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:
- My father commented that “at least she’s not fat like her mother and sister”.
- 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