Sunday 26 August 2012

Let's talk a bit about my own problems with food...

Someone posted a link to this article today which talks about the way eating disorders are believed to have a genetic link i.e. if you, the parent, have had an eating disorder then there's a far higher chance your child may be genetically predisposed to developing an eating disorder too. So let's talk about me this time...

Ben knows I had "issues", shall we say, with eating in the past. He is convinced I had an eating disorder and this is one of the main reasons why I've always "got it" and been able to understand and help him.

Naturally I've always been in denial. I did have disordered eating, but I'm not convinced it was ever an eating disorder as such. But please feel free to draw your own conclusions...

I was a relatively normal child - strong-willed, independent and never one to follow the crowd, and a bit of a tomboy - but normal. Ish.

Then I became a teenager.

I hated the changes I was seeing in my body: the periods, the growing breasts and the way I seemed to be putting on weight. I began to hate my body with a passion. And, with it, my confidence and self-esteem took a nose-dive, exacerbated by a particularly unpleasant scene one lunchtime on the hockey field - age 12 - when the whole year group ganged up on me as I attempted to "evangelise" to them (a result of having been "converted" by a group of older religious fundamentalist teenagers at my church).

I remember the whole year group in my all-girls school crowding me into a corner of the field as I crumpled to the ground in floods of tears, screaming for help.

The geography teacher rescued me and gave me a strict talking to about religion and why I shouldn't impose my views on others.

After that incident, I was regarded as a bit "weird".

So I shut up shop and isolated myself.

Our girls' grammar school then went co-ed and became a comprehensive school, doubling in size overnight. I faded into the background and became invisible. I could often be found at break time hiding behind the lockers. Sometimes the rowdy boys from the less academic classes would find me and taunt me. It was their idea of fun.

I began to get tummy aches, coughs, colds, bad periods... anything to be allowed to go home or stay off school sick. I begged my mum to let me come home for lunch rather than stay for school dinners and face the hellish loneliness of a lunch hour on my own.

A new girl joined the school. We were both overweight and quiet, and we got on like a house on fire. She baked a wicked tray of gingerbread which I used to wolf down, which didn't do my constant battle against the bulge any good. Then one day her dad got a job in another part of the country and she left school, and I was back on my own.

I ate for comfort - and wrote a detailed teenager diary which I began in the third form (aged 13). I'd hate myself for being overweight, feel crushingly lonely and isolated, and wish that - like the other girls - I could get boyfriends, wear fashionable clothes and look slim and pretty. "I saw Mrs S today and she commented on how you'd put on weight," my mum critically said one day. She was often commenting about my "spare tyre", "tum" or whatever.

In the mid 1970s, slimming was all the rage, and my mum (who was also battling with her weight) and I were on a permanent yo-yo diet. Mum would produce those diet biscuits which were supposed to replace a meal - and a myriad of curious diet products like crispy cotton-wool-type rolls, dry crisp-breads and the newly fashionable yoghurt. But they always left us hungry. I know I cheated - scoffing biscuits, cakes, cooking chocolate and anything else I could find in her cupboards. She probably did, too.

I felt convinced that if I was thin, then I'd be a better person. I'd be more in control, I'd be popular, I'd be confident and my parents would be proud of me. I used to daydream and the story always began with: "Once, when I was older, slimmer and prettier..." Was some of this due to a feeling of "never being good enough" because it was always made clear that my dad wanted a boy and I was born a girl?

Meanwhile I was hating school more and more. I'd have hysterical outbursts in class or on the sports field. I loathed sport and hated wearing the short gym skirt which showed off my fleshy thighs and made me feel self-conscious when it was my period. I was always the girl that was the last to be chosen for teams.

I stayed off school more and more with one  "illness" after another. Teachers would call home, concerned. I think the Latin teacher actually came round one day. Mum said she was worried the truancy inspector would come round, too, but he never did.

I also had frequent emotional outbursts at home - not dissimilar to ED rages. I seemed to have a knack of making my mum break down in floods of tears. She'd collapse on the floor, unable to cope with me, and my dad would say: "Look what you've done to your mother!"

By the lower sixth form, aged 17, I was a nightmare.

I'd completely isolated myself and found it virtually impossible to be in school. (Sound familiar?) I'd tremble with fear as I walked into a classroom full of my peers or flee noisily out of the grounds and to the comfort of home. I contemplated suicide and retreated to the sanctuary of my bedroom. My teenager diary is jam-packed full of all this angst.

In the end my parents called in a therapist who came to the house to see me.

It proved to be a turning point - the beginning of the transformation of the ugly duckling into the swan. But it was also the start of an even bigger battle with food that would remain with me for years.

That'll do for today. Watch this space for more...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this, very brave and sincere.
    It takes lot to own up to those feelings and problems, I admire your honesty.