When I went back to Group and found I had to sign up for a new membership. I filled in the basics – height, age, to my knowledge not a breastfeeding mother – and got ready to weigh.
Not so fast there, bucko. Take a seat on the couch.
See, on the back of this slip was a series of questions designed to help my Leader understand why I wanted to lose weight and what my goals were. The answers to these questions, oddly, I gladly share online, but I would no sooner tell someone I had to face every week than I would dance naked on the lawn.
Brace yourself, this is about to get heavy. (Great pun, right? I’m oddly proud.)
Well, not exactly. In fact, I hate food. And I love food. And I hate food. We don’t have a great relationship. It’s often tempestuous and sometimes, I get sick of it. Literally. But if I told my Leader this, I wouldn’t be allowed to come to Group because no weight loss group will accept someone with an eating disorder. It doesn’t matter that the disorder manifests itself in weight gain as much as weight loss. It doesn’t matter that you’re here to gain a healthy relationship. So I keep all of that to myself.
The fact is that I’m happy. I enjoy my job, I have fantastic friends, a wonderful boyfriend, a hugely supportive family, a mountain of books, and a cat who doesn’t love me half as much I love him. In short, I have all the things one could hope to have in life. My relationship with food has improved because my relationship with myself has improved. I’m loved and I allow myself to love me too. So I no longer eat until I’m sick and I try not to not eat until I’m sick either.
This story is gross. And I mean gross – we’re talking rock bottom and vomit. If you’ve no desire to subject yourself to it, skip it and join me in the section below. It’s about health and happiness and the road to recovery and I think you’ll enjoy it.
So now that we’re alone, I’ll tell you about the October of 2012. During my first year of university, amazingly, I had lost two stone, but over the summer, I had slowly started to gain it back. It had been a hard month and between October and February, I tend to gain weight. I mean, we all do – a lot of festivities fall in this period regardless of your religion or background – but I find it hard to lose during these months. This October, I was going to change that and my diet became a probiotic yogurt, a vitamin pill, an apple, and as much water as needed to feel full. That was all I ate every day for ten days and I was losing weight, so I considered this a success; I considered myself happy. I took a photograph that day that sums this up nicely:
I went to London with a friend (M) and suddenly, there were eyes on me. Someone was watching my eating habits. Not consciously – he wasn’t policing them – but I had to eat like a normal person, or at least like I usually do because this wasn’t something I wished to discuss with anyone.
I ate a slice of mushroom pizza, a small pot of Ben&Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, my usual apple, a small yogurt, and I drank a 500ml bottle of Fanta. My stomach was unused to this and protested. Can’t say I blame it.
So a couple of hours later, we arrived home by bus and I wasn’t feeling tickety-boo. In fact, I knew I was about to throw up. I attempted to find a bathroom, but they’d been locked for the night so I was forced to swallow it.
We boarded our last bus from the capital city to our little town. It takes about an hour and halfway through, I went white. My teeth were chattering, my hands were shaking. M, sat beside me, realised I wasn’t “dramatising”, that I was genuinely very ill. I felt my stomach heave and pressed the “stop” button, stumbling out, M in tow, into the darkness with absolutely no idea where I was or how I was going to cover the 10 miles between this stop and my house. I vomited quite profusely. I vomited until I was sobbing, until I thought there could be nothing left inside me.
I’m not keen to repeat this experience. It turns out I have too much self-respect.
Health, Happiness, and the Road to Recovery
I rocked my body that October, shook it to its very core, in fact. I have tested its limits and tried not to let those limits test me. There have been some hairy moments. Taking a lecture on the importance of breakfast from a teacher who told me that if I bothered to eat it, I might not eat so many Mars Bars resulted in being unable to eat for the rest of the day, causing a screaming fight between me and the girls I met for lunch. And come to think of it, I never did report her. I sincerely hope she’s not doing this still.
Sitting across a table from someone who reminded me of the fact that I was overweight in the middle of a birthday dinner resulted in three days of a starvation diet before I remembered what had happened last time and forced myself to have a bowl of porridge with that banana.
And on the flip side, I have had a bad day and made and eaten a whole trifle.
What I’m trying to say here is that it’s a long, hard slug of a battle, but I got here. I got to the point where I have enough respect and love for myself that I don’t want to hurt myself like that anymore.
It means I’m careful with my portions. Occasionally, I eat too much. We all have that post-festivity slump during which we can’t get up off the chair, but I’m trying to be reasonable. I serve myself what I think I can eat comfortably.
Of course, there’s still an issue. I serve myself small portions so that people do not equate my size with greed. Sometimes, this means leaving a table hungry because I have served myself too small a portion and I’m too afraid to serve myself seconds. I tell myself this will teach me to be fat, but I’ve realised this, too, is punishment through deprivation.
Ultimately, it’s a journey. I hope to one day be comfortable enough to serve myself a meal in company and eat until I am comfortable without it feeling like a fluke. One day, I would like to stop eating alone, and stuffing myself with crap in private after being too ashamed of my eating habits to have a second portion of broccoli amongst friends.
Which brings us nicely to…
Why Am I Losing Weight?
I think I wrote, “Because I want to.”
What I meant was, “Because I’m tired.” I’m tired physically, but I’m also tired of hating my poor body, of eating until I feel sick or starving until I stuff my face. I’m tired of hating food and thinking it my enemy. I’m tired of projecting my own hate for my body onto other people’s perception of me.
What Are My Goals?
I have a large frame, but I should be pretty narrow up-top. This isn’t that classic Cartman line about being big-boned, it’s just a fact. I have an expansive rib cage, what should be a tiny waist, and enormous hips. Those of you familiar with tropes may recall “Hartman Hips” on cartoon females, usually middle-aged mothers? That’s me. You cannot “pinch an inch” on my hips. They’re what the Tudors would have looked for in a wife – sturdy hips, good for bearing sturdy sons. What I’m saying is that I will never be wearing size 12 skinny jeans.
But the goal is to have healthier skin, fluffier hair, twinkly eyes, and a waist again. The goal is not to feel like a little blonde lump of lard. The goal is to ultimately gain a healthy relationship with food, by understanding its worth and creating a lifetstyle I can live with. Yes, by all means, have the Milkybar buttons, but don’t eat 600g of them.
The goal is to acknowledge that food is not the enemy; the enemy is my perception of it.