My Incredibly Long Food Story
You know those movies where multiple story lines are going all at once that seem completely unconnected but slowly come together in some huge climactic culmination? I love those kinds of movies, I think perhaps because they remind me so much of my own life.
How can a movie with multiple characters remind me of my life, you ask? No, I do not have split personality disorder. But think about it for a moment… There are so many aspects to our lives, so many roles we play, so many hats we put on that we end up playing many different characters within this one lifetime: child, sibling, spouse, adult, teenager, friend, enemy and so forth. We are playing multiple parts at any given time. Look at the person whose career is skyrocketing while his homelife is failing. Or the one who seems to have a plethora of friends and family but no time for a career, or their health? Doesn’t it sometimes feels like so many parts of us are going in opposite directions and we just need them to come together, but have no idea if or when that will ever happen?
That is how I am beginning to feel, or have felt for a long time. I’ve been very aware of the various hats I try to fill and how I only manage to get them about half way until I’m pulled in another direction, never feeling like I’ve really done a great job with any of them. And now I’ve become aware of another aspect of my life…the aspect that isn’t even a role per say, but greatly influences how I perform every single character I become.
I know it sounds a little ridiculous. My food life? As if food could have its own story in what I call my life; but I’ve come to realize it does, and a startlingly big one too. And I think any one who’s ever struggled with weight or food issues, (I’m guessing this includes the majority of all women in Western cultures and many men nowadays) could probably relate.
And that is why I’m going to share my food story with you now. I don’t even fully know what it is, but it is something I’ve been encouraged to write down as part of my journey to self discovery (corny, yes, but if I wrote what it really was half of you would think I’m crazy, and the rest would say, oh yeah, there’s RJ spouting off her new life philosophies again). I was encouraged to write it just for myself, one of those healing rituals where the simple act of getting it out into the open will be enough to heal. But I came to the realization that, if practically 99.9% of all women (okay, I’ll be sexist here because I really don’t know the male point of view on this and hell, this is MY story, okay? That means I can say what I want) struggle with their weight or food or their body image, even at some time in their lives, maybe there’d be something in my story that could help, that they could relate to. Because I know for sure, being caught up in destructive behavior is so much worse when you feel you are completely alone. The moment you realize there are other people who have had similar experiences, a door seems to open up and you can let out some of the crazy. Kind of like when you’re trapped at the bottom of a dark, deep well and think there is no one else who knows you’re wallowing in a pit of your own craziness, until a voice calls down from the top and lets you know you’re not alone. They may not have saved you, yet, but knowing someone else sees you, is enough to give you hope.
Not that I am so full of myself that I am inspiring others and giving them reasons to live, I’m just saying that knowing I’m not the only one going through what I have gone through has helped me overcome many things. And I have been fortunate enough to have had a great deal of help in the past to work on these issues so maybe I should try and share the wealth…or the wisdom…or whatever the hell is in the following paragraphs.
Oh, and just a disclaimer: there are a great deal of upcoming paragraphs. You may want to save this for later, or go get a coffee, or just give up entirely and find some blog that gives you a list of ten foods not to eat, or ten ways to love yourself, or all the other numbered ways to do something so prolific in blogs these days.
So, I’ve practically written an entire post on my introduction alone. I haven’t even started on the story. Maybe this will have to be a two or three part series, because I know everyone would love to read multiple blog posts about me and food…
Yeah, yeah, stop stalling and get started.
To begin, I must explain that my food story is directly linked to my body image story, as one directly impacts the other. So I will just continue on as is, with the both of them completely interlinked and pretend I didn’t lure you into some delightfully delicious blog about food when it is really about my self esteem and all that other crap.
I’m not sure when it all started. And by “it” I mean, when I started seeing myself as bigger than the rest of the kids. I would say ballet, of course it has to start with ballet doesn’t it? The very nature of dance is not exactly conducive to a positive body image. In those tight little leotards, nothing can hide. At a very young age, I ran around in a class of other girls my age, in a tight little leotard in a room surrounded by mirrors and all I could see was that sway back of mine (by sway back I mean hypercurvature of the low back) that ended in a “bubble butt” out the back (as was the general term for it called out by anyone trying to make me feel bad) and a rounded belly out the front. It didn’t help that my best friend at the time was in that same class to add the extreme of comparison: On the top of the scale there was me, a slightly larger seven-year-old who had not yet discovered proper posture (specifically, sucking in that gut) and at the bottom was her, a dainty, petite little thing barely bigger than a toddler (yes, I exaggerate, but I reiterate…this is MY story!).
My ballet career was short-lived, but it was representative of what was to become my elementary and middle school life. I was the larger girl with the big butt and belly, who was taller than everyone else. At least people had the decency to call me big boned, as I wasn’t fat, just, bigger than most (Childhood obesity had not latched on in my day as it has now). My bigger size (probably due to those extra large bones of mine!) continued until it rolled into extra early puberty, like, so early that I had no idea it had happened until I looked down in grade three and saw boobs; full-sized, real-life boobs, right there on my chest barely hidden by a loose fitting tank top, so that everyone could see them if I so much as leaned forward. I still prickle in humiliation every time I think of it.
But I must rewind a bit, back to my ballerina days and the friend I made there. She was the only friend I really had, but she was also really, really tiny. Like, if I was getting abnormally large and going thrugh puberty way, way too soon, she was lagging behind. So that when we went to the movies, I had to bring my birth certificate to not be charged the teen rate when I was ten years old and she still looked like a seven-year-old. She was so small, when we hung out together, I was often asked if I was her babysitter, or I was made fun of for covering myself up because why should I be covering my boobs when no one else had any…except me! When the boys at school were calling me a “volkswagon with lots of curves” in grade five because my boobs were already a C-cup, I just wanted to be tiny and dainty like her. And yet, out of everyone, she never, ever mentioned my size. Unless it was to stick up for me, then she always had something good to say. I always felt huge alongside her, but that was my issue. Never once did she every make me feel that way. So already, at seven-years-old, I was so hyper away of my size and it only got worse.
Now, this has nothing to do with food you say! But yes, it does. That tummy in ballet came from a love of food. Yes, the boobs would have come no matter what, but I doubt they would have been as big if I didn’t enjoy very full portion sizes, I am sure. Even as a young kid, I was hyper aware that I had a rather large appetite. I always ate more than my friends. When I was at a friend’s house, I was that kid that was always asking for snacks because their parents bought junk food and packaged cookies. My mom bought nothing like that. It was an obsession; I wanted sweets all. the. time.
We did have sweets, don’t get me wrong. My mom baked. But never the good stuff, not really. Everything had to be healthy. Zucchini chocolate cake, whole wheat bread, trail mix cookies, and so forth. And that was her thing and that is fine ,she wanted to the do the best she could by us and in her way, her best was healthy, home baked/cooked food.
The problem was, I wanted more. I wanted the soft, greasy cookies that made your fingers and face shine. I wanted the rice krispee squares that stretched between your hands they were so gooey, not like the hard ones we had that cut the roof of your mouth. I wanted the fat off the pork chops and more ice cream than pie. I loved food and so I learned how to make what I loved. I made cookies, more to eat the dough than the cookie and by the time I came around to pulling them out of the oven, I was so sick I could hardly stomach the sight of them. And yet, I still did. I could get myself so sick on cookie dough I wanted to puke, but then still eat three, four or five cookies when they came out of the oven. And then, once they were made, I could not leave them alone. If there was a baked good in the house, I had to eat it, no matter what.
We ate fast in our house too, which only made it worse. I never learned to savor food, I inhaled it. Which meant I wasn’t satisfied because I loved food so much, so I needed more of it. I still remember one day my dad had asked me if I wanted a hotdog or a hamburger. I think I asked for a hot dog, and when he gave it to me, he told me he’d make me more if it wasn’t enough. Well, of course it wasn’t enough, so when I was done I’d asked for a hamburger too. He snapped. Not too bad or anything, but enough for me to know I should not have asked for another hamburger. Later on, I heard him talking to my mom and telling her how I’d asked for more food. He said, “She’s not fat now, but if she keeps going like that, she’s going to be.”
I have never forgotten those words. Not that they reduced my appetite or caused me to eat less food. They just made me feel terribly, horribly ashamed of wanting more all the time.
Regardless, I kept eating but just wished I didn’t want to eat so much. But I couldn’t help it. And for some reason, I was always attracted to food outside of my own house. If there was a bakesale at school, I was searching the house for coins, anything to buy something. We were rarely given money for hot lunch, but I would search the house on order day at school and whenever I was able to come up with enough to buy something, I was in heaven. I envied the kids whose parents bought them punchcards, unlimited hot lunches. I still remember sitting at the table, watching a little kid in my class order three hot dogs, two Dixie cups and a hot chocolate with his punchcard (and this was grade 1 and that kid was tiny. Which only emphasized what I believed…I was the size I was and there was nothing I could do about it).
Speaking of hot lunch, I’m going to digress to the only time I ever got yelled at in kindergarten, or school in general. Dad had splurged and let us order lunch, well, he let my sister order lunch for the both of us. So not only did I get a hot lunch, but my sister brought it to me. To my class! It was great! When she showed up at the door for me I felt so lucky to have my very own hotdog, chocolate milk and Dixie cup. I was running around the class, telling everyone. Until my teacher found out. You see, it just so happened that that day, the class was providing hot lunch. I don’t know how or why, but somehow I had missed that notice. So there I was, with my own little piece of heaven brought to me by sister, only to discover I had done a horrible thing. The teacher yelled at me. Like, totally went off at me in front of the entire class. And when her hysteria had ended, she made me walk back to my sister’s class and hand back the food. I fought tears the entire time I explained to her why I wasn’t allowed the very special treat I felt so privileged to be given.
I’m assuming I’ve made my point by now, right? I do not need to go on any further to explain that food was a big deal for me and I ate too much of it. Not so much that I was huge, but enough that I’d never been tiny. I grew up with the phrase “big boned” pretty much ingrained into my psyche.
By the time I got to grade seven, I realized it was time to get active. In fact, my father suggested it, telling me it was time I start really exercising, like not just little walks, but long walks, like 5-10 km walks to keep my weight down, to keep me from getting fat. What I had already been doing was not good enough it would seem. So I upped my exercised routine to include long walks, bike rides, and even some runs here and there.
Oh, I forgot to mention that at this point I’d also started babysitting (basically to earn money to buy food. Food and clothes and little trinkets for no reason whatsoever but to make me feel momentarily happy with myself and my life). And I apologize right now to everyone I ever babysat for. I was one of those babysitters that raided the kitchen the moment the kids were in bed. Sometimes before then. And if I happened to start working when the kids were finishing up their dinner, well, I cleaned their plates too. They always had the good food…chicken fingers and fries, kraft dinner, oreos and fruit snacks, name brand chips and ice cream. All the stuff I never got. And, unfortunately for my thickened waistline, all the stuff I could not get into my face quickly enough. The worst was the night I was babysitting while doing the 30-hr famine (back in the day we would get pledges to starve ourselves for 30-hours to raise money for actual starving kids, it was a World Vision thing I think). So I was by myself. Surrounded by good food. And I hadn’t had any supper. So I spent my night eating. I figured, what did it matter if I ate or not, I was still raising money for starving children. Integrity did not ever fit into the equation when I was hungry. I don’t think I even fasted for 6 hours.
Okay, where was I?
Oh yes, middle school and my wonderful mentor who took me to the gym.
Once grade eight hit, I’d managed to even out. I had hit puberty before EVERYONE else, so I’d had my growth spurt before EVERYONE else. I was the tallest kid in my class from grade 2-8. I was the height I am now from grade 5 on. I was probably nearly the weight I am now from that point as well. I was a fully grown adult in elementary school. To get a visual, I was a giant among dwarfs and felt more like the dragon hovering over the Hobbit. It totally sucked.
Anyways, by grade eight, as I mentioned already, I’d started to balance out. But just because the other kids were catching up to me height-wise, I still needed to exercise to balance my eating as I didn’t want to get fat. So a very important woman in my life started taking me to the gym. I am grateful to her every single day because I still go and I feel comfortable there and it’s all because she started me off.
I excelled at the gym (one, because I’m a mesomorph, but also because it was a solitary exercise where I didn’t have to rely on anyone to go). I worked out every day because I had nothing else to do (yes, other people had friends. I was oblivious to the fact that you might hang out with friends after school. I went to the gym and went home.) Once track started, I would go to track, then to the gym, then home, or go to track then go for super long bike rides. I didn’t do it as much because I loved it, but what else was I going to do? I was bored. We had no good TV, I hated being at home anyways, and as I was “big boned,” I needed to exercise. The problem was, the exercise didn’t make me any smaller, just stronger. Maybe a bit ripped too, but I was so screwed up, I had no concept of being ripped. I just felt big.
Oh, but I did discover I had a six pack one day. I was floored! A six-pack! I went running to my dad and said, hey, look, I have a six-pack! (yes, I had no one else to tell but my dad, so be it.) I thought he’d be as excited as me considering he was the one who was telling me to lose weight and exercise in the first place. But his reply was, “Have you ever heard of narcissism?”
Ah…well…yes, I had. I just thought that narcissism applied only to those girls who were totally into make-up, and hair, and clothes. You know, the pretty, popular girls. Not me. I guess I had to redefine that term. Either way, I learned my lesson. Do not care about your appearance. But don’t get fat, stay in shape, just don’t point it out? Was that what I was supposed to do?
While all this was happening, I was retreating further and further into myself. I had the worst case of acne imaginable, like, so bad I did not want anyone to look at me. I was one of those kids whose lives was saved by Accutane. I know it’s got a bad rep now, but my god, whatever side effects I had to live through were worth it just to be able to look in the mirror (hey, do they have accutane for dark under-eye circles? Cause I could really use some…or just like what I see in the mirror. Which is coming, eventually….)
Now, I had no concept of clothes or style or makeup. Keep this in mind. Nor did I have any idea of calories in and calories out. And I still felt like the biggest girl in school. Yes, everyone was starting to catch up, but only in height, never in weight. By then, I just figured I weighed heavy, like, my bones were denser or something. I looked at my other friends who were several sizes smaller than me and thought that’s just how they were. I had no idea they actually watched what they ate. I had no concept about portion control. I was never satisfied. I went to bed thinking about what I was going to eat in the morning. I ate breakfast, snack, lunch, then I baked whatever I wanted after school, then supper, then snack and it still wasn’t enough. But I had no idea there had to be a limit. I exercised, wasn’t that good enough? And even if I had paid attention, I doubt anything have been good enough if I didn’t love the body I was feeding. More on that later.
See how I’m trying to hook you to keep reading? This has become the novel of blog posts and for that, I apologize. But this is my sanity we’re talking about here. This is what is necessary for me to truly live happy and healthy, so bear with me. Or just take a break, do something else, and come back. I’ll still be here.
Anyways, while I was exercising myself into a frenzy, and eating to make up for it, my sister was doing the exact opposite. Although, maybe I shouldn’t go there, maybe that is her story and not mine and I am not at liberty to share it. So I won’t. Lets just say she was way skinnier than me. I couldn’t fit into her clothes, at least, not most of the time. She knew what make up was and had way more style. I wanted to wear her stuff all the time. And she did lend it often enough, she did help me out and fixed my hair for pictures and gave me tips and covered up my zits. But she also was afraid of me, I think. Or afraid of becoming like me. In one way, she hated me for I was exactly what she feared – fat. Or, her version of fat. I know this because one day we’d gotten into a huge fight and she’d been so mean to me, like, horrible, awful mean and I had been mean back because I couldn’t handle it anymore. After I’d said my part and left the room, I heard my mom say to my sister, “Why do you hate her so much?” The reply was, “Because I don’t want to be fat like her.”
(This is in the past, by the way, I hold nothing against my sister. Trust me, I grew up in the same house as her and witnessed the struggles. This is just essential to my food story, so I needed to add it. Not to bring up some grudge from eons ago, for there is no grudge there.)
More and more, that was how I saw myself, as fat. She only vocalized what was running through my head. I don’t blame her for anything for it was true as far as I was concerned.
In high school I got a job as a lifeguard at the pool, which mean wearing bathing suit all the time. For training I found out some of the guys liked to partner up with me because of my big boobs. And here I thought people liked me for me…I guess I was wrong! Again, as in the tiny leotard in ballet, the swimsuit at the pool never covered up enough either and only emphasized how much bigger I felt than everyone else. It got so bad that I just wanted to know if I was really as fat as I thought I was, because my head kept telling me I was huge but I never really saw myself as a fat kid, just not skinny. So I even had two friends (two skinny friends, of course) stop by to see what I looked like in a bathing suit, to see if I looked as fat as I thought I did because I’d been invited swimming with a boy I liked and I didn’t want to seem fat. Upon inspection, their reply was, “Well, you’re not skinny, but you’re not fat.”
And that is what has defined me my entire life.
Alright. I think that basically sums up my life until University where I chose to pursue kinesiology without eve knowing what it was, only that it involved exercise and health. I think somewhere in my brain I figured, if I took it in school, I would automatically be healthy and in shape. Right? Uh, wrong.
It was in one of my kinesiology classes that I realized how far into the depths I’d gone. I was eating at the cafeteria and not exercising, or, exercising a little bit but not enough to make up for late night pizzas, daily gilled cheese sandwiches, burgers and greasy food. Basically, I had a free pass to eat everything I never got to eat growing up, and for free. Or, so I thought, because I had a food card, didn’t that mean it was free? And by free, I meant, I had some money saved for school and no concept of paying attention to my spending and managed to eat my way through the “healthy” eater plan by January. I guess I wasn’t so healthy…
But it kept going, and going, and going, until I was in a human performance and testing lab in my second year, in line, waiting to be weighed in for one of the sections. The girl in front of me was rather big, not really fat, but definitely hefty. I noticed that she was big because I wondered why she would be that size in a kinesiology class. Wasn’t this all about health and fitness? How could she be so unfit I thought as I waited my turn. I watched as she stepped onto the scale and then called her weight out to the lab instructor. The weight was shockingly light and I thought, really? You’re gonna lie about your weight to a panel of experts? They do this for a living, they have a phd in it. But, whatever, if she wanted to screw up her test results that was her problem. Then it was my turn to step on the scale. The scale that read in kilograms so I didn’t pay much attention to what it was. Until the woman asked me what I weighed and then said, “I’m going to put that down for the other girl too. She looks like she weighs the same as you and not what she said.”
And it hit me like a ton of bricks, or, ha, a ton of me’s. She weighed the same as me? Or she looked like she did? But I’d just finished calling her fat! It wasn’t possible.
That same weekend I needed jeans and they were the highest size I’d ever bought – high enough to be considered plus size. I knew I’d gone too far.
But I had one saving grace. I had just gotten a job at the University gym. My fellow employees were all kinesiology students who were way more aware of health and their bodies than I was, and one of them also had his PhD in nutrition. His help changed everythin for me. For the first time in my life I was paying attention to how much I ate, and holy crap, it was a lot. Thankfully, as an employee of the gym I also got to attend fitness classes for free and had the wonderful opportunity to obtain world class advice and programs from a marathon runner. I just let her help me out, I had no idea the quality of care I was getting until I found out she was sponsored by Addidas and won nearly every race she ran. But again, I was clueless.
So things were looking up. I shed tons of weight and practically lost my apetite. I counted calories and really paid attention to what I could and couldn’t eat. I was working out again and I made some friends in my fellow employees. Friends who were just as into being healthy and eating right as I was. Friends who would also go upstairs and get two chocolate chip oatmeal cookies like me, because “We needed to keep our metabolism up.” Friends who would eat my baking and not scoff at it like some of the other gym goers, scowling and saying, “that will make me fat.” If you can’t eat a cookie once in a while, what was the point of going to the gym? (Right? Oh, you mean I really was the only one who felt that way, or admitted to it? Damn.)
And so began our weekly trip to The Cheesecake Café, where we would eat our dinners and order cheesecake and eat it too. I kept up at this blindly for a long time, thinking we were all on the same page. And yet, they didn’t seem to struggle with their weight as much as I did. I assumed it was because I still ate quite a bit and thought about food all the time. Until they started talking one night after the Cheesecake Café and I found out they were going home to “get rid of it.”
“You puke up your food?” I asked.
“Yeah, do you know how fattening this is?” they replied.
And that folks was a huge turning point in my life. Here were two supposedly healthy, intelligent peers who were much better at managing their weight than I was and I just discovered what gave them their edge. That was how I learned that I could puke up my food. Which meant that I could eat all those foods I loved and enjoyed but not worry about the added calories, because when they came back up again I didn’t have to count their calories. And what was even better, was that I could eat even more of it now that I was puking it up when I was done. No more portion control for me!
Did I mention I was horribly lonely in University? I was not one of those partiers who made friends easily. And by, not make friends easily, I really meant it. I think I made like 4 friends in my entire university career, 4 that I could actually call a friend, and did not end up speaking to 2 of them by the end. Nobody seemed into what I was into, which was going to the movies and working out and, well, I didn’t even really love working out it was just something that had become a part of me. I guess I did love it, I loved the stress relief I got from it. And often, going to the gym would be the only time I actually got out on weekends. So yeah, I guess I loved it. So I found solace in food. And lots of it, but no one would have guessed because I’d discovered the magic pill: puke.
I’m not going to say here how I puked, because I learned a special little trick that works every time from a short story touting the horrors of bulimia. That’s right. The main character described what she did, and instead of taking in the moral of that story (something like puking is bad and self deprecating) I just copied her technique. But it was humiliating and made me sad every time I did it. I remember my boyfriend walking in on me one time when I was puking up my massive bowl of popcorn and I yelled at him. It was our first real fight because I’d told him to “Get the fuck out of here.” Why? Because I was so humiliated to have been caught. I’d been so careful, pretending to have a bath so he wouldn’t hear me over the running water, but the door hadn’t latched so it wasn’t locked and he barged in to find me hacking over the toilet. And so I lashed out at him to hide how ashamed I really was.
I did come up with some excuse for it. Maybe told him how I’d learned it but that I also hated it and wouldn’t do it every again. He took my word for it.
And he took me at my word because I was truthful. I hated puking. Every single time I did it it truly was going to be the last time. But then I’d bake some cookies and be the only one home to eat them, or be stuck at home by myself on a Saturday night with no comfort but food. So I kept at it. Just as an alcoholic cannot resist the drink, I could not resist the food, then the guilt that came with eating it, then the inevitable puking to ease the guilt, then the feelings of shame that came as a result, then the eating to make up for feeling shitty. See how vicious that damn circle of self loathing can get when you puke up your food?
So, when I finished University and moved home, things should have gotten better, but they only got worse. I was miserable back home after university, with no real job or career prospects. My wedding was coming up and I wanted to look good, and I’d gotten a lot of attention for all the weight I’d lost. Like, a lot. So much so that I began to get afraid I wouldn’t be skinny all the time. And I had to be skinny, for that’s what people liked about me. I was getting attention for the first time in my life, or attention that I noticed. I had to stay skinny.
But I was miserable. And I always turned to food when I was lonely and unhappy. So I kept puking. Even though I’d lose like 40 lbs, I couldn’t see myself as thin. No matter how much weight I’d lost, I still felt huge. I could not see myself as I truly was in the mirror. It was so bad I’d play this little game where I’d point out other women to my husband (give or take a few months) and ask if I was bigger or smaller than them, because I truly had no idea. And then when he’d say, yeah, you’re smaller, I wouldn’t believe him. I would only see myself as the big boned girl no matter how much weight I’d lost. And with good reason. My entire social circle was super skinny and I was the biggest out of them all, and I was getting so sick of being the biggest, but I couldn’t stop eating. So I just kept puking. Any time I’d eaten anything bad, I puked it up.
Because food was also a major focal point. I grew up eating and cooking and constantly thinking about food. There were Sunday dinners at mom’s, always with dessert (and a massive piece of whatever it was) and then a discussion around the table about how we never eat like this, or I’ll be bad and eat more, or I cheated on this or that kind of food. As if eating dessert were some kind of crime, some kind of thing to make up for, to atone for. Like we were all at confession just because we were going to eat some dessert. Just eat the damn dessert, I wanted to scream every time!
But I cooked and I baked because that was what I did when I was bored. And I ate the dough and the products I pulled out of the oven, then soon the entire batch would be gone because I couldn’t stop myself. Then I’d have to puke it up and just hope that I’d gotten it all out because what if I got fat again? Oh god, I could not get fat again! This was all I had going for myself!
I even puked on my honeymoon. I swore I wouldn’t. But I ate dessert. Yup, that’s right. Twice (Oh my god, twice! How dare I?!?!) I ate dessert and my fear overcame me so much I was hiding out the bathroom, pretending to be sick from the tour bus when in actuality, I was just fat-sick. Or fear of fat sick.
I kept this up for years, until one day I was so depressed, I was finally able to admit that I needed help. I think it was the depression but maybe more so the fact that blood was now in the toilet bowl every time I puked. I was puking up blood and that scared me.
So I called the health unit because I needed counseling. I asked for someone who specialized in eating disorders because I knew I needed to work this out. I knew this was deep seeded and I really wanted someone to help me dive into all my issues. I wanted to be able to look in a mirror and like what I saw, not see thighs that were too big and flabby arms. I wanted to love myself and I had no idea how to do it alone.
I was so hopeful on the day of my appointment I practically skipped in the door. Finally, I would be free of this beast! Finally I would not have to fear food and fat and the scale. Finally I would learn how to see myself as I really was, not some screwed up body dysmorphic-enlarged creature I faced in the mirror every day.
And then the nurse told me I was just bored. That’s it. That was my problem. I was bored. She then told me about the exercise program she did called Body for Life and how I should just try that. As if I didn’t know about that stupid exercise program, it was all over the place.
But that was all I needed, she’d said. Body for Life and find something to do with myself besides eat and puke.
Well, that sure helped.
My anger at the nurse helped me through for a while. I’d show her, I thought! I’d do it myself and I sure as hell would not use the stupid Body for Life. Why? Because Body for Life limited the food you could eat and I could never limit my food. I could never follow any kind of a diet that gave you a plan because I didn’t want to eat what was on the plan, I wanted to eat what I wanted to eat right then and there.
So, of course, I slipped back into my old ways. Until I got pregnant.
I was smart enough not to puke while pregnant (thank you kinesiology degree!). And I was not one of those who puked while pregnant anyways. Normally, it takes a hell of an illness to make me puke. I think there has been only one time in my life that I puked because I was actually sick (no, drinking not included, that is an entirely other life story that I’m not going to get into here because this one is already too long). So, while pregnancy helped end my bulimia, it did do something else for me; it gave me a free pass to eat whatever I wanted. Because I had to, I could not deprive myself and my child. I had to eat.
And holy shit did I ever eat.
I ate 80 lbs of excess weight. I think I gained like 20 lbs in one month. My doctor actually laughed at me and when I asked him what should I do he just shrugged and said, “Snack on fruits and vegetables.” Oh, you mean, don’t eat those massive caramilk eggs every day? Like the big ones?
Did I mention I was pregnant around Easter time and I love Easter chocolate? And did I bother checking the calorie content of those eggs I was eating? Hell, no! Did I eat enough some days to gain a pound per day? (For those who don’t know, one pound is equal to 3500 calories. So I was eating a surplus of 3500 some days.) Yes! But it was because I was pregnant.
I felt so disgusting that by the time I had my daughter, I was too grossed out by the enormity of my boobs to breast feed.
Yes, that’s right, I did not breast feed because I was ashamed at the size of my boobs. They were huge and every time I looked down at them and her face on them I wanted to cry. I might have cried. I’m sure I cried, I just wouldn’t do it so anyone could see because the nurses were forcing it on me so bad I could not let them see how upset I was. It just wouldn’t work for me. My baby couldn’t latch on and my milk wasn’t there and I’m sure that had everything to do with my revulsion at the sight of my massive boobs and not because my body wasn’t capable. However, I do not regret my decision, (And I mean it. Not for one second because of a whole host of reasons) but I do regret that I hated myself so much that I could not look at my breasts without being so repulsed and ended up listening to my daughter cry until I could get her home and feed her a bottle. I do regret that I didn’t stick up for myself to the nurses and let them bully me into thinking I was doing something wrong. I do regret wasting those first few hours with my daughter in frustration and self loathing.
I spent my childhood being made fun of for my boobs and so was ashamed of them. And that teasing did not end when I got older because any pound I gained seemed to reflect in the size of my chest. Even now, I see how often guy’s eyes stray to my chest and I still want to punch them, for they have no idea how many painful emotions can be stirred up in a glance down south. How much fear and pain and sadness. And now I hear so many girls wanting to get bigger boobs and I wonder, is that too a sign of something else? Would you need them if you loved yourself more? Because I don’t think the size of mine would have mattered if I loved the person behind the breasts.
And again, I am sidetracked. Back to the story at hand…
After my daughter came, I began exercising and eating right to get back to a normal size. And I did that without puking, at least, I think I did. At least until I was not happy with my life again. Until I began to realize I’d again, gone to university and gotten a degree to end up back in this town with no career, and no prospects. And I know some people love being a stay at home mom, but for me, they were the darkest times in my life, because I was not capable of embracing my role as mother. I was not able to look at my life and these beautiful bundles of joy and see how lucky I was. I was only able to see what I hadn’t done and what I could no longer do. I had to sit by with my daughter, trying to make friends with other moms (we’ve already established how badly I suck at making friends) and watch day time television to stave off the boredom, while my husband was free to come and go and build a career, build a life that I felt I could never have.
And so began the eating and the puking all over again.
And I think it continued every single day until I got pregnant again, then it stopped, and came back once more to get rid of the second bout of excess baby weight.
Now, keep in mind, bulimia has never helped me lose weight. Not ever. Yes, I would binge and then purge, but then I would just eat again when I was done. Because even though my stomach was empty, I had not managed to rid myself of the miserable, lonely feeling I carried with me everywhere. And, because the only way I knew to comfort myself was in eating, I’d have to refill my stomach the moment I’d emptied it again. My bulimia just flared up when I was trying to lose weight because what does a diet do? It makes you obsess about food. And what does that do to someone who is in fear of being deprived of food? Make them eat more of it. Then feel fat and gross and horrible. Then puke. Then feel even more gross because of what they’d just done. So they’d go further into depression, which is often masked with food.
That has been the cycle of my life since I first tried purging after my meal at the Cheesecake Café in the year 2000. And fifteen years later I am still struggling with the effects of that path. But I will save that for another day because I think I have overloaded you enough with my sob story.
Oh, keep in mind, I’m not trying to make this some poor me, sob story. I get my life has not really been a struggle, I am not trying to compare this to others who have truly struggled in their lives. I just need to write my own truth and that is that.
To be continued…