What is food to you?
Most people will view food as something they enjoy but are mindful of. A new statistic revealed that typically women will think of calories for 21 minutes per day, so it’s clear the world is conscious of the content of what they eat.
I don’t know how it began. Since I noticed it it’s always been in the back of my mind but I suppose the obsession didn’t begin until maybe a year-18 months ago.
I’m a “typical female”; obsessed with my appearance. What my eyes are always drawn to are my stomach. I have quite a round belly, despite being small framed. It can be because I have a curve in a spine, dodgy digestive organs, annoying fat storage, a horrible family trait or just the way I’m shaped. Whatever the reason, I just can’t accept and be happy with it. I can’t bring myself to look at it and for the last 7 years of my life I have held my stomach in, which is why everyone has assumed I’m very slim.
Thing is, now I am slim. My stomach’s still round (though less so) but I’m thin. I’m not supposed to look this way, I’ve made it happen because I thought it would made me happy. It hasn’t. In fact it’s ruined a lot of things in my life. But I’m working on it and I’m getting better.
I left university and joined the gym, saying I would finally get the stomach I wanted. I stopped eating a lot of foods and started making healthier decisions. It went great at first, I had a gym buddy too and going to the gym twice a week and burning what started at 600 and then went to 1000 calories was great! I stopped getting ill, I had more energy and started getting more confident. But this only lasted about a month or two before I became completely obsessed. I did a lot of research but followed it a little too hard. I taught myself to be scared of weight gain and “bad” foods. I wouldn’t touch anything I deemed would make me fat, even in small portions. If I ever did I panicked. Really panicked. I’d wake up the next day crying over it and thinking of ways I could counter it. That’s when I started using the exercise bike. 5 miles a day. 10 if I could. At first there was nothing wrong with it, I even found it easy. Then paired with me eating even less I started getting weaker. If I couldn’t manage my minimum of 5 miles I became paranoid. I couldn’t be away from the bike. If I was at a friend’s for the weekend I would leap on it as soon as I got back and would try and run around or fidget more to burn more calories. I felt guilty for making things awkward for people but it was nothing compared to the guilt I felt by eating or by being sedentary. I literally couldn’t stop. It was always on my mind and I forgot why I was even doing it sometimes. I couldn’t go out to eat without agonizing over the menu, I couldn’t stay still for the entire day because then even vegetables would make me fat.
My personality changed. Someone who used to love hugs and physical contact suddenly didn’t want to be touched. A loss of sex drive had negative effects on my relationship; even though he told me I was perfect, I just didn’t want anyone to look at me or touch me. In a lot of ways I still don’t like to be touched. Just a friendly tap makes me squirm away sometimes. I became so irritable. I still am. I snap and leap to conclusions, I turn vicious and say things without even hearing how horrible they are. I wanted to be alone 90% of the time even though I was so lonely. I wanted to be left alone with my obsession.
My behaviour changed too. I used to squirm at the idea of getting food on my hands. I didn’t like foods like chicken wings or spare ribs because the sauce and grease was annoying. In restaurants I was the one that would eat a burger or pizza with a knife and fork. These days I’ll literally put my hands into a saucepan and eat from there. I almost prefer it if it’s messy. It means I can stuff it in my mouth faster. Too fast. Sometimes it feels like I’m choking.
When I went away to Italy with my family and my boyfriend, I had to take ‘carb blockers’ with me just to try. I drove everyone crazy analyzing menus. I just couldn’t enjoy food. Sugar was an enemy. Carbohydrates were an enemy. Fat was an enemy. Certain meats. Fruit. Dairy. Even a few vegetables I couldn’t be near. I felt pathetic. I had to exercise in the apartment 3x a day. ON HOLIDAY. My brain was always going.
When I came back I jumped on the bike. I had put on 3 lbs. Not a lot. Within a week I lost them. I calmed down a lot but it didn’t last. This is when it got really bad.
I felt so ungrateful, but more than anything in the entire world I wanted to be thin.
It’s strange to think my goals started so healthy. Originally when I changed my diet and started exercise I had nothing but benefits. My eczema left and an ‘undiagnosable’ stomach problem vanished! I was healthy. I was happy.
I started weight training and really slimmed. I was proud of myself. I got some kind of thrill and satisfaction from it all. From the secrets and the comfort of it.
In January, I realised my cycling habit was getting out of hand (so proud of myself) and I stopped. It took a while before my heart would stop pounding if I looked at it but I managed it. Yay me! Then I got an office job. I was hardly moving. I restricted my food by a lot to compensate for it. Joined another gym. Got a personal programme. I was stressed and anxious beyond anything. Weight was literally falling off me. I was hipbones-ribcage skinny and I loved it. If I lay down my stomach sunk right in. I’d count my ribs and cup them. I liked to pretend my bellybutton could touch my spine. It was disgusting. And I loved it.
It’s accepted in a lot of cases that eating disorders are bred by a sense of control the victim feels when restricting/binging/purging etc. I’d hate to paint the picture of a cliche but I believe this is what happened to me. No one has ever called me fat in my life. I had depression, and I felt a lot of things slipping away from me. I didn’t do as well in Uni as I’d liked, I lost my job, I lost someone I loved and suddenly I felt like that jigsaw piece you always pick up thinking it’s right, but it never is.
So here we are now. I went to Gemucon in April and when I was faced with all you can eat breakfast buffets, sweets, alcohol…I was terrified. When I came back I talked to my mum about it. I hated the kind of person I had become. And I was determined to fix it. I don’t have an eating disorder by physical diagnosis, but in my head and behaviour I’m all there. It’s time to change.
So far I’ve doubled my calorie intake, which is still too low a count but it’s better than nothing. I’m so proud of myself for that alone. I’ve seen a nutritionist and she’s helping me with a new routine to muscle me up but I need to eat more to support it. If I want to become the lean body I really want then I HAVE to eat more, which is the best encouragement.
My parents aren’t handling it well. My mother blames herself and says it’s her fault. It’s not. I did this to myself. They’re doing a lot better these days now I’m eating more and I sat them down to talk about it. My colleagues are encouraging too – I think they secretly know but feel they can’t say anything. It’s sad really.
I’ve had depression, daily anxiety attacks, physical illness…there’s always been SOMETHING wrong with me so I figured everyone would just be bored of Annie’s Problems. I’m astounded by the support my friends have given me and I’m so grateful for them. Their encouragement, their pride and just asking how it’s going…it makes a huge difference. In some of the most likely places I’ve found their support. So I know I’m not alone so long as I let them in.
I am in contact with a Body Dysmorphia charity and I try and keep my problem in the open because it just helps me a bit. Some days I do really badly. I spend it in tears over what I’ve eaten and if anyone crosses then god help them. I can’t put into words how hard I am finding all of this. But admitting there’s a problem is the first step, right?
I’m not a tragedy, I can turn everything around. I’m not looking for your undying attention and “awww poor Annie”‘s thrown at me but just knowing I have people behind me makes the world of difference.
How I will fight this:
>Slowly reintroducing my ‘danger foods’ without triggering binges when I’m alone.
>I want to look athletic. I want to be strong and have muscle, not skin and bone. I’m using this as a way to fight my problems.
>I want to help people like me. Through my constant research I’ve learned a lot about sports and nutrition. I’m not an expert, but I do understand a lot of it despite my poor knowledge of science.>I LOVE food. Seriously I adore it. Why should I restrict myself to such a degree? What have I done to deserve that? Nothing 🙂
So yeah. The truth hurts. And it’s taken me 2 months to write this.
Smile for me.