Eating is supposed to be simple, right? You just take some food, stick it in your face, chew, then swallow. Your body takes care of the rest. Life goes on and this process repeats multiple times a day.
It is disregarded as foolish if someone says they are addicted to food, or it is said in a very flippant way by some skinny girl, “I’m addicted to these brownies! I ate two whole pieces before I could stop!” *insert cackling laughter here*
And every fat girl ever just wants to punch her squarely in the face.
Food addictions are ignored because food is a base function of being human. Food is so common, how could it be addictive? ‘Oh, you are just over exaggerating.’ I really do not believe that is true. It would be like telling an alcoholic that they aren’t an alcoholic since alcohol is everywhere. It’s not really that bad. You can just stop whenever you want. You just need to want it bad enough. Or have more willpower. Or more self control.
This pushes the blame on the person as if it is a controllable emotional response, not a malfunction of the chemical composition of the brain. As if telling someone who is OCD that they are just being excessive and they should tone it down. Food addictions, OCD, and battling alcoholism has that controllable emotional factor, yes but that’s like blaming a passenger for driving badly. When severe, these conditions are out of control. It is not simply mind over matter since the chaos is being controlled by the mind that chemically not working right. The individual is a hostage to their addiction.
I’ve spent the day sitting here trying to convince myself to eat something. My mind has been crying and whining like a little kid, only wanting and thinking about everything I can no longer have. Cheetos, oatmeal, chocolate oranges, pizza, most of the vegan or vegetarian meat replacements, yogurt, Japanese boxed curry, for goodness sake I don’t even know what salad dressings I can even eat anymore. And even if it says gluten-free, is it still actually safe? What was also processed on the same equipment? And all my mind wanted to think about was how to replace all the bread. Obsessively scrambling through my thoughts, telling me all I wanted to eat was bread, bread, and more bread. GF of course. As if that really makes it better in this case. My mind gets fixated on one thing and obsesses about it, often for days until I eat that food. I cannot simply brush it off or hope it will go away. Too much of the time it doesn’t even matter when I last ate, if I’m hungry or too stuffed, my mind continues to rant and obsess on that singular point.
I have exhausted my willpower time and time again trying to battle those obsessive thought patterns. It makes me feel like a drug addict looking for the next fix. It seems unaffected by common sense. And yet it has ruined much of my life. Everyday is such a struggle as I haul around the dead weight of an adult my same age and build if I was at my ideal weight. Too many people who see me, all they presume about me is that I’m stupid, mentally slow, and that I must sit around all day just eating nothing but full sugar, full fat junk food. One day one of the checkers at our grocery store was trying to convince me that french fries from McDonalds were healthier than homemade oven fries made from red potatoes. Seriously? Who’s the idiot now?
For years I have battled to get my weight down. And the fight is really unbelievable, in the sense that it’s unbelievably hard and unbelievably slow. Before I went to college for a year I had managed to lose 80 pounds (my highest known weight was 378) and amazingly got under 300 pounds. Then college and the stress ruined everything. I never expected to go to college. Formal schooling was never my thing. So even now I see it as a huge accomplishment, especially since I was on the Dean’s list two semesters out of three that I attended. In high school my average grades were C’s and D’s. I nearly didn’t graduate high school. I stretched myself as thin as I could and then some in college to prove to myself that I was smart enough to go to belong there. And I did it. But as Mom says, college isn’t for everyone. The effort took it’s toll and I had the second worst emotional breakdown in my life. All I can remember is I cried for 3 months straight. Hubby was beyond worried. When I started to recover I saw some of my text books sitting on one of my shelves and had no recollection at all what they were even from.
I couldn’t believe it a couple of months later when I found one of the letters from the Dean and re-read it. I had to double check that it really was my name on there. I was stunned that something hugely important as that had been wiped from my memories. (It is now framed and hanging on the wall.) I had even gone to one of the meetings to be a part of the Honor Society. That was a dream I wanted in high school but being an undiagnosed dyslexic, horrid at math, a slow reader, terrible at memorization, and any tests would give me panic attacks that would nearly erase everything I knew, a dream was all it was. Some of us are just not designed for how the American school system is organized. After I was married I discovered that I’m a voracious learner as long as I can learn what I’m interested in and in my own ways.
But there I stood. Looking back at the months of my life just being in a meltdown that all I can remember is the pain, tears, and playing Tetris when I wasn’t sleeping. So much happiness and pain so closely bound together in my college memories that thinking of them over four years later still hurts to some degree. And the worst damage of all caused by the stress was the 50+ pound weight gain.
I want to say that I don’t know how it happened, but I know how I lost the 80 pounds so I know precisely how it happened. It just feels like if I don’t control my eating with an iron OCD grip that I just gain weight as easily as I blink. And then the guilt sets in. And then the blame starts in that voice that never has anything positive to say and seems to live to just shred me to pieces. Voices from the past of random boys telling me that the world would be a better place if I just shot myself. Little did they know that more than once in my life if I didn’t have such a strong sense of self preservation I would have committed suicide. Strangers giving me horrified looks as if they are looking at nothing but a mindless monster that materialized in the grocery store.
They truly do not see the person inside who got to this point by being a bulimic who could never force themselves to throw up. What do I even call myself? Everyone just simply sees me as fat. Nothing more. What I wouldn’t have given as a teenager to just be able to purge everything, just to be skinny. My oldest sister was most definitely anorexic when she was in high school, she was barely more than skin and bones for a while. I was in middle school and even I thought she looked like she was going to snap like a twig. Over the years I’ve done research on bulimia and the way I react on the behavioral end of it is identical. I just was deathly afraid of throwing up. I can recall countless times of binging until I literally could not fit anything more in my stomach. I wanted so badly to throw it all up but I just couldn’t force myself to do it. I’m really surprised that I never burst my stomach. I’d be in excruciating pain for hours, but somehow at the time it felt better than the emotional pain. This began when I was in late grade school and continued for many years after I was married. Occasionally I still battle with it but thankfully it doesn’t get anywhere near that extreme anymore.
But with every binge cycle there comes the starvation. And with me that is done mostly with food restriction. My mind systematically strikes off foods from the list that I can eat, giving a reason for each and every one. This part of my eating disorders can be the most sadistic. Perfectly healthy and reasonable foods removed along with the less stellar ones, all being labeled toxic in one fashion or another. When my mind finds cause for it, I can be ever so clever. Convincing myself that there are 5 foods in the whole world that are deemed ‘safe’ to eat, and I can have them without guilt. So my husband and family see me eating. So they don’t question. So they don’t worry. So they don’t know that I’m not eating when they aren’t looking. They cannot see that nutritionally I’m starving and I’m sick. Because I can smile and give all the right answers when I’m questioned.
My husband remembers when I had my breakdown at the end of my vegan dietary restrictions. I wasn’t getting enough protein regularly since in my mind tofu was too fatty. Who knows what else essential I wasn’t getting. I couldn’t hide the neurotic panic that had been driving me for over a year at that point, but even what he saw wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg. He says he remembers the stress. What he couldn’t see was every time I had to eat that I’d be mentally shuffling through all the lists I had made in my mind, trying to find the one that listed something I could eat. By that point I had convinced myself that even eating a single grape would make me gain 75+ pounds. Water was so toxic that I may as well have been drinking sewage. Air was hardly better. Even when I did manage to eat, it was the grossest feeling in the world. I had to force it all down, and it barely managed to stay there.
None of this I wanted to remember. For years I’ve told myself that it wasn’t that bad and ignored all the details except it ended badly. I was standing in our kitchen shaking because I was so hungry, the look on Hubby’s face was nothing but panic, and I couldn’t stop crying. My stubborn will finally broke when I asked him to make me some scrambled eggs. I’m sure some would argue (and easily) that there must have been vegan options at the time (I’m sure there were) but the eggs were the only thing I could think of a the time that would keep me from collapsing.
The other side of the equation was my OCD taking over and trying to learn how to be a ‘perfect’ vegan. Through the glory of the internet I was constantly swamped with the message that just being vegan wasn’t enough. You had to be some uber vegan, you know the kind who has never eaten meat once in their lives, let alone smelled it, who would boycott anything not vegan associated, and would call every company about every ingredient of anything they ever ate before it could cross their holy lips… and if you couldn’t do that, you weren’t a ‘true’ vegan. Because trying is never enough when you are vegan. I just wanted to eat so I didn’t get sick, I wasn’t looking for a religion.
Research triggered by fear, the facts distorted by panic, uncertainty fed doubt and distrust. This is what really broke me. The worry that I could never research foods well enough to make sure the entire process fit my dietary requirements. Even if I had researched it and had the facts written down, how could I really truly trust that the companies knew how small of a margin of error I had to go by?
All too familiar that feeling is. One I had hoped I would not have to deal with again. I’ve spent the last three years trying to teach myself how to eat within moderation in a healthier way without having to enter in every last crumb of food that I’d eat into the diet and nutrition program that I used to lose the 80 pounds. In it’s own way using the program is better, until I refuse to eat until all my food for the day has been calculated. On bad days I’d skip two meals and be so frustrated by dinner that it was almost a free-for-all as long as I didn’t exceed my calories. Yet another trigger for my OCD food restrictions lists.
Now my body is making it very clear that those lists demand to be revised. Heralding back the OCD food nazi, now carrying the Gluten-Free and Dairy Free banners.
I’m scared. I’m really, really scared. This is the very thing I’ve been trying to teach myself not to do the last few years and managed to lose 35 pounds without having to diet and just being sensible. The day before Thanksgiving the old food habits returned. I told myself that I was just checking to make sure I wasn’t using foods that Mom or Sis couldn’t have. And before I knew it the full blown panic had set in. And hard. I was racing around the kitchen checking every label of the seasoning mixes, condiments, random things in the fridge… and then decided to look up what foods were banned for those who do not eat gluten. Then I went into a frenzy. The only good thing that came out of that panic was finding out that there was malt extract in the cereal I had been eating for a week, and finally explained why I felt sick and my face was stuffy.
How I wish it was just a single day and then I could get back to my rational mind. But then I got sick again. Whispers from a devious little voice started in my mind.
“At least if you are feeling sick you don’t have to think about food.”
“You know this is a good thing. It wouldn’t really hurt anything if you just didn’t feel like eating for a day or two. People do that all the time when they have the flu.”
“You don’t really want to eat the poisonous food that will make you sick do you?”
“Just avoid the kitchen. You don’t really need to eat anything. You’re fat enough as it is.”
Then today this started in: “Don’t eat. You’re fine. Nobody will know if you don’t tell them. Besides, anything you eat will just make you curled up in a ball again. Sure a growling stomach is annoying but a lot less so than being nauseous. Be an adult. Nobody can force you to eat against your will. Not like any other adult never skipped a meal or two.”
If the thinking behind all of this wasn’t so frightening, it would be hilarious in a Looney Tunes gremlin sort of way. And the fact that I have been awake for about 18 hours with only eating two small GF biscuits, 1 TBS. peanut butter, some diet 7-Up (only thing that reduces the nausea,) ¾ can garbanzos, 6 crimini mushrooms, ¾-1 c. of cooked rice, ½ c. almond milk, and about ¼ c. raisins. Nobody in their right mind could tell me that’s sufficient for a day’s worth of food. But it felt like it was all I was able to ‘allow’ myself.
This cycle is starting again and I don’t know how to stop it. Admitting all of this, especially where my family will see it has been far from easy. Almost none of them have heard any of this from me before. But I don’t know of any other way to ask for help.
I’m drowning and I can’t keep my head above water.