Dealing With Eating Disorders and How to Love Your Self
At 12 years old, just at the beginning of puberty, my father mentioned how repulsive I looked. He called me “fatback” (referring to fat that people get on their backs), and told me I was ugly and stupid. The solution would be the beginning of a whirlwind romance with “diet doctors” that lasted until I was about 22 years old. This absurd experience left me with a terribly distorted perception of myself (dysmorphia) and a self image that needed years of therapy to correct- (although it still remains a constant battle).
After my first diet experience, I went from 98 pounds to 78 pounds, and my Dad never noticed. I took a multitude of diet pills and ate anywhere from 100 to 400 calories a day. And so the roller coaster began…
I then gained all the weight back, and each time was taken to another doctor who prescribed a multitude of pills. At one point, I was probably taking about 12-15 pills a day.
I learned that people only love you when you are thin- and as thin as I was, no one loved me. At family dinners, I would not be allowed me to participate in the full courses my Mom served. I was not permitted bread or dessert, but they were kind enough to let me sit there and watch everyone else devour whenever and whatever they desired.
My father would count the cookies in the house, and measure the ice cream in the containers. I would often hear him screaming, “Who ate my cookies?” or “Someone (me) had some of my ice cream.”
The most interesting thing is that I was never overweight. Even at my heaviest, I was not a pudgy kid. Dad just decided I was- and as the self fulfilling prophecy goes, he created an overweight child.
When I came home from college on breaks, I would hear him screaming at my mother, telling her how fat and disgusting I looked- and why doesn’t she do something about me?
The interesting thing was that I had a lot of friends, and got a lot of attention from boys my age. I needed them to like me. The problem was, once I left my parents home, I needed to be liked by any man, and would do almost anything to make them like me. “See Dad- you are wrong. I am not fat and disgusting and men do like me.”
It got so bad that I would have terrible anxiety when I would go home or even when he would come to my house as a married woman. He would leer at me as if I was too disgusting to look at directly.
And oddly enough, (sarcastic), I married a manorexic, (An anorexic man), and exercise bulimic. My father loved him- he was his replica. And, because of that, I thought my Dad would finally love me. He never did, and I am now divorced. Both my husbands’ family, and my own, criticized my children about their weight as well. Neither of them were heavy, but did go through that period of pre-pubescent weight gain. My mother-in-law would constantly say “fat-cells” to my daughter every time she enjoyed anything that was more fattening than celery. My Dad would poke my son’s tummy and say, “what is this?”
It was endless. I would talk to my parents and beg my husband to talk to his. All to no avail.
It was no surprise to me when my daughter became bulimic, then anorexic, and then bulimic again. My son had anorexia so badly in high school, that I was not permitted to take him to school until I had the doctor weigh him every morning before school and make sure he was not losing weight.
I worked in a weight loss clinic for 5 years, helping overweight people lose weight and try to love themselves. I took both of my children for many different kinds of help and they are back on track, although the image of themselves they have is no where near accurate.
I finally got my weight under control in my early 20′s and was in great shape until well into my 40′s when a benign tumor was discovered on my parathyroid gland. Until it was finally discovered by a nephrologist, (after being advised I see a psychiatrist), I had gained 30 pounds. I had surgery soon after, but I never really got back to my 40 year old weight again.
I have tried to work on loving myself as I am. I always eat healthfully- never binge or eat desserts, eat only chicken and fish,salads and egg white omelettes. But, from the constant yo-yoing- my metabolism has never been the same.
I have dealt with so many children with eating disorders and adults who’s focus is primarily on how much they weigh. “If only I was 10 pounds thinner, my life would be perfect.” Well, 10 pounds thinner, and their life was the same.
I have helped people work on the inside, and the outside corrects itself. Food is a medication. It can be an addiction. It is the most difficult addiction to break. You can never have a cigarette, or alcohol or a drug again. But, food, you cannot go without.
You need to find out your relationship with food.
A teenage girl came to see me after years of starving herself. She was bone thin. He mom had tried everything and yet she wouldn’t really eat.
She was a great student, and a good kid. But, her parents were divorcing and she felt out of control. She needed to control something- and she chose to control her food. After understanding that her parents were not leaving her, but each other, she very slowly began to understand that she could be healthy and that things occur in life that we cannot control.
An adult woman, divorced after 20 years of marriage, decided that the only way she could get a man was to be super thin. Her conversation was centered around weight. She spoke of nothing else. Our sessions were actually difficult for me. I never looked forward to her visits. Her refrigerator was filled with collages of photo shopped swimsuit models, a third of her age. She would not examine her relationship with food. She would not re-evaluate her beliefs about what a man wants. When I told her, if men only wanted petite, thin women, no one else would be married- she debated with me. She was angry and hostile and would not look at anything in a way other than her distorted belief.
She is now quite thin after strenuous dieting, and remains single. She still refuses to look at changing herself on the inside, instead of the outside.
We all need to love ourselves and to try to remain as healthy as possible. Sometimes we think that we need to forget our unhealthy past relationships in order to proceed in a healthy manner. We can learn that everything someone says, is not necessarily the truth. We may hear the recordings in our head, but we can choose not to believe them. We can rewind them into a positive spin-off. We can go on because we have learned to love who we are, and understand once someone tells us we are not good enough, we know we are better than they are.
I never had a break through with my dad. But, I learned he was crazy and I wasn’t. The real thing is, that you can’t be responsible to make someone else well- only yourself.
The wisdom to know the difference- that is what I learned.
I could change me- but not him.
If a + b = c, where a (my dad), b (me) and c (the reaction) are constants- than you can only change b (me) which will automatically change c.
We cannot change what does not belong to us.
Yes, thin feels good. My daughter has a post on her Facebook page that reads “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
I help people with eating disorders all the time. Food can be your friend. It can be company, and can fill the void in your life. But, when you are done eating, you still can not run from the one thing that is left- who you are.
Learn to love yourself. If you do, then you will not have to use food as a way of blocking out the pain you feel and getting that instant gratification.
Spring is coming. Go out and enjoy life. Take a walk, a ride in the car, or just enjoy the weather with a good book. Find something you can do that makes you feel good. It can be from the demure to the decadent. Just try not to center it around food. The more fun you have, the less you will think about making food your friend. Energize your body with food. Learn to believe in yourself. Embrace what you love, and change what you can.
Remember the “serenity prayer.”
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Eat to live- don’t live to eat!