My therapist helped me understand myself today. Again. She is brilliant and helping me to become who I want to be.
Food has been a tough issue for me, for as long as I can remember. I asked my therapist if it was time to tackle this problem, if my other issues were small enough to focus on a whole different part of me. She said yes.
So we went back today, over years and years of disordered eating, using food as comfort, abusing myself with near anorexia, controlling food when I could control nothing else, obsessive compulsive overeating. I want to document our discussion, partly to help me remember, so I can review this, and partly to help other women out there who may stumble across this.
I’m really excited to journal this, but first I have to make a sandwich. (yes I’m being funny, but truly, one of my problems is forgetting to eat at the right times)
This journey starts with a very little girl with health issues. I was on heavy doses of steroids for years, causing my cheeks and tummy to puff out round like a chipmunk. My A-hole psychopathic abusive father liked to tease me about this, calling me every name from butterball to fatass. Now I was never obese, but always a bit round and pudgy. My mom taught me not to pick clothes for what I liked, but to make sure it hid my belly. My mom also taught 8 yr old me to suck in my belly, been doing that since 4th grade too. My mom has her own issues with food and weight, and I am determined not to still have them at her age. I’m not giving up. I want to be healthy.
This young elementary time was full of trouble and chaos and ugliness. But one constant was that every night after dinner, dad took us kids to the convenient store to pick out that night’s treats. It would be a few bags of chips and dip, maybe some cheese puffs, maybe ice cream, often donuts and always gallons of soda to wash it down. You get the idea. The family that never went to museums or the movies, or took vacations, one thing we id together was pig out on junk practically every night while we watched TV. I remember watching Bill Cosby, Remington Steele, A-Team, and Soap. No, no kid shows, just primetime adult junk to go with the junk food. I would settle into my throne – my dad’s lap – and enjoy the family time. One year we got an atari or coleco, and the evenings would pass with game time too. But always the junk food, and never a restriction to us kids that we may have had enough, and never a warning that it was bad for us.
My mom was also a firm believer in cleaning your plate at dinner to get that special treat later. So I learned to eat past being full at dinner, and then to follow that with huge amounts of sugar. My dad, I now see, also used sugar to ‘show his love for our special relationship’. I always had new candies and sweets from him. He would bring it home just for me, and say to keep it secret so my brothers didn’t get any. Sometimes I shared, but usually I didn’t. I kept my stash in my room and ate my candy alone, often in my closet to make sure no one saw me. Even as I type that, I am astonished at how unhealthy that was, and how similiar my night binging after kids are in bed is – See I told you this was brilliant.
Then puberty hit, and I tried to stop mother nature from making me curvy. I stopped eating so much. I controlled my hunger. I did extra tummy crunches. I lifted weights. I did squats while brushing my teeth. I fidgeted all the time to keep the calories burning. I stopped eating all day long, so I could still pig out when I wanted. So I learned to starve and binge. The overeating felt so good after not eating all day.
Then on to high school. After my parents divorced, I was no longer a child. I was expected to work and pay my own way, including food. Dad had food in the house, but I was on my own for breakfast and lunch. Some of this was because he wanted it that way, but mostly it was because I wanted it that way. I didn’t want to feel obligated to my dad. I wanted to be an adult and go to college to get away from him. And money had become such an issue in the divorce, I tried not to ask for any from either parent.
I weighed less in high school than I did in middle school, because of the irrational way I rationed my food. I would allow myself 1 item to eat for the entire day. It could have been an apple, a pack of crackers, a candy bar, a taco. It didn’t matter what it was, just that I only ate 1 thing. (sounds so crazy now!) People complimented me and told me I was beautiful. I knew I was on the right track. I started going to art class during my lunch period to avoid looking at food. I filled my day with activities to keep me busy and away from food. I weighed myself several times a day. If I gained a pound, I would only allow myself water until that pound came back off.
By my senior year, I restricted my diet even further, not allowing junk food ever, and still only eating 1 item a day. I got sick and weak, even got mononucleosis. I was pale and frail, but I thought I looked pudgy and hated my stomach and thighs. I had stretch marks from losing weight. NO ONE ever told me to eat! NO Adult in my life ever thought to see what I ate. NO one knew the pain I had in side me. I was so weak I could barely carry my books home, but I felt so strong for conquering food.
So when I started dating my husband, he took me out to nice restaurants, and made me home-cooked meals – with amazing food. And we ate. And we ate. I had never eaten a burger until I met him. And it took a few years of watching him eat them with joy for me to try one. I gained 20 pounds the first year of dating him. I exercised that away so I could continue to eat. This worked until the depression hit me, and the years of antidepressants – Effexor helped me, but I gained 60 pounds while on it. While depressed, I ate mostly sugar, bags and bags of candy. And I barely moved, just a lump on the couch. It was terrible. I hated myself.
I decided to get healthy before getting pregnant. I went extreme again with 1st pregnancy. I ate no junk food at all the entire 9 months, and made all of my own foods from scratch. NO ice cream for me. I was determined no chemicals would get to my baby. I lost so much weight while pregnant, they sent me to nutrition classes and gave me free food – WIC. Somehow I had a healthy baby, but continued to lose weight during the postpartum depression. I could barely make enough milk for baby, that was when I started to eat again. I was not going to give my baby formula – I’d feel like a failure. (are you getting how hard I am on myself?) But opening the gates released the flood, and I went right back to overeating and bingeing. But having no car at that time, I walked everywhere and stayed thin until baby 2. I no longer controlled my eating at all. I was so stressed I went back to candy to help me feel better.
The weight went back on.
So I’ve been up and down with each pregnancy, 30 pounds over weight, or 30 pounds under-weight. Never just a healthy middle. I am currently about 10 pounds overweight according to BMI and doctors. I don’t know anymore. I feel huge. I feel squishy and weak. My stomach is a nightmare of stretch marks and c-section scars. I am afraid to tackle it again, and lose control and go too far. But I’m afraid of the long term effect of all this sugar. I still use night time junk food as a comforting crutch, a way to relax from the day. And now I know I also do it to rekindle the only happy memories of childhood. What a mess.
So how do you give up control, and listen to your body, stop eating when you are full, but also eat when are hungry? I have never listened to these cues and I don’t know how to reconnect with that part of me.
But I am positive that the night time snacking will not be so sweet now that I will think of my dad with each bite. I think I may be cured.
- Cake and Wii (fromchubbytoskinny.wordpress.com)
- 5 Ways To Be Healthy When You Order Junk Food (fitnesstroop.com)
- Stop eating CRAP! (joemartinfitness.com)
- week one summary: eating healthy (mbhealthystudents.wordpress.com)
- Eating disorders from our perspective… (thinkingforourselves.wordpress.com)
- Craving Control (bodychangewellness.wordpress.com)