MY BATTLE WITH FOOD
noun: eating disorder; plural noun: eating disorders
any of a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits (such as anorexia nervosa).
I didn't really know where to start with this post or how to start. I actually didn't really even know why I wanted to talk about this but I feel this is my place to be real open and honest, even with my self. I wanted to share with you a big part of my puzzle, one that may help you to understand me a little more and why I am the way I am and where some of my anxieties stem from. In opening up and putting it out there I hope that it makes me more accountable in working towards having a better relationship with food.
I have a fear and an obsession, one that most people would say "how are you scared of that" or maybe just maybe you can relate?
I have a fear of food and fear of eating. I am obsessed with what I eat . My obsession is not one of love or one of desire but one of fear and one that I have had for as long as I can remember.
I think my obsession with food started when I was in my early teens or even younger. As a dancer I can clearly remember a ballet teacher telling me that I needed to "loose those boobs" if I wanted to be a serious ballerina. How was I going to loose my boobs? I can remember another older girl that I used to dance with telling me she used to eat and then just make her self throw up after. What a great idea I told myself. This was when I was about 13 - I tried many times to make myself sick but I just couldn't do it. What I could do though was not eat, I was really good at that - I never ate breakfast anyway so all I needed to do was avoid a few other bits and pieces here or there, throw my school lunch in the bin on the way to school or pretend I was sick at night so I didn't have to eat.
Fast forward a couple of years and this is where my problem really started and escalated quickly. It was time to buy a formal dress and I found "the one" (the dress I mean), I was truly in love. I tried it on and it fit but I can clearly remember a voice in my head telling me that I would look better if I was skinnier. It was like something flicked a switch in my head and I became obsessed. This time round I was determined I could make my self throw up. Not only did I make myself throw up but I became even better at not eating and I also worked out by googling that I could take laxatives to loose some extra weight. As you can imagine this was a dangerous combination and one that I became really, really good at hiding - most people in my life still wouldn't have a clue that I did this.
My obsession didn't stop after my formal, in fact I think this was where it really began. Around this time I became a pretty anxious person and being able to control my eating was a way for me to control and hide my anxiety. If I felt like things in my life were out of control - boys, friends, school, work, family or anything I knew that the one thing I could control was my eating or lack of.
This went on for years and I was really good at hiding it. I could throw up and compose myself within minutes, I could take packets of laxatives and blame it on something I ate, I could run and run for hours on end and over exercise and I could starve myself and blame my headaches and dizziness on the fact that I suffer migraines.
It took me years to realise or accept I had an "eating disorder". It wasn't until I was about 19 or 20 and started seeing a multiple doctors about "stomach pains" that eventually ended up being stomach ulcers from taking too much ibuprofen on an empty stomach for the headaches from not eating enough and throwing up so much that I eventually found a psychologist I could trust and she was the only person I could tell. Hell, I still haven't told pretty much any one.
When my psychologist told me I had an eating disorder I didn't actually believe her. How could I ? When I looked in the mirror I still saw something that I didn't want to see.
It took me a long time, a lot of counseling, relationships that I destroyed and people that I hurt along the way to overcome or manage these eating disorders and the anxieties that came along with them especially because I never had the guts to tell any one about my issues.
One of the reasons why I studied Personal Training was to find a way to use what I had learnt from the mistakes I had made to help others find a way to be healthy and happy with themselves and not have to go down the same path as me.
So, if I have overcome those eating disorders why am I scared of food now? Because if I am truly honest with myself I have not over come my eating disorders - I'm just better at managing them, they have evolved in to something different and I can recognise now when I am going down a path of self destruction.
When I was pregnant, so sick and not eating I can see that my depression was brought on by the fact that my focus in life was back on food or the lack of food. It surrounded me every minute of everyday - if I ate I was violently ill, if I didn't eat I was even sicker and doing harm to my baby, don't get me wrong everyone had the right intentions but there was this constant talk of food and what I was eating, what I should eat instead or what I should try to eat and when and how I looked and how food was impacting my life. In the end I literally drove myself to a point where I was so numb, a point where I couldn't feel anything towards pretty much anything but in particular food or eating or nutrition at all. It became a process again - eat, throw up, eat throw up and this triggered those old self hate voices. I just kept telling myself get to the end of this pregnancy and you will be fine.
There are 2 parts to this story one has to do with the psychological feelings towards food and the other is the physical for me. I have IBS, a dairy and gluten intolerance and am highly sensitive to a lot of other foods because of the damage to my stomach - every meal for me can be a nerve racking experience because I get scared of how I will feel after physically and mentally. Different foods do different things to my body physically and it seems to be an ever growing list of things that make me feel unwell. It is a constant battle in my head with voices of self hate and also the voices telling me not eat this or that because of the physical way it will make me feel.
These days, in a social setting I am really good - I can switch off my thoughts and enjoy a meal with my friends or family knowing what I can and cant eat. I have become particularly good at this because I hate there being a fuss over me and what I am eating so even if I am feeling super anxious about food I never show it because I never want any one to worry about me or fuss over the menu. Just ask my partner - he is the most caring person in the world and always double and triple checks with the staff that everything is OK for me to eat and I always get embarrassed because I hate the attention surrounding food to be on me. Although I am great in a social setting I still really struggle after I have eaten with the guilt and the voices in my head but also the physical way food makes me feel.
These days the main issues surrounding food for me come when I am alone. Most days I wont eat until quiet late and at that time I have to force myself to eat because I know if I don't I can go until the night time without eating anything. When I am alone I become overly obsessive and all these questions start running through my mind "should I eat that?" , "can I eat that?" , "will that make me feel sick?" , "how will I feel if I eat that?" , "how will that make my tummy look?" , "will it bloat me?" , "will it make me fat?" , "how many calories are in that?" "If I eat this how far will I have to walk or how much exercise will I need to do?" and the biggest one "why bother eating it when you know you can just not?".
Anytime I am highly stressed or anxious I start to control my eating more and more and I allow that obsession to take over. If I am feeling bad about my body or if I haven't exercised I will control my eating or let it become an obsession and if I am having stomach issues I do the same which is what is happening to me at the moment. There's so many parts of me that tell myself that I should make myself throw up after eating when I am feeling this way. Sometimes the thoughts get so out of control that I find myself with my head over the toilet about to make myself sick when I stop myself and think of my daughter and how I would feel if she was doing the same.
It is all a control thing for me , I know that - I learnt that over the years with my psychologist. I know that somewhere in my brain I get a secret kick or satisfaction out of being able to control that part of my life. Being a new mum can you feel like you have lost control over the life you created so when you find something you can control you want to grasp it and hold on to it.
I want to change my thoughts and feelings towards food and I want to ensure that I can do it before Millie is old enough to know that I have these issues. I never, ever want her to feel the same way as I do so I need to set the best example possible to my daughter.
So from today I am making a promise to myself, my daughter and to anyone reading that I will not let food control me any more. I will learn to enjoy food and learn to let it nourish me. I will make an effort every day to find out what works for me. I will face my fear head on and even though I know it's probably something I will never fully overcome it is something I want to work on everyday to ensure I don't let it control me, my thoughts or my life.
I have an eating disorder but I won't let it beat me.