I was already sneaking junk food, during the day, and especially at bedtime, when my parents were watching TV downstairs in our back-split home. There was a way to the cupboard without them seeing me, and I was as quiet as a mouse when grabbing my stash, heading bact to my bed, to nibble under the covers…
In the summer of my 13th year, I opted to become vegetarian again, which came naturally, as it was only a few years prior that my family had started to consume meat.
There were two reasons for the switch- I had tagged along with my father to a slaughter house, but more importantly, a cousin, whom I adored, once commented that I was getting “chubby.” I don’t think I ever actually considered my body as something I needed to change before that point, but the message stuck.
For some reason I’d equated meat to fat, so then having accepted “being chubby,” coupled with the sights and smells of the slaughter house, it was the perfect reason to stop eating it.
There was weight to be lost, and meat was the first thing to go, and though it started with food, around the same time, I developed an obsession with exercise, and I would train after every single meal, to relieve myself of the “dreaded calories,” I was reading about. Soon to follow was anorexia, and from then on I started to subtract more and more food until I was eating next to nothing.
I didn’t just want to be thin, I wanted to be waif-like, wanting the body of a supermodel, like Kate Moss, skin and bones.
Becoming so obsessed with what I looked like, I would look up anorexia & bulimia, in the encyclopedia, [(a physical version of Wikipedia (for the youngsters that might be tuning in)], time and time again, to see if I was doing it right.
[On a side note, having delved into the world of Louise Hay earlier this year, and as part of my personal therapy, I discovered the following definitions:
Anorexia- Denying the self and life. Extreme fear of rejection.
Bulimia- Hopeless terror. Purging self hatred.
This was the second time the same information was coming to me, the first, being from a dear friend & psychologist. It’s through her that I likened my issues to have started around the age of 5, when we moved to Canada from England, leaving my older sister- the love of my life- behind. In hindsight, (and to simplify), something inside me was missing, and I filled the void with food, namely sweets.
In essence, I was in a state of fear, as opposed to love, or so is the way I view it.]
Back to anorexia- it was awful. I was awful. I was shutting myself off, literally, becoming more and more unhappy, and increasingly paranoid. I felt like everyone was watching my every move, judging me by the food I put in my mouth, much as I was judging them.
In my teenage years, the worst thing on earth would be sitting in classes, starving. I dreamt about food that I was withholding from myself. Eventually, I had to eat again, and when I did, it was everything. It would start with a (miniscule portion) healthy Indian dinner, after which I’d still be hungry. The family would disperse, and I’d happily clear up the whole kitchen, as by doing so, left me free to dig for my vices.
Usually, feeling like everything was under control, and that I was entitled to have something, I’d go for an apple, which would then be followed by a bowl of cereal, (still “healthy”), but I’d digress from there. I’d end up eating any and everything, and then head straight for the toilet, and purge it all out.
Though eventually I did pull myself out of it, I didn’t resolve why it happened in the first place, so for the following 2 decades, my ill relationship with food persisted.
I fooled myself in thinking that I had everything under control, but the reality of the situation was that I was still wearing a veil of illusion, still holding onto deep pain.
(Through my experiences, to be “under control,” is like a false safety mechanism. In an of itself, it is illusive, because fear is the over-powering emotion, as opposed to love, and there is an inherent lack of balance).
When you’re addicted to something, nothing else really matters except getting that which you are addicted to, no matter what it is.
Fast forward to more recent times.
It was another relapse and I wasn’t ok. There was stuff going on in life that I wasn’t able to deal with and the binging began again (no anorexia or bulimia this time- I was eating whole and real foods except that I had a need to binge on chocolate (namely).
In late 2011, that unsettled feeling had set in and I was stressing about something, though I had no idea what. In fact, it wasn’t until recently, when I finally allowed myself to get really really quiet, that the answers started to come. (The last time it was as bad was when I moved back to the UK, after signing divorce papers, in early 2006).
My then flatmate, (who’s patience I’m grateful for!), would tell you that his chocolate bars would disappear like nobody’s business. The first time it happened, we joked about it, no big deal.
The second time, he’d actually had a taste for chocolate himself (which wasn’t normal for him), and there was none to be found. He wasn’t pleased about it that time. I actually felt awful and guilty, and vowed never to do it again. But I was further into my addiction than I was willing to admit, at the time, and even though I told him I was addicted, “please hide the stuff,” I was light- hearted and half joking about it (to not appear like I was losing my lid).
But I was losing my lid.
I’m happy that I can finally share what happened after that, because even a year ago I couldn’t, as I was still full of shame.
He still bought chocolate, (and I mean the big bars), along with other things I’d normally not touch, and left them in the usual spot. Stressed, I’d get to the stash, convince myself I was ok, and could have a little piece and get on with things. Surely not. I’d keep going back til the bar was gone. Not that I wasn’t feeling bad enough for having ate the whole thing, I was so hard on myself about it. How stupid could I be?! I told him I wouldn’t touch his stash again, and promised myself that I’d be better, and stronger in my mind.
So out I’d go. To the little mini-market down the road, tail between my legs, to replenish his chocolate. But not without getting another one for myself. Sometimes I’d replaced his one bar with three, (at a time), until finally he ate it.
In the peak of my madness, there would be 3 or 4 places I’d go to as I got really paranoid about who might see me buying such rubbish. “I am supposed to be the bootcamp queen and a role model for health and fitness….” I would wear a ball cap at times so that I wouldn’t be recognized by the cashier at any of the stores I was frequenting regularly, or at least not to make eye contact. I’d go out late at night, convincing myself that I was only going for a walk, but always coming back with something, and feeling awful. Even when I didn’t have a lot of money for my indulgences, it wasn’t a factor, I needed my fix-it was the most important thing in the world.
All this, and at the very same time, rarely would you see me eating anything “bad,” in public, (perhaps only with my bestest friends, and even from them, I was hiding). When offered something I deemed unhealthy, I would politely decline, but know that I would reimburse myself when I got home.
I was so afraid of being caught –and yes, I do understand how ridiculous this all sounds- it was only (mainly, but not limited to) chocolate, after all, but it may as well have been heroin, as the workings of the mind, I believe, are the same.
I eventually gained control of myself, and when I did, told myself that was the last time. Surely, it wasn’t, because, I’d only gained “control,” instead of dealing with the underlying issue.
The last relapse was around the time of a major healing with my parents, at the turn of the year. This time it was without shame, nor fear, nor regret, nor self-hatred.
2014 has been different than all the rest of the years of my life, as it’s become an everyday practice to remain in a state of love, to consistently observe my mind, to be mindful of old habits when they threaten, to be ever so gentle with the body I’ve been blessed with.
To You, who is going through the same things, it does end. You are not alone. Be good to Yourself, one moment at a time.