As a child I wasn’t taught particularly good eating habits — in my family we ate because it was mealtime and not because we were hungry, and we always finished everything that was on the plate.
Every meal was followed by pudding, including school dinners.
As a result, I was always a little on the chubby side and for as long as I can remember, I was under pressure to lose weight — mainly from my mum.
Different Ways How My Mom Makes Me Feel Bad About My Body
She tried to motivate me to lose weight in different ways: offering me ten pounds in cash per pound I lost, taking me to see a hypnotherapist and encouraging me to join Weight Watchers being just a few.
By the time I got into my late teens, I had thoroughly absorbed the idea that the only way to be worthy of praise was to be thinner.
I began a new strategy of counting calories, combined with a mantra of “I want to be thin more.” Every time I ate something, I recorded it in a notebook and kept a constant track of how much I was eating.
Each time I opened the kitchen cupboard, tempted by some snack within, I repeated to myself, “I want to be thin more”.
It became an obsession. I would only eat food from packets that had the calories clearly labelled on them, or I would spend hours looking up the calorie content of every item on my plate.
The Ugly Side of Weight Loss Frenzy No One Talks About
I stopped eating breakfast to save more calories for later and I would listen to my stomach rumbling all the way till lunchtime.
Sometimes I would lie on my bed without moving for hours, knowing that if I did get up, I would be tempted to go into the kitchen and eat.
I turned down social events that included an element of eating or drinking so that I didn’t risk consuming extra calories. For two glorious months, it worked. I lost weight. I received compliments from my family, from boys, even from some of my teachers about how good I looked.
I felt fantastic. I felt that for the first time ever in my life, I was in control of what I was eating.
It couldn’t last forever of course.
Seeking a Way to Have a Health Relationship With Food
One day I found myself eating a cereal bar covered in chocolate, and then another, and then another until the whole box was gone. It’s ok, I told myself, I just won’t eat anything for the rest of the day. Except that now I couldn’t stop myself, and I consumed everything that I could find in the house.
The calories crept up: 1,500, 2,000, 3,500 in a day. It’s ok, I thought, I just won’t eat anything tomorrow to make up for it.
I would go for a day without eating, and the next day I would binge in secret, going to three different shops in my town and buying snacks in each. I was too embarrassed to buy everything in just one shop as they’d know what a pig I was being. My weight rocketed back up to where it was before, plus some.
Years later, after binge eating and yo-yo dieting had become a permanent weight around my neck, I finally decided to start therapy.
For the first time ever I wanted to understand why I found it impossible to have a healthy relationship with food, rather than beating myself up for the lack of it.
Discovering a Health Way to Eat
When I told my therapist about the golden two months where I was able to control what I ate and lose weight, I expected her to be pleased about it — if I had done it before I should be able to do it again.
But she shook her head and replied that in those two months I probably had the unhealthiest relationship with food as any other time.
During our two years of sessions together, she helped me to understand that obsessing over the calorie content of food was as equally unhealthy as eating too much, especially as I didn’t ever consider the nutritional content – just the numbers.
She helped me to unpick my past and the traumas that had led me to use food as an emotional crutch. More importantly, with her help I began to accept myself as I am, and to love my body.
What I learned
- I am more than just my body and I am worthy of love and joy whatever the size or shape it is.
- I love my body not because of how it looks, but because of what it can do. It is powerful and strong and enables me to be independent and enjoy life.
- I try to think of food as nourishment, rather than as a reward or punishment. I eat what I think will nourish me, and yes, sometimes that is a chocolate bar or tub of ice cream — but mostly it is fresh fruit, vegetables and pulses.
- I have stopped giving myself rules about what I can and can’t eat. Instead, I try to listen to the natural rhythms of my body and eat when I am hungry and not just because it is dinner time.