If you have been around on GWS for a while, you know that mental health is a pretty big deal here. Growing up, my mother taught me to express my emotions so that they wouldn’t destroy me. Then she passed away and I was expected not to show any emotions at all. Of course, that led to finding different coping mechanisms, one of which was binge eating. And what comes with eating more than your body needs? If you guessed weight gain, you’ve just won a quarter of a point. What you may not have guessed is the guilt, self-hate, and disappointment that comes right after eating to discomfort. While this post is not about the feelings behind the struggle, and more so about my eating habits, I did need to mention this so we can fully understand how I could binge eat and restrict myself at the same time.
Related: What depression feels like to me
Disclaimer: This post is meant for educational purposes and provides a snippet into my own personal struggles with depression.
If you have read the ‘10 weird things about me‘ post, you will know that I don’t like chocolate. What I haven’t mentioned is that my dislike for chocolate came about purposely. They say that the mind is a powerful tool. But until you have actively learnt to manipulate your mind, you will never quite understand this saying.
During a period in my life when I wanted to stop gaining weight, I made myself dislike certain foods. I remember eating different foods very slowly while actively trying to identify each thing that I didn’t like about it. As for chocolate, it was the residue that it left on my tongue, the thirst I felt after eating it, and the way it stuck to my teeth.
If you are reading this and thinking that those reasons aren’t significant enough to warrant complete dismissal, you have to remember that I was searching for reasons not to like the food. The same went for ice cream, carbonated drinks, candy, and cheese. Name a food and I can tell you exactly what not to like about it… There was always something wrong with each food that I could internalise and use to my advantage.
As a comfort eater, there were many times that I could not control my desire for food. It seemed as though everything around me was not within my control – except food. I could control what I ate, how much of it I ate, and just what I did after eating. Depending on my mood, that could either mean eating everything I could find in the pantry or not eating for hours on end. There was never any medium in my actions.
When I finally learnt about calories and just how they work, I felt relieved. Relieved, not because I could finally make sense of what my body needed, but because I could use it to cheat the system. Simple math taught me that if you add and subtract the same numbers, the net effect is zero. So on days that I would binge eat, I would purge or exercise right after. And boy did I exercise to the max!
As I got older, just getting a net-zero wasn’t enough. I was determined to create a deficit. So I intensified everything in order to feel good about myself. I needed to feel as though I was in control of my actions, even though my actions were in control of me.
I recall the very first time I was diagnosed with IBS. My family and I went to have some Chinese food for dinner. We ordered quite a bit of food and each took our leftovers home. I’m pretty sure no one else actually touched the leftovers. But because I was obsessed with food, I decided to scoff mine down. Hours later, I thought I was dying! I spent days hunched over the toilet, followed by wrapping myself in bed with the chills. The only things I could eat were oranges and very light soup, but even those went right down the drain.
Of course, there was no question that I had food poisoning, but the doctors also diagnosed me with irritable bowel syndrome. At first, I didn’t take it seriously. But as I became more in tune with my body and how it reacted to certain foods, I realised that I was intolerant to certain foods. As I got older and toyed with my digestive system even more, what started off as bloating in response to certain foods ended up in trips to the ER because of excruciating pain.
By the age of twenty-three, I had already gotten stomach ulcers, prescribed medication, and put on a strict diet. I feel very upset with my younger self for the silly choices I have made. Looking back, all of the medical challenges I faced can somehow be linked to my eating habits. Gosh, my doctors didn’t even know what was really going on behind the scenes!
Related: Accepting grief: Breaking the cycle
So what do my current eating habits look like?
Well, as a mom and wife, I find myself less focused on how I look, and more in tune with how I feel. There are definitely days when I eat something and feel guilty shortly after. But there are more times when I eat things and enjoy the experience of breaking bread with my family. I love to exercise, and still tend to overexert every now and then, but my reasons have definitely changed. I now understand that my body needs fuel to survive. I’m aware that too much of anything is bad. And I know that having treats here and there will not make you obese.
I now understand that no one is perfect and that restricting food is not a sign that you have control over your life. Of course, this could be different for someone with a medical condition that requires them to eat a certain way. But in my case, I needed to stop glorifying food. I am still on my journey but I can honestly say that I love the moments that I have been able to experience now that food is no longer the focus.
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