Hi everyone, I’m still around! I’ll be posting my reflections on a month of daily posts soon, but in the meantime I have a guest post. One of my closest friends got in contact to share about their relationship with food.
Please note, name and identifying details have been altered with permission of the author to protect their identity.
Trigger Warnings: Body Image, Fatphobia, Eating Disorders
Hi, I’m Jane. I am a university student, a skilled skier and an enthusiastic amateur comedian. I also may have an eating disorder.
I was brought up around professional athletes. My mother attends the gym at least six times a week, maybe more. My father was a national level professional cyclist who has recently gotten the racing bug back and is making another go at it. My mother doesn’t seem to eat a great deal most of the time, going for starter portions of food rather than the usual main course sized portion. My father has recently been researching diet and nutrition. Sometimes he doesn’t eat carbs, sometimes he eats them only at night. Sometimes he doesn’t touch dairy, because dairy has lactose in it, lactose is a sugar and (of course?!) sugar is bad for you right??
Honestly I’m surprised I turned out even remotely normal.
Around April 2018, I removed myself from an emotionally abusive environment at university. To cope with said abuse, I’d lock myself in my room. I’d order a pizza. It would make me feel better for a little while. When it didn’t, I’d order more and the cycle continued.
My parents noticed that I’d put on weight. When I say “put on weight” I’d gone up from a UK size 10 to a UK size 12. I was by no means unhealthy, but they picked up on this, nonetheless. Jane, your cheekbones have gone. Jane, your waist isn’t as small. Jane, that dress doesn’t do you any favours. As damaging as this may sound, they don’t mean to hurt me and they were genuinely trying to help me. Regardless, these little comments became like frenemies sitting on my shoulder, whispering to me in the dark.
“That outfit really doesn’t do you any favours”, the voices would say.
So, I began to try and starve myself. The problem is, when you only aim to eat 500 calories in a day, you get really fucking hungry, so I’d binge eat when my not-so-iron-will crumbled. Again, the cycle continued.
“But Jane”, I hear you ask, “Why are you writing about this today? What is so different?” I’m glad you asked.
I’ve recently cut my hair into a bob and apparently bobs make your face look rounder. I’ve worried lots recently about whether my face is particularly round. I blurted out to my mother today “Do I have a chubby face?”
“Well”, my mother said, “your cheekbones have disappeared.”
I couldn’t help myself. I just wept.
I can’t eat any less that I have been doing recently, and I’ve been walking and swimming so much. I haven’t bought myself dessert in weeks. While everyone around me was consuming chips and burgers in the pub, I was getting teased for eating salad. I’ve even dropped a belt loop on my work trousers and on my size 10 ski trousers, I can pull them down without even undoing them. Yet there was still something wrong with me.
My mother was horrified that she’d hurt my feelings. She said that she thinks I took it the wrong way. Perhaps I did. Didn’t stop me crying though.
Then my dad came in to my room. I told them that when I look at myself in the mirror, I was physically disgusted. They told me I look great, but when I told my father I think this may be all in my head, he wouldn’t listen.
“Jane, I am going to help you lose weight because it is clear that you will not be happy until you do. You need to weigh yourself-“
“My therapist says I shouldn’t get obsessive-”
“You need to weigh yourself and you need to consider what you’ve been eating. It won’t come off overnight you know”.
“But instead of chocolate, I’ve been eating apples,” I replied.
“Ah, but apples have sugar in them.”
Enough about fucking sugar! I thought; I would never dare say this out loud. He said some more things that I don’t remember.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the toilet gleam. It seemed to tell me to go to it. To start something awful that I’d never done before. It seemed maliciously logical. Caloric intake equals weight gain or loss. If the calories are gone before they begin to be absorbed…
Shut up, I mentally told the toilet. Shut up, shut up, shut up.
With the promise of a strategic chat about what precisely I’d been eating, he left as he had a prior appointment. I can’t even resent them, my parents, because they’re absolutely doing what they think is the best thing to help me.
I’m not too sure what the moral of this tale is. That seemingly strong and successful people can struggle and that its not perfect, its never perfect, not by a long shot? That body dysmorphia is a thing? That your parents can really hurt you and its ok to know that, and to love them anyway?
I had a shower and cried. Time moved differently in there; it could have been hours it could have been minutes. After an unmeasurable amount of time, I told myself that these thoughts were all in my head. That on the count of 5, I am going to leave this cubicle and look at myself. I looked at myself in the mirror. I tried to look for my abdominal muscles and the lines that I like around my hips. I tried to accept any extra padding because I am healthy and it is healthy.
There’s nothing wrong with me. I was looking face on and I was still crying.
There’s nothing wrong with me. I was looking at the base of my back. I began to whimper.
There’s nothing wrong with me. I was looking at my side. My breathing was starting to return to normal.
I don’t quite believe it yet. But it’s a start.