My relationship with food

Of all the relationships in my life, my one with food is probably one of the most dysfunctional.  It started from when I was a baby, when I was defined as a “fussy eater”.  This warped over time into odd eating behaviours… when my mother used to get us ready for school, I remember we would have breakfast and a prepared lunch; but that only happened for the first couple of years of my schooling, and I was soon going to school without breakfast or lunch.  I don’t remember ever feeling hungry during these times, but I do remember the embarrassment when it was raining and we had to eat our lunch in the classroom… I always pretended that I’d forgotten my lunch.  It wasn’t that we were poor, and couldn’t afford food; I just didn’t know how to make lunch, and I wasn’t really interested.  The couple of times that I did make my lunch, I recall looking at it as an oddity, and as if it was some sort of foreign thing that had arrived out of the blue.  I never felt jealous of my friends who had lunches, only boredom as I waited for them to finish eating.

During my childhood, there were a couple of significant events involving food and my weight that strongly effected me:

  1. My father commented that “at least she’s not fat like her mother and sister”.
  2. My mother would compare myself and her friends daughters regarding our weight.  One time she pushed in my loose t-shirt, to show that I didn’t have a “fat stomach”.

These events dehumanised me, and made me think that if I was overweight, then no one would want to touch me.  That weight would act like a protective barrier against the world.  This thinking became strong during my teens, and I gained weight…  I no longer wanted people to touch me.  But what I didn’t expect, was the teasing and self-hatred that my weight caused.  This is what started the roller-coaster that my weight became – I would lose weight, and feel vulnerable to abuse; so gain weight, and feel disgusting and gross.

When I attended university, my weight issues came to a head.  I couldn’t afford food, and there were stressors which meant that some of my other self-injurious behaviours became out of control.  My weight dropped drastically.  It was the first time that the doctors started weighing me as a way of monitoring what was going on.  As I’d never owned any scales, this was the first time I’d been weighed since I was in school.  I remember being horrified at my weight… it was much too high.  I’ve never had an ideal weight in my mind, but what was being shown on the scale was way above what I thought it should be.  I remember the doctor talking about nutrition, and how I was showing signs of deficiencies.  I remember him talking about having to monitor my weight unless I got it back up to a healthy level.  All I wanted, was to run and hide.

When I finished university, by weight went back to the roller-coaster, mainly dipping when I was going out with someone.  In many ways, I considered eating to be an inconvenience.  People seemed obsessed with it, and I couldn’t understand the obsession.  At other times, I would be eating, and part way through a mouthful of food, become so disgusted with what was in my mouth that I didn’t know what to do with it.  Sometimes I would have to go and get rid of it, sometimes I was frozen in disgust.

During my marriage, food was a control issue… everything else in my life was so out of control, that I had to have some control somewhere.  The ex-husband was a big man, and a big eater.  He liked to think that he was a chef, but in reality, he was a glorified kitchen hand.  He preferred fatty, unhealthy foods.  That, in combination with the memories surrounding the times when my father was a butcher, were the final straw for my brain, and I could no long touch uncooked food.  It became difficult to touch any food, but uncooked meat, was especially difficult.  The feel of it on my skin was stomach churning.  This, combined with feeling that I didn’t deserve good nutrition, again led to more signs of malnutrition… oddly enough I was overweight at this time, but not eating food that had any nutritional value.

During the process of my divorce, the food issues ramped up again.  I soon couldn’t eat at all.  I was surviving on nutritional drinks, and trying to show a smiling face to the world.

Other forms of self-injury have co-existed with my food issues, and often if one of the other forms increases, then the food issues ease off.  It’s seemed like some sort of warped trade-off.  But now, it’s revolving solely around food.

Over the last few months, I’ve lost a fairly significant amount of weight.  But oddly enough, even though I weigh myself every day, with the hope of losing weight, a part of me doesn’t connect the dots between losing weight, and losing dress sizes.  So when I had to go and buy new clothing, there was a panic about going down in size… fears of the abuse starting again resurfaced, and ironically, drove a need for more food control.

I’ve never been diagnosed as having an eating disorder, so I feel a bit of a fake talking about this… but as someone recently told me, you don’t have to be diagnosed with something, in order to have a problem with it.  I have a problem, I’m just not sure how bad it is.

Now playing: Fauré: Cantique De Jean Racine, Op. 11
via FoxyTunes


16 thoughts on “My relationship with food

  1. I have struggles with food as well. I stopped eating meat almost 6 years ago because while passing trays at the hospital I worked at, I saw an over cooked chicken leg and it reminded me of a baby leg. (I was blamed for my mother’s miscarriage and I think that triggered the guilt of thinking I killed a baby.)
    I also have a post called Self Harm Can Come in 32 Flavors and it talks about my battle with what has been diagnosed as binge eating.
    It is an “eating disorder” but I am not bulimic, as I do not vomit or use laxatives. Instead my eating comes up in the middle of the night and I do not remember doing it. We just find the proof the next morning.
    It amazes me on how many food behavior issues abuse survivors seem to have. And it sucks! Come on, eating is necessary, why does it have to be emotionally complex and painful?

    • Hi Sandy,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences too… I’m sorry this is your struggle too though.

      You’re right, it’s amazing how many food issues abuse survivors experience. I’ve been told that the food issues are one of the most common, and complex… it’s tied to self-worth, messages from the past, past abuse, etc. Makes it all so very complicated and confusing.

      You can’t go without food, so to have eating issues of any kind, makes life so much more complicated.

      Take care,

  2. First off, I want to say how proud I am of you for saying that you realize something is wrong even if you’re not sure how bad it is. To me that was huge that you could look at it honestly like that.

    Food is definitely complicated to say the least. And I agree that it can be tied to self-worth. Thinking that we don’t deserve anything good, including food is another way to punish ourselves.

    I’ve read accounts from others who were abused that said how putting on weight made them feel protected because no one would want to touch them. The problem with that of course is making oneself unhealthy in order to prevent something that may never happen.

    In all honesty, from my understanding of abusive thinking, they don’t abuse kids because they think they’re pretty, they do it because in part, they want to hurt someone who can’t fight back. It doesn’t matter what the child looks like.

    I don’t think that it helps to have the media feeding images of what looks good and what doesn’t. What’s important is being healthy and believing that you’re worth it. Again we go back to looking at core beliefs about ourselves and battling programming from childhood.

    You know that I’ve had struggles with my weight and I know that a large part of it is my belief that I have to give people a reason to be around me and that if I’m overweight it’s just one more thing that makes me ugly.

    Do you remember telling me about fighting against things we were told when we were children? You have to listen to yourself here CG. It has to be about taking care of yourself no matter what garbage the people who hurt you told you.

    I don’t know if your librarian mind would want to do research into what a really healthy weight for someone with your height would be? Maybe seeing the range of numbers would help you to look at it from an outside point-of-view of what’s healthy? I don’t know. I hope you can come to believe that you’re worth being taken care of.

    I’m sorry I went longer on this than I should have and started making speeches. 🙂

    • Hi tb,

      Healthy doesn’t matter. It’s all about perception. My perception is that I need to stop eating, it’s not about dress sizes, it’s about disgust with having any food being eaten. It was like this when I saw my husband eat the rubbish he did.

      I can’t even stand the sound of people eating, or being around them eating. It’s too disgusting. Yet I’m drawn to the idea of food, I just can’t handle the reality of it.

      It’s not about what is healthy. That’s meaningless. It’s never been about healthy.

      The only time the images in the media get me, is when I know the people around me buy into them.

      I don’t know, it’s so messed up in my head that I can’t make sense of it.

      I know you’ve struggled with your weight too, and I’m sorry. It’s easy for me to say that “you” are more important than your weight… Your humour, kindness and humanity. But, I know that can seem hollow when the weight stuff gets hold of you.

      Take care,

      • It doesn’t sound hollow. 🙂

        When you explain about the perceptions, I actually understood more about you were saying than I did before.

        My thought for right now is to at least keep nutrients going, even if it’s a protein shake type thing or something (I know you mentioned those during your divorce so I hate suggesting it). That way you can have something for fuel.

        I don’t know if there’s a food that’s special to you, something that always makes you happy no matter what? Is there a “good memory” food? Or is something in the form of a soup better than solid food perhaps?

        • Hi,

          Nutrients are food, and I can’t do that. At the moment there’s a few things I can eat, but they have minimal nutrients in them. I tried soup, and it’s too filling.

          Don’t worry, this will pass. It always does.

          Take care,

            • You know what’s crazy? I knew as soon as I submitted that comment that it came off sounding completely wrong but I couldn’t un-send it. It’s really hard to convey gently teasing affection across the internet isn’t it?

              You absolutely should’ve written about this CG. It’s an extremely valid feeling and everything you feel has a reason and it’s good for you to get it out.

              This post isn’t about me, it’s about you and what’s going on with you right now and I was trying to back off instead of being pushy. Sorry about that.

  3. Food and weight are such difficult issues. I think you’re really brave facing them, and sharing them with us. I have struggled with this on and off just about my whole life too. Part of me is rejoicing with you at your weight loss, yet another part is sad you’re suffering in this way. Like everything, I wish there was an easy solution. I wish I knew the answers. I hope it’s enough that I can stand with you. ((hugs)) if wanted.

  4. It is so interesting that eating issues seem to afect more survivors than not. First there is the body image factor, then there is the personal boundary issue. Also, if parents are dysfunctional and/or abusive, it seems to reason that their abuse would also affect the basicas of life: eating, sleeping, etc. As a parent I kmow parents have to manage the eating of their children. They are responsible for feeding them, making sure they have what they need, and starting their kids off right nutritionally. Neglectful and/or abusive parents often fail at this, or at bare minimum do not make the best choices for their children. If a child is a “fussy eater” and the parents are dysfunctional, it can turn into a nightmare for the kids. Honestly, it does not surprise me that so many survivors have eating issues.

    You are right that you do not have to be actually diagnosed with an Eating Disorder to have eating problems, or “disordered eating.” I have problems with this as well. I think part of dealing with it is discovering where it comes from. Another part is realigning you’re self messages. The first part is not too difficult, but that other part can be a life long issue, although I think it does get better over time. I still really struggle with body image issues, perfection issues, and stress management. These are the things that fuel my issues with eating. It’s all a work in progress, and your openness to acknowledge the issue and it’s complexities within yourself is admirable. It’s a lot of work emotionally.


    • Hi Lothlorien,

      Thank you for the validation and support, I appreciate it.

      You’re right, when there is dysfunction in the household, it’s easy for that to invade different areas of our lives – even the supposed basics like nutrition. There are people who develop eating disorders without that dysfunctional environment, so it’s a complex issue.

      Sorry, I’m reeling from a difficult therapy session yesterday, so I know there’s something more I wanted to say in response to your comment, but I can’t reach it. I hate it when that happens 🙂

      I’m sorry this is your struggle too… It is a lot of work emotionally.

      Take care,

  5. Yes, there are a lot more issues involved, but those came to mind when I was reading your post and thinking of the number of people that are both survivors and have esting issues.

    • Well that is our context as survivors, so I totally understand why you picked up on those ones 🙂 Sorry, I wasn’t meaning to be combative, but to indicate that it’s complex.

      Being human = complexity, so it’s no wonder that something as basic for our survival as food can become an issue for so many. As our lives become faster, more hectic, and seemingly more out of control; food is something that we can control.

      I was told today that my weight loss is great, and that I look so much healthier… which ramps up all of the issues. Such a mess in the head.

      Take care,

Please leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s