(Trigger Warning: Eating disorders, disordered eating, weight)
Why is food always a constant battle of enjoyment and guilt? As someone who enjoys cooking and sampling different flavours, how can one of the most important and best things in life feel like such an enemy?
I would like to address my own issues with food and highlight other examples as I know my experiences are very different to others. I hope this can help someone or make someone feel less alone with eating problems. For me, there have been multiple factors that have disrupted my food patterns i.e., health problems, high school bullying, general mental wellbeing and a loving parent who perhaps takes too much of a concern in what I eat.
Since birth, I have struggled with a condition called VACTERL syndrome, which is a birth defect that affects three or more things in your body. Each letter represents something. I have the C which is cardiology issues, R which is renal (only one kidney) and L which is limbs as I was born missing my thumbs; but that’s a whole other article.
My kidney has been the bane of my life, forever giving me horrendous kidney infections which affects my appetite for days. As a child, I had to be fed through a tube as I was becoming so thin and frail. This kidney still flares up at least twice a year, and these episodes can affect my eating for weeks. As my health problems did eventually begin to stabilise themselves, something else would affect my eating.
I noticed that my dad and my younger sister had my dads genetic of being tall and slim, whilst I had my mother’s more ‘built’ body. My mother was never the ‘slimmest’ and I suppose my dad worried that I was going to be like her. My mother was no less beautiful because of her size, and she was no less of a human being, but her cancer was ‘deeply affected’ and this concerned my dad. Even with my younger sister, he would always be over cautious of what we ate, but a lot of the time, the way he said these things would be hurtful.
Once we went to a wetsuit shop when we went surfing, and he’d joked to the shop keeper on how I was more ‘stocky’ than my sister. This was hurtful of course, but something I had gotten used to as I was a different body shape to my dad and my sister. Through primary school, I was bullied for various reasons, but my ‘chubby’ thighs were a target.
Looking back now, I was nowhere near how they’d describe me, but you learn to believe what is said about you. The biggest problem was soon around the corner. High school. A place where every past trauma/hormonal feeing had collided together, leaving me with no appetite whatsoever. I would punish myself for the way other pupils treated me, by either not eating, or throwing up after every meal. Due to my body type, I never lost my weight on my legs, and it wasn’t until a family do to which I had to wear a tight-ish dress that my stomach and waistline that were suffering.
My ribs were on full show but for the first time, I felt happy with how I looked. It was so unhealthy and awful what I was doing but in my head I thought it was the best. However, I still labelled myself as ‘fat’ because my uniform had no shape to it, so all you could see were my thighs, which I hated so much.
In college, I finally settled with myself and realised my thighs were fine the way they were, and I began to feel more confident, but I still wasn’t eating properly. My meals consisted of coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes and the occasional Wetherspoons’ pizza once a week.
I assumed that the diet had worked in high school so college will be fine. Wrong. I never had energy and the energy drinks were starting to give me shakes and panic attacks. I knew I had to eat more. It was difficult at the start, still rushing to the bathroom to be sick etc, but eventually I slowly came to a sensible routine. I then started a incredibly toxic relationship which impacted my eating for a while. He wanted me to put weight on and would constantly feed me unhealthy food as he thought it would make me ‘more attractive’.
My dad noticed this, and the hurtful comments came again. Towards the end of the relationship, I was back to either not eating or throwing up after meals as it was my only release of pain. After the relationship ended, I was back to a steady eating routine, and the weight came off again.Nowadays, much to my dad’s disagreement, I do try to keep to a steady routine but lockdown has not helped my case, and neither has being able to drive.
However, I have learnt to love my body type and finding room for walks to keep myself exercised has helped a lot too. I realise that the way my body looks doesn’t matter too much as I have no need to listen to the hurtful comments. I know other people either have the complete opposite story and I apologise to anyone who feels a difficult way towards their weight. You are all beautiful no matter what and the size of your legs/waist does not define the way you are towards people.