It’s hard to explain 27 years of being messed up with food, I’d love to say I don’t know why I am the way I am but I do. I’m smart enough to understand the psychology behind what I do but I’ve never been bothered by it enough to change it. It’s always been a fall back, a quick solution to not feeling great about myself. Far less effort than putting the work in on a healthy diet and changing the way I see food. But I’m going to try to put it down into words not for you but for me because it’s only once you fully understand something that you can begin to change it and, well, at nearly 28 it’s a bit ridiculous that food still stresses me out as much as it does.
So the history is fairly simple to understand, my dad and myself always struggled with our weight so I’d been on diets with him since before I can even remember. One time I was about 12 we did the special k diet which was 2 meals as cereal each day, I think after about week I was so malnourished I was in bed with the shakes. When I was about 14 Dad created his own weight loss website, created a plan for me from it and everything. They never pressurised me to lose weight but they were always super happy when I did. The website didn’t last long, he got sued by sa big weight loss company, but now my dad was a pro on diets and always trying to chip in with advice. Even now I get unjustifiably annoyed when he tells me about his weight loss or diets. During all this Mum started having her own weird relationship with food. She used to be the same size as me a 14 we would share outfits all the time, but she got ill one Christmas and just went off food. Lost a lot of weight by just not eating and dropped to a size 8. She will watch you eat dinner while picking at a bit of chicken, offer you snack after snack while she just nibbles on grapes. You’d think her having her own issues she’d have spotted them in me but it’s amazing what you can choose not to see when you want to.
It didn’t start as an accident it was a conscious decision. I’d been bullied for years, it got especially bad when I was 15 turning physical and just getting really mean and all it was focused on was my weight. Since I’d ben on diet after diet and I couldn’t stick to, I just kind of banned myself from food. If you can’t choose the right food then you don’t get to choose any food kind of thing. I knew it was anorexic behaviour, I had had a conversation with a friend saying I knew I’d get to a point where I lost the weight but would be so lost in the method I’d take it too far and he needed to tell me when that was. So I lost a lot of weight, in the space of one summer I went from 14 stone to 11 stone. I turned back up to school for year 11 and I was unrecognizable, people genuinely queued at my form door to see how different I looked. It was the first time I’d felt attractive. The bullying stopped, people were kind to me, I got invited to more parties and I had attention from boys for the first time ever.
You’d think I kept going not eating but I didn’t really, I would be normal for a week then not eat for a week. Its a trust thing; I never trusted myself to make the right choices I would either eat whatever I wanted or nothing at all. So I stayed that weight for a few years until I broke my ankle and gained most of it back, then I was at Uni and swimming and happy and it sort of went away a bit, I’d still periodically stop eating, lose weight, start eating again and gain it back, but I was in a weird category of being an overweight person with mild anorexia so nobody said anything and my friends from school that knew weren’t around as much. That’s pretty much when the bulimia kicked in. I wasn’t at home for my parents to hear, my Uni friends didn’t know, it was just easy...I could eat what I wanted and throw it back up so it didn’t really count. Another way to avoid having to make the right choices. And again another conscious decision to do things the easy way.
In the years after Uni it settled down and flared up depending on my emotional state and how I felt about myself. It peaked during my teacher training with the stress, where once again I stopped eating and if I did eat I threw it back up, this coupled with depression put me in a pretty bad place, I lost 2 stone in a month before I went to the doctor for help, about the depression not the food because that was a decision I’d made not an issue I had, obviously.
When I got better from the depression I got a bit better with food too I went travelling and no one really questioned when I dropped to 2 meals a day to save money, or didn’t eat one day. There was nobody around to say anything and I’d rather spend my money on doing things. When I got back from travelling a weird thing started happening when I dated people. I’d start getting super self conscious and not eat around them or become highly bulimic so that i could “look good for them" it had happened before in the early days but not in years. I tried to confide in one boyfriend I’d had but he didn’t seem like he wanted to know and I wasn’t going to force him to listen so it just became a me thing. If I ever tell my friend I'm back in those habits I get a tirade of abuse and I know it’s because she cares but it’s not as simple as just don’t do it. I’ve been doing this for so long now it’s a habit and it’s embedded in me.
When I used to eat a takeaway it was always with the understanding the calories didn’t count because I’d purge them. And that full feeling was always followed by purging too so I never had to deal with the feelings of guilt attached to my overeating. Its a form of losing control and gaining control. I self punish by banning myself from food when I make bad choices surrounding it, and then I punish again by making myself purge when I slip up. If I actually accept the full feeling and dealt with it that would serve as the reminder not to do it again.
When I decided I wanted to conquer it I realised how twisted my thinking had become. Last summer I spoke to a therapist for a few weeks mostly about relationships but we got on to food too and it made me realise I don’t want to do this forever. I walk into a supermarket and I’m overwhelmed by all the choices I have to make. Healthy food unhealthy food, vegan, gluten free, plastic. It stresses me out so much I avoid it. I shop once a month usually, which is not Ok. Restaurants stress me out, what do I eat, how bad am I going to feel if I eat a starter and a main, will I be able to purge when I get home, do I even want to.
So I guess that’s everything: I have an eating disorder because my parents have a messed up relationship with food and only 1 person ever really told me it was wrong. I thought I was too clever to fall into the pit of losing too much weight but I didn’t realise all the other effects it would have on me in the long term or I might have made a different decision. And now I purge and restrict to get rid of the guilt of eating the wrong food and punish myself for making bad choices, except I now have to deal with the guilt of doing that.