everything and makes sure nothing is left behind.”
Finally, Amy shared her words of advice to others.
“My friends and family are usually quite shocked about how different my relationship with food is now compared with a few years ago, but they are all proud of my progress,” she said.
“It’s possible. Possible to enjoy all the foods you love and more, while keeping fit and healthy.
“Food is fuel, and once you start eating more, exercise becomes fun and the feeling of gaining strength is amazing.
“Recovery is worth it and can come in many different forms.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/queenofthecheatmeal